Keith Bartholomew

About Me

Why Do We Take Our Smartphones So Seriously?

I recently picked up the new Nokia Lumia 900, which is the first non-iPhone I’ve owned since I started carrying a smartphone a few years ago. I’ve been extremely happy with the phone so far, but most of my complaints aren’t really faults in the device or platform, I’m just used to the Apple way of doing things. Had I been new to the smartphone scene, I would be nothing short of thrilled to own this device—and I’m nothing short of thrilled to own it now.

But being the wary consumer that I am, I made sure to dig up reviews from every tech news site that I could find—good or bad—to figure out just what kind of situation I had just gotten myself into. Now, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this phone, so you could say I was a little biased in my review-reading. But I couldn’t help notice how the excitement that existed in all the time leading up to the launch of this awesome, unibody-style phone waned as soon as the reviewers got it in their hands.

“It’s not the best,” they said. “There’s some good DNA there,” they said. Review after review covers this phone that was the absolute talk of the town prior to its release, but now that it’s actually in reviewer’s hands, they’re suddenly disappointed with their own expectations.

What bothers me though, is that nobody ever really called the phone “bad.” I don’t think it’s a bad phone, either. It’s not an iPhone, so things are different, but is not being an iPhone or the fastest quad-core, gigapixel Android device a sin these days? The Lumia 900 is a very good phone, but I fear that it, along with Nokia’s and Microsoft’s hopes for the Windows Phone line, will be dashed by reviewers who are too afraid of change to recommend these phones to consumers.

What kills me is that the Windows Phone platform has some very compelling merits, but it exists in this sort of in-between state that’s hard to sell. iPhone is “cool,” because that’s what every movie star and public figure uses, along with their suite of additional Apple products. Android is “high-tech,” because the nerds who care about things like that have the power to tweak their phones and treat them like they do their liquid-cooled gaming computers.

But when it comes to using a smart phone, are specs like speed, cores, RAM, and overclocking really worth all the hype? When’s the last time you used your phone to compile code or process heavy three-dimensional rendering? I use my phone to communicate with people, surf the internet, and play games, and I don’t need 4 cores to do it.

We’ve fallen into the trap of believing that fastest-is-best, or biggest-is-best when it comes to smart phones, but people seem to have forgotten about the overall user experience that will come of their choices. Phones should be fun and easy to use, and you should never, ever, have to throw down your phone in disgust and say, “UGH! stupid phone!” (I hear this sentiment regularly) The purpose of these devices is to communicate easily with rich media content, regardless of our location, not burn up batteries with gluttonous CPU usage.

But alas, the tech reviewers all have the ear of the public, and shoppers today are casting aside all other factors, choosing their next phone on arbitrary numbers and speeds that they don’t understand, then complaining when they find their new phone too limiting or too confusing to use. What happened to us? Weren’t smartphones supposed to be fun?

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