A buddy of mine sent a note to our email list (we were all in the same squadron at the Air Force Academy 45 years ago!) a quote from Albert Einstein that purports that smartphones are enslaving us — turning us all into idiots. It was accompanied by half a dozen pictures of people sitting or standing together but staring at their smartphones. The first thing that struck me is that a smartphone is a tool which prompted me to put the following list together. Then I thought: What if all those people were holding a book instead of a smartphone – would the author of the email feel that books are hampering human interaction? Anyway, here is my list of things that I use my smartphone tool for:
- Tells me when to leave for an appointment, how long it will take to get there (Waze)
- Plays all the podcasts and audiobooks I listen to as I drive (I use Overcast app; takes the stress out of driving)
- Allows me to checkout library books (hardcopy, eBooks, audio books) from one of three library systems I have a card with (Overdrive app)
- Allows me to document my work (pictures help a lot and they magically show up on my computer)
- Allow me to keep track of where my wife and kids are and they can see where I am (Find Friends app)
- Is my “2nd factor” for logging in to secure websites (receive text message or random number from Google Authenticator)
- Allows me to pay from credit/debit card of my choice without having to actually have the credit card (Wallet)
- Change the temp on thermostat
- See who is at my front door (Ring Video Doorbell)
- Check on how the Padres are doing (At Bat app)
- Tells me how much I am exercising – at least in steps; don’t have to open and app or anything. It just keeps track all the time (Life Cycle app)
- Lets me read the news at breakfast (web, hometown paper app, etc.)
- When I go to Home Depot (or anywhere) I can see what else I wanted to get while I was there (Evernote; quote from my productivity hero, David Allen: “Your mind is for thinking – not remembering.”)
- Lets me jot down notes about random subjects and look them up at them anywhere – “What was that book that Hank recommended about baseball?” (OneNote)
- Stores all of my gibberish password (LastPass; never use the same password over and over)
- Photograph a business receipt which is turned into a PDF files that ends up on my computer (CamScanner)
- Allows me to login to any of the 200+ computers I support – looking at a whole PC screen on my tiny phone screen is a challenge but works in a pinch
- Becomes a “hotspot” so I can connect my laptop to the Internet and do anything I can do from my office computer
- See where my buddies are when they are out flying (FlightRadar24)
- Helps me nail the TOT (time on target) on a flyby — I am a pilot. I stick my phone to the panel in front of me with this occupying the whole screen:
- And, yes, I can send text message to friends and family and check in on the “OFP” (Old Fighter Pilots) group on Facebook.
Am I enslaved by it? No. Sure we all know some who use it too much, but next time you are at a wedding, a restaurant, a museum, the beach, etc. look around and see how many people are glued to their phone. Sure, there will be some but I don’t think we have to worry about a “generation of idiots”.
Enthralled? Yes! It is an amazing tool…and I look forward to what the future brings that will make them or whatever follows even more useful.
I’m sure this is an old comparison: A smartphone is like the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”…you just have to have some sort of Internet connection vs. the future model that holds everything in it.
Another buddy on the email list mentioned his daughter lost her wallet and all the hoops she had to jump through to block her credit cards to which I suggested: Put all of your credit cards in the “Wallet” app on your phone, take them out of your wallet, and put a good password on your phone in case it is lost. Now that Medicare is issuing cards without your social security number on it (for us over 65 folks), you only have to worry about replacing your driver license and a few other things. I wonder how long before you can show the policeman who pulled you over an image of your driver license on your phone?