Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm being serious, here...

There is a certain train of thought one encounters that posits that so-called "smartphones" are the tools of the Devil.

Now, a smartphone isn't even really a phone; it's a computer with an internet connection that you can also use to talk to people on the phone, sort of like your desktop computer is if you have it plugged into a DSL line and own a microphone. (I don't think I've used Roseholme cottage's land line for a business call directly in eons; everybody I need to talk to prefers Skype.)

In a nutshell, it goes like this: There's apparently no problem with using the internet from a desktop. And whipping out the laptop at the local wi-fi hotspot? That's groovy, too. But if you connect to the internet from a little computer without a keyboard? Well, then, you're just a big ol' dummy and a willing slave of your corporate oligarch masters, and probably couldn't even get the food out of the can if the power went out, to boot. (Also, this leaves tablet computers in a gray zone. If a smartphone is bad but an iPad is okay, I'm really confused.)

I have yet to have the logic behind this position explained to me in such a way that I can grok it. When I ask, everything I hear just feels like hand-waving, elbow nudges, and knowing winks. Help a sister out. If this is your viewpoint, lay it out in short sentences so I can get a handle on it.


Thomas said...

Only thing I have against smartphones is I don't feel like learning how to use one.

Fred said...

It doesn't help that my little smartphone also has more processing power than my netbook either...

Thankfully I haven't really ran into too many people that think it's a pocketful of pure evil, but I also am kind of interested in the explanation.

azmountaintroll said...

Aside from the fact that it's one more excuse for people to walk around in Condition White (or worse, drive) I have no problem with smart phones. It's a tool, nothing more. That the tools are getting smarter than the users is not the tool's fault!

Duke said...

Thanks for making me feel stupid, I don't even know what they are. See if I read you blog first thing any more.

Ancient Woodsman said...

Great Point! Kind of like the following:

Them there coal-powered locomotives are just a fad...they'll never catch on!

God put trees on this earth for one reason: run the trains. Besides, everyone knows we wouldn't want to go too fast, now. "Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
Dr Dionysius Lardner. And coal, nevermind that oil stuff, makes the trains run far too fast. It's downright dangerous!

Barely over 100 years ago our own military 'experts' put the magazine cut-off in the Krag and 1903 as such firepower in the hands of an infantryman as a repeating rifle (gasp!) was far too wasteful.

Doesn't matter the technology, some will always expertly embrace something similar & blindly poo-poo the other.

Anonymous said...

Faced with the spectrum of computers from high-end desktops down through notebooks, tablets and into smart phones, and passing right by e-readers along the way, we have to choose which entry points into cyberspace we prefer. Each comes with features and a price. Convenience and human factors play in as well.

Personally, becoming harder of hearing and less visually acute every day, I find the handy little stuff more repugnant. Fun watching the fast-paced evolution though.


Joseph said...

Haters gonna hate.

Mark Alger said...

I don't really invest enough in the topic to h8 the things. I just want to simplify my life and, thus, have resisted having a cell phone at all. I get cranky and dump on the thing, leave it places.

I suspect at least a part of it stems from my relative poverty. I'm convinced I can't afford it, so dissemble disinterest.

All that said, I am intrigued by the one AT&T is hawking right now -- Galaxy Note (sic). Which, in line with your thesis, really IS a computer you can use as a phone.


Frank W. James said...

I must NOT be smart enough to operate a 'Smart' phone as my experience with the 'Droid' was down right Negative.

As far as I'm concerned 'Touch-screen' technology is NOT a step forward.

First day I had a Droid I dropped every phone call I received because I couldn't get the damn thing turned on fast enough.

Even now that I've retired from Farming I still wear gloves often enough and still bleed often enough I don't see how this dumb guy could e'var utilize a 'Smart' phone...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Tam said...


True, but "Not suitable for all applications and/or users" does not equal "Dumb and useless".

the pawnbroker said...

Don't go in there PB, it's a trap!

