Those who know me will be surprised that I would say this, but I am tired of smartphones. I have run the mobile-phone rat-race in a frenzied pace ever since my first one in 1999, changing some 18 phones (I kept some for only for a few months) over 12 years, always being the first to pounce on the latest gleaming gadget playing ‘early adopter’ to keep ahead of the market and to impress chicks, (BREAKING NEWS: They don’t get impressed!) only to end up in debt and finally burning out on them. It is all pointless. Don’t mistake me, I am all for smartphones. Be it the regular smartphone, the slightly dumb-smartphone or the super-smartphone which will cost you more than a month’s salary. Well, I even earn a living because of them. However, the rat race they spawn makes one burn out. You either get addicted or you burn out.
Mobile phones have long ceased to be a device which helped you communicate with people. Today they have more computing power than the Apollo 11 Moon mission and lets us run (free) applications for almost everything from generating fart sounds to solve complex scientific equations. It also makes people go nuts. People like me, who think that getting my hands on the latest one will solve all my problems and help me conquer the world. As time goes on with me using the same old phone, I feel restless as its limited features seem to be limiting me from spreading my wings and flying off into the sunset. So, I dispose off the old piece of hardware and procure the latest and shiniest piece of digital awesomeness. But for the irritation and restlessness soon resurfaces with renewed vigor, but on an altogether different plane. So when the issues that I had with the old phones somewhat went away, I was faced with a new set of problems, some arising out of plenty. Is this similar to the frustration they say that you experience in life when you think that you will be happy if you get something a little bit more, but will never be happy? I am getting philosophical here, not good. Let us come back to the topic. What are the reasons for this “Smartphone Fatigue?”
BATTERY BACKUP – THE SCOURGE OF THE SMARTPHONE!
Of course, the number one reason that I get irritated the hell out of smartphones is their absolute lack of will to hold it in. And by “it”, I mean their electrons. The things drain battery charge faster than anything you can throw a cliche at. The things need infinite amounts of juice to light up those huge screens, to process networks and (ironically) run those applications that will help you save battery power. If you look at it, you can still feel that the battery-technology is yet to get a bus from somewhere in the 14th century, despite being one of the oldest things humans have ever invented! This holds true for especially Androids, iPhones and even Blackberrys.
Imagine that you own a state-of-the-art Ferrari, but you cannot go above 40 kmph because you are scared you will run out of gas, unless there are petrol stations every 5 km. You can either crawl at 40 kph for 50 km, or blast at top speed for 5 km before slowing down and going into the next gas station. That is what you feel like owning a smartphone. My Samsung Galaxy S (I9000) for instance will drink so much juice that the battery will be empty before the sun is halfway over to the west. That too with average usage – About 10 min of calls, 10 SMSes and an hour of data and application usage. This is without me running any ‘heavy’ apps like Angry Birds or those which use GPS. So what is the use of all those gleaming applications and other making-life-easy stuff, when you are limited from actually using them?
When you start planning your life around schedules to keep your smartphone battery running, it all points to the fact that you seriously have lost something called “life” somewhere on the way and need to get it back. Some indicators for this are:
1. You have in your possession atleast 4 battery chargers. One at home, one in office, a car-cigarette-lighter charger and a regular one as backup in your car or which you carry on your person at all times, because God forbid if you have to make an unplanned detour/stop at a place and/or one of your chargers decides to stop working.
2. You plan your entire day’s itinerary around the availability of electricity and/or charging outlets and projected usage or your phone and associated battery life.
3. You select buses/trains/flights looking at the availability of seat side power outlets and threaten to sue if you find one not to be working. Or refuse to travel altogether.
4. You use your laptop as a portable electricity storage device for charging mobile phones.
5. You have with you all sort of ridiculous paraphernalia ranging from bulky attachable battery packs to laughable hand-crank-chargers. For all the technological advantages humankind has made, you still need a “stuck-in-the-19th-century” hand-crank to light up the world’s most powerful handheld personal computing system!
