David Randall: The Emperor's New Clothes (22/04/12)

In the first of a new series debunking modern myths, our writer looks through the smokescreen of smartphones

"Wow, have you seen the latest smartphone? It's sleek and thin (but in a chunky, tactile way), and you only have to breathe on it and it uploads all your emails and friends' Facebook updates and LinkedIn messages and Tweets and blogs, and there's this new app that tells you which restaurants have got fresh asparagus, and sends you email alerts when there's a special offer on trekking in Sudan, and you know, like, does everything."

What a clever thing. So versatile, doing so much more than you'd imagine. Things the makers and retailers may not want you to know:

1. It will make you a corporate slave. Email access 24/7. Every two-bit, one-horse, chickenshit email – including the work ones – will ping into your inbox. Suddenly, you don't have a job, you have a nagging compulsion to check and respond. You no longer have downtime. You are a slave to your boss, your clients, to salespeople, and to conscientiousness.

2. It will make you less efficient. A three-year study by Harvard Business School found that those who stopped checking their phones for work messages after 6pm one day a week were more productive. Make it seven days a week, and be more useful still.

3. It will turn you into a bore. The phone is a stills and movie camera and portable home movies projector. You will subject virtual strangers to footage of Gemma's birthday party. Or your golf swing.

4. It will waste hours, thanks to the dreaded apps. In the past three years, 38 billion were downloaded. A phone with app capacity induces appophilia – a conviction that the next app will change your life. It won't.

5. It will turn you into one of those people who fiddles with their phone constantly. You see them on the train, staring slightly maniacally at their palm. They look intense, or worried, or fixated. Get a life, get a book. Look out the window. Start a conversation.

6. It will make you more likely to be a crime victim. Thefts from the person are one of the few crime categories rising sharply. What's behind that? People walking around with costly smartphones. Avoid crime, hide your e-jewellery. Better still, don't own it.

Smartphones: clever gizmos for gullible people.

Comments