I've pissed away a lot of words trying to get your grok on, but if your third para is the nutshell you took away, I failed miserably.

My final reduction at LD's (price, cost, value) acknowledged and accepted the first and last while expressing major apprehension of the second as the great unknown. That says it best for my thoughts on this as it does for so many other things, but I guess it didn't work for you.

But a couple more things have come to light that play into the process, so I'll try once more this eve. Right now son's out sick and running his shop is all on me for a few days, so work first, hole-digging later.

Shrimp said...

I had resisted the urge to get a cell phone for many, many years. I've always detested the "electronic leash." Maybe that's because the company I worked for (at the time I first conceived my dislike of cell phones) insisted we always have them, always keep them charged, and always answer them.

I still went out and bought one eventually. It certainly has its uses. And with my current plan, I can make phone calls to anywhere I need and never worry about minutes or roaming. Data usage--none. My phone can do it, my plan covers a very limited amount, I just don't. I don't know if I'm missing anything, but I'm not missing the bill that some of my relatives and friends pay each month.

I live a simple enough life and can do without a lot of the things I do have. If money got tight real quick, cell phones would be one of the first things on the chopping block. I guess that means I'm disqualified from running for any political office, though, since the current thinking seems to be double-down on the stupid and go spend more, not less.

I've nothing against smart phones vs dumb phones. Like azmountaintroll, I don't care for the fact that so many people seem oblivious to the world, especially while driving, but I don't blame the tool. I just blame the "tool" using the tool.

staghounds said...

Ancient Woodsman-

Actually the first locomotives were coal fired. Wood firing was a low tech American fuel substitution.

Tam said...


I may have missed your response at LD's. I'll check it out.

I'm trying to get what you're saying, honestly I am.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Smartphone, Laptop, Desktop, Cyborg Implant, who cares? It doesn't matter what device you're using, you still can't post a Comment on Blogger w/o signing in 3 times while attempting to read an ink smear that Google themselves can't scan!

But why would anyone hate Smart Phones? That's like saying it's okay to fly across country in a DC-3, but don't you dare get on a 747!

Woodman said...

Smart Phones are the tool of the Devil because everyone knows that while you are having a conversation you don't whip out your netbook and check your twitter account in the middle of everything.


Whipping out your cell phone because it blerked with a new text and then updating your location on foursquare and retweeting about someone's subtweet, and answering an email about someone else's facebook wall, seems to be ok, even if it reduces you to mumbling and nodding your head and missing the entire point of the conversation.

The angriest I've gotten at my daughter lately is when she's been in the middle of a conversation with me and starts texting or tweeting while I am talking. I can yell at her, I can't yell at a sales guy who does it in a meeting. Especially when he's my sales guy.

Anonymous said...

I do not find smart phones intrinsically evil. I intensely dislike the behaviors associated with some smart phone use. 1) Walking around in condition white, tapping away, head down, or talking away, head down. (In fairness, people do this with dumb phones too.) And then getting snippy when people yell "CAR!!" or when they say that ignoring them in favor of tapping on the small box is rude. 2) The assumption that those who do not want/need/ can't afford smart phones are troglodytes who are too stupid to grasp the benefits such technology will bring to our lives. Those are the things I dislike about smart phones.

No, I do not own one. I can't justify the cost of service and I have no need of the smart phone's features. And there is no cell service period in many of the places I tend to go.


Tam said...


I understand that. I wouldn't have one myself if one of the pay-as-you go joints wasn't offering unlimited data for $40/mo, no contract.

For that matter, a cell phone is of limited use for me. I mostly have one for roadtrips. When I had the flip-phone, I usually left it at home except when I was out of town.

cj said...

My greatest gripe is the breakdown of what value is that they generate. I had a sales girl telling me how cheap her plan was. 'Cheap relative to what?', I asked. Only $60 a month for the most basic level. I pointed out that that wasn't cheap...I have my family on a $70 a month shared plan, and didn't feel THAT was cheap.