When you are bored and away from a charging outlet, like on an overnight train or bus or in an unending waiting period, all you can do is take the phone and twirl it in your hand, lest it should die on you and makes you unable to use the phone for that basic function of all – making and receiving calls. You have infinite ways to kill your time right in front of you – but you cannot. So what is the use? And no, there are no shortcuts and easy ways to increase your smartphone battery backup time. Live with it.
I guess we already are in the era where parents tell their kids before going to bed: “Brush your teeth, go to the toilet, say your prayers and put your phone on charge.”
DEPENDENCY AND FUNCTIONALITY
A couple of years earlier, you could drop me in the middle of Basavangudi and I would make my home back without a hitch. Today, most people need Google Maps for them to navigate their way to the parking lot. And while GPS related accidents are quite common place in the West, thankfully it has not gained that much prevalence in India. And not to mention all the all other things that has made us totally dependent on the thing for life. And now that there are apps for everything, almost all brain work is deemed null and void. Then there is the fatigue arising from information overload.
One thing that smartphones cannot do properly is making/receiving calls. On my previous phone, the Nokia E63, I could text, make and receive calls with my eyes closed, not as so much as giving a glance at the screen (A boring meeting, cinema hall, even rejecting calls while driving), due to something called touch feedback. Here, nothing of the sort is possible. Even with 100% attention devoted to the screen, I keep typing “abput” for “about“, “yhe” for “the” and so on. Rejecting calls is the most cumbersome activity, and almost impossible if you are in the middle of playing bumper cars with that oversized truck in the fast lane. And giving a missed call (even to the last dialed number) is one hell of a complicated 4-step task which requires your total attention. No more two clicks on the left most button and a click on the right most button after 6 seconds before lazily tossing it back on the seat. I would say that smart phones are more of portable internet access devices than they are communication devices.
Maybe it is just me, but I have felt that these phones require a certain level of “refinedness” while using them. Like semi-formals, delicate handling and rolled up car windows. Maybe it is just me, but I feel uneasy using it in dusty and not-so “refined” conditions. Maybe that is the reason why it keeps hanging at least once a day? Add to that the ever-lingering anxiety that someone will flick the thing (They totally did). The size is another thing. I cannot sit for more than 3 minutes with this phone in the pocket. In all, I feel overburdened by the smartphone.
IN THE END, IT DOESN’T MATTER
You might be asking: “If you have so much problems with it, just dump it and quit complaining!” Therein lies the problem. I cannot, because, these things are like women. You can’t live with them, but you also can’t live without them. It does have all the advantages that are tom-tommed everywhere – changing the world and all that. There are additional advantages of not being hunched over the phone all the time. I can pursue other worthy stuff like what we used to do in our childhood (the pre-internet/cable TV childhood) like making friends and stuff, or just sit somewhere and watch the world go by. Or make some real-life friends. Or even use the phone to do what it really is supposed to do: Call up people and keep in touch. Read this post on what a guy tells about his life after throwing away his smartphone and switching back to a regular Nokia phone.
For a device that was supposed to make the life of us humans easier by equipping us with tools of managing day-to-day life, smartphones somehow have succeeded in making it all the more complicated. We end up getting all tangled up in more strings attached and cluttering up our already smoked out brains with more TEMP files. Well, maybe I could get a sub-smart phone, which has the necessary stuff only like a Twitter app and an internet connection and clear up some disk space inside my head. Also, I can’t just throw away my phone, it was a gift. I am not a rich cricketer to give away gifts, right?
Remember, your Smartphone is not a refrigerator. Do not open it every 10 minutes to see if there is something inside. In addition to all the loan and credit card repayment schedules, petrol-saving driving schedules, cholesterol-and-weight-watching programs, girl/boyfriend-juggling headaches, battling with customer support and other random outrage stuff that we already have to worry about, this additional mind space required to manage our smartphone schedules add to the mess burning us out much faster. I already have, and I need rest. And a life. Unfortunately, there is no app for that.