GEORGE TOWN: Number of smartphone users in Malaysia jumped to almost 100% during Covid-19 pandemic, but technologist warns overreliance on mobile gadgets to cause social and health problems .
Dr. Mohd Heikal Husin, a senior lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said that based on the recent 2021 Mobile Phone User Survey by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the overall mobile phone penetration rate smartphones in the country was 94.8%.
When penetration rate was split between rural and urban dwellers, the survey showed that rural people “won” by a small margin with a penetration rate of 96.2% compared to 92.3% of urban respondents who reported using smartphones.
Mohd Heikal, who works at USM’s School of Computer Studies, warned that the growing addiction to smartphones – especially among the younger generation – could lead to “mobile addiction” which can affect sleep patterns and increase the risk of mental health problems such as depression.
He said younger generations are often attached to their smartphones because of the high-level interaction and connectivity their devices offer compared to other real-world devices or activities.
“There is a feeling of being ‘included’ in an online community anytime, anywhere.
“When I say ‘included’ it refers to the fear of missing out without being part of something.
“It can lead to a somewhat unhealthy need to constantly interact with their online communities,” he said.
Mohd Heikal said the survey of mobile phone users also yielded interesting results, among which 59% of respondents do not trust mobile payment apps.
Of those who avoided using e-wallets, 49.6% said they lacked the knowledge, skills or confidence to use them.
Smartphone use for shopping (41.1%) and banking (38.9%) was also low.
Mohd Heikal said the main uses of smartphones among Malaysians include texting, social media and video calling.
The survey involved 1,916 respondents who completed the questionnaire, and the results were released in July.
Managing Director of Penang Tech Dome (state-funded science discovery center) Dr. Khong Yoon Loong predicted that after the adoption of smartphones, smart wearable devices would come next.
“Maybe the next leap is for smartphone outputs to be introduced into wearable devices. Now there are smart watches and earphones. Now there are glasses that power images to bring a virtual or augmented environment.
“Work is also underway to give a tactile experience, like feeling touched, all from a distance,” he said.
Mobile phone retailer Abu Hassan Pakeer Mohamed, 47, observed that the trend of consumers switching to new models of smartphones had changed.
“People are now more cautious. They are now buying expensive high-powered phones and using them for several years before upgrading,” he said.