Silly over smartphones

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Just found this article extremely amusing and it pokes harmless fun at our smartphone-obsessed culture! (Incidentally, I don't own a smartphone either). Tongue

Mar 24, 2011
Silly over smartphones

Who needs high-tech handsets when a trusty old one works just fine?
By Akshita Nanda

LIVING without a smartphone is, for many, a silly choice. I beg to disagree.

My Nokia of uncertain vintage takes and makes calls, sends and receives text messages and latches tenaciously onto overseas networks in countries from France to Japan, insisting on keeping me in the loop even during holidays.

It has also gone beyond the call of communications duty in its four years of service, serving as a torch during blackouts, a paperweight on windy days, a radio and gaming centre on long bus rides and, occasionally, a stress reliever thanks to its hardy casing and the vibrate function - set appropriate mode, dial number, apply to forehead to relieve ache.

But for all its amazing functions, many people can focus only on its shortcomings, namely its inability to access the Internet and applications such as Facebook and Google Maps. The merest glimpse of its squat blue shape invites condolences from those who assume it is a temporary tool and ask if I have filed a police report or remember where I lost my 'real' phone.

Revealing that this is the actual phone I paid hard cash for and use every day inevitably results in one of two reactions: Either people roll their eyes and inch away, or they turn telephone evangelists, attempting to sway me to the smart phone side.

But the arguments they use are as fallacious as they are misleading.

Myth No. 1: Smartphone apps help us forge closer connections within our social web.

Truth: They do enable connections on social networking sites, but often make it impossible to enjoy meaningful conversations in the here and now. I have lost count of the number of times my dinner companions' voices have trailed off in the midst of making a point as their fingers seek vibrating phones to check Facebook updates, make a new move in a Scrabble game or quickly send off a Twitter chain message to a dozen other users.

Arguably, cellphones have divided attention and been a touchy subject for Miss Manners since mobile phone inventor Martin Cooper used the first Motorola to make a victory call to a rival researcher in 1973, but current smartphone technology is clearly enabling bad behaviour.

Ah, but after all, say smartphone supporters, users are clearly accessing information vital to their daily lives.

That brings me to Myth No. 2. My four-year-old cellphone may not connect to Twitter, but it does allow me to access real-time movie schedules, stock market reports, weather forecasts and horoscopes. In the roughly 1,400 days these functions have been available to me, I have needed to use them exactly once - for the purposes of this article, to check that they still work.

Certainly, in some countries, it does help to know when it is likely to rain or snow, so that one can be prepared with the appropriate gear. In Singapore, with its cycle of hot-wet, wet-wet and hot-humid seasons, I will take my chances - or just look out of the window before leaving a building.

Some colleagues argue the value of GPS and Google Maps, which safely guide them to assignments in the wilderness of Tuas. I have found that checking the street directory (2008 print edition or online) before setting out works well enough.

I will admit that instant alerts may be useful when it comes to breaking news. Why, then, are they mostly known for spreading panic?

Just last week, I received about 20 text messages and Twitter alerts from friends warning me to eat iodine tablets and stay out of the rain before the nuclear fug from Japan engulfs South-east Asia. The fake message, purportedly from the BBC, apparently caused such panic in the Philippines that the government and the British news agency had to issue denials.

The message reached me via friends in India and Singapore, most of whom have more degrees than I do and are professionals in fields such as engineering, education and environmental science. Yet their reaction to a suspect piece of information was not to use their smartphone's Web capability to check back with the primary sources, but to forward it on hastily.

Does this mean that smart technology is no match for human stupidity? I fear it is something worse. I think smartphone technology actually erodes brain cells and fosters unthinking behaviour.

Just take Completely Misleading Myth No. 3: Smartphone apps make life more convenient.

In my experience, being able to book movie tickets or taxis via smartphone apps is not necessarily more convenient than phoning a hotline. Given the average connection speed and high demand, my friends have saved barely seconds when calling for taxis.

