Columns

Husted ’13: Why I hate smartphones

By
Opinions Columnist
Monday, March 19, 2012

I confess that I do not own a smartphone. I am a member of a dying breed of regular phone users, and my sin does not go without punishment. This summer I went into a store to replace my old phone, which I purchased in 2007, and was ridiculed by the store clerk when I pointed to the “new” phone that I wanted. To be honest, the phone I was pointing to had less technological capacity than a toaster. It seemed shocking to him that I would willingly choose to lock myself into a two-year contract with one of the handful of remaining “junk” phones.

Technology moves quickly. Just five years ago, my LG Voyager, Fred, was one of the best phones I could buy for personal use. Now he is so dated that old ladies would laugh at him.

There are several practical reasons to not own a smartphone. Perhaps you don’t want to shell out $30 a month for a data plan. Or perhaps you don’t want to respond to emails while having sex.

What if owning a Stone-Age phone is actually more pragmatic? Students at Brown are members of a generation that gets routinely criticized for its lack of patience and attention span. We need things quickly and painlessly whether it is information or entertainment. We used to get by with simple phones like Fred, but now we live in an age where Siri thinks and texts for us.

Buy a smartphone, and never be bored again. You can sit on a bus and play Angry Birds. Who wants to actually look around – or think, for that matter? That is far too boring. I am not saying that I’m not sometimes guilty of this. I waste time texting on Fred 2.0, but at least I’m communicating with another person. I don’t own a smartphone because I don’t need to see what Lil’ Wayne is tweeting while I’m on the toilet.

What is perhaps the funniest aspect of smartphones is how utterly unnecessary they are yet how dependent people have become on them. It’s pretty ironic that iPhones come with a compass since because of these devices we can’t read maps anymore. Thanks for making humanity stupid, Steve Jobs.

Comedian Louis C.K. was on a talk show recently and commented about our tech-crazy society. Noting that people complain when they have a slow Internet connection, he responds, “It’s going to space! … Is the speed of light too slow for you?” He implies that people are not only ungrateful for the recent advances of our society but they feel entitled to these advances and are entirely dependent on them.

When Brown was switching around the Google apps this past summer, all of the students and professors that had naming conflicts with their accounts were notified. Unfortunately, the email that went out created a massive chain. Without the cover of anonymity, angered people harangued those who posted random videos or otherwise spammed the listserv. Compounding the problem were those who did not even bother to read anything in the chain and simply sent “unsubscribe” to everyone.

This email chain was not a big deal. It was a mild-mannered annoyance at the most and a nice break from typical emails at the least. But the level of anger and outrage expressed by those who had smartphones was comparable to the wailing heard at Kim Jong-il’s funeral.

A BlogDailyHerald article was published in response to this event (“Why ‘reply all’ should be eradicated,” July 20), in which the author gave a play-by-play of the “catastrophe” as the violent threats exchanged became more and more explicit – to point where an administrator had to step in and break up the fight. The author described the event as if it were morally on par with Kony’s enlistment of child soldiers. Her headline was not meant to be a funny joke – she was Siriously upset. But arguing that the structure of email should be changed because of this fiasco is like wanting to end mass transportation because it isn’t always fast.

My long, drawn out point is this: The problem isn’t the “reply-all” feature of email. The source of this rage is the self-importance and impatience that goes along with owning a smartphone.

I want to make it clear that I am not against progress. That would be foolish. But progress is not necessarily desirable. The development of the plow ended well before it started telling us what restaurant we should eat at. The smartphone has not really made the phone better – it has just changed the definition of a phone. Now a phone is a gaming-camera-Internet-music-calling thing. I might add that it is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.

Fred may be less flashy than Siri, but he’s more of a true friend. I can depend on him when I need him, but he’s not a money- and time-sucking vampire.

Lucas Husted ’13 can be reached at lucas_husted@brown.edu, but Fred isn’t email capable, so it will probably take him several days to respond.

