Appliance Technology Blog

Appliance Technology

The Appliance Technology Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about Consumer Electronics; Medical Products; Home & Office Equipment; and Power Tools, Lawn and Garden. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Smart Sutures Getting Hot   Next in Blog: Faking It This Fall
Close
Close
Close
14 comments

Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

Posted September 19, 2012 12:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

As our lives become increasingly busy, we rely on versatile and multi-functioning products to make our lives simpler. Or so we say…

Perhaps we have it backwards. Maybe sometimes we make our lives busier because we have these advanced tools at our fingertips. What do you think?

(Credit: McHenry County Blog -->)

Let's zero-in on smartphones:

Despite the impression I may have left on some of my co-workers, I have no gripes against smartphones. I think they're pretty powerful pieces of technology, and I'm still amazed at how much can be done within such a small package. Taking pictures, web-surfing, games, calculator, calendar, watch/alarm, mp3 player, texting, and email are just some of the features smartphones provide.

But, alas, I don't own one. In fact, last spring I started a new 2-year contract with Verizon for just a regular old flip-phone voice plan. In all honesty, this is partly just because I'm too cheap to be forced into a monthly data-plan which adds a pretty penny to my monthly bill. $Cha-ching$. But also, in the midst of some attempted conversion experiences (to the smartphone crowd) by my co-workers, I have come to the conclusion that (at this point) my life is simpler without one.

(<-- Credit: Media Online)

One thing I find particularly interesting is that when you mention a smartphone in conversation with someone, what comes to mind is all those things I mentioned above (taking pictures, web-surfing, etc.). What's missing here? Hmm… how about the primary feature: voice. That's the reason I got my cell phone - to call people.

Granted, this is hardly an argument against smartphones. The added features are the things we talk about. After all, a watch isn't distinguished by its ability to tell time, but by the extra alarms, the stopwatch and countdown timers, the design and materials, and other things that make it different and (in many cases) better.

But sometimes I question how much smartphones are adding complexity rather than reducing it in the name of convenience and versatility. I can't count the number of times I've heard people say "I can do that on my phone" only to watch them sift hopelessly through hundreds of apps while the time and need for its use has long since passed. And how many features seem to be incredibly useful until you realize a year down the road you've used them only once or twice? This to me is just unneeded fluff.

(Credit: B2BHebeisen -->)

Really though, most of this is due to a lack of "lean" principles. When dealing with multi-functional devices, the key to efficiency is better organization and easier access to the functions the user thinks are most important. I think this is one of the reasons why Apple has done so well in the past with their products. Their designs and interfaces seem to provide a clean, simple, and efficient user experience.

Certainly, the biggest advantage of these versatile devices is that they can replace many others that perform only one function. For example, I have a dedicated camera for photos; a dedicated watch for alarms, stopwatch, and countdown timer capabilities; a dedicated GPS for driving to new places; and a dedicated mp3 player for listening to music on the go. But all these can be replaced with a smartphone that incorporates all these capabilities. In this way, we are making life simpler by reducing the number of tools we need to get things done.

(Business multitasking - Credit: Dilbert by Scott Adams)

But how much is too much? Some smartphones can already function as physical credit and debit cards as a means to make purchases. While an interesting idea, it hardly seems like a convenient replacement. It also increases the potential consequences of losing or breaking the phone, which is another reason smartphones can be problematic. The more we rely on one tool for all our needs, the worse off we are during the times when that tool fails or is misplaced.

What are your thoughts on smartphones and other electronic multi-taskers? Is there such as thing as too many features? As you can tell, I have mixed feelings, and as such I'm content with my basic phone for voice and texting for now.

Really, though, I'm just trying to stay off the smartphone grid so when Big Brother comes I won't have to worry about being tracked.

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Power-User

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Brasov, Romania
Posts: 255
Good Answers: 7
#1

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/19/2012 4:19 AM

I noticed that in many cases the mental capabilities of the smartphone user is far behind what the smartphone can actually do.