Then the little nickel and dime stuff. Oh, that little add on is JUST $.99! After a year of those 'just $.99' every so often, look how much you've spent for the ability to fling little round birds at pigs. We're basically training people to spend money for instant gratification, just in smaller increments at a time.

Odysseus said...

I suppose my paranoia just got whacked too hard with the whole remote microphone activation ability at least on the original I-phones you couldn't even take the battery out to prevent it from being used as a bug/gps locator.

Now do I do anything immoral much less illegal no, but the possibility just got my dander up. Like Shrimp I've always been a bit resentful of the able to call me anytime "leash", even though I'm hypocritical enough to want to have my own personal Star Trek communicator for when I find myself needing to contact someone in whatever degree of emergency.

Tam said...


"I suppose my paranoia just got whacked too hard with the whole remote microphone activation ability"

Unless your cell phone is a veritable antique, they can most likely do it to yours, too.

Anonymous said...

Guess I haven't run into the smart phone haters. I have friends who do everything with theirs. Two run their businesses while driving down the road: check plans for construction jobs, take money in, pay bills, simply amazes an old man what they can do. Must be the intellectual types that put them down. Last night one NASCAR driver had his phone in the race car. During the long red flag he started twittering. Soon several other drivers were using it. No hating there.

Ken said...

I'm just waiting for another couple of generations of Atrix-type hardware, and the adoption (Lord willin' and the creek don't rise) of a standard that permits me to choose my own peripherals instead of a proprietary dock. Until then I'll stick with the feature phone and wireless laptop. I get by.

Frank W. James said...

Tam: I take exception to your observation.

If something doesn't work for me IT IS DUMB AND USELESS.

Now, I may be the ONLY person in the whole wide world who feels that way, but as far as I'm concerned the design REMAINS DUMB AND USELESS...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

taylor said...


Its just the next generation of the Tin Foil Brigade coming of age.

TomcatTCH said...


stick the phone into a foil bag. Poof. No more remote anything.

The word verification has gotten REALLY hard to decipher lately hasn't it? Good old google, developing the next tool to defeat word verification on the backs of blogger! (I think I'm joking)

DJ said...

I have heard a rumor that someone at Apple is talking about making an app, someday, that will allow the iPhone to be used to make an ordinary phone call.

What will they think of next?

Brad K. said...


Back in my day, parents used to let kids (boys, in my case) take toys to church, if the toy (car?) fit in a pocket, was quiet, and distracted the short-attention-span kid from disrupting (being socially inept) during 'quiet' times.

Many of us boys are slow to outgrow the distraction tactic of having to actually, you know, pay attention to those around us, those in charge, what is going on. We maintain the tattoos, the current fashion gizmo to attract the attention of those we want to be having sex with, if anyone would have us. Ahem.

Back to the cell phones.

The desktop typically lives in a fixed place in a dwelling. Typically, one has withdrawn from social contacts by the time fingers hit the keyboard.

At a wi-fi hotspot, one is visibly separated, usually alone at a table or counter space, I imagine. I don't carry a laptop these days.

A cell phone has the distinction of intruding into human contacts. A smartphone, as you point out, is a tool, a digital device. Using the wipes or whatever to maneuver, using the smartphone to browse for heritage Black Cherry Tomato seeds at Baker Creek Nursery (RareSeeds.com) on a desktop is your own affair. Your delight won't disrupt the folks at the next wi-fi hotspot table anymore than the three teenagers giggling, three tables down. But in the middle of your fiancee planning the wedding reception, that can ruin, for a lifetime, a personal relationship. It takes a desktop lots of repeats to do that kind if interpersonal damage.

And people wonder why others whine about using their smartphone to play games in the middle of the movie theater everyone else paid $8-12 bucks to see a bleeding movie in a theater presentation. Did I mention some kids don't really outgrow that distraction during the sermon thing, at least at a socially responsible age?

And that is without getting into the cell phone wackos that do "business" and screen their calls (let alone play games and research tin foil hat reports) in the midst of conversations.

