I confess: I’ve tried and tried, but I’m unable to muster more than a polite interest in smart phones. The disappearance of pay phones and bus schedules mean that I need to carry one, but, unlike a laptop or a workstation, it has never seemed more to me than utilitarian. It allows me to text, scan QR codes, play Angry Birds – oh, and make a phone call – but I can’t warm to the thing or get excited about it the way that most people appear to.
So far as I am concerned a phone is a limited piece of technology that hasn’t made any advances to speak of for years. True, every new release, those around me sigh over the latest round of specs. But most of them are small enhancements at best, and soon forgotten after purchase. And while the fact that we carry in our pockets better computers than were used in the Apollo moon mission is worth a moment of awe, it’s hard to sustain that feeling in everyday use, especially when the memory and the RAM make the average phone very much yesterday’s technology by workstation standards.
Of course, I might think differently if I lived differently. But I work from home, and I see no particular reason to switch from my old land line, especially when doing so would mean waiting a couple of weeks for a new Internet connection. When I carry a cell phone, I’m away from home and on my own time, so I carry it turned off, turning it on only for a purpose (which sometimes, I admit, includes boredom and the lack of new reading material and a dead battery on my music player). When I’m away from home, I’m on my time, and generally I don’t want to be accessible. The average emergency, I figure, can wait.
It doesn’t help, either, that I have short, stubby fingers and thumbs that make texting an exercise in frustration. On any phone, texting more than every now and then leaves me sympathizing with those who require accessibility features and grimly determined to avoid the ordeal unless absolutely necessary.
But these are peripheral reasons for my lack of interest in smart phones. Mostly, I don’t care for them because they are so limited.
When I got my first workstation, what excited me was what I could do with it. Even the early version of WordPerfect I was using was a tremendous boost in productivity over my old Selectric (which seemed pretty cutting edge in its day compared to ordinary typewriters). I was excited by the graphic designs that were suddenly possible, and by the simulations that strategic games made easy, even with CGA graphics. Later, the largest screens that would fit my work space, to say nothing of virtual workspaces, made me more productive still. But, every step of the way, I was excited about a workstation or a laptop let me do.
By contrast, even the simplest productivity is torture on a phone. The speed is slow, the precision almost non-existent, and the feature set limited. More is done for me, as if that is an advantage over the exact hands-on control that to me is the whole point of productivity apps. Very little professional work is possible, and what can be done takes three or four times as long – if I’m lucky and it can be done at all. Things do get better if you start adding peripherals, but at that point I’d rather simply carry a laptop, and not have to worry about leaving something expensive behind me.
I can admire the design that goes into phones, and admit their usefulness. But get excited about them? Please. You might as well expect me to get excited about my toaster.