From a gadget of communication and technology, cellular phone has evolved into a mass medium. There was a time when people couldn’t imagine something known as a ‘cellular phone’ and today they can’t imagine life without it. With the passage of time, owning a cellular phone has transformed into a necessity from a novelty. This transformation has in turn converted this communication tool into the most important private accessory of the 21st century. The main reason behind it is that ‘the need to communicate is more powerful than the need to compute, to be entertained or to be informed.’
At the end of 2011, globally there were almost four times as many cell phone subscriptions as there were total users on the internet. There were five times as many cell phones as there are personal computers of all kinds- laptops, desktops and servers combined. There were more than six times as many cell phone subscriptions in the world as there were cars. Thrice as many people had cell phones as had credit cards. The population of cell phones was thrice as big as the population of TV sets in use. There were 3.5 times as many cell phones as there were fixed land line phones. According to the United Nations, there were 6.6 billion people on the planet Earth in October 2007 and at the same time there were 3.3 billion cell phone subscribers in October 2007 (that means half of the world’s population had subscribed to cell phones).
This immense penetration of cellular phone has forced many to consider it as the ‘Seventh mass media channel’. Print was the first, five hundred years ago. At the turn of the century around 1900, we had three “new” mass media in short succession, with recordings the second, cinema the third and radio the fourth mass media channel. Around 1950 we had TV emerge as the fifth. Then, after 1990, the internet appeared as the sixth. Now around 2000 mobile (the cell phone) appears as the latest, the seventh mass media channel. Yes, it might be small, but it has attributes that make it a superior medium in many ways and a dominating media channel in the three most important factors – reach, audience accuracy and money.