/ Technology

Why I won’t be buying a smartphone

Mobile phone with text saying 'love you'

Poor battery life, frustrating interfaces and rising internet costs – smartphones are little more than an expensive gadget to weigh down your pocket. To me, this brave new world just isn’t that smart.

Ok, smartphones are undoubtedly the future. Technological convergence and human desire for shiny new things will see most of us firmly in the thrall of smartphones within the next few years.

But that doesn’t mean we should all be using them right now – the technology powering these budding new wonder-devices is still in its infancy.

iPhone wielding savants (like my colleague Ceri) may sing the praises of touch-screen smartphones, but I like buttons and tactile controls. Many of us simply find touch screens difficult and frustrating to use. And who wants to waste time swiping and swishing just to access the most essential part of any phone – the keypad?

Jack of all trades, master of none

Device convergence has been driving the mobile market for years. Why carry around a camera, MP3 player, phone, video player and laptop when all these can be combined within one compact piece of technological wizardry?

But the problem with multifunctionality is that the ‘functionality’ part often suffers. Sure, camera phones are great for capturing the unexpected. But if you want to take quality pictures you need a dedicated digital camera, with better resolution, plenty of storage and a battery life of more than a day.

Playing movies on your phone sounds great on paper but watching them on such a small screen is a pretty wretched experience. And many internet tasks which take mere seconds on a proper computer become clunky and time consuming on a smartphone.

Mobile internet costs destined to rise

Until WiMax comes along, the cost of using mobile internet is only going to rise. Networks are struggling to cope with the rapid growth of mobile internet use. O2, Vodafone and 3 have all recently ended their ‘unlimited’ data plans on new contracts and introduced monthly data caps.

Bad news if you want to watch data-zapping YouTube in the pub – good news if you think people who watch YouTube in the pub are idiots.

I could go on: the confusing array of operating systems, terrible battery life and durability are just a few more of my bugbears.

Of course, most problems will be remedied eventually. But if you’re thinking of buying a smartphone today, consider carefully all those features that are separate from text messages and calls and ask how much practical use you will get out of them. If all you really want to do is make calls and texts, maybe you should just get a phone.

What side of the smartphone debate are you on?

I agree with Ceri - smartphones rock (64%, 178 Votes)

I agree with Christopher - smartphones suck (36%, 99 Votes)

Total Voters: 277

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Sophie Gilbert says:
22 October 2010

The human desire for shiny new things blinds us to their faults and to their ultimate uselessness. I’d find it easier to do without the internet/my mobile phone than without my washing machine.

Derek says:
22 October 2010

just a point of correction to Christopher’s post regarding WiMAX. WiMAX won’t necessarily reduce the cost of mobile internet. I think he believes WiMAX is an evolution of WiFi hence will be free, to an extent it is an evolution of WiFi but it won’t work on unlicensed spectrum so whoever offers it will have to recoup the cost of spectrum and that’s likely to be no cheaper than the spectrum used by today’s network operators offering mobile internet, so it is not likely to be any cheaper to the end user unless new business models are adopted by the operators.

I don’t need one.

It’s hard to argue with Christopher’s points, but does he use sat nav? Many people do and it can make far more sense to buy a smart phone and run sat nav on it than use two separate devices. Sure, a dedicated sat nav will probably have a bigger screen and more advanced features, but sat nav on a phone will do all most people need, with a number of advantages, e.g. just a single, compact device to carry; always have your sat nav with you (plan walking routes, find out how far it is to somewhere, etc). I use TomTom on my phone but there are plenty of alternatives, arguably superior; I plan to switch to Sygic which is multi-platform.

B parker says:
24 October 2010

I tried the touchscreen phones but with R.S.I. Mmy hands ended up painful again. So stick to my querty keyboard. Only one mobile had a stick to use, which still agitated my strained wrists.

Hi Derek, thanks for your comment. You’re definitely right, it does cost to buy spectrum. But WiMax’s bandwidth would theoretically allow operators to introduce and converge a number oif bandwidth-intensive services – voip/iptv/online mobile gaming etc – sparking fresh competition in the broadband space, and ultimately driving down costs for consumers. However, there was supposed to be a hint of irony in my comment as WiMax probably wont make it to the UK any time soon!

