Smartphones: The Smart Option?


I must admit that smartphones have impacted my consciousness quite severely in the last few weeks.  Things came to a head when a friend shared the link to this wonderful new phone on Facebook…check it out before the jump…Didn’t you want that phone to be real? Be honest, how long did it take you to work out that this was a hoax?

The Pomegranate is an expertly executed example of exploiting Man’s intrinsic need for one-upmanship.  Your friend’s phone might have Google Maps, but can it make coffee (or transform into a harmonica?).  On a more serious note, the New Scientist ran this article recently hailing the smartphone as

effectively [become] an appendage to our body and mind that plays a role in everything from our social interactions to emotions.

Justified? Probably.  It’s quite true that everyone has a friend who would rather fumble with their iPhone than consult a handy, low-tech, paper-based map when trying to get places.  The word “app” has moved out of Silicon Valley (and away from other participants of Buzzword Bingo) into everyday life.  After all, how can you split a bill in a restaurant without an app that tells you how?

The cynical will cast an eye on my previous attempts to split the bill, and watch as I reach for my (simpleton-)phone to surreptitiously use the calculator.  I will remain defiant: I am not a Luddite, and calculators are very useful pieces of equipment.  However, to use a calculator requires supplementary knowledge: a grounding in arithmetic.  After all, if you don’t understand the concept of division, how can you use a calculator?  A smartphone removes that requirement, which is what I guess worries me most.  There’s a classic story by Isaac Asimov about a world so dependent on technology that they have forgotten mathematics completely, and are forced to rediscover it to survive (their somewhat anachronistic obsession with slide rules is quite cute).  Could smartphones turn us into such a bunch of cretins?

Actually, that’s not what worries me most.  What worries me most is that I want one: marketing consultants have honed their craft over the last five decades, and despite my attempts to be worldly and cognisant of the fact, they have successfully convinced the testosterone-fuelled gadget-obsessed part of me to crave their shiny newness.  Damn you, Apple! I’m doomed to spongification…

Perhaps I’m just caught up in media hyperbole: ten years ago, newspapers were pushing plenty of copy about how our half-brick phones (having recently evolved from full-brick phones) were becoming our newest limb, and people were developing SIM separation anxiety.  Then a few years ago Blackberries, with their magnificent qwertyfied countenance and email on tap, were causing much consternation about burned-out City Workers (they probably wouldn’t have received quite so much sympathy from the tabloids today!).  This is probably just the newest “thing to worry about” that Fleet Street is blowing out of proportion.

Still – when I do succumb, don’t let me download iSplit…for the sake of my mental health…

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