Are Smartphones Bad, Actually?

For discussion and debate about anything. (Not a roleplay related forum; out-of-character commentary only.)

How smartphoned are you?

no mobile or landline
no mobile
cheapo smartphone, no data
cheapo smartphone, data
smartphone with lots of apps and data
multiple smartphones
crippled by nomophobia
former addict, now have dumbphone
No votes
Total votes : 103

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Are Smartphones Bad, Actually?

Postby Forsher » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:52 am

The people deciding to ditch their smartphones

About nine out of 10 people in the UK now own a smartphone, a figure broadly replicated across the developed world. And we are glued to them - one recent study found that the average person spends 4.8 hours a day on their handset.

Yet for a small, but growing number of people, enough is enough.

Alex Dunedin binned his smartphone two years ago. "Culturally we have become addicted to these tools," says the educational researcher and technology expert. "They are blunting cognition and impeding productivity."

This, on its face, might seem a strange claim. You can do a lot with a smartphone. It can have your emails, your health, your time wasting, micropayment platforms of choice... ah.

It seems to me that the problem with smartphones isn't smartphones... it's apps and data.

Take Covid, for example. In NZ we have the Covid Tracing App, which you use to scan QR codes and maybe have bluetooth tracing on, for contact tracing purposes. This is useful and, frankly, kinda necessary. My mother spent months just writing stuff down which is, um, yikes when you realise that you're writing your contact details down on a piece of paper literally anyone can read. Without smartphones or something like them, I think there'd be a big problem. (Of course, there are some equity issues here.)

So, let's say you had a very stripped down smartphone experience... maybe it's got some songs on it, a camera, some space to store photos/videos, an internet browser, an email app, wifi capability, a non-interactive lifestyle app (say, a pedometer), office doc/PDF viewers and calls and text functionality. Is such a phone going to be something you can spend 4.8 hours a day on? Probably only if you're using it like a kindle. There's nothing else to really do on it but use the internet.

I guess, you might still have the "just watch the concert" problem because we've still got a camera, but I feel like outside of concerts, if you're taking a photo or recording a short video, you probably are actually experiencing the world... you've just got the phone out (of your pocket/bag) because of your experiences, not as a default. And since your stripped down experience lacks data... if you're out and about, your phone is basically a dumbphone, it's not a tether to the world that you're trying to get away from.

It seems very clear to me that people who suffer from smartphone addiction would be better served by just having a cheaper smartphone (that lacks space for a wide array of apps... and, indeed, possibly compatibility)... and not paying for data, than they would be ditching a smartphone. Let it be an all in one, rather than a thing itself.

Anyway, what say ye, NSG? Are you one of the people deciding to ditch your smartphone? Did you even have a smartphone to begin with?
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Postby The New California Republic » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:01 am

I'm sure there will be others besides me that will say this, but part of the issue is that having one is seen as an essential for work-related stuff in a lot of professions, so by necessity you are channelled into needing to use it frequently. It's a relatively recent development, as for example beforehand even two or three years ago your work would let you off if you didn't see an email straight away because you were away from a computer, but now there is an expectation that you will see it straight away no matter where you are, and respond promptly. Changing work norms definitely feed into the reliance on smartphones and spending a lot of time on them.
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Postby United Nations of Gaia » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:07 am

Smartphones aren't bad on their own, the issue is that them + the fact that we have car reliant infrastructure that discourages being outside means many people will just resort to using them.
I personally try to limit my use of phones, and can do so well enough, especially when taking a bus or a train, but in other cases it's just something you do and not even notice.

Then there is the privacy issue, at this point, if you have a phone, accept that privacy isn't a thing, if someone wants access, there is always a back door somewhere.
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Postby Imperial States of Duotona » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:09 am

The phone is a hot topic and here's my take:

Phones necessarily aren't bad. It's unrestricted access. If you're sure you're addicted to it, just set your phone aside for a couple hours and do something like go for a walk or read a book. Make it a habit.
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Postby Holy Tedalonia » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:18 am

I don't know how smartphones are addicting. Mobile games are mid, texting people is just a way to bother them, and social media is for the most part a circus. There's almost no incentive for me to use my phone, more than I have too. If I have extended breaks in time. I rather read a book or whip out a switch or the soon to be steamdeck. The only time I whip out the phone is if I need to or the time I'm expecting to wait is less than 5 minutes.
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Postby Nilokeras » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:19 am

The problem is not the smartphone. It's that so many other companies who provide software that runs on those phones have created or stumbled into business models that reward constant attention and engagement, usually through cycles of reward and anxiety. See: instagram, Facebook, twitter. The problem, as ever, is capitalism.