Tam said...

Brad K.,

Blaming an object for its socially inappropriate misuse is a frequent topic around here.

I guess those phones just take over their owners with mind control waves. Do you think Motorola licenses the mind control wave technology from Smith & Wesson? ;)

David said...

I like smart phones. I don't have one, but I like being able to look around me and ask "Where is the nearest Baskin-Robbins?" and several people will whip out their phones and give me directions...

Woodman: I had a girl and her mother contact me several years ago about joining my volleyball team, three weeks after our season started. I agreed to let her tryout as a favor to her aunt (another coach in town). She showed up for the tryouts. I started explaining the drills we were going to run that she would have to participate in. While I was talking she pulled out her cell phone and started texting someone. I told her that all cell phones have to be turned off and stay in your gym bag at practice. She put the phone back into her pocket. Three minutes later I heard it vibrate, and she pulled it out again. I told her mother "take her home and don't bring her back.", then I walked out onto the gym floor and never saw that kid again.

My kids know - if you pull your phone out and start using it while your mother or I are talking to you - you lose the phone for 3 weeks. We do allow them them chance to reduce their sentence. One day for each win at various competitions, max reduction is 10 days. My son and oldest daughter have to out shoot me at the range. My youngest daughter who won't touch a gun, has to be able to beat me at a variety of board games. She is very frustrated to learn that Dad is pretty good at games. I don't give away very many reductions at the range either, but my daughter is closing fast.

thesouthtexaspistolero said...

And people wonder why others whine about using their smartphone to play games in the middle of the movie theater everyone else paid $8-12 bucks to see a bleeding movie in a theater presentation.

There are certain establishments that won't tolerate that.

Jayson said...

I've noticed that, too, Tam. People seem to confuse the device with the person.

Your audience skews to crotchety and anti-social. You've already lost.

And if I hear "Condition White" one more time...who the hell talks like that?

(btw, with this new word verification, I can get behind laws making the creation of spam-bots a capital offense world-wide)

DaveFla said...

Tam, your original post on the Optimus V sold me. My unfortunate spouse is stuck with Verizon voice-only service (at $5 more per month!) for another year. It's replaced other appliances including an iPod and GPS. All this is costing about half as much as I'd previously budgeted. After six months of mostly happy usage, I've finally 'rooted' it and taken a little control over how the apps use the network/storage/data... but I figure that the corporation and/or the .gov will get about as much use out of any information gained as they do from the handgun registry here in Michigan. (IOW, someone will have a nice make-work job.) I don't know any haters, but then, I don't text during meals... ;-)

Mikael said...

I have little trust for smartphones.


That said I don't really like any of the companies behind the operating systems. Apple is too restrictive, google too invasive, and microsoft is microsoft...

DirtCrashr said...

$40/mo is still more than I pay for any service or condiment except gasoline and electricity itself on my limited budget-plan. I do wish my pay-as-you-go cell-phone had a better camera for those occasions when I use it, but the one it does have works adequately.
For me a lot comes down to screen-size, not just pixel-richness or pocketability, and my home Devil-Box has a 28-inch monitor so I can see lots of stuff at a single moment. I don't think I could watch Teevee or a Movee on a 4-inch pixel blaster without enormous migraines ensuing.
All the condition-white behavior is irritating when you are being subjected to nimrods in the Grocery store chatting to the lettuce, but it lets the predators have a go at easy targets and they need food too. Besides, White (and my annoyance) started back when the first Walkmans emerged upright from the technological goo and cemented themselves to the ears of the musically desperate.

Drang said...

I think a lot of folks here are missing the point: Those who insist that smartphones Are Tools Of The Devil and/or Big Brother & His Oligarchs are prone to saying that the only reason they exist is so that They can track our every move, not because they encourage rude or oblivious behavior.

Justin said...

In my experience, the people who hate smartphones and the internet connections they come with are generally boring.

