Turned off by ‘always on’*

Smartphones should enhance our lives, not take them over

It’s no surprise to see that the first day of MWC was dominated by announcements of new smartphones and tablets, and the usual speculation around the next industry disruptor. News of Apple’s smaller and less expensive iPhone caught my eye because of the repercussions it could bring for the wider industry; according to Siliconvalley.com, it could slow Android’s momentum and make it harder for the rest of the competition, including those who are just getting into the smartphone game.

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But something that I found more surprising was Nick Clark’s comment in the Independent that more phones will be launched specifically for using social networking channels, particularly Facebook. It feels like another step closer to a truly connected world where my network of friends and acquaintances could be available at the touch of a button, wherever I happen to be.

It’s what I’ve always wanted, isn’t it? Hooked up to my vast network of contacts 24/7 (whether I really need to be connected with them or not), and able to access whatever information I think I need – any time, any place – delivered in simple, concise, increasingly graphical content via Web 2.0 technologies.

Of course, working in PR and needing to keep up with the media agenda and news relating to my client’s industries means that finding accurate information online efficiently is a necessity (and not something I take for granted considering the number of dodgy PCs and temperamental internet connections I used on my travels!)

But with a recent story reporting that we are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data each day, I wonder whether we are fast approaching a tipping point where the digital universe will actually start to hold us back? Or will social media evolve sufficiently to make connecting with others and consuming content much less time-consuming and intensive? Sites like Quora and QWiki seem like they could be onto something, but I’m unsure of the reliability of the content.

Since their inception, smartphone vendors have been quick to highlight how the devices can enable us to be always online (so long as the battery lasts) and instantly connected to our friends, colleagues and the digital universe. Yet so far, this has not really appealed to me, and I think it is easy to forget that ‘downtime’ and being ‘offline’ is not something to be feared, rather I see it as time to de-stress and calm your senses.

I am about to start using my first smartphone (fashionably late, of course) so I have been giving some thought to how I intend to handle the ability to be always connected to my friends, and the apps that could really benefit me. In short, I do not want my smartphone to become a time-wasting device – surely, it should be time-saving?

As smartphones and tablets become increasingly sophisticated they offer us more choices and, therefore, the option to spend more time online. I just hope they don’t alter our lifestyles too much. I am personally going to make every effort to keep it simple.  When I get my smartphone fired up, I’ll aim to invest in apps that have been tried and tested already by my smartphone-savvy friends.

Whatsapp is first on my list — only £0.62 to download followed by a lifetime of free messaging anywhere in the world. Any other recommendations for simple, cheap, apps that won’t make me feel as though I need to check my phone every few minutes?

  • Katie_oxtoby

    Spotify is my favourite application…a world of music at my finger tips…It does cost me £10 per month, but then I think that’s a small price to pay for my favourite or the newest music, whenever, whereever.