I heard some dudes have their smartphones just because it's cool although they don't have enough money to even surf the web .

I have a nokia c5 and still trying to make the most of it.

__________________
The time is ......now
Reply
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Indeterminate Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain. Kettle's on.
Posts: 30580
Good Answers: 822
#2

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/19/2012 5:46 AM

<...won't have to worry about being tracked...>

Don't worry. Big Brother is watching.

What about criminal tagging? Is there an App for that?

__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Lifelong New Yorker Popular Science - Biology - Animal Science Technical Fields - Technical Writing - Technical Writer

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 2313
Good Answers: 59
#3

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/19/2012 9:08 AM

Multi-tasking devices are good to a point. Having both a Kindle and an iPad I wish that I could just consolidate. But I chose the eReader for the fact that its screen looks like ink on paper and reduces eyestrain. The iPad is used as a mini-computer and so I want the color screen. Both are still more convenient for travelling than a clunky laptop and a stack of books.

My smartphone could serve as a GPS but if I were trying to follow directions I wouldn't be able to use it to make a call, send a text, or check my email. Before you ask why I'm doing that when I'm driving... I may be at a rest area and want to look at both simultaneously. On a call: "Why will it take an hour to get to your house when you're only 2 miles away? Do these directions make sense?" Like the time a bridge was out and no detour was posted...

Speaking of my smartphone, I do like it, but it's mostly to stay connected.

  • When I make an appointment I can look at my synced calendar and know when I'm free.
  • If we're driving and decide to see a movie on a whim, we can determine what's playing and at what time.
  • I can make restaurant reservations without waiting on hold.
  • There's just one checklist of things for me to do and it syncs to all of my devices. No worrying about little scraps of paper and oops, I forgot one at the office...

Not duplicating effort, like the synced calendar and task list, are my attempt at lean.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Associate

Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 53
Good Answers: 2
#11
In reply to #3

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

10/05/2012 3:08 PM

I'm just not a smart phone fan. I don't really even like having to carry a cell phone, but I have to for my work. I am a firm believer in the 'jack of all trades, master of none' philosophy. My camera takes far better pictures and will do so in a far wider range of conditions, than any cell phone on the market. If an email is so important that it must be addressed immediately, then just call me on the phone. My PC is what I use for email communications. My PC is also far better at playing games - I have no pressing need for gaming ability when I am working or traveling. My home entertainment system is far better at playing music and movies than any smart phone - I sure as heck don't want to be trying to watch TV/Movies on a 3" screen. And a dedicated GPS on a dashboard mount in my car works better than fiddling around with a phone. IMO a smartphone is a just a waste of resources - FOR ME. Obviously many other people feel differently.

As for the Kindle/Ipad - Why not a device that uses both types of screen - One side is a full color touchscreen for computer apps. Flip it over and you have an electronic ink screen for reading e-books. That would indeed be a useful combination tool... Are you listening Kindle?

Reply
2
Power-User
CR4 Admins - CR4 Admin - CR4 Admin

Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 373
Good Answers: 33
#4

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/19/2012 9:28 AM

The point is that any tool, including smartphones, are supposed to make our lives easier. I think you make a great point that in a lot of ways, it really doesn't. My first "smartphone" (at the very least, data plan required) was a Blackberry 7200.

My reason excuse for owning one was my web hosting business. For a majority of the time, I was not in front of a computer (which would certainly be ideal), but needed to be able to correspond with requests, problems, new users, invoices, etc. This device arguably solved a problem. The necessity of being connected 24/7 was heavily debated back then. It didn't really seem like there was a market for mobile broadband. Now, it seems like every 15 year old, their mom, and their gramma has a smartphone/data plan. What happened? The market was created. First Myspace, then Facebook, now Instagram - coupled with the huge push to subscribe to streaming media like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, etc for mobile access. How people enjoy watching movies or TV on a 3.5", 4", 5" screen baffles me, but there's a huge market for it.

