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Part of the reason smartphones have become so popular is the way in which they combine the functions of so many other devices people used to lug around instead. With the ability to browse the Internet, listen to music, play games, and take high-quality photos, it’s becoming increasingly harder to convince people they need to shell out the cash for a dedicated camera, handheld video game system, or music player.

But why is it that as more people buy smartphones, fewer of them are buying chewing gum?

While it’s true that some people find gnawing on plastic soothing, the reason behind the drop in gum sales isn’t because owners have taken to crunching down on their smartphone cases. Instead, there’s a bit of indirect consumer psychology at work here.

Some cases do look pretty tasty, though.

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Masami Yamamoto, president of electronics and semiconductor manufacturer Fujitsu, touched upon the unusual connection in a recent speech he gave on the subject of human-centric innovation. The executive pointed out that sales of chewing gum have begun falling in developed countries just as smartphones are becoming the norm for new mobile phone buyers.

Yamamoto offered an explanation that asserts that when consumers buy a pack of gum, what they’re really after isn’t the malleable flavor tablet itself. Instead, the demand comes from the occasional need to kill time, the president theorizes.

He’s got a point, as a single piece of gum is cheap enough that spitting it out after five minutes doesn’t feel like a waste, but can also be chewed on for much longer if need be. When their client or date is running late, rather than standing around doing absolutely nothing, some people will choose to pop a stick of gum in their mouth, if for no reason other than to distract themselves from the tediousness of waiting.

▼ Sadly, no amount of gum will help you if your date himself is tedious.

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But you know what else are great ways to enjoyably pass a few minutes? Flipping through some pictures and reminiscing about all the fun you had at that party last weekend. Playing a couple rounds of Street Fighter. Listening to your favorite song. Reading an article on your favorite website.

And those are all things you can do with a smartphone.

While Yamamoto is quick to point out that smartphones probably aren’t the one and only cause of the chewing gum’s woes, he does feel that the gadgets have largely taken gum’s place as many people’s go-to time-killer.

▼ It’s similar to the vanishing popularity of Mumblety-peg, since today’s lazy youngsters can’t even be bothered to carry a proper pocketknife.

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So what does all of this have to do with Fujitsu? Was Yamamoto bringing this up just to give his electronics-designing employees a well-earned pat on the back for helping him crush his hated adversary, the gum industry?

Not at all. Instead, he was using it to prove a point about the intricate yet critical connections between seemingly unrelated products in the modern marketplace. “New rivals, and new partners, can emerge from very unlikely places,” he concluded, calling upon his listeners to be aware of the continuing evolution of the business environment.

Reports of the speech don’t mention how many of those in attendance were chewing gum to pass the time while waiting for Yamamoto to finish talking.

Source: Ascii
Top image: Tui Tui
Insert images: Rakuten, Rational Faiths, Art of Manliness