I disagree with him on this point, because while it’s true that those functions do exist in a cell phone, they have been added more as sales bling than as actual replacement devices. It’s like the convenience store and the supermarket. You only use the convenience store when circumstances make it worthwhile to forgo the better selection and better price available at the supermarket. The calculator is clumsy to use, the camera doesn’t produce a high-quality image, but sometimes, the convenience of immediacy outweighs the troublesome search for a more competent dedicated device.
It’s possible that in a few years, the user interface issues of current cell phones will have evolved to the point where the calculator will be easier to use, and perhaps the quality of the embedded camera will improve to the point where it will compete with dedicated cameras.
- NOTE: I admit they may have reached this point already in some high-end products, but I don’t really have a need for a high-end product.
I use the telephone function of my cell phone for brief factual information exchanges. A typical call from me from the grocery store: “Honey, did you want the regular or the barbecue flavored potato chips?” She says “Regular,” I say “OK,” and that’s it. Call over. 90% of my calls are under 2 minutes, and 90% of those calls are under 1 minute.
My wife uses her phone very differently than I do. She uses it to maintain relationships or vent emotions. Her calls are lengthy, and very little factual information is exchanged. She doesn’t want to talk about what’s going on, she wants to talk about how she feels about what’s going on. As an example, she’ll call me during a busy time at work to tell me that she’s in a hurry to get somewhere and the traffic is all backed up, which is going to make her late. She’s angry and frustrated and vents her feelings in long tirades. I find this kind of thing very frustrating, because men like to fix things, and I can’t do anything about the traffic. But of course, she doesn’t want me to fix it; she just wants to talk to a sympathetic ear about it. My wife ranks the telephone feature of her cell phone very high on her list of available features.
Number one on my cell phone usage list is the calendar function. As I age, I find my memory less and less reliable. But the cell phone calendar is 100% reliable. I can enter a doctor’s appointment, a birthday reminder, my passport renewal date, anything. The cell phone calendar is better than a “real” calendar, because you have to remember to look at a real calendar. The cell phone calendar will politely remind me as the marked date approaches. It’s a form of artificial memory, and it’s a lot better than none at all.
Ranking very high on my cell phone usage list is text messaging. I like text messages because I can drop off and receive bits of factual information very easily, privately, and without the need to engage in time-consuming social conversation. For example, I’ll get a text message from someone saying “Lunch?” And I’ll respond: “When & where?” A minute or two later, the answer will appear: “DP 12:30.” At this point, the conversation is over, the decision has been made, and I can maintain the relationship face-to-face at the restaurant. I can conduct parts of this “conversation” whether I’m in the bathroom, in a meeting, in a theater, in a noisy bar, wherever. It’s not a total substitute for a voice conversation, but it works in so many situations where a voice conversation would be inappropriate, that it easily bubbles up to a very high position on my list.
Next on my list of favorite functions is the camera. I know, I know – I just declared that the phone camera was not a substitute for a “real” camera, and it’s not. But the convenience of having a camera, even a poor one, in my pocket all the time is an undeniable convenience, and has enabled me to post many pictures to this blog that I would have missed otherwise.
Finally, I have to say that I love the game function on my cell phone. I usually put one game in the phone and play it to death. I use it during those periods of time when my brain would otherwise be sitting in my head like a wet loaf of bread, doing nothing. Sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, for example. Sitting in the airport. Sitting in a traffic jam. Of course, I could use my cell phone to call my wife and tell her how upset I am about the traffic jam, but somehow, that seems wrong to me.