Do Smart Phones Improve our Lives?

galaxyLast week, I purchased my first smart phone. It is a Samsung Galaxy 4, and it costs $200 and I had to sign up for a 2 year AT&T plan at roughly $100 / month. I know that I am late to the party and an expensive party at that, but I am hardly excited. If you want to find me at the smart phone party, you can probably find me off in the corner somewhere. There is something that bothers me about the entire post-PC, smart phone revolution, so here is one PC guy’s thoughts on why smart phones aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Cost – As described above, smart phones and the accompanying service is expensive. Yes, I have the money, but it makes me gulp to think that my smart phone costs more than my cable bill, landline and internet bill combined.

Emails – I love email and one trend is that people are now responding from their smart phones. That is cool although quite often the responses are poorly worded, riddled with typographical errors, unnecessarily curt, and in the signature a cute disclaimer such as “excuse my typos”, or “typing with my thumbs”. Technology should improve communication not make it worse.

Sociality – It is my belief that we should use the internet to improve our lives. It should not replace our lives nor be an alternative for how we live our lives. For a lot of people, their smart phones have replaced normal social interaction. The smart phone has become the socially acceptable way of ignoring people.

Speed – Now that everyone has the news at their finger tips 24/7, we have become a society chasing the latest tidbit of information. People are constantly checking the news as if knowing that news 10 minutes before the next guy might make a difference in your or their lives. The problem is that it doesn’t and it won’t. We need to slow down and absorb the information that we already have to spot the trends that can noticeably improve our lives.

Size – There is a trend where people are now purchasing huge phones and then thigh holsters to showcase these monstrosities. The message is that size matters and somehow these people are more knowledgeable, productive and successful than the rest of us. I am no psychologist but somehow these people are overcompensating for other deficiencies in their lives.

Ubiquitous Photos– The high quality photos that come out of phones today are amazing. Human beings are documenting our existence through photos and videos like no other time in history. This ultimately will create a better and more peaceful and rational world. There is a side effect. Some people feel compelled to take photos of the most mundane aspects of their daily lives. Just in the space of a day this past weekend, three different people posted how much laundry they had washed complete with photo. Somehow the bar has been lowered too far on what is interesting.

So it is now late 2013, and I bought my first smart phone. I don’t feel any smarter, more knowledgeable, more productive, more successful, nor more popular. So here is my tip for smart phone aficianados, smile at strangers. Seriously, try it. You will find it is getting harder every day, because no one is looking.

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32 thoughts on “Do Smart Phones Improve our Lives?”

  1. Ahh yes, there’s no finer experience than watching a two and a half hour epic movie on a three inch screen with the audio quality of a bottlecap!

    Where do I sign up?

    They’re great devices to keep the little crumb snatchers busy on a long drive, or to get a quick, albeit useless, weather map update from 30 minutes ago, or possibly to give you driving directions. But somehow I don’t believe that making a right hand turn while driving on a bridge is the correct thing to do.

    And the truly ironic thing is when you really need to make a phone call, it probably won’t connect worth a crap.

    Maybe when they get the phone part working, they might be worth the price, but for now, they’re nothing more than a Nintendo DS.

    I’ve had cell phones since the very first $5000 “bag” phones and all the way up to the 4G Samsungs and iPhones, and the phone service isn’t much better than in the days of the old Motorola flip phone brick.

  2. I’m having dinner with friends. Forty-something mother and teen-age daughter, sitting next to each other, directly across from me at the dinner table, each with their own “smart phone,” and TEXTING EACH OTHER all through dinner.

    Howzat for smarts?

  3. I am retired,have 2 Computers and an I-Pad but have not ever felt the need for a Cell or Smart phone.If some one likes to call me,I have a Land-line and an answering Machine. I agree with the article completely.

  4. Yes, the PC is king…not, and you can’t take it with you. My Android..much easier maintenance than Windows.I know it depends on what your using it for. They can’t do everything yet. Over all makes my life a lot easier. And I love how you talk about size when you choose a great phone by the way but it has a 4.9 inch screen itself.

  5. Hang on, hang on. You're posting about a smartphone that you've only had for a week. You've not even had time to develop any real conclusions about it.

