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Like a Virgin: A Touch Screen for the Very First Time

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I'll let you in on a secret -- at age 52, I am like a virgin. While "refreshing" to still have innocence and purity, being labeled a "virgin" can be misleading, and you risk being perceived by others as "inexperienced." Always on the outside looking in, I developed anxiety over being "different" from everyone else. I began to notice that I was missing out on something that the rest of the world seems to be enjoying immensely. After struggling with these feelings, I'm speaking out so that others might feel less ashamed, and come forward in solidarity with me. I'm sharing a shocking confession -- I have never, ever "app-ed."

Not where you thought this was going? For me, it's embarrassing! How can a digital media strategist also be an app virgin? Sadly, 10 years of loyalty to my Blackberry had left me in the dark regarding the latest devices. With my digital relationship crashing, I set off on a mission to learn as much as possible about app world before my Verizon contract finally expired.

While I knew that app world was not a physical place, it soon became clear that I had some catching up to do. Apparently, "app" was voted "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society back in 2010. Through my investigation, I learned that most apps are small, limited-function programs (even PC-based applications) that are "ported" over to mobile devices. They originated as developers sought to more closely recreate the personal computer experience on a mobile device. As the mobile market exploded, so did the app market. Today, apps serve a myriad of functions, from shortening keystroking, to expediting information, to finding discount hotel rates. These things weren't going to go away. But I had learned all I could secondhand. It was time for some field research.

Interestingly, I think that most people still buy mobile devices at a brick/mortar outlet. Part of the process is to experience the "look and feel." As I walked through the store, I quickly realized that the hardware was quite varied. So were the user interface/capabilities that apps and other features provided. Cradling the new Samsung, all reservations vanished. I couldn't wait to see what Apple, HTC and all the others had to offer. There was no going back now

Apps allow owners of the same hardware to create a mobile computing device, which is unique to that individual's wants and needs. I was going to app world on a one-way ticket, fully cognizant of all of the opportunities that exist for NextGen developers to exploit new levels of personalization and customization on the part of the user. Ambitious and impatient users will push developers even further. If we imagine a "device" store in the future, it might resemble a "Build-A-Bear" Workshop -- where you can customize the size, color, apps and even the personality of your new toy.

Also, to borrow a worn expression -- "size matters." But not in the way you might think. As a woman who tends to go everywhere with large (and stylish) bags, the size of the device is secondary to its function. In fact, I found myself drawn to the bigger models, as today's mobile devices are much more like a mobile computer than a mobile phone. By the time I left the store, I couldn't wait to have one of my very own.

If you're having doubts about upgrading, I encourage you to look, see and feel what today's mobile devices have to offer. I use the term "mobile devices" purposely to distinguish from a cell phone. Voice traffic over the Internet has been on a steady decline. In 2010, data traffic surpassed voice on the Internet for the first time. According to wireless analyst Chetan Sharma, data comprised 85 percent of global wireless traffic in 2012. Ericsson, the wireless equipment manufacturer, predicted in its June 2012 "Traffic and Market Report" that global mobile traffic will grow 15 times by the end of 2017.

So get over your fears like I did. Chances are, before long, you'll be texting, tweeting, posting and more, walking up and down the sidewalk like a pro. Maybe we'll bump into each other out there.