The Grip Of The Smartphone

A thought-provoking idea was posted recently on Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog. It asked, “Are smartphones necessary anymore?” That notion was based on the premise that a smartphone is nothing more than a connected mobile device. But many of the responses in the comments showed that the smartphone is much more than that.

When Steve Jobs introduced the quintessential smartphone (iPhone), he said it was three things: a phone, a widescreen iPod, and an internet communicator. 3 in 1.

But in time, the smartphone became several other things: a GPS, a camera, a handheld game console, an ebook reader, and more!

So, the smartphone seems indispensable; it’s replaced so many other single-use devices!

I do think there’s a lot of good to be said about sticking with single-purpose devices (I still cling to my kindle paperwhite). They tend to be simpler and better at their dedicated function. But of course, then you must carry around a bunch of different gadgets.


I’d say that smartphones are like cars. Our society now kind of just assumes you have one. You could trade your smartphone in for a dumb flip phone. But that would be like trading your car in for a bicycle. Sure, you can do those things and survive. But our culture works around the fact that the smartphone is here to stay.

woman girl writing technology
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Granted, technology gives, yet it also takes away. It’s apparent that smartphones are not perfect. They take away our attention from ‘real life’ in the moment, distracting our focus. Their apps can cause addiction. And many people have started to notice the downsides of upgrading to a smartphone.

There are articles and books that address these issues. A Wired story spurred the question of the necessity of smartphones:

It’s Time To Bring Back The Dumb Phone

There’s also:

Going Dumb: My Year With A Flip Phone

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia


Like all technology, I think smartphones have pros and cons. And you must decide for yourself which outweighs the other. I’d caution to not throw the baby out with the bathwater though.

Certainly I relate to smartphone addiction. I’m a tech geek anyways. Before iPhones, there were PDA’s. I had a Pocket PC (Dell Axim X3), like a Palm Pilot. Before that: the Casio B.O.S.S. These things were cool gadgets. So of course I want to keep my smartphone. I just need to be careful and use it in moderation I guess.

antique broken cell phone communication
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But if I really had to, I think it’d be possible to rely on an LTE enabled iPad or laptop computer instead of a smartphone for staying connected and productive. Then again, a tablet is too big to be a pocket point-n-shoot camera.

Is the smartphone in our grip, or are we in the grip of the smartphone?

Do you think smartphones are necessary? Could you go back to a flip-phone or a feature-phone like the Blackberries of yore? Would you? Should you?

Computers Are Like Cars

Unlike my previous post, which specifically talked about how iPhones and iPads last a long time these days, this one is about the longevity of computers in general. I was realizing just how long both my own and my wife’s PCs are still running after many years. And I think it’s like owning a car.

I upgraded my wife’s desktop PC core in 2011; that’s over 7 years ago now! Her 2nd-gen Intel core i5 and 12GB of RAM are still more than enough for her needs. The only boost I gave it was last year when I switched her from Win 7 on a hard drive to Win 10 on an SSD.

My own desktop PC is, get this, only using a Pentium processor and is now 5 years old! The only upgrade it ever saw was the day I brought it home; I added memory, making it go from 4 to 8GB of RAM. And it runs like a champ for my needs.

forced perspective photography of cars running on road below smartphone
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I expect these PC’s to keep going for a few more years. The only parts that have died were one power supply. Even the hard drives were fine, although one was showing signs of impending failure. Normal enough.

Our computers, even our smartphones, are like cars these days. They all last longer than they used to, so replacing them occurs less often. You just keep using them for as long as they just work. (Also, like appliances.)

On top of that, while buying a new phone/computer (or car) is nice, it is also expensive and not really necessary. Most used computers and cars that are a few years old still work great. So you can buy a certified ‘pre-owned’ car or ‘refurbished’ iPad, get great value, and save a ton of money. Frugal!

Are you looking at replacing or upgrading an aging computer this year? Will you finance a new MacBook like a new Toyota or save up for a used one?

Thanks for reading,

-Jason

The Longevity Of Apple Tech

Thanks to Apple’s recent news about slowing iPhone sales, it’s apparent that people don’t upgrade their phones as often as they used to. Until last week, the device I used was over four years old. I upgraded from an iPhone 6 to a brand new…iPhone 7! Wait, but that phone is like two years old.

That’s right. And it’s a great upgrade! I would say that Apple’s phones are so good and bleeding edge that a 2-year old iPhone is still a fantastic device. And that’s why it seems so many people are keeping them instead of breaking the bank to buy a fancy new iPhone XS or XR. They’re just too expensive.

I like to buy used Apple stuff. You get great value and save a lot of cash. Last year, I bought a used iPad Air 2, a three-year old tablet at the time. And I’m still enjoying it today; I typed this blog post on it. It still works great! And I look at the shiny new iPad Pros and think they’re way too costly and they don’t really do anything that my iPad Air 2 doesn’t do. So why bother to upgrade?

As for my iPhone 6, I had planned to use it for one more year before upgrading, which would have made it five years old! But it recently began performing much slower than usual. I tried deleting apps, but that didn’t help.

While visiting friends over the Christmas holiday, it turned out that they had an “old” iPhone 7 not being used anymore, and they simply said they would let me have it! Wow! I gladly accepted the unplanned upgrade from a 6 to a “new” 7. And as a thank you, I gladly gave them a chunk of money for it.

Here’s something to note: I plan to use this iPhone 7 for at least two more years, which would make it four years old before I once again upgrade. Maybe by then the iPhone XR will sell at a low used price of around $250!

You can have great tech gadgets and not have to spend a fortune! iPhones and iPads, at least in the US where I live, are ubiquitous. There’s always someone somewhere upgrading and selling their current device.