  • Anonymous

    “smart”phone tech needs to die… seriously. reminds me of when I used mac os 6.x-7.x..or even 9.x at home (aka what converted me to windows) 😛

  • Anonymous

    AMEN!!!
    I thought I was the only one who felt like this.
    Thanks for making my day lol

  • Sharon7211

    I too thought I was the only one who felt this way. I hate smartphones so much! I have lost count of the number of people I have almost knocked down whilst cycling to work, because they’re so absorbed in their phone that they can’t even divert enough attention to watch where they are going. And the last straw was when I was at the theatre the other night – I was absorbed in the show, and seemingly everyone around me was either on FB or tweeting that they were at the theatre. They’d paid for expensive tickets – why would you pay all that money out just to sit in your seat and tweet to your mates all night – and they’re sitting next to you!!!!!????? I can’t wait for some kind of evil mega-virus to emerge and wipe out the lot of them. HATE them!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    i agree totally smart-phones are the biggest waste of money and time, i found myself looking at woman with huge asses daily with the smart phone. I do love woman with huge asses however I would rather meet them in person totally. The smart phone battery life is the worst ever…

  • Brian

    Holy smokes! Not a truer statement was ever made…or serious of statements. I, like the Grinch does the Who’s, LOATH smartphones. I get picked on frequently for my refusal to fall into the smartphone trap. I don’t even like texting very much, and I was dragged kicking and screaming into unlimited texting only because my fiance texts like a madwoman and the received texts were stacking up. I’m only 30, and I long for the days without cellphones altogether because I just like to not have people in my business or access to me 24/7. I survived high school and my first year of college without a phone and successfully accomplished road trips and the like without the constant need for connection to everyone and their brothers.

  • Anonymous

    I have a geriatric phone – bought in Year 2004 – and I still get a weekend on a charge. That was back in the day when companies bragged about battery life, and it’s a “candy bar” phone. I bought that design so it’ll last a good long time. I pre-emptively make fun of the fact it’d going on 8 years old. You heard right, 8 years old and going strong. In phone years, it’ll be about 300 years old. If I replace the battery, it’ll get a full week on a charge again, and go another easy 8 or until the signal protocol is changes making it obsolete, whichever comes first.

    Sometimes I ask a person with a smartphone about its battery life, and often they say “it’s good”. Then I ask how long it goes and get “about a day”. Brand new. By the time the new one comes out, it’s constantly on life support. Even better, you can’t change the battery in a smartphone yourself. There is exactly one case where a non-replaceable battery makes sense: space probes. (it’s infinitely cheaper to launch a new mars rover than astronauta to fix it) Until smartphones can go a weekend on a charge with normal use AND have user replaceable batteries, forget it.

    • Grey

      I can really associate with this. I got my hot pink RAZR V3 with Miami Ink decals on it back in 2007 and it’s still going strong on the same battery. I find that I only need to charge it once or twice a week, and it’s on almost all the time. My husband bought me an iTouch years ago that I only use for music, and that needs to be charged after 3-4 hours of Pandora. Thankfully I’m not bound to it for every need so I can do something more constructive, like read a book or go for a walk, while it charges.

      I also like to joke about my old phone, especially when people are showing off the latest smartphone they bought. I come over, pull out my phone and talk about how it’s a great vintage piece you can’t find anymore – and for only 40 bucks 6 years ago!

  • Anonymous

    people with smartphones are rude, thier blinded by the dumb thing, and then you want to talk to them like normal and thier face is in the dumb smartphone.take that thing and run it over with a tractor, and grab the person by the nape and say wake up turkey,

  • Anonymous

    “I invented electricity…Ben Franklin is THE DEVIL!”

  • Anonymous

    I hate it. I hate how everything is digital, now you basically carry a computer around with you that has a phone option. What makes me more ill is the fact that I see very young kids walking around with these things. Never thought I’d become one of “those” people who live in the past but I wish I could go back.

    • Me too, I think the internet hit it’s “useful” peak in the mid 00’s. I kinda miss the early days of the internet when it was this cool thing with genuinely useful stuff on it.

      I work part time in a tech start-up and upstairs they’re making a “social network for cats”. I get asked all the time why I don’t have an iPhone. In the future i’m gonna refer people to this blog post.

      The sad thing is all that wasted talent. They could be making an app to track humanitarian aid or a website full of helpful information for those in debt.

      But no, it’s an app for your cat – sad really.

  • Anonymous

    a

  • Anonymous

    When I saw my son and his two friends with there new iPhones, acting like morons, with the shotgun app and the beer app, not to mention the waste of time Disgracebook (Facebook) is for people; I realized that smartphones were trying to be the new CRACK of gadgets. It will not replace a desktop computer. Instead of productive and effective communications – they are unproductive fragile time-wasters. Email, Text, Calls – This is what we need, especially in business. Blackberry dropped the ball on this, since they were trying to be Apple Inc. I have had 5 different Blackberrys, they become more complex and useless. SO I dumped them.

