Uber Requires Smartphones; Airbnb Arguably Does Not
It is probably not too early to speculate that smartphones now have been around long enough that people see new ways to leverage the technology. More accurately, people are coming to understand how apps, running on smartphones that people always have with them, are creating new possibilities.
Without smartphones, it is unlikely that Uber and other ridesharing services would be feasible. Airbnb likely would be conceivable, even without smartphones. But that obviously raises a question: in what other spheres of economic activity might smartphone-based apps be used to bring latent resources to market?
Let us be clear. People using smartphones to comparison shop, while they are out and about, and then ordering online, already is changing the face of retailing. But Uber is more profound than that.
What Uber did was revolutionize our thinking about the real-time use of assets that mostly lie fallow, even more than Airbnb did. Airbnb allows people to bring latent lodging assets to market, though not necessarily as a smartphone-essential function.
Uber really does require the ubiquity of smartphones to really demonstrate value. So the only question is what other areas of life have latent resources not brought to market because of friction, including the lack of a marketplace to monetize those assets.
Uber could not function without smartphones. Airbnb arguably can do so. So which potential spheres of economic life are smartphone-dependent, where it comes to commercializing latent assets that are underused?