    Smartphones have long since been the norm. There's no 'popularity' associated with smartphones anymore. All of your points besides cost tell me you're stuck in the past when the first iPhone came out and all these were actually true, and you seem to be basing these on the interactions of middle and high schoolers, where most of this behavior is also the norm.

    Emails: These and text messaging are frequent, but most smartphones today have auto-correct which typically weeds out all these spelling errors you mention. Most people, including myself, find it annoying but we're too lazy to turn it off.

    Sociality: So, wait, everybody only uses their phones for FaceBook or Instagram? (Since I know that's what you're talking about) You realize that most ADULT people, including myself, typically use FaceBook for long-distance reasons?

    News: Not everyone's staring at their phone for the bloody news. You are the only person to say they've seen people do such a thing, and yet the several thousand people I worked with barely looked at their phones unless they needed some convenient information or replied to a text.

    Size: Cell phones have been following a trend. First it was to see how small you could make a phone, miniaturizing each component. Now it's to see how much crap we can pack into a small device. Putting our phones in hip holsters is not a damn popularity contest or to show that we have the biggest phone, or even because they don't fit in our pockets… even though that last one is probably true sometimes. We have hip holsters because IT'S MORE CONVENIENT. Why dig around in our pockets when we can just snap the phone off our holster and not have to worry about it?

    Ubiquitous Photos: People like to share their lives with their friends. So what? There's still plenty of people who take legitimate pictures. There's no "lowering of the bar" as you put it.

    This article of yours has no research done on it whatsoever. It's more like a first impressions article written by someone who bases his bias on trends of the past, not as they are now. You say no one will see me smile at them? The last three states I've been to in my tour of duty, I've been able to go on or off-base and smile and say hello to a passerby. Except for cost, you've exaggerated every point to the point where it sounds absurd.

    Smartphones are not necessary to improve our lives, but they put an amazing amount of convenience at our fingertips. Try to actually use the damn thing before going on about how everyone in the world can't stop staring at their phone.

    1. @D.j. Dickerson: I don’t know how old you are or which states you visited, but try talking to young people at my college. They have every excuse to run to their phones to make them “more productive,” which it may, but at the cost of some form of social interaction. I still think direct human to human social interaction is better and more important than “productivity at all times.” However, I am only one voice in a sea of those who disagree.

      1. @Harold: I have to work for a phone company to have an opinion? (Hint: I don’t.) At least I actually took the time to write out a comment that addressed each point instead of two sentence comments saying “This proves everything, one person’s opinion means that it’s mine, too!”.

        Adan: I’m 23 years old and I served in the Air Force. Maryland, Texas, and Montana. I’ve seen a LOT of smartphones. Before I got my first iPhone I actually asked a bunch of other Airmen what they really used smartphones for most of the time, and most of the answers I got had to do with long-distance or out-of-city communications, and Facebook was generally the same thing. Of course this was two years ago, so things might’ve changed. I’m also of the generation that didn’t have any kind of smartphone before they even turned ten years old and not bitched and cried because it was white instead of black, so that might have something to do with it.

  6. Absolutely, smart phones have unquestionably improved the quality of my life. I don’t use one, but they sure keep those everyday zombies occupied so they aren’t trying to bother me with their FaceSpace drivel.

  7. Confirms all my darkest suspicions. Have a plain vanilla old Nokia on a $15/mo connection charge and don’t remotely come near using my few monthly free minutes. Long as it will call 911 when needed it fulfills all my cellphone needs.

  8. Well stated!! I’m one of those “dinosaurs” still using a flip phone 🙂 For the most part, the purpose of the phone is to call for help if my car breaks down.

  9. The fifth reason seems almost a joke as it would seem to show your own insecurity: people typically buy large smartphones for the large screen (easier to see and do things), don’t push your insecurities onto the owners of those phones.

    The fourth reason isn’t really a phone issue. While it makes it convenient, we already lived in an age of 24 hour news that is easy to come by. That isn’t the smartphones fault, it was the way our society had already gone.

    The fact is that the smartphone is an incredibly useful tool, particularly in business or to keep track of what is happening with family. Like any other tool, some people can use it responsibly and others “OD” on it.

  10. I bring my smart phone with me on long bike rides. Hardly ever look at it–good to get away. Did come in handy one time, though, when a tornado was nearby, and I could tell from the online weather radar screen when the coast was clear.