I love technology when it actually makes life easier, and certainly online movie booking and theatre ticketing hotlines get two thumbs up. I book most tickets on a computer or via phone, but on the rare occasion when the decision is made to catch a show impromptu, does it make sense to stand 10 steps away from the ticketing counter, desperately thumbing the movie app icon instead of waiting patiently in an ever-shortening queue?

It seems that smartphone technology is so much fun that the cool factor replaces common sense.

Perhaps texting and tweeting can get important messages across to millions of minds, but why check the list of eateries at a mall on a smartphone instead of walking a few metres to read the store directory or walking past the restaurants to see first-hand if the flavours appeal?

I fear we are forcing ourselves to cut up the world into bite-sized chunks for other people to digest instead of enjoying our lives to the fullest. Why else are users not looking at each other during meals, unless it is to exchange grins after photographing their meals and instantly updating their food blogs?

That is one reason I am dreading 2015, when it is predicted that advanced capability phones will drive all stolid 'feature' phones into extinction.

Smartphone technology might soon be the cleverest thing around. It has already made many of my acquaintances a lot sillier.

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Well. I do agree with the author of the article that one can survive without a smartphone. A normal mobile phone will be enough for basic functions of calling and receiving calls, and sending text messages. Even functions like basic organiser, alarm, and simple camera quality are available in the basic mobile phones.

However, a smartphone does offer some advantages over basic phones depending on one's needs for these advantages. These advantages include online connectivity while on the move, and many application softwares to suit one's needs such as GPS navigation, news from different world newspapers, latest science news, religious books (e.g. bible for christians), dictionary, scientific calculator, and bus directory etc.

I believe that the advantages of having a smartphone will depend whether one is mostly on the move daily. If one is mostly on the move outdoors in his work (e.g. sales and insurance lines) and has needs for certain smartphone applications while on the move, then having a smartphone does enhance or even is essential for his/ her functionality while on the move. For e.g. If an insurance agent needs to access the internet to check his/her client's account impromtu when meeting up the client outside, he/she will need to have a notebook or smartphone with wireless internet connectivity to do so.

There will come a time (soon I believe) when smartphones and their data plans will be so affordable that it becomes a common technology replacing the basic mobile phone. It is just a natural phone technology trend that may come to be commonly used in near future. This is what we have seen in mobile phones replacing the pagers we once used. Then, the question in near future is why not me joining the rest of the people also to tap on this luxury of new technology since the smartphones are so affordable (maybe offered free with a contract plan) and data plans only cost a tiny fraction more than basic mobile phone plans (maybe just a few dollars more each month?).

I have a friend who last time just simply refused to change from pager to mobile phone as he thought that he can live without a mobile phone since there are public phones around to use. He just need to find a public phone whenever his pager sounded to return a call. However, it was much later that he also bought his first mobile phone and after he got one, he actually praised the convenience of having a mobile phone and said that he should have got one earlier when he had refused it.

As to having smartphones can rob one of his face-to-face communication time with people by keeping his attention not to people face on but to his smartphone, I believe it is up to the individual how he/she values face-to-face communication. It is better to communicate real person face on (with real life non-verbal as well as verbal communication) as much as possible than through technology such as email, skype, msn, sms, mms, facebook, friendster, tweeter, blog, online forum, webcam, linkedin etc. Such communication technologies exist to allow people to keep in touch when it is not possible to meet up in a short period of time due to their distances.

However, I think most people have taken such technologies for granted and used them to replace real person face-to-face communication. Communication through the various technologies can be abused by using such means to replace face-to-face communication. This is one sad disadvantage if the more advanced the communication technology will result in the more detached people are with regards to their actual relationships with other people by not wanting to avail their time (since convenient communication technology can be used) to sit down together to have real valuable face-to-face communication.

Convenience of communication does not replace the need to invest enough of one's time and effort to meet up and communicate face-to-face with the real person to build "real relationships" and not "virtual relationships".
Really depends on the person using the smartphone on whether he/she will be overly obsessed with the functions it provides. So I feel there's no harm owning one since there are at least a few conveniences associated with it. That said, I am seriously considering change to one heh.


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