Why I don’t have a smartphone

Some of you, who perhaps know me better, will know of my stubborn refusal to own or even to contemplate owning a smartphone. Why is this? Well, dear reader, let me explain my reasons, starting with:

  1. People lived for millennia without the use of them, and many seemed to get on just fine.

There seems to be an insistence that the smartphone is an essential of modern life, as if, at the drop of a hat, if one did not own one, that one would simply expire. This is quite obviously not true. To survive, you need water, food, and shelter, things which our modern civilisation provides in abundance.

Ah yes, you may say, but I need to get around. To this I would respond that while Google Maps and the like are extremely useful for navigation, it is still possible to get around without them. For now, public transport does not require the use of a smartphone, tickets still come in card form, and despite much innovation in car navigation, road signs remain a fixture.

True, smartphones may have made the dissemination of information much easier. News travels around the world far faster than ever. But is this a good thing? The pressure on journalists now is not to get the story as truthful as possible, but to get it out before everyone else, thus ensuring more clicks and more advertising revenue. I suggest you make up your own mind.

  1. I would really rather you just talked to me

Call me old fashioned, but to me, the easiest way to get something across is to actually speak to someone. Texts, calls and so on fall rather short, at least in my view. It strikes me as particularly odd that even within the same house, people will text each other rather than just walking over and talking. Maybe this is bad for society. Not being a sociologist, I have no idea.

  1. It’s something else to charge

One unfortunate accident of the smartphone revolution is the far shorter battery life, compared to what we had previously. Smartphones, at least those that actually get used, need to be plugged in at least every night, if not more often.

Leaving aside my laziness for the moment, this isn’t great for the environment, as the energy use is far greater, and it has to come from somewhere. True, much of our electricity now comes from renewable or low carbon sources, and it’s heartening to see coal power stations being decommissioned, but the fact remains that for most people more energy use = more carbon emissions.

  1. Cost

Perhaps I’m a cheapskate, but really, do I want to be paying for data, and all the rest of it? Not to mention the cost of the actual device, which, although coming down all the time (thanks capitalism!) are still not negligible. I’m cheap, at least when buying for myself, and if I don’t need to spend money, I generally don’t.

But there is another element to cost. The cost, not to me, or to the network, but to the environment as a whole. I’ve already gone over the energy costs for the use of the thing, but I’ve so far not mentioned the energy you need to construct these things, or the labour involved. I can assure you I am not about to launch into a plea for the workers of the third world, despite the problems there, because that problem is already well known and well documented.

No, instead I want to talk about materials. You see, in order to make a complicated electronic device like a smartphone, one needs a huge number of different materials, from almost all categories, including ceramics, polymers and metals. While polymers and ceramics (the plastic case and the glass screen) are fairly easy to come by, the difficulty comes in the metals department. Metals such as Cobalt, are considered critical materials, that is, they are only found in certain countries, and are difficult to come by. One of the countries that Cobalt is found in is the (not at all) Democratic Republic of the Congo, where miners face very demanding conditions.

But before this post turns into a sob story, let us instead focus on the transport aspects. All these materials, coming from many countries around the world, have to be transported, again incurring an energy cost, and more carbon emissions. They then have to be assembled, and the finished product shipped again to where it’s sold.

I suppose, however, this point is more of an argument against consumerism than smartphones in general, so I shall stop things there.

  1. I actually think the world is quite interesting

By looking down at their phones, I do fear smartphone people are missing out somewhat. We live in a beautiful world, full of curious things. Even in cities, where there are few natural wonders, one can notice the care with which things are designed, the thought and the effort of thousands to make the built environment happen. Cars driving past reveal the talents of mechanical engineers, aerodynamicists, and of countless skilled hands. Railways go on, with all the certainty and regularity that the permanent way demands.

Further out, there are great hills, valleys and rivers. The landscape of England, and of the UK at large, is beautiful. We are lucky to be in Blake’s green and pleasant land. Many would downplay this, pointing to extravagant spots in faraway places, but few these days take the time to appreciate what we already have.

That said, I’m sure Angry Birds has its charm.

  1. Fragility

I will admit, not owning one, I cannot say this with much conviction, but, judging by the number of cracked screens I have seen, smartphones seem rather fragile. One could counter this by pointing out that if handled with care, one will not have a problem. In turn, I would counter that by saying that anything you carry about your person regularly that needs to be treated with care all of the time is rather a drag. You don’t see people drop their keys and the key immediately shatter and become difficult to use, or their wallet; tickets do not suddenly cease to function when they fall out of your pocket.

I may also argue that the smartphone revolution is making people more fragile. Some, upon discovering that their beloved device has been left by accident at home, seem to be completely lost. The attitude of “there’s an app for that” has unfortunately created people who don’t seem to be able to cope on their own in the real world. Alas, I am probably getting ahead of myself here.

That brings me to the end of my reasoning, though I of course will remember something else I should have written instead at some point in the next week. If you, perchance, enjoyed this, you could share it with someone else, and, as if to rub in the irony, even do it on a smartphone. I use a laptop personally, but it is up to you.

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peculiarlypete

A blog about nuggets of history, technology and sometimes railways. Peculiar.

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