If you stay 2 years behind the bleeding edge of Apple tech, I’d say you’re not really “behind.” You are just not “ahead” of the rest. You’re pretty much right in line with mainstream tech. It’s a very good and reasonably affordable place to be.

How old is your current smartphone? Let me know!

Thanks for reading,

-Jason

Taking The iPad Further

In a few days, Apple will have an event where maybe they’ll reveal new iPads. And since my iPad is my computer, I’m very interested to see what direction Apple takes iPad next. Will it become even more capable than it already is? And a bigger question, will the iPad become more of Apple’s main focus for the future of computing?

When the iPad Pro, for example, was first announced, Apple CEO Tim Cook prefaced it by declaring,

“iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.”

He went on to ask how Apple could take the iPad further. Their answer was basically 3 things: make the screen bigger, add a pencil/stylus, and add a better keyboard.

So if Apple reveals new iPads this week, how will they take it further? Add more hardware or software, or maybe both, to make it even more capable?

Most understand that putting Apple’s latest and greatest processor inside the newest iPad would for sure make it much more powerful. But there’s more to making hardware work than adding raw power.

Many people still think that a mouse and a keyboard is the best way to use a computer, and the iPad’s touch interaction, while simple and convenient, is just not as capable. Yet keyboards have been available for the iPad since it first came out. Could Apple now do even more than their Smart Keyboard?

What if they made a clamshell-like keyboard case for iPad so that it looked and acted more like a laptop? It could be similar to the Brydge Keyboard. I think that would actually propel iPad further because it would allow multiple angles of viewing/typing whereas the Smart Keyboard only has one fixed angle on a flimsy multi-hinged folding case. I think a laptop like keyboard case would also sit more sturdily on your lap.

What about a mouse? I don’t think Apple would enable a mouse and cursor for iPad because it would diminish the simplicity of the tablet. It could also cause too much divergence or feature disparity between iPad and iPhone. In short, it would cross the line by adding too much complexity.

Besides hardware, what about software and apps? Well, it’s already been recently announced that Adobe is bringing full Photoshop to iPad. This popular app has traditionally been only for the desktop computer. So Photoshop coming to iPad seems to be a strong signal that the iPad is being considered more like a “real computer.”

Other software moves that could signal Apple taking iPad further might be announcing some of its Mac only apps now being made for iPad. Or they could add new capabilities to the Files app, making it more like the Finder app on the Mac. Or they could do what Apple is known for and introduce a whole new “magical” way to select and edit text with fancy but simple multi-touch gestures that make using a mouse with a cursor seem cumbersome.

The most radical idea might be a combo of hardware and software advances: a laptop like keyboard case that has a recessed spot in which you place an iPhone so that it auto-magically enables something called touchpad mode. The glass screen of the iPhone would mimic the glass trackpad of MacBooks, including a little vibrating feedback when you touch it. This would of course mean a cursor of some kind would need to appear on the iPad screen.

Whatever Apple does, it will be interesting to see. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying my 4 year old non-pro iPad, which still makes me feel like the future is now.

What would you like to see in a new iPad? Would you use an iPad more if you could use a mouse with it? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

My iPad Is My Computer

Not long ago, everyone had a boxy beige desktop PC, or maybe a thick clunky gray laptop. Those were the only real choices for a personal computer. But now, many people use other things like smartphones, tablets, or Chromebooks.

With so many options, you just kinda pick what works best for you and which thing you like the most. Nowadays a personal computer is much more of a personal choice.

My wife, for example, has stuck to using her desktop PC. She has a smartphone and has used different tablets but prefers good ol’ fashioned Windows with a mouse and a keyboard. That’s not a bad choice for anyone really. It works just fine. So, traditional.

turned on ipad
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My kids also use Windows PC’s. We homeschool, so it’s practical for us to have budget PC’s for the kids’ schoolwork, which is mostly online stuff. And of course Windows has Minecraft. (Even I play it sometimes!) We did have a Chromebook for the kids, but it slid off a bunkbed onto a wood floor, which cracked the screen. But it only cost me about $150! So, practical and affordable.

As for me, I’ve tried lots of different things and settled on using an iPad as my only computer. I’m all-in on just the iPad along with an iPhone as my go-to gadgets.

I’m not just trying out the iPad to see if it can do all the things I need or want. I already did that and found it can. In fact, I’m typing this blog post in the WordPress app using just the on-screen keyboard, tapping away quietly on the glass. It works well! I can even make nice images with titles in the Canva app if I want.

Of course, there are other ways to do things. Before I used just an iPad and an iPhone, I used just a Chromebook and an Android smartphone. It was all Google instead of all Apple. And it worked. But Apple’s devices had some advantages that won me over.

It was not an easy win though. At one point, I kinda went back and forth between my iPad and my Windows laptop. I even switched to a MacBook a few years ago but then went back to my Windows computer. Letting go of my traditional computing ways took time because I built them up over many years. Plus I still use a Windows desktop PC at work.

The things that kept me coming back to my iPad was that it is a lot simpler and more reliable than my Windows laptop. It just works when I need it too. And it does it fast and easy.

On top of that, it’s small size and long battery life let me use it anywhere anytime. Plus, I really like my iPhone, and the iPad uses the same apps and system, so it’s familiar. Two devices with one-in-the-same software is just easier for me to manage.

What’s also surprising to me when I think about is even though my iPad is 4 years old, it still works great! It’s an iPad Air 2 that I bought used from someone on Facebook Marketplace. And if you want a new iPad, they’re so much more affordable now than they used to be. You can even get good deals and save money if you buy a refurbished iPad from Apple.

Anyways, we’re lucky to have so many options. I enjoy an iPad as my computer and think more people could too. When you think about it, you don’t really need much else.

So with all your options out there, what devices do you use the most? Or if you could choose something else, what would it be? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. Thanks.