Thanks for everyone else’s comments. I suppose this would be a bad time to say that I do actually own a HTC Desire smartphone 😉

I agree with Chris on this one. Smart Phones will be the future but the current technology and cost of mobile Internet access leaves me cold.

Perhaps the new Samsung Galaxy Tab may make the leap forward needed with the technology but doesn’t address battery life or the cost of Internet access. (It is also hugely overpriced.)

When they are able to take photographs as well as a Panasonic TZ10, provide SatNav as good as a Garmin, provide eBook reader functions like the Amazon Kindle, make telephone and Skype calls like my house phone, sound as good as my iRiver Clix with a battery life of several days normal use, only then I will think of buying one.

Many smart phones are technical marvels, but I just want a phone to make the occasional call and for my family to be able to contact me, if they need to in an emergency. As for the major ‘apps’ like satnav I prefer mapnav!

I’ll buy a Smartphone when I can be sure that it will replace adequately my vintage Psion
mx5 Pro, which does *what* I want it to do, in the *way* that I want it to do. Diary, spreadsheet, calculator, contacts / data, spelling, voice recorder, sketch, touch screen – and all programmable to act in the way that * I * want. And, they’ve not been available since 2002! So when I can get a Smartphone that *at least* meets this ancient spec, I’ll buy it! (And I’ve done at lot of searching and speccing)

Chris has been lead astray. Smartphone==touchscreen is not always true. I have a 100g phone in my pocket that lasts for about 5 days on a charge using GPS (with maps on the microSD card), VoIP wifi calls using a standard SIP provider, a decent camera, mp3 player, browser, Java apps, native apps, push sync with Google mail and calendar, MS Office attachment handling (read and edit), PDF reader, wifi to 3G hotspot for my laptop, and dozens of other features. It does not have a touchscreen, it has keys, and not many of those, mostly the same ones on your basic phone. Oh yes, it’s really good at voice calls (noise cancelling mic). Just don’t drink the koolaid, you’ll be fine.

Dave says:
8 November 2010

Agree… had a bb… had a droid… seen the iphone (major apple user)…. back to a great “dumb” phone and not going back until they fix the battery life, durability and usability. I want to make a call without having to act move my fingers in several directions to hit tiny targets. Even the “smart” phones with keys have trouble. I LOVE my simple flip phone. I love the simple and easy to memorize OS.

I have a very tactile set of keys and can text without looking most of the time. Battery last five days before I need to worry about charging oh, and it has call quality never even close to on a smartphone.

Need to make a smartphone that works that good and I’ll come back when I don’t have to pay an additional $30 a month.

Ha! I’ve gone back to a wonderful Noika 6310i. Now thats what I call a Smart phone. Battery life forever, a screen you can SEE [even in daylight – colour screens turn their users into vampires, huddling from the light of day], easy peasy texting, Bluetooth.

I love to pty the poor s*ds wittering on about their silly toys.

MobiDitherer says:
1 December 2010

Interesting article, I think Chris is (deliberately?) missing the point. Smartphones aren’t really phones, they’re pocket personal computers that know who you are and where you are.

The really powerful thing about smartphones is their ability to run applications which effortlessly keep you in touch with your calendar, to-do lists, contacts, office, friends, family, twitter feed and so on. GPS means you can find directions from anywhere to anywhere. The iPhone is also an excellent game platform. It updates your podcasts and latest photos from iTunes automatically. And on and on and on.

Android phones are catching up fast on this functionality, with regards to location based functions, they exceed it.

This is genuinely ground breaking technology, give it a go. You won’t look back.

Do not expect the problem of battery life to improve. As technology advances more powerful cameras and brighter screens will drain quicker than anything available today. If processors become more powerful the demands placed on them will also grow as people will want to run more and more complex software on their phones.

The technology to seamlessly and effectively combine already working solutions at a high level is just not there yet.

I am not willing to settle for a second rate phone, music player, camera just to have an expensive status symbol that can do nothing well. This makes the smartphone the rolex of the decade, where less expensive and more accurate watches are available but are not elite enough for people today.