Sure, it has a faster, more powerful processor than its predecessors. The cameras and screen have higher resolutions and more vivid colors, and it is one of the thinnest smartphones in existence; but, in essence, it is still an extremely expensive, fragile toy. The vast majority of iPhone owners will have no other use for its computing power and graphics besides playing Angry Birds and posting on Facebook. It might support 4G LTE, but there are precious few places where that truly works as advertised. Even so, the rate at which using mobile web depletes an iPhone’s battery makes it only a temporary fix for the Internet junkies among us.
The iPhone is undoubtedly the king of smartphones, