We use them everyday: our cell phones. Some might say they've revolutionized our daily lives; from the office, to school and everywhere in between.
It's our move towards an ever-growing mobile society that inspired News 13 to look into the influence cell phones have had on the way we communicate.
Here in the Florida Panhandle, cell providers are constantly working to bring us the latest technological advances; ensuring that we are staying connected 24-7.
These days, cell phones help us in even the smallest of tasks. You only have to take a look at the past, to see just how far we've come.
Gone are the days of the rotary telephone, and we're far removed from the mobile phone in a bag.
This product once reserved for the lawyer or businessman has grown into a trillion dollar industry, with over 280 million cell phones in use worldwide.
These days it's all about style, speed and smarts.
The advent of the smart phone made way for specialized apps, and with 4.5 billion apps projected to be downloaded this year, it would seem the cell phone is used for much more than making calls.
You might say cell phones have revolutionized the way we do business. Take the news business, for example. These days when there's breaking news out in the field, you can record it on your cell phone and in a matter of minutes, you can share it on Facebook and re-tweet it on Twitter.
It's this demand for instant communication that constantly challenges cell providers like AT&T and Verizon to reach further and faster than the competition.
"Building up the network has been such a priority, because of the way people use these devices," said Sue Sperry with the Gulf Coast Division of ATT.
She said in the first half of this year, they've invested hundreds of millions in Florida. It is something necessary, she said, to compete in a constantly evolving market.
"The technology changes all the time and that's the cool thing about this industry, but we plan ahead. We plan ahead as much as we can," said Sperry.
Consider it an investment in our area's economic development. When cell towers like the brand new cite on highway 388 go up, Sperry said it goes hand in hand with economic growth.
"You look at economic development. You look at where the community is growing. The Panama City Airport's a very good example," she added.
Sperry said as the area around the 2.5 year old airport expands, they've worked hand in hand with the commission to ensure cell coverage grows with it.
"This brand new site is part of the cluster that is serving what is going to be the growing economic development of the airport region," said Sperry.
Their next goal is 4g LTE.
It's already available to Verizon users, but with the speedy software already in place at this new location, Sperry said it's a matter of time until it's available to AT&T users.
"[LTE] is about 10 times faster," said Sperry.
So, we continue riding the latest technological wave that propels us further, faster, and higher.
It leaves one question left to answer: can there be too much of a good thing?
Research is showing we're becoming increasingly dependent on our mobile devices. So much so, that there's a phobia named after the fear of being with out them.
For more, go to Part 2 of this News 13 Special Report, "The Connect Effect: Obsession"