    So what did I do? I have purchased a mint condition little LG flip phone on Ebay – it works great. And I have a uber great desktop computer.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more! I’m a recovering iPhone addict and a news junkie, a deadly combo. Getting an alert in the middle of the night about a random news event or email is one of the most annoying and sometimes restless things that can happen. I had to keep my phone on silent at all times.

  • Anonymous

    Smartphone users are sheep and cattle to be fleeced with monthly fees. We have internet at home and at work so why use it in the car or at burger joint?

    I work with people who can’t work or sit still for 5 minutes without looking at their phones. They are just damaging their careers as their lower productivity is evident.

  • Anonymous

    I honestly disagree with the premise that it is not important to be on Twitter while sitting on the toilet.

    Don’t deny the hive mind.

  • Amy

    I’d like to defend the smartphone for just a sec, to say this: Though imagining someone reading Lil Wayne’s tweets on the toilet is admittedly funny to think about…is it really all that different from someone picking up People magazine and reading half an article while they finish their business? The self-importance and impatience that smartphones can bring out in people is unquestionably problematic, but I don’t think we can blame the phone for that. We can really only blame ourselves. Like any new tool (i.e. the internet, the first cell phones, the fax machine, the telegraph, etc.), it will take time for us to learn how to use it appropriately so that it only facilitates and doesn’t inhibit. But here’s to hoping we learn sooner rather than later…

    • brudda

      I realized years ago that the huge majority of people suck. If they didn’t suck, would there be a need for organized religion?

  • Anonymous

    Happy to see somebody sharing the same opinion

  • Anonymous

    I see some things on smartphones I like but most I don’t, I have an old touch screen phone that is one I put minutes in so I don’t have a service provider or plan and I turn it off when I’m at home, I have a phone at home and no need for someone to call my cell all the time. I like to hold my game system in hand and I’m an avid Nintendo fan..as well as game systems in general..but the fact is for me Nintendo may be gone not too long from now because of smartphone games that are super cheap and free. I want my Legend of Zelda dammit and smartphones may take that away one day cause the company lost out to little twits who can’t sit still for too long without Angry Birds on their smartphone. I’m afraid I’m gonna have to get a smartphone just to keep up with the world at large with all the QR codes and stuff like that, I surf the net at home and I have a laptop so I don’t need the net on my phone too. I hope people calm down on this soon or I’m gonna go bonkers cause of these phones. On top of everything I don’t feel like shelling out 50 dollars or more for a plan when I’m trying to SAVE money.

  • Anonymous

    I use a standard desktop all the time at home and in my office. I always travel around with a notebook (Even 10 inch is hardly large enough for my input needs). Why are all techno freaks crying that desktops are out, notebooks are out? It is the smartphone makers who want to make us feel guilty? And buy their products. When I use a computer I want to have some really useful browsing options. And a LARGE screen. And a MOUSE. I could not even efficiently use a tablet. I see no real need for a smart phone. I am always fascinated with how much time my friends spent just to make a simple call, or answer a quick message with a smart phone. And they are so frequently frustrated with something that goes wrong. They seem to get anxiety attacks all the time.

  • Anonymous

    Hi all. Having bought my first ever smartphone today, after over 15 years of just having a few regular phones, I have to say that I am shocked by how let down I feel with the so called “smart” phone. Sure it takes 5mp pics, better than my trusty 2mp pics phone, and the music feature is more advanced, but for me that’s it. The sheer complication of device astounds me, and it is full of features/apps that I have no need for. Facebook this, Twitter that etc. I’m not on those sites and don’t wish to be. And apps for “free”…. shhyeah right, data transmission charges, and sign your life away for all the permissions needed! I’m upset that I’m this appalled by what I can only see is just a license to print money by these manufacturers and networks. It’s cost me more in one day what with updates and data costs than my old phone cost me in 2 weeks. Smartphone maybe, dumb customer! I wonder how many they would sell if they were called “suckerphones”? I even got told off by my phone when I went to remove a Facebook feature! It said something like “if you remove this app then others apps may misbehave”! My new phone threatening me with misbehaviour! I’ve never encountered anything quite so ridiculous in my life. Well, certainly not from a phone. I feel that it’s return to the shop for refund time tomorrow and stick with my trusty old basic model.

  • Anonymous

    hahaha, i am shopping phones right now… i will be getting a motorola flip phone because i use it to talk and they are the best for that. i can never understand my friends and family members (who use an iphone) while talking to them. everything is garbled.

