It’s been several weeks since lockdown started in the UAE, during which unprecedented times have become quite precedent. The stay-at-home orders may have upended our daily routine, but our smartphones have emerged to ease our time through this pandemic in increasingly different ways.
In safe practice of social distancing, people were quick to adapt to the digital shift of socializing and connectivity. Just as our lockdown began, Facebook reported a 70% weekly increase in Facebook Messenger users for group video calls back in March. Zoom, a crowd favourite video conferencing app, saw a whopping 2900% increase in users from last year, with up to 300 million daily participants as of April 2020.
As working from home becomes the new normal for a lot of companies, apps like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Cisco Webex do the heavy lifting to keep home offices running and business flourishing during the pandemic.
The mobile gaming industry in the Middle East already has an established user base that is increasing exponentially each year. Currently valued at about $3.5 billion (Dh12.8bn), it’s predicted to grow by 25% by 2022. Mobile game downloads shot up by 28% in March, with a 24% increase in mobile-game screen time. With closed schools and idle hands, this increase could be partly propelled by the region’s younger population, using mobile gaming as a means of escapism, socializing, or simply just passing time. If you’re one of those that downloaded TikTok as a joke, but actually can’t get enough of it… you’re not alone. The social media app has gained enormous popularity in the last few months, especially among the residents of UAE. TikTok has even partnered with global entities such as Dubai Health Authority (DHA), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF MENA, in a collaborative effort to spread awareness and safety precautions to its users during Covid-19.
It’s almost impossible to insulate any corner of our everyday life from the impact of a pandemic, so it’s not surprising that Covid-19 may be changing our shopping habits for good. As UAE authorities direct people to stay indoors during lockdown hours and sterilization drives, the population has turned to online grocery shopping. With everyone’s favorite supermarkets available on the App Store, you can fill up your pantry with just a few clicks. And groceries have been quick to meet the demand. With the majority of dine-in restaurants closed off, F&B continue to battle for your business on popular food delivery apps such as Zomato, Swiggy, Careem Now, Talabat, and Deliveroo. Competitive discounts and contact-free deliveries mean you can still support your favourite businesses by contacting them directly, or through food delivery apps on your smartphone.
You’ve probably seen a pile of packages in your lobby, or the several delivery vans zooming around your neighborhood. Chances are you’re most probably waiting for a package right now! The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) reported a spike in e-commerce, seeing a 44% increase of telecom usage with Amazon Prime. Online retailing apps such as Noon and Namshi, are all facing heavy traffic and emptying stockpiles, especially as we approach Eid Al-Fitr. As social distancing continues and malls remain restricted, it’s hard to ignore the shift of gratification to online retail therapy in conjunction to social stay-at-home orders… but that’s a conversation for another day.
Is it too far-fetched to think smartphones could be key in slowly reopening society? Apart from staying up-to-date with real-time news alerts, Covid-19-related apps are launched weekly across the globe in an effort to update and consolidate data on the pandemic. The UAE government has launched the ALHOSN app earlier this week, a nationwide campaign to fast-track digital contact tracing in an effort to curb the spread via smartphones. The app uses your phone’s bluetooth signal to detect who else you’ve come into close contact with, for individual and public health. This helps contain the spread of Covid-19, as anyone who becomes infected with it can provide a list of others they might have infected.
As lockdown continues on for our safety, it’s best to buckle down and prepare yourself for lifestyle changes with an open mind. With no definitive end in sight, it’s easy (and quite common) to feel adrift or directionless during these times. While your smartphone plays a vital role in providing some sense of normalcy in staying connected, it’s just as important to unplug and relish what’s in our immediate surroundings. Whether it’s spending quality time with your family or enjoying an uninterrupted walk outdoors, make the most out of this time, because at the end of the day, you can either phone it in, or phone a friend!