Reliance on Mobile Apps: Family Roadtrip Style

On my family road trip to the Grand Canyon last month, even my dad (proud owner of the original Nokia Brickberry) admitted how great my brother’s Droid made our trip.  Something significant changed in my dad’s attitude the minute we hit the highway. My brother and I were navigating, reading helpful Yelp reviews, and sharing enlightening national park factoids from the backseat, allowing Dad to avoid maps and brochures, unless he actually wanted to look at them.

For once in my life, my dad’s vacation intensity button was at an all-time low.  Dare I say, he was delightfully lazy.  All those years of trying to “rough it” the old-school way was forgotten when he realized we had everything at our fingertips, courtesy of his kids’ smart phones.  I think it was being able to access historic background on every landmark we drove by that tipped him over the edge.

My parents have never been tech savvy people.  The GPS we bought my dad years ago is still sitting unused in his glove compartment. And my mom would ask any stranger on the side of the road for information before she ever sent a text message to get a question answered. But for them, the thrill of finding the cheapest gas  along the highway was too good to be true.  With the plethora of apps between my brother and me, my parents were like kids in a candy store, begging for resources and information on everything and anything as we drove down Route 66.

There were more than a few times when I caught my dad saying “hey guys, I bet there’s an app for that,” seriously echoing the classic Apple catchphrase.  We couldn’t believe it, but our dad’s impression of smart phones was shifting right before our eyes.  To think my dad would finally be interested in trading in his old Nokia for a brand new Droid would never have crossed my mind before, but I was seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

According to a study from Pew Internet Project, approximately one in four U.S. adults use mobile apps on their phone.  Now, while my parents still don’t use them (let alone have them on their phone) my bet is that by the time the next upgrade season comes around, they both may very well think twice about switching to a smart phone.  In fact, they admitted they would.

So yes, we finally proved to our parents that our mobile phone addiction could be a good thing. But of course there’s another side to the story. If they ever bought those smart phones, would they ever use those apps like they think they would? Around one-third of U.S. adults have apps on their phones, but out of that, only around two-thirds ever use those apps, according to Pew.

It’s likely my parents’ enthusiasm for mobile apps will never pan out the way I hope. Half the battle anyhow is convincing them to give up their old ways and stop relying on their kids’ phones.  Unfortunately, I’m willing to bet they’ll be sitting in the front seat with their feet on the dashboard listening to us read Yelp reviews to them on the next road trip – but then again I never thought my mom would be on Facebook either.

*(This post was originally posted on


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