  • Anonymous

    3 Years ago i walked into a room full of people laughing and, generally, having a good time. This year i walked into a room with those same people, all of which were oblivious to the world outside of their phones’ screens. It’s a sad evolution

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t know so many people felt the same. I had a smart phone and gave it away. Hated the thing. All the supposed conveniences where like shackles.

  • fac

    GOD how I hate smartphones… At work, at lunch time, I’m the only one that does not have the phone in one hand and the fork on the other hand. Its so frsutating…

    “my monthly bill says buying a dumb phone would have been SMARTER”

  • Brian Trimble

    I am proud to say that I have never had a cellphone or a smartphone, and never will. Never.
    I’m 48.
    Though I agree with this article’s statements, I have to add one thing:
    All my years all I ever heard was how tv screens need to be bigger, and you need to watch movies at the theatre or on a large screen or in high res, etc….. but now, here these people are thinking that watching a movie on a small little smartphone screen is just the coolest thing to do.
    huh?
    I just don’t get it.
    What changed?
    Oh, yes…marketing. Having to be “in” with the times. “In” with my other friends. Being the SAME as everyone else, no matter how much we talk about playing to a different drummer.
    Seriously, people are so backwards any more it’s sad.
    And when I stand at a supermarket checkout, most are accessing their phones trying to show how important they are. They can’t even look you in the eye and say “hello”.
    Pathetic.

  • Jussi-Pekka

    This article has a very good view of how smartphones have an impact on society and even human behaviour. I really love the part about how society takes scientifical advances today as a granted. Altough in reality they not are really free and should be used with a great consern. And now I’m talking about natural resources of course. It is actually quite sad, that most of the electronics consumers doesn’t ever think about the cost of new smart phone families. I think it huge waste of resources. With minor updates, which most of them are quite irrelevant on a daily life basis, a whole generation of phones are dumbed on to wast areas. More minerals are digged out of earth just to get a smarphone family with a new support for facebook. Of course every industry has it’s impact on earth but I think smartphones are really big useless waste.

  • Stoneman

    I’m 30 and bought my first cell phone, which was a flip phone when I was in college. I still have the same phone to this day. I get bashed on about it all the time by my supposed friends for being “ancient”, but I don’t care. I make phone calls with it, period. The thing gets dropped, is full of scratches, and still works like a charm. Above all, I pay $40 a month :p ! I love it!!!

  • Sims

    The smartphone has made people less attentive to what goes on around them; I once saw a girl walk into a glass sliding door because she was so preoccupied with her smartphone!
    Moreover, the smartphone isn’t really a phone, but a mobile computer masquerading as a phone. What does it mean when it’s actually more tedious and complex to make and answer calls than phones of old? A phone’s primary function should be just that: to make and receive calls. Anything else should be of secondary importance.

  • Max Kors

    I truly hate smartphones. I really hate hate hate touchscreens. They are not as easy to use as just buttons. And I’m not talking those awful qwerty keyboards. I can text really fast without looking at the phone at all. It’s so much faster to navigate through the functions. I don’t really see the need to be constantly entertained 24/7. I don’t need constant internet. I don’t know what girls did with their hands before smartphones.They do have some nice features but they’re not worth the money or the aggravation of a touchscreen. I use my casio Gzone which is practically indestructible. It has super long battery life and way more durable than any touchscreen.

    • Rosie

      They are as easy to use as buttons! If you got a crap touchscreen, that will be your problem. But if you get an actual smartphone, the touch sensitivity is much better. When I had a cell phone, the battery life was pathetic and it constantly had to be restarted. Plus, my smartphone was $80 and $100 regular price, so they aren’t all ridiculously expensive.

  • Max Kors

    THis girl in the parking lot was standing right in front of a car and wouldn’t move cuz she was texting on her stupid phone. IT’s like an addiction.

  • Friends of Bill W

    I hate smartphones. I don’t own any. I see my friends and people in the street with them and get turned off. We are a dying breed. Don’t buy into smartphones, Android, iPhones, or whatever the latest thing is. Human contact is gone. Addiction is on the rise. Selfies rule the world.

  • from Poland

    you are entirely right

  • TuMadre

    I actually just upgraded to a smartphone for the first time. The battery sucks, for some reason my wife and I never get each other’s texts until we call each other due to lack of a response, my phone constantly freezes and needs resetting via ripping the battery out, wifi turns on only when it feels like it. Is it nice that I have a call blocker app? Yes. Do I appreciate getting updated news on the fly? Yup. But my Vita is a better portable computer, and my old dumbphone was a better phone. I will be giving this thing another month to work out the kinks before I go back to my old dumbphone.