The fact that you can opt to look at something more interesting on the interweb than having to interact with them seems to drive boring people up the wall.

Anonymous said...

OK, so here is the answer to your question. A desktop computer is stationary in the provacy or your own home, or even in your cube. If you are using one, then you are not in a place of interaction. Laptops are not much different, in that even when you take them with you you're not whipping them out every two minutes, or trying to carry a conversation while looking at the screen. Again, you are probably sitting down with it on table. Smartphones can't be compared to a computer hooked to the internet. For one, they are pocket sized, so they can and will be taken into every public location. I have literally seen people spend half their time at a concert/comedy show/movie, staring at the thing. At the core, I don't care how other people spend their time and money. But when I have to engage someone in conversation, then they start texting/surfing/emailing while they are talking to me (not looking me in the eyes) it pisses me off. When I have to dodge another car and see that the person is looking down at their smartphone, it pisses me off. When I am walking in a mall or a retail place and someone bumps/slams into me because they were not paying attention due to staring at their smartphone, I get pissed. These are just some of the things that have happened to me in the last couple of month, but there are other issues I have not even stated. You see, you are highly unlikely to ever have anything like this happen when you use a desktop, laptop, and even an iPad.

Drang said...

Anon @ 3:56: See my comments re: rude and/or oblivious/dangerous behavior vs. paranoia re: Them. Which is what Tamara was asking about.

Andy said...

In an interesting combination of the old and the new: I can deposit checks with mine. The one or two times a year I get a check from someone.

Tam said...

Anon 3:56,

re: My Point, circa 1205 and Drang's comment, circa 1800:

My Point<--- --->You.

Tam said...

Seriously, dumb use of a smartphone will give people more data about you than you may wish to give. Ditto a WiFi laptop or Google on your home PC.

If you wish to maintain a modicum of privacy, you need to be a smart consumer of software.

Out of curiousity, how often do folks reading this shovel chaff into your search boxes?

Anonymous said...

I we allow ourselves to say "smart phones are bad", how do we then respond to those who say "guns are bad"? Let's at least be consistent.


DJ said...

Just over a year ago, I spent a few days elsewhere. One evening, I was sitting in a restauarnt when two guys sat down at a booth near me. They were quite young, roughly 18 or so.

I was alone, and I'm a quiet guy in a restaurant, particularly when I'm alone, so I simply sat, ate, discreetly watched, and listened. Other than placing their orders with the waitress, they never said a word. Until their food arrived, they stared at their phones, motionless except for their thumbs, which beat a steady tattoo of whatever the hell they were doing with them. When their food arrived, they each ate with one hand, thumbed the phone with the other, and seldom ever looked away from their screens. They could have been eating haggis for all the attention they paid to their food.

When they finished eating, they paid the bill and left. I watched as they left and was surprised to see them leave via two separate vehicles. Why they ate together I'll never figure out.

the pawnbroker said...

Tools. That's really what it's about.

Not the human tools who are the focus of most of the commenters here. The world is full of idiots who will always misuse and abuse everything and everybody, it just happens that these mini-HALs are a new and very public manifestation of that.

No, it's the HALs themselves that are totally awesome tools. Son's new 4G iThing amazes with two-way conversations and infinite information, and there's nothing inherently "evil" about that. But whose tools is it really? It's a portal to -and from- everything...and that's where the potential for evil lies.

NPR (of all the unlikely critics of Big Brother) has been running a series focusing on Google; its new "privacy" policy, Google goggles, etc. Worth a review, and it is chilling. But they are just the most obvious of literally hundreds of compilers of *everything* about you...where you go, who you know, what you know, what you say, what you type, what you buy...and dare you doubt it, even what you think. All of that information is forever, somewhere, regardless of how smart of a "consumer of software" you may think you are. As you use your tool, *it* is using you...and as fast as this technology is moving, there is no doubt that today's smartest "phones" are just the beginning.

Good? Evil? Both I guess.