It all boils down to marketing. People get trained over time that they need certain things - now seemingly everyone is connected to social media. Email is a tool, Facebook is a business. Guess which I use my smartphone for? For my purposes, mobile email/browsing/communication and GPS in one device is very convenient and necessary. I can easily see how a majority of people will just go straight for the iPhone/Android without even thinking about the above points - is it really needed?

Which brings up another good point of this blog - compared to Android, or any other mobile OS, iPhone does a better job at keeping things simple, straightforward, consistent, easy, and clean. Which is really the point isn't it? If you have to root, install custom operating systems, etc, to get your phone to work the way it should or to get certain functionality - as far as I'm concerned - that functionality doesn't exist. No one should have to spend time doing things like that. And a lot of people have rooted (circumvented security of the phone) and keep their credit card info (Google Wallet) on the same device. Does this seem wise to anyone? NFC still has a lot of security issues to iron out. That's why iPhone 5 doesn't have it, probably.

I've rolled the idea around quite often over the past year, I even wrote a blog about it here - Can you Quit Your Cellphone? Who knows, I may go back to the flip phone someday.

Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 31841
Good Answers: 1750
#5

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/19/2012 3:27 PM

Your opinion would have more weight if you had a smartphone....I have an iphone and love it...Recent uses: check decibel level of noise of work on balcony in condo(100)....maps...all the time....stock quotes...real time....mark position of where car parked at mall....lol, gettin' old ya know.....Identify music heard on tv...liked the song....news...all the time......radar...you can see a thunder storm coming a mile away...use this all the time.....text friends....check calender for next holiday and other scheduling....use this all the time.....listen to music whenever......use translator to talk to non-english speaking person, it actually speaks for you....too cool....look up prescription pills to make sure correct....look for restaurant, movies, bars, closest to my location....check bank balance......take pictures, all the time.....check rental market.....shop ebay.....check jay's garage, love it....listen to police, fire scanner...to find out what's happening.....I'm sure there's some I forgot.....Oh yeah, actually used it as phone....

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Reply
Guru
Panama - Member - New Member Hobbies - CNC - New Member Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Retired Engineers / Mentors - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Panama
Posts: 4273
Good Answers: 213
#6

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/19/2012 11:49 PM

The main Rule of Life is, "He with the most toys at the end, wins." So, if you combine all of your toys into one device, you lose...

Reply
Commentator
United States - Member - "Proud to be an American"

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Bryan/College Station, TEXAS; in the good ol' US of A
Posts: 73
Good Answers: 3
#7

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/21/2012 5:30 PM

Totally agree that we are beginning to rely on the small smartphone for everything. A potential single point of failure for a lot of stuff... But, it is nice to only carry around on small device rather than carrying a bunch of stuff.

The stuff could be grouped:

1. Phone related: phone, contact lists, memo pad, email, etc.

2. Data: Tablet PC and/or laptop with 'Offic' type apps, Internet access, data storage, etc.

3. Guidance: GPS, mapping, reservation making, etc.

4. Gaming: all that jaz

5. Entertainment1 (Mobile): Movies (Netflix, etc), music, video, camera, e-books, etc.

6. Entertainment2 (At home): Big-screen TV with loads of addopns for video viewing, movies, audio system, etc.

All would have Internet access through one account (so you don't have to have a bazillion passwords).

__________________
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong - A Lincoln
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1061
Good Answers: 12
#10
In reply to #7

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/22/2012 5:07 PM

You are saying that this could all be on one device I take it. I agree. I also think that clothing should be designed with one large pockets for such devices. I don't need one since I am almost always near my 17 inch laptop, but would like one, for when I am away from it.