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Postby Hemakral » Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:25 am

They're tools, they can be used or misused

now, my personal opinion is that the phone can stay at home.
- I don't wanna replace it, too expensive and such a hassle
- the only people calling me in the middle of the day are spammers. whatever it is, it can wait till I get home
- I only use my phone for calling and texting, because apple is untrustworthy as hell and I don't want my data being sold
- sure, I could be playing candy crush or something on my break, but then apple would be stalking me and fuck that man

on a wider societal scale:
- social media rewards instant gratification with more instant gratification
- phone zombies are gross. read a book or something
- shortened attention spans, rampant consumerism, distribution of misinformation
Last edited by Hemakral on Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Eahland » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:09 am

My cell is my only phone. I have a landline, but it's DSL-only. (I have unusual Internet needs... the ability to get static IPs and server ToS for a halfway reasonable price is more important than raw speed, and anyway I won't do business with Comcast, which is my only other option.) But I've been using a flip-phone for years, and I'm going to be very annoyed when it stops working, because it's impossible these days to buy a new flip-phone that isn't utter shite. Mom had to replace hers a year or so ago because the hinge broke, and it took her two replacements to get one that even basically functioned, and even at that her current one still doesn't entirely work right, and is missing a lot of features that mine has and even her old one, which was a generation older than my current one, had.

I just basically don't see that the niche that smartphones are trying to fill actually exists. They're a mash-up of a bad phone and a really bad computer. They're bulkier and more fragile than I want to be trying to carry around on my person all the time, and their battery life sucks. And if I want to do more than make or receive phone calls, they're somewhere between bad and completely incapable. I've got a Fire tablet if I really need a super-portable Web browser or PDF reader, and even that has like four times the screen real estate of a typical smartphone (and virtual keyboard real estate, which is important given how big my hands are). And if I want more than dumb Web browsing, I want the full-up laptop with a real keyboard and proper multitasking and all of the other capability that comes with all of your computers, even the laptops, being Linux servers.

Neither the tablet nor the phone are allowed to have access to my email. I don't actually control them — Amazon and Verizon do — so they are not allowed to snoop in my email.
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Postby Parcel of Rogues » Mon Jan 24, 2022 12:34 pm

Perhaps it's better to be a smart person with a dumb phone than the other way around.

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Postby Chan Island » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:05 pm

Smart phones are tools, damn useful ones too, but they are designed by people who are trying to maximise the amount of time the user spends on them. And they are damn good at figuring out how to make people do that. And that’s not fun.

The New California Republic wrote:I'm sure there will be others besides me that will say this, but part of the issue is that having one is seen as an essential for work-related stuff in a lot of professions, so by necessity you are channelled into needing to use it frequently. It's a relatively recent development, as for example beforehand even two or three years ago your work would let you off if you didn't see an email straight away because you were away from a computer, but now there is an expectation that you will see it straight away no matter where you are, and respond promptly. Changing work norms definitely feed into the reliance on smartphones and spending a lot of time on them.

That stuff’s been getting annoying. More than once I’ve gotten shit for not responding to emails immediately.

On a Sunday. Or a holiday.

Because I decided to take a walk, read a book, play board games or this should be none of your business this ought to be my time.

And it is 100% something to blame the proliferation of smartphones for.
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Horizonte Mexico
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Postby Horizonte Mexico » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:15 pm

I'm too hooked to the computer to get hooked on a smartphone.

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Postby Saiwania » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:18 pm

From a hardware perspective, its usually pointless to buy the most expensive or state of the art. It'll be too expensive and by the time its time to buy a new phone, you'll have just paid it off. Plus marginally better spec phones come out constantly, so its a losing proposition to want to have the best of the market constantly, unless you have tons of money to burn. But you'll have a bad user experience if you buy too cheap and your phone is just not capable enough. The phone makers encourage people to get a new phone every 1-2 years but thats a huge waste.

I try to buy a good reliable phone that is middle tier or a good value for the budget its in. Ideally, it'll be useful for at least 4-5 years. Good processor/amount of RAM or screen is crucial. Cameras and good audio if those are a priority for you. If wanting a good deal, some compromise usually is made where one spec is more of a weakness/bottleneck or if the model is slightly older than newest available equivalent, but you have to decide if you don't care about what's lacking or not. Go for a powerful CPU+RAM phone if you want fast application speeds above all else and etc.

From a software perspective, Android or iOS is complex/complicated. Between major versions of either mobile OS, you occasionally have to deal with a learning curve to figure out whats changed or how to work the damn thing in figuring out what is where. In that aspect, yes- smartphones are a negative burden.

