The irony of smartphones is that some people seldom use them as phones.

I’m referring to the text set. It skews towards youths with fast and nimble fingers that can type terse messages on tiny keyboards.

“Young people love to text,” says National Automobile Dealers Assn. Bill Underriner discussing customers’ generational preferences.

 But it is not just the young who would rather not talk the talk.

“There are certain people I can’t seem to get on the phone, but if you send a text message you will hear right back from them,” says Hunter Swift, sales business analyst at DealerSocket, a provider of customer-relationship management systems to car dealers.

We’re nearing a point in technical-cultural evolution where we take our smartphones for granted. We can forget what amazing devices they are. Then again, a few people are without memories of that at all.

I was on a plane recently, awaiting takeoff, when a young man sitting in the row ahead of me pulled out his iPhone to check his emails. An elderly woman next to him asked, “What’s that?”

She was curious enough but apparently had missed the flight of the Internet Age. The kid took her lack of smartphone smarts in stride. “It’s like a mini-computer,” he told her politely.    

That’s a good way of putting it. There are other ways to describe it. “It’s the first personal mass-media device,” Swift says.

For marketers, dealers or others looking to reach an audience, it is a dream device, under the right circumstances.

“It is always on, it is always with the person who owns it and it offers instant access,” Swift says.

But there are pitfalls, he notes. For instance, texting can be effective, but also annoy, particularly when unsolicited.

Seventy million people access their emails through mobile devices. So, many modern dealers use emails for mobile marketing. But it is important to make such messages recipient-friendly, Swift says. Including a coupon or similar incentive helps there.

He cites a common mistake some dealerships make when sending promotional emails. They will embed vital store or product information in a photo.

“But sometimes the photos themselves aren’t downloaded by email recipients, so they don’t see that information,” Swift says. “Keep it separate.”

In the 1990s, many dealers shied away from Internet marketing, not knowing how to use it or, at that point, not fully knowing what it was. “Now, they can’t live without it," Swift says. "And the new frontier is mobile.”

It’s something to phone home about. Or, if you prefer, text home.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com