Reply
3
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Vancleave, Ms about 30 miles inland from Biloxi and the coast
Posts: 3197
Good Answers: 105
#8

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/22/2012 3:11 PM

My take on appliance technology is there is too much of it. People don't know what they need or want until some enterpreneur comes up with it and naturally everyone wants it. Before cell phones, we scheduled out lives around a normal day's activity. Now we schedule our lives around a smart phone. I'm sorry, but I won't allow technology to dictate how and when I do something. One of the most important things to me is privacy. I don't want the world to know my every move. I march to my own drum beat, not someone elses. The world moves too fast. It's time they slowed down and learned to enjoy what they have and think. Some say modern technology enables us to have more free time. I think it is just the opposite. We have become slaves to technology and those who produce that technology are the masters.

__________________
Mr.Ron from South Ms.
Reply Good Answer (Score 3)
Guru
Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1061
Good Answers: 12
#9
In reply to #8

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

09/22/2012 5:03 PM

All good points, especially for me to remember.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42307
Good Answers: 1666
#12

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

10/05/2012 5:50 PM

My first cell phone was the very first Motorola flip phone. So, I've had one forever, almost.

My wife talked me into getting RAZR M. I don't like it. There's nothing intuitive about it.

Maybe, someday, I'll figure it out but for now, it's just a waste of money. The good news is that our 13 year old has one, so he can show me how to do stuff.

In my case, they aren't worth it.

Reply
Associate

Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 53
Good Answers: 2
#13
In reply to #12

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

10/05/2012 8:20 PM

I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the cell phone age about 2008. My wife wanted to be able to get a hold of me at work in case of emergency, when they stopped allowing incoming calls to the plant after 5 pm (I worked swing shift). I got the cheapest thing I could find - my daughters used Tracfone. I have since got a newer LG flip phone, but its still just a basic tracfone. It costs me all of ten bucks a month for service + 100 minutes per month - about every third month I purchase extra minutes - 260 for 25 bucks. Its all I need.

Reply
Member

Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 9
Good Answers: 1
#14

Re: Jack-of-All-Trade Devices: How Much Is Too Much?

10/26/2012 10:28 AM

I think that I'm on around my third smartphone now and I've kept to a few policies as I've upgraded. The first is that I avoid getting the phone through the service provider under contract at all costs. Because of this I have yet to be forced into a data plan (and for that matter I barely even touched a data plan on my first smartphone) and I only finally opted in when I finally started seeing something that I perceived to be worthwhile. Partially because of this, I also ensure that the phone that I pick out supports WiFi (not all did when I picked out my first one.) So even though I was without a data plan on that first phone, I could still use data any time I had access to WiFi. This brings me to the big change that having a smartphone has made in my life: there are a number of things which I do over the smartphone which I used to have to be in front of a computer to do. The phone makes it easier to randomly hop on the internet to take care of whatever matter and I don't have to structure those activities around being in front of a computer. It's useful, convenient, and allows me to not be tethered to a larger device to do many things (I can even use my phone to remotely connect to a computer and perform some tasks without having to physically touch the computer - useful for anything which resembles a server and isn't primarily intended to be accessed directly all the time.)

In regards to the potential complexity that a smartphone can cause because it can do "everything" I question whether you have to allow a device to do everything even if it is capable of it. A smartphone doesn't need to over complicate anything so long as someone can make a decision as to whether a given feature is really going to provide the value that they desire from the device. Of course if enough of the potential features are undesirable the smartphone may not be worth the expense in the first place anyway.

Anyway, I don't see my phone replacing every other device that I have which can perform a somewhat related function. I don't see the phone replacing dedicated gaming devices and I certainly don't see my phone replacing my camera (sure, the phone's camera is convenient at times, but the image quality doesn't compare and it doesn't provide the same physical experience.)

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 14 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

cwarner7_11 (1); glrusl (1); jweis (1); lyn (1); nfhiggs (2); nikolay (1); PWSlack (1); ronseto (1); ronwagn (2); SavvyExacta (1); SolarEagle (1); yamdankee (1)

Previous in Blog: Smart Sutures Getting Hot   Next in Blog: Faking It This Fall

Advertisement