  11. I could not have written a better article than this. My cell phone is 5 years old. I don’t understand why people stand in line for hours to buy the latest. The cell phone might be smart, but I don’t think standing in line for hours is.

  12. I agree for the “most” part but the Smartphone does has a slight upside but not really worth the cost. I like to text & not interrupt someone by my loud conversation which I use sparingly & I do not have my nose in the phone 24 hrs.a day like so many. I love being able to search for price matching when making deals. I LOVE using the navigation app. when traveling in strange places. It’s wonderful to have certain books at my finger tips, like my bible. Love being able to have my own personal music library at my finger tips after installing it on my phone. It works as a GREAT reminder with pop up messages. It is a convenient place to make notes & refer back to when needed.(i.e. business, lectures, shopping lists)It is a clock/watch & alarm when needed. It gives instant updates. (i.e. weather, sports, news) All this to say not worth the price we pay but also has many advantages that definitely don’t make you smarter!!!! Things a “little” easier but not SMARTER!!!!!! Thank You

  13. It’s insanity. Humans are incredible suckers for the latest snake-oil. The Jobs of the world laugh all the way to the bank. People just don’t think. Lambs to the slaughter.

  14. I presume that Murray was being ironic but, if he wasn’t, he probably doesn’t know what it means anyway.
    The phones are not very smart, nor the people who spend every waking hour peering at them. They are designed for insecure people obsessed with social media, who are never ‘in the moment’ but always somewhere else in cyberspace or photographing their food.

  15. I agree that the phone is over priced plan wise and that with all the providers out there you would think the price would and should come down. Greed is the only reason I see for the extra price. Since my mother is in a nursing home having the smart phone makes it a bit easier for me when I have to sit in the hospitals so I can get out messages to family and friends. But as for doing things that some of my children do on the phone I will not. I still love my desktop and my laptop and my tablet is nice also.

  16. I don’t understand how we’ve reached this culture of having to get the latest phone, when in reality all a lot of people will be doing with it is updating facebook & twitter.
    I watched a vid of people getting the new iphone at covent garden, london & it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. Congratulations, you’ve just paid more for a phone than you could buy a decent laptop for, that you can do so much more on.
    I have the galaxy S3 & it’s good but at the end of the day it’s never going to replace my laptop, so essentially it’s just a phone that can do a few extra things

  17. Having a smart phone doesn't make you smarter but it says so much about you and with out one you are on the scrap heap of life. Former friends will shun you; neighbours will ignore you; you will be overlooked at work for promotion and will be at the top of the list if redundancy ever strikes.
    Move with the times or get left behind – technology is moving fast and if you don't keep up you are a 2nd class citizen.

    1. @Murray Snudge: So your saying that you actually have no friends. If they dump you because you don’t have a smart phone then I hate to break it to you but that’s not a friend, it’s an acquaintance. Just because you have 200 Facebook friends doesn’t mean they are actually your friends.

      1. @Mario:
        Mario, I said that if you don’t have a smartphone then you will have no friends – but I’ve got a smartphone and people are beating my door down to be my friend.
        I only have one facebook friend not the 200 you suggested – my friends are real friends because I have a smartphone; neighbours speak to me; I’ve just been promoted – life is so good because I have a smartphone.

  18. I have so far resisted getting a smartphone, and reading this confirms I'm right to stick with my basic little cellphone (which cannot take photos, but DOES have an excellent FM radio built in). I suspected they were not all they were cracked up to be. Thanks for your post!

  19. You forgot one other important deficiency, at last slightly relieved by introduction of larger format screens such as yours, that is extended periods with eyes focused at twelve inches. Closer in the case of the iPhone. At last I don’t have to carry around the magnifying headset which compensates for the extra weight of my Nokia Lumia 900 @ $300 a year ago and a $19 a month plan.

  20. I have that same phone and I totally agree with all of this. Not just kids either, we saw a husband & wife out to dinner both on their "smart phones" not talking to each other, not talking at all, just texting?

  21. Right on. So many times I have tried to carry on a conversation with someone only to see them staring full of utter vacuity at this object of devotion. It is so depressing to see this impish behavior around me at sporting events,social functions,restaurants,bars, and yes even while driving. Smart phones sure don’t make the vast majority of us any smarter.

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