What is my phone for?

I do not like talking on the telephone very much. To me, it feels like a very artificial, inefficient means of communication. Talking face to face is a much richer experience and any inefficiency is offset by the benefits of the non-verbal communication and its subtle nuances. Written communication can be much clearer [even though it often is not] and more efficient. Each of these media has its place and the phone comes in the middle as a compromise.

However, I am very happy to have a mobile phone and use it extensively, but very little of my use is talking, and I wonder how common my experience is nowadays. I have always been a somewhat early adopter of technology – I usually wait for version 1.1, but not hang on for 2.0. My phone usage can be understood by looking at my personal history …

I had my first mobile phone back in the early 1990s – it was built into my car, which was common practice then. Truly “mobile” units weighed several kilograms, which had the advantage that people very rarely mislaid them! I got my first “real” mobile handset in about 1995. At around that time, PDAs began to appear and the one that made the market take off was the Palm Pilot. I had one of the original devices. Actually, I still have it – maybe a museum out there would like to give it a home? I loved the way I could keep so much information on hand, easily synch with my computer and add more applications to do other jobs and make the device even more valuable.

As years went by, I gradually got more sophisticated Palm devices and got updated phone handsets. Email became more and more critical, so I got a Blackberry as well.

I reached a point where I was carrying three separate devices around in order to manage my life. I told myself that this was good, as I did not “have all my eggs in one basket”. But the reality was that it was a burden carrying them and all their accessories and the likelihood of losing one was very high. And that is what happened. I left my Palm on a plane. And, a while later, being a slow learner, I did it again. I did not lose any data, but it was very inconvenient. As I was due to replace my unreliable phone, I had a rethink and decided to rationalize. I got a Palm Treo, which provided the functionality of all three devices.

I have not looked back. Although I migrated from Palm to Google’s Android some months ago [and that was quite a culture shock after so many years], I continue to enjoy having what I regard as a PDA which can make calls and do email. Out of interest, I thought I might list all the things that I routinely use my “phone” for:

  • Making calls
  • Sending/receiving SMS
  • Email [business and personal]
  • Calendar
  • To do list
  • Contacts
  • Instant messaging [MSN etc.]
  • Web browsing
  • Direct access to some Web services [Facebook, Wikipedia etc.]
  • Shopping list
  • Business expense tracking
  • Calculator [RPN, of course]
  • Note taking [using a mindmap program]
  • Navigation [GPS + Google maps and London Underground]
  • Looking at photos
  • Alarm clock
  • Timer
  • RSS feed viewing
  • Song identification [Shazam]

That is enough to be going on with, but, by the time you read this, I will probably have found something else to use it for. On the other hand, maybe what I need is one of these iPad things …

Am I missing anything that you find vital? Please comment or email me with any tips.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2010/02/04/what-is-my-phone-for/