Convince Me

So the inevitable conversation has finally arrived in my household, initiated by an innocent question by email:

I think we should get android phones.
Our phones are useless for anything other than calls, and everyone who has smartphones LOVES them. It really makes me wonder what we’re missing.

Ever the late adopter, I have to wonder whether I’m really missing anything at all… and it occurred to me that my own workplace, heavily populated as it is by smartphone devotees (and not a few outright Apple fangeeks), might be just the place to put such a question. And so I did:

Why do I need a smartphone?
I’m one of the most wired people I know. I live in front of computers and digital media devices. My work and home are festooned with screens. I never miss email, I can surf when I want – which is never while riding the metro or walking down the street or (qu’elle horreur!) while driving.
I have a small digital camera and the next one I get will be *better*, not smaller.
I will never join Foursquare. I don’t need experience points for living, and aspire to be the mayor of nothing. Devices are tools for me, not a lifestyle.
And really, I just don’t make a lot of phone calls.
So what the heck are these things for?

To which I received these replies, which run the normal gamut from light snark to simple pragmatism:

Other people.

Do you ever get lost?
Do you ever need help choosing a nearby bar/restaurant on the go?

Those are my only reasons.

I had to convince myself too and here’s why I got a Droid just last week… Our clients are thinking mobile, they are thinking apps, and they are thinking social. I need to be an expert in all of the above and the best way to put myself in our clients’ customers shoes is to have a smartphone. Otherwise I would still have the simple, reliable cell phone I started with more than ten years ago.

Is your question really “what are they for?” or “why do I need one.”

If it is the former:

All the functionality you have on your home devices (albeit less powerful) on-the-go. You can respond quicker on email, listen to a small portion of your music collection, or get interrupted with a phone call. You can also be interrupted at any time, live under the assumption that you’re “always connected,” and be cast as a slacker when you don’t instantly respond to text, IM, email, or phone call. It’s great. Also, you don’t have to wait to Tweet things. That way, you can avoid having your better judgment kick in when you’re ticked off in traffic.

If it is the latter:

You don’t. But they’re novel. And I want one. Because I consume everything and I just want to consume it faster, more often, and with less thought behind it.

You don’t need one. But you do want one (even if you don’t realize it yet).

They’re great for settling drunken arguments among friends. Just google the disputed fact or point.

I actually use mine to browse my reader a lot, too. And yes, to check facebook and keep up with my personal email. More and more, I’m using it for Pandora and other music services. I plan to get a new phone soon (iPhone or that crazy new EVO) with the goal of better music integration. As for the camera, I find I snap a lot more random things I come across simply because the phone is always in my pocket — and you can upload pictures straight to social media from most phones. They’re getting closer and closer to being the all-in-one device I want: camera, music, video player, and phone.

None of this means you need one, though. I just like having one.

I’m still unconvinced. I really don’t need one. My “on the go” needs are simple, and met by more specific, straightforward devices; a reader, a tiny MP3 player, a japanese hand fan.

But while having a tool that is the baseline of new media expectations is part of being a professional, the real reason I’ll probably get one anyway is far more basic: I’m a monkey. I will not be able to keep my thumbs off one of these things for too much longer, as the “ooh, shiny” instinct kicks in a little further each day. More than the convergence of a set of technologies, the modern smartphone is a tactile/sensory dream toy… something that combines gesture and light and sound to manipulate the bitstream in a flat, miniature crystal ball. A magic mirror made of plastic and data.

Who could resist?


  1. gah. need less devices not more! these pissy little girlie pockets can barely take a few notes, a credit card and a couple of keys, let alone any significant electronica. use a bag you say? nah, hate em.

    i might be tempted when they are credit card size (and <3mm thickness), till then they are just a liability.

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