10 Reasons My Smartphone is a Torment and a Time Sink

SmartPhones are a Time SinkSmartphones—the ultimate self-branding, time-saving tool. Right?

Recent grads want them because they’re sexy and they help you stay connected, 24-7. You can check in on Foursquare, Tweet a photo of your drunk friend face-planting at the local pub, and be the first responder to an email from a colleague (or potential employer) no matter the hour, day, or location. Heck, even our Careers Editor loves it for the time, energy, and cash it saves her on the go.

In theory, these are all great qualities – but before you plunk down a few hundred dollars (and sign a contract binding you to pay data charges for life), consider the old truism that all cool things come with a price tag, both literal and metaphorical.

To wit, here are the top 10 reasons I hate my smartphone. Tell me why you hate yours (or love it) in the comments.

1.) The "feature creep" factor.

I presume this will surprise the manufacturers of the more popular smartphones, from iPhones and Droids to the slick HTC models, but I mostly want my phone to work. To work really well, in fact. I want my phone to call people, play some music, and give me mobile email access. But it should not go to the bathroom for me. And every extra feature means a corresponding loss in basic usability, in my experience.

2.) As a phone, my smartphone is pretty stupid.

Why do I get the impression that my phone is a better camera than, you know, a phone? Why is it so hard for me to dial a number or call someone back? You could argue that I’m just not very bright, but the sheer amount of man hours I put into figuring out how to capture contacts from text messages (scroll up) is unbelievable.  Also, forget about how hard it is to answer it or orient it correctly when on the go – there are a lot of dropped calls. And watch out for smartphone users behind the wheel – texting OR talking on this thing requires a lot of visual attention, if you catch my drift.

3.) Proprietary features stink & the app selection is inscrutable.

This is mostly (but not entirely) an iPhone complaint. We all know that Apple has been accused of being overly proprietary with regard to software bundling before, but the evidence is particularly damning when it comes to the App Store and its bizarre approval maze. If I thought it was strictly an issue of quality control, I’d be happier – but a few clicks into a search and you’ll see quality is not the main criterion of the mysterious App Store approval process. My phone came pre-loaded with proprietary features I didn’t need, forcing me to find the stuff I do need by trial-and-error (crowding the crowded UI). Shame!

4.) Battery, where art thou?

All that waiting (especially if I dare to actually browse the internet or watch 10 YouTube videos in a row) drains my battery. My phone will never really replace my computer, at least not until the feature creep is under control and it works well in all the important phone ways: tons of hours of uninterrupted call time, whether or not I dare to leave my inbox to do a little online shopping. And, I have to ask: should a phone replace a computer? I’m still confused about that one.

5.) What do you mean, head south?

I no longer pay close attention to cardinal directions, because I know my phone, with its GPS and maps app, can rescue me if I find myself going in circles. Consequently, I drive like a maniac and have trouble telling which way is up. I was never a good driver; this has made me a worse one. Beware what happens when I’m trying to click through to the next “step” of directions while driving on the freeway, too. Buckle up, OK?

6.) The price tag is still too high for my taste.

Add data usage (even if it is unlimited) and the exorbitant cost of the phone itself if you buy it new, and you’re looking at something more like car payments, not phone payments. This is a consumer issue that we’re all assuming will change, but remember that the cellular industry is famously slow-moving on the issue of adjustable price points in the United States.

7.) Looking like a jerk.

I know how I must seem, sitting in a chair at the bank, marking emails as read while my banker politely tries to get my attention for 30 straight seconds. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, it’s still true that being personable and not texting while you are shaking hands or at a party is important. But it’s extremely difficult to stop doing everything but communicating when you have a smartphone.

8.) Email inundation.

We already spend too much time emailing. Now that I have a smartphone, I hardly ever talk out loud at all. Why should I? I can just send 400 emails while my phone auto-corrects my boss’ name (which is Rob) to “Rib.” That’s cool, right? Professional, surely.

9.) I got computers out of the bedroom; now, phones are there.

I was raised by two intelligent, conservative people who believed in sitting down to family dinner and not keeping TVs in the kids' bedrooms. I appreciate that. It taught me a thing or two (and made my adolescence extra-painful). In my marriage, I make it a point to tell hubby never to bring a computer to bed – and although he grew up with a TV in his bedroom, I’ve put my foot down on that too. Now, instead, I find him watching the surf report on his iPhone under the covers. Great!

10.) Like most “time savers,” it's actually a time sink.

I wouldn’t spend nearly as much time emailing, texting, snapping inane photos (road signs, a magazine on my desk at work), or tracking AP headlines as I do now if I didn’t have this phone. Access to information creates the illusion that we need more of it to be well-versed citizens of the world. Like TiVo and other “time-saving” hardware, smartphones make us more anxious than ever about potentially missing something. In the process, we miss a little of everything.

What do you hate about your smartphone? Would you ever turn it in for a dumbphone – or turn it off for an entire weekend, just to see what happens?

About the Author: Lindsey Donner

Lindsey Donner, is a writer who graduated magna cum laude from NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2006. Her diverse experience includes working as managing editor of an English newspaper in Mexico and copyediting a novel about Cleopatra in the Czech Republic. In 2009, Lindsey launched her own design and writing consultancy, Well Versed Creative. Be sure to read her blog about the business of writing.

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