Have we become slaves to the smartphone? Do we suddenly have too much choice with technology? How can we simplify our lives without reducing productivity? I remember the cell phone craze taking hold. It was the eighties and suddenly cell phones were turning up in everyday people’s hands. I say in their hands, but I really mean those big black bulky phones in a bag. The phones you would only see the most important CEO using just a few years before. Money was king and status was everything, so everyone wanted to look like a big shot by carrying those bulky monstrosities.
I still remember the debates when talking with friends about getting what we called a car phone back then. “Who on earth are you going to call?” they’d ask. “What reason could you possibly have to use a car phone? Do you have any idea how expensive those are?” Those questions were all very valid points for the time. It wasn’t long before those questions were easier to answer. Soon, my friend had a car phone, my boss, my girlfriend…it was time to jump into the car phone bandwagon.
The Cell Phone
Technology moves swiftly and the phone in a bag thankfully passed. As the first cell phones emerged, the choices were basic, some a little fancier than others. Retractable antenna’s, the flip feature and portability all became items of priority. Suddenly, everyone could pretend to be Captain Kirk.
Hello PC World
While cell phones made their insidious march into ubiquity, the laptop was announcing to the world that the desktop was only one option. Suddenly we had convenience, power and best of all, portability. Executives were no longer tied to their desks. They could now bring the laptop home with them. College students had the mobility they needed on campus as well home. Writers could trade in their desks and typewriters for laptop at the beach.
New technologies were not only being consumed in mass quantities but created as well. We saw the emergence of gadgets with very specific functions. Just as the phone was for communication, you suddenly could get an iPod for music an eReader for books and a portable DVD player for movies.
Enter the Tablet
This is certainly the year for tablets. Almost every computer maker is getting in on the action. With Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities, the tablet has become a giant smart phone. Nowhere is this more evident than the iPad…a piece of technology that looks like a gigantic iPhone. The tablet is your new ultimate resource for total consumption. Watch movies with ease, download your music library, email, surf the web, video conference, take photos and read your favourite book; even at the beach.
Tablets are taking the cell phone functions that never worked well and scaling up to make video applications more sensible, but creating documents is still inferior to a good old tactile keyboard. Tablets are great fun, but they make little sense for productivity. You can add a wireless mouse and tactile keyboard to make the tablet more functional, but most come with only 1G memory, 2G if you’re lucky. That’s great for creating in the cloud, but not for the full functionality you need to actually get work done. Tablets don’t make sense for business. Why limit your functionality with small memory when you can get a laptop just as light that does everything you need?
Can You Hear Me Now?
What a great slogan that was. In this day nothing really sums it up better. We want the ability to be in touch with anyone and everyone at all times. 3G networks are upgrading to 4G. Wireless routers have gone from a luxury to necessity. Coffee shops, fast food, supermarket dining halls, retail outlets and even airports have all gone wireless for your convenience. Cell towers have appeared in the most unlikely of spots to help ensure no dead spots. Carriers are fighting for your roaming fees.
We have become a society that is always in touch. We can work virtually from anywhere; take our music to the gym, our movies on the road and all of our books to the beach at once. As we march towards 2012, the time is right to become more selective about our technology options. Do we really need all these devices?
The Cell Phone Crutch
Ultra-portable laptops can do everything that a phone can do without fiddling to make the app work. We’ve become so hung up on what our phones can do that we forget what they were first meant for…fast communication!
Most would feel lost if their phones went missing. Our “lives” are in most of our phones, and they are effective technologies when it comes to making calls, storing contacts and texting, but even the smartest phones are only effective for short written compositions. There’s very little you can effectively create with a cell phone, so why all the functionality? The cell phone is just a crutch that gets you to your PC where the real work happens…and that’s all it should ever be. Nothing small enough to fit in your pocket and hold up to your ear will ever be the do-everything device manufacturers are trying to convince us they can be.
Resist the Hype
Computer engineer salaries are on the rise for good reason. Engineers are needed so manufacturers can expand their product bases into every possible gadget and bauble. Manufacturers have been pushing smart phones with more capability, along with a wide array of other handheld devices. But does that make sense anymore?
Most of all, we want to be connected. But we also want the latest and greatest, functionality, comfort and ease. With so many options available for the same functionality, it’s time to ask if the smartphone is really the best option for your needs. Perhaps it’s just a great gadget that might be easily replaced with a no commitment pay-as-you-go phone.
Marketers and advertisers are leading us to believe we need all these different devices. Free upgrades, latest and greatest cell phone launches and slick ads get us hooked into this technology. Yet, the solutions to our needs for music, books, video and email on the go are already sitting right in our laps. An ultraportable PC might be all we really need for those things.
The smartphone is great, fun and exciting, true. But when it comes to getting down to business, we have found ourselves burdened with bulk. The checklist might look like this; smartphone, stylus, iPod, e-reader, laptop or tablet, blue tooth accessories (keyboard and/or mouse), camera, extra flash memory, gaming device and cases for each. Or you could bring your simple flip phone and a PC. That’s it; end of list…same functionality with a lot less bulk.
The flood of technology is out there and it’s yours for the taking. But before you invest in yet another piece of technology, look around and think carefully. Chances are, whatever that gadget can do, your laptop can already do. Is what you need another gadget, or just a more portable PC?