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.Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

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.

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?

Could you go back to a flip-phone or a feature-phone?