Why I Can't Stand SmartphonesA partly-satirical, partly-serious look at these ubiquitous gadgets
May 1, 2013
You're in the middle of a
conversation, thinking the other person is listening, and suddenly he
stops to take a call on his mobile phone. "Oh, what were
That was already happening with mobile phones, but now there's this, too:
You're trying to talk to someone, and they're absent-mindedly flipping
through TPS reports on the touchscreen while most of your words fall to
Here's why I can't stand smartphones. Let me count the reasons.
1. Smart phones facilitate ID theft.
Big time! You're probably scratching your head wondering how that
could possibly be. Yeah, well... as you glance in your sideview mirror, you
notice the gas station attendant holding his phone camera up to your
card. You tell yourself, "Nah, I didn't just see that."
weeks later there are purchases you didn't make. Huh.
Wonder how that could've happened.
Now imagine this same kind of thing happens to your tax return. "Why would anyone steal a tax
return?" Yeah, keep telling yourself that. Meanwhile, it's
become an epidemic. Here's how it works. Step 1: They
steal your return. Step 2: They use your info to
file early next year. Step 3: they collect the
refund. Then you have a huge ordeal when you send in your (real)
return. The thieves don't even need to take the return with 'em
anymore. A couple of quick snapshots on a smartphone, and a shady employee can "share" the photos with her crack-dealing
boyfriend. Instantly. You like all this technology, right?
I remember when it was considered sketchy to carry around a Minox
camera. As in, you might be involved in corporate espionage or
something. Well, these dirtbags today who steal tax returns are
using smartphones, which
have much higher acutance and apparent resolution than a Minox.
That equates to easier document capture... and yet, no one raises an
eyebrow. They'd rather glare suspiciously at the real
photographer with the SLR and zoom lens. That's because
television taught them "Zoom lens bad, smartphone good!" This just goes to show how much Hollywood and
marketing have affected basic reasoning.
2. A Camera Shouldn't Nuke Your Brain or anything else.
Yes, I know that microwaves are not ionizing radiation.
They don't have to be. I could sit here and tell you about
the paradigm-shifting study by Gregory Dudley et al. I could tell you that the way microwaves induce chemical reactions may not be as we
I could tell you that this should not be a surprise, since it's been
known for a while that some chemical reactions won't happen any other
way but by microwaves. Go ahead and cook a nice steak in the
microwave. Good, right? That must be why top chefs
use the microwave to prepare all their dishes.
I could also tell you that in the near-field region ( < 1 * λ ) , RF
has effectively an inverse-cube relation to distance. That
means the power is way
higher where the phone is stuck to your ear than it is a few inches
away. (Near-field is not usually discussed in undergrad physics
courses, or at least it never used to be.)
Those things are true. But the easiest way to convey this to
you is just to quote CNN from May 31, 2011 ("WHO: Cell phone use can
increase possible cancer risk"):
"A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States,
made the decision after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone
safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure
as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." "
That's not exactly surprising.
Bottom line: you can keep your microwave-emitting camera phone. My camera works fine the way it is. Kthanks.
3. Look, I Don't Want a Monthly Plan for a Camera.
I want to make photographs, not talk on the phone when I could
be making photographs.
not that I would never want a phone that can double as a camera.
It's that I don't want a phone-that-doubles-as-a-camera to replace my
real camera (not that it could anyway, but stop telling everyone it
can). Getting hooked into a burdensome contract is
not a good way to buy a camera, or a phone. (Some insightful
comments on the "iPhone", and the expense of contracts, can be found on
would be nice to have a camera "phone" where you could just use all the
non-wireless features, without having to buy a contract or "unlock" the
phone. Actually, you can, if you don't want a phone at all.
An iPod Touch would do that. The reason I don't want one is primarily a technical one, described here. (The Touch also doesn't have nearly as good a camera as the iPhone).
it's so portable, and because it doubles as a personal
assistant, the non-phone "camera phone" would still be useful to that
same bunch of ID thieves we talked about before. That's why for
safety, we're just going to have
all cameras weigh at least three pounds and
require a tripod.
Except for film cameras, of course.
4. Smartphones further drag down photography.
It's not that they don't "take good pictures", but there are limits,
and the camera-buying public are not aware of those limits. The
smart phone can do "leaky sky" and blown highlights
as well as the next
digicam, but forget bokeh or nice tone roll-off. Smartphones are
not an adequate replacement for slide film, or any kind of film.
Advanced photographers use smart phones as a backup, and sometimes
they even go out and do photowalks with them. A few have used
smartphones for serious photography, but it's not their "main" camera.
Sure, smartphones make good pictures in the hands of a good
photographer. Their resolution has far surpassed the old 4-MP
point & shoot I once used to do this. That doesn't change the fact that smart
phones do not replace DSLR's, and they don't even replace one of these.
The other day while I was sitting in a restaurant, I realized how much
I don't like smartphones. It was the moment some random person
standing near us took a picture (pretty sure) of me and my wife with a smartphone.
I wouldn't have cared if someone pulled out an old 35mm rangefinder and
tried to get a real picture. What I don't like is the ubiquity of
these smartphones, combined with the fact that nine times out of ten, the user is
not doing photos for the sake of art. They're not even doing photos for the sake of getting good photos.
That's sort of the reverse of how most people think, where they get
creeped out if someone wants to take a "good" street photograph, but they
don't care if someone takes a "snap" of, oh, I don't know.... your
credit card at a gas station. You know, "No big deal. It's
only a smart phone, everyone has 'em."
Smartphones make me want to roll out this picture, which I wasn't even going to do.
Come on, you had to at least get a smile out of that. Look at the
face on that critter. I don't think you want walk up to that and
take a "quick snap" of it with your smartphone, because it might take a
"quick snap" at you.
Telephoto is more like it.
I appreciate that some people really enjoy their smartphones, but I'm not in a hurry to use one.
Don't take any of this to mean that I think smartphones are all
bad. Like most technology, they also have their benefits.
If they sold an unlocked smartphone that were inexpensive, had an 8 to
12 MP camera, and had a Linux desktop, then I
might consider one. The closest I am to wanting a smartphone right now is thinking I might buy this one,
if I were in the market for one. (I haven't tested it out yet, so
you're on your own there... but the MeeGo OS is actually based on
If I did have a smartphone, I still wouldn't talk much on it, and
when I did, I'd hold it some distance away from my ear. Even Apple tells you to do that much.
Mostly, though, I'd continue to use a real camera (like this one or this one).
And when I wanted to talk to people, I'd call 'em on a real phone.
(Yep, it works. I switched out the 3-conductor wire for a
4-conductor modular, and we're good to go. Rotary phones are
cool. (Use this link to buy a vintage one, and it helps keep my website on-line. Thanks!)
If you enjoyed this article, you can help me out by shopping through
the links or banners on this site. If you use the links to buy a
smartphone, I won't hold it against you...
...unless you're that shady
dude who stole my credit card number at the gas station.
To everyone else but that guy, thanks for reading!
o.t o .1 2 0 s t u d i o.. c o m
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