Let me begin with a story. A buyer went to a store and there were two doors inside. One said ‘phone’ and the other said ‘more than a phone’. He chose the second door and once inside, saw another two doors. One said ‘With camera’ and the other said ‘more than just a camera’. He obviously chose the second and once inside saw another set of two doors. The first said ‘good storage’ and the other said ‘more than just good storage’. There were rooms talking about processor speed, dust and water proofing, great audio, and even super apps… and the man always opted for the room with ‘more’. He finally reached a room that had a set of two doors with the first saying ‘happy price’ and the other said ‘more than happy price’.
This buyer then said, ‘Aha! More than happy price is good. What more will I want?’ He entered this door and right in front of him was a mirror under which was written:
‘It is time that someone told you that to get more you need to know more and do more. And if you’re doing all that a phone is capable of doing, you’re not living any more. Go out and live your life with a phone that will really help you live your life.’
The truth is that we are all constantly confronted by technology that we have no intention of ever using. I suspect most of us spend large sums to go for smartphones just to show the world that you can afford to buy things that you don’t really need. This strikes me as rather funny.
So smartphones are getting smarter but a cursory glance at the pattern of usage is enough to tell anyone that most people use features that do NOT justify the purchase of devices that are classified as expensive. I was at the Kumaon Lit Fest some days back and one of the organisers took one whole minute to open his new Galaxy Note 6 from Samsung to jot down my phone number. When I told him that he could note my number even before he opened the phone and his response was, ‘Really?’
It is incredible how people spend thousands buying a top end phone and then are able to use only the basic features like calling, messaging, browsing the net, and read forwarded messages on Whatsapp. Come on, you can do all this even if you opt for a device that is one third the price you paid.
‘Yes indeed, because not everyone wants to do things for which apps already exist. The truth is that there are wonderful apps out there to be installed that will do everything a smarter (and obviously more expensive) phone claims to do. This simply tells me that though smartphones might be getting smarter, the users are getting dumber. One forecast tells me that the number of smartphone users in India from 2013 to 2019 is going up and that in 2016 this number is estimated to reach 204.1 million. Imagine having these many people duped of their hard-earned money for actions that a few ‘free’ apps can initiate and accomplish.
Social media keeps people glued to their smartphone screens
Yes, this is true… and you find a lot of dolts crossing a busy traffic intersection with their eyes inattentive to the hazards that surround them. In 2014, the number of active internet users accessing through their mobile devices was 220 million and this has obviously grown… and so has the number of road accidents. But the point of this post is not to dissuade you from buying a smartphone, but to let you know that looking beyond Samsung and Apple can be equally exciting. I mean, you do not have to even look at prices that are beyond reason to have a smartphone that does all the work you will ever want from it.
So what are people really doing on their smartphones?
Nothing. Most users I have met are playing Sudoku using their S-pens. Isn’t this laughable? Have you ever met someone who needed to cut a picture from the net and paste it to a message that was ‘urgent’? The truth is that the smarter a smartphone is, the steeper will be the learning curve that accompanies it… which makes the entire smartness fizzle out and go flaccid because most of us are either incapable of learning the ABC of the continually changing new technology or simply do not have the time for it. the higher you are in the hierarchy, the more is the probability of you getting a team of capable people who will hand you over whatever you want without you being a slave of a mere smartphone. So why not consider saving all that extra money to get added to your fun budget during your annual vacation abroad?
A January 2012 Nielsen report says that smartphone users in India are spending more than 40 percent of total active time on their smartphones on data-centric activities. This obviously means that smarter cameras and expensive audio add-ons are not as vital as the ads are bent upon making us believe. This also means that the ability to communicate nuggets of information with immediacy is what scores over fancy features like creating memes to put forth a business-related point. Most of the USPs of high-end smartphones today look great in an av-ad than in real life. So these features are not about real smartness.
What is real smartness?
I am not saying that smartphones are not desirable. According to a survey, mobile ad spend jumped by 105% in 2013 and climbed another 75% in 2014 to reach a total of $31.5 billion globally. This simply means that people all over the world are ditching their old phones and going for smartphones.
Real smartness is also about being able to browse the net on the move and to be able to use the information there to help you navigate through not just the lanes and by-lanes of Gurgaon but also the information glut that dominates the virtual space. I was not at all surprised to read that ‘India’s web traffic is dominated by mobile devices with phones accounting for 72% of all web pages in the second most populous nation.’ This January 2015 report simply means that the complexity of a smartphone is not what is optimally used and so long as your phone has a reasonably good and strong screen, a processor that will work well, a connectivity that will not ditch, and a battery that won’t die uncharacteristically earlier than expected, you are on firm ground if your smartphone is smart enough to remain inexpensive.
Smarter smartphones don’t make you smart nor does knowing how to use a smartphone make you smart. You are smart when you get your slog work done by your subordinates. You are smart you spend less and buy a phone that suits your needs and is terrific to look at… and both these aspects are not cost intensive.
Smartphones that are cost intensive are so because of features that you will never use. So why would you want to pay more to look foolish?
So it is time that you let the air out of the expensive galaxy of smartphones to make the companies that market them realise that the real consumers need what is ‘right’ and not necessarily what reflects ‘more’.
04 December 2015