Part 1: Smartphones cause Pavlovian delight in users, says UW prof

There can be no denying that smartphones have caught on in a big way.

Apple, manufacturer of the iPhone, is one of the world’s largest companies.

Around the globe, eight out of 10 people now own a smartphone. Ninety per cent of those people say checking their phone is part of their morning routine.

And on Wednesday, Waterloo-based Research in Motion will unveil a new series of phones for the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The day will be marked with a major launch event in New York City and smaller events in cities both locally and internationally.

Analysts and onlookers will be closely watching reaction to the launch to see what it means for RIM’s future – but also because they’re just as personally invested in the smartphone world as anyone else.

Take Rebecca Rucurean. The 21-year-old was recorded by CTV for five minutes without her knowledge. Even though she had friends around, she spent almost the whole time looking at her smartphone.

“It’s a little embarrassing,” she said after being told of the recording.

“It’s hard to admit that I can actually do that, but it’s believable.”

Experts say it’s no surprise Rucurean and many others spend so much time on their smartphones, and there’s a simple biological explanation as to why.

“It makes little noises,” says Aimee Morrison, a University of Waterloo associate professor.

“Everytime it makes a noise, there’s a special little message for us. That gives us happiness (via) a pleasure chemical in our brains. All of these little 10-second interactions give us pleasure, so we seek to have more of them.”

In other words, says Morrison, it’s exactly what Pavlov discovered with dogs and a bell in the 19th century.


Part 2: Waterloo Region's smartphone industry extends past RIM

Research in Motion is the largest employer in Waterloo Region and the catalyst for the local tech sector boom, and many companies have followed its lead, ensuring the local smartphone industry now extends well past RIM’s campus.

Toronto-based technology expert Kevin Restivo says without RIM’s presence, the entire local tech ecosystem would exist on a much smaller scale.

“So many people have worked for RIM … who have created their own company or have gone to work for other companies (in Waterloo Region),” he says.

There are about 700 Waterloo-based tech companies, many of which are involved in information and communication technology (ICT).

“About 80 per cent of the tech companies in ICT, so that means they’re going to have some sort of mobile strategy,” says Iain Klugman, president of Communitech.

Those mobile strategies are key, because it’s not just local tech companies looking at how to capture the mobile market – and not just hardcore tech aficionados out there waiting to be captured.

“There’s almost no business in the world, whether it’s trucking or food processing or insurance, that isn’t thinking about … how to develop their mobile strategy,” says Klugman.

Andrew MacLeod, RIM’s Canadian managing director, says RIM’s influence on the smartphone world goes well beyond Waterloo Region.

“Research in Motion played a key role in the whole … revolution of the smartphone industry, and I think it has an important place in our industry,” he says.

RIM is set to launch products with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system Wednesday. Free skating events are planned in Kitchener and Waterloo, with larger launch events in Toronto, New York City and other locations around the globe.