Stupid Smartphones: Awesome or Soul Draining?

Stupid Smartphones: Awesome or Soul Draining?

Jason Yang
Oct 7, 2011

With a recent small polarizing announcement of a new smartphone that people may or may not have been waiting around for with baited breath, we take a moment to discuss why we love / hate the smartphone and its contributions / cause of death for our society. We may or may not be exaggerating in either case.

Why Smartphones Are Awesome

Technology has come a long way with cellphones. It wasn't *that long ago that Zach Morris was rocking his portable brick. Fast forward 30 years and almost 50% of mobile subscribers in the U.S. market own a smartphone. Look how many of us are carrying a super computer in our pocket, and fierce competition has given us so many great options (thanks iOS and Android!) for reasonable prices (look how many great deals there are for free Android phones!). We have instantly available internet connections on us almost no matter where we go. We've got in our hands maps, apps, games, movies, music - anything we can think of to keep us occupied so that we're never bored anymore, aside from being useful to have on hand. Everything's consolidated into one tiny little device that fits in our hands and into our pockets when not in use - but always on and ready for us.

Although memories are truly made through experiences, it's nice to have a photo or video reminder now and again - and look, with our smartphones we've always got a camera on us. It's no coincidence that the number one used camera on Flickr uploads is an iPhone 4. We'll never again regret not bringing our camera with us, because we did. Not to mention awesome bar fight and stupid pet videos, as well as evidence against improper police action. We also always have a flashlight on hand with the super bright displays of our smartphones. We never need to remember anything anymore with our calendars and their built-in reminders as well as a place to take down notes without having to search for a pen and paper.

"Excuse me, do you have the time?" Why yes, yes we do, even though you asked while we obviously didn't have a watch on our wrist. We have the time right here in our pocket. No one will ever need to wear a watch again aside from fashionable reasons or when smartphones morph into proper watch phones. We'll always know the time and date too, and we're always carrying around our calendar of events and entire address book of everyone we know. It can even replace the age old tradition of trading business cards. You can text you can send videos and photos. You'll have no reason not to call the chick you met at the bar after she gives you her number.

Oh, which reminds us - it makes phone calls too.

Why Smartphones Suck

The advent of the modern smartphone is a horrible crime - upon our wallets and sensibilities. Consider the new iPhone 4S plans. Up to $70 for a measly 450 minutes of calling and almost $100 for unlimited! Better sign up for that $20 unlimited text messaging plan or else get hit with $0.20 per text message - for something that's essentially free to the carrier. $15-$125 per month for 250MB to 12GB of data (do we even really need unlimited cellphone data plans?. That's perhaps $2,500 over a 2-year contract to use our smartphone. Holy crap when did we decide to just hand our credit cards over to Ma Bell and company? Oh wait, we did that willingly? And you say we're locked in to a 2 year contract?

Yes there are plenty of free smartphones, but tech lovers are always attracted to the latest and greatest shiny objects, which is why fancy Android devices and iPhones sell like hotcakes. $200-$400 for the newest iPhone 4S, on contract! The unsubsidized prices are unreal, just check out Craigslist or eBay and prepare for a heart attack. But we don't have to buy the newest most expensive phone - we have plenty of choices, and with these choices comes fragmentation. Multiple operating systems leads to incompatible software and multiple versions of the same app. Developers now have to make sure their program works on any number of different hardware configurations and software platforms. With Google letting manufacturers tinker with their Android code that creates yet another layer to deal with and break.

With smartphones we're forced into one ecosystem and after our 2 year sentence is up we've committed so much time and money that heck we may as well stay in jail. We've paid for all our amenities we wouldn't want to give that all up and start over fresh again now would we?

(can't talk now, about to get married - text me instead)

With always on and connected smartphones now we're instantly reachable and supposed to be always available. Smartphones are inventing their own new etiquette to ignore. Everyone is on their smartphone "communicating" with others and not being really social. We're all guilty of standing round a bar with friends playing Words with Friends or checking a text message on a dinner date.

Speaking of which, smartphones have effectively killed the bar argument. Whenever there's a question someone inevitably pulls out their smartphone and just looks it up. No one talks about it, discusses or debates it - and we never truly understand the true scope of the issue. It's like using a graphic calculator in math class - sure we can pull up the formula instantly but we never actually understand why and how that formula works ("oh NOW I understand, dad!").

(at least he's not on his phone)

It's created a new generation of "drunk" drivers, texting and chatting away in their 4,000 pound death traps at 60mph. Pay attention while we drive, please!

Plus it's yet another expensive toy to be careful and watch out for. Since when did we become such wussies with all our fancy stuff that we couldn't just run out and do whatever we wanted to do. Oh careful, I've got a cellphone on me. Watch out, these designer sunglasses are expensive. This is a fancy Italian suit, don't even think of pushing me in the pool. Ooh don't lose my bling jewelry. Speaking of bling - remember when we thought people talking to themselves on Bluetooth headsets looked silly? Holding a tablet-sized phone up to your head looks just as bad.

Oh and while yes we can make phone calls from our smartphones, sometimes it's a pain to get a signal (AT&T) and with layer after layer (software and hardware), the smartphone just doesn't work as simply as a plain old phone.

(Images: Flickr members theogeo, LGEPR, thefixer, jimmyweee licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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