But applying my price/cost/value pet method of vetting most everything, it gets down to this, as I said at LawDog's:

The price, while owning and using these things can be spendy, is more than justified by the value of the information and services they provide; while I may be too old to want or need it, far from Tam's characterization of a Luddite who not only rejects but wants to destroy it, the technology and applications truly dazzle me.

The cost though, extrapolating all of the above into the possibilities for misuse and abuse and control...my gut tells me is ultimately just way too high.

Paranoid? Maybe. In any case, my own phone and web use, even if both my phone and I are dumb, is unguarded and open to much of what concerns me. That doesn't mean I have to like it, and there is no doubt that advances in the technology that rides in our pockets and compiles our lives is advancing much faster than we can resist or choose, or that this is a fast and furious slide into oblivion for any semblance of personal privacy and independence.

Which is just one of many reasons that I often find myself thankful that *my* slide is nearer the end than the beginning.

Ken O said...

One really nice thing about the smart phone is that whenever and wherever the call of nature strikes I have something in my pocket that will provide me with something way better than the local mullet wrapper to read- I can read gun bloggers!

Keith said...

So you don't like smartphones because your going to be absorbed into the Borg collective?

Drang said...

@ Keith: Some say that by carrying a smart phone, or maybe even just a phone phone, one is already in the act of being absorbed, etc.
I'm not sure anyone here is saying that. As Tam has pointed out on several occasions, removing the battery from the phone prevents it from recording and reporting anything you do...
Someone responding "Sure, that's what They want you to think" in 3, 2, 1...

Tennessee Budd said...

My phone sends & receives calls. That's all it does. That's why it's called a "cellular telephone."
If I wanted to connect to the intertubes at all times, I'd drag along miles of Radio Shack phone cords. Cable isn't offered where I live, I'm down in a creek bottom narrow enough that I can't do a mini-dish, & besides, I'm a curmudgeonly old biker who doesn't really care to receive calls.
There, Tam, you may now (comparatively) feel like a shiny, happy, friendly person.
P.S. The day I bought my most-recent bike, I passed by a gully full of wrecked trucks, apparently saved for some purpose. What interested me was the fact that they all carried the logo "Keel Trucking," and all were obviously inoperative (many quite permanently so). If that's the family business, Tam, it isn't working well. Of course, it could be some less-reputable side of the family--well, maybe not, just a distant group with whom you're not familiar. I'm trying to be nice here.

timbo said...

I'm not sure if smartphones are the devil but I'm darned sure Verizon is for wanted to charge $30 extra / month for a data plan.

Anonymous said...

Tam -

It's not the smartphone/internet connection issue that most privacy minded people have a problem with. It's the GPS tagging of pictures taken, the ability to remote ping a GPS location from your device. With modern systems it would be VERY easy to tag the GPS grid location of any gun range/gun store in america. So when it comes time to play who's got the guns they don't need a list. Just a record of where you've been :) Lets say that you just insert a couple of lines of code that update the phones position every 5min. You know for signal strength monitoring to improve service. You go to work - ignored - you go to your house - ignored - you go to the gun range/gunstore - redflag - later at your house - knock knock oh hey we're from the alphabet agency of doom how was your trip to the gun range mind if we ask you some questions?

It sounds nuts and paranoid but I can't stress how simple it would be.

Tam said...


Thank you. I don't really disagree with any of that (and have blogged about it before). Privacy, as we once knew it, is dead, and has been for almost twenty years. I don't know what this is going to evolve into, but I'm glad I won't be around to see it. In the meantime, all I can do is be an intelligent consumer, guard what data I can, and shovel a lot of chaff into the air for the fun of it. Google must love my search history. :D

Anon 8:35,

I've covered that one on multiple occasions, too. (And it doesn't have to be a smart phone, just a recent one.) If you don't want a cop to know where you are, don't take your cell. If you don't want a cop to know what you're saying, don't say it in a room with a telephone, cell or landline, or glass exterior windows.