But at the end of the day, it's a tool that is what you make of it. I have a smartphone that I only use as a mobile computer for now. No phone service because I can't/don't want anything that is a recurring bill. If I had to have it, a prepaid plan is better if I don't talk much on phone to begin with, and only need 1,000 minutes or so for the year.
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Ethel mermania
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Postby Ethel mermania » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:20 pm

They are neither good or bad.

They are very useful though.
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Postby Grenartia » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:22 pm

"Technology bad" types have always struck me as just as annoying, misinformed, and acting in bad faith as every older person who has ever complained about "kids these days".
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Postby Dreria » Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:18 pm

yeah I’m going to get a dumb phone because these things are unironically the work of the devil
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Postby Risottia » Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:33 pm

Mobile phones were the spawn of evil already. Smartphones are THE EVIL ITSELF.
From someone how is basically required to have a smartphone to work.

Anyway: smartphone (unlimited calls, 70 GB/month traffic), plus spare mobile modem, and 1 Gb/s FTTH line with unlimited traffic including landline.
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Postby Victorious Decepticons » Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:43 pm

I use my phone basically as a modem for my real computers. I got into games on it for a while, but the screen is just too small to see well, and I ended up with eyestrain and painful fingers/thumbs after a few months. I do like the Gin game, because with it, you play against actual other humans and it's much more gratifying to kick a real person's ass and imagine them pouting. That said, it is a money eater, and like a few other phone games, my love for it diminished a lot after I did some math.

Even so, the main reason I haven't played that one in a few months because like I said, the screen is just too small! I did think of buying an Android tablet so I could have a bigger screen, but then I realized that for about $100-$200 or so more, I could have a Windows laptop to go with my PC instead. I am now typing this on the new laptop. The phone is sitting next to it, providing the hotspot.
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Postby Grinning Dragon » Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:22 pm

The are an abomination, hate the damn things even though I have one for work and at times for family purposes, other than that it sits on the kitchen counter hardly ever take it with me outside of work, once 4pm hits it pretty much gets shut off. I get the cheapest phone and the lowest tier of service as it's a massive waste of money to begin with.
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Postby Stellar Colonies » Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:30 pm

My college more or less de facto mandates having one as part of the covid protocols.
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Postby Nanatsu no Tsuki » Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:31 pm

For those prone to addiction, I guess, smartphones are a bane. I've seen a few people ditch them and go for simple phones similar to this one (although not exactly this one). These phones have no data plans so that could keep them away from apps and social media taking over their lives.
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Postby Bombadil » Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:31 pm

I ditched my phone for a month and here's what I learned..

1. You miss out on friends - previously if you were to meet with friends for, say, dinner, you'd have that plan 2-3 days if not a week beforehand. Now people pretty much plan on the afternoon and you simply miss out
2. People will message at any time, they'll phone your mobile up to 10pm, home phone rarely past 7pm - it seems more intrusive to call a home phone
3. Being late seems acceptable these days, you just send a message - but if you don't have a phone then lateness is a real issue - if you agree to meet at a certain time and place and they don't show up, you don't know whether to stay or go.. and you get far more annoyed as well
4. Seriously, how did we get around before Maps, ask people I guess.. but Maps are seriously useful
5. You read a lot more
6. You don't have that 'omg where's my phone, oh it's in my pocket' thing.

However, essentially, life is perfectly liveable without a smartphone - I get the work thing, especially when work from home as I like to take a wander now and again.. bit it's doable.
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Postby Ethel mermania » Mon Jan 24, 2022 4:35 pm

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Infected Mushroom
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Postby Infected Mushroom » Mon Jan 24, 2022 5:39 pm

It’s very addicting truth be told, especially the part where you carry around literal access to the Internet.

I can’t imagine life without a smartphone. It’s such a useful and immersive technology.
Last edited by Infected Mushroom on Mon Jan 24, 2022 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby The Hazar Amisnery » Mon Jan 24, 2022 5:52 pm

Phones are very important since you can talk to people from the other side of the world, find out anything you want, store large amounts of information. They're basically computers you can carry in your pocket. They're only bad if its distracting you from real life things or if you rely on it for everything.
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Postby The Adeptorum » Mon Jan 24, 2022 5:54 pm

It would be hard to do my daily work without having a Smartphone around, simply because I have authentication and monitoring tools running on it. I mostly use my smartphone to watch movies and anime and I don't do social networks anymore, since 2017, back when I noticed that using them made my depression much worse. But I still require a relatively powerful smartphone with lots of data as it's easier to deal with some problems using it than carrying a laptop everywhere I go (tech is expensive where I live, so having a single device do multiple things is desirable).
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