The smartphone challenge

This morning’s Observer column.

My favourite line in the film A Fish Called Wanda comes when Otto (Kevin Kline), a psychopathically idiotic ex-CIA operative, objects to being called “stupid” by Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis). To which Wanda replies: “To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs.”

Until relatively recently, “dresses” could have been replaced by “mobile phones” in the script, and the line would still have raised a laugh. But that’s changing fast. Quite how fast was revealed last week in an extraordinary report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. … The Pew report found that 35% of American adults now own a ‘smartphone’, that is to say a mobile phone with a significantly more powerful processor and much better internet connectivity than an old-style handset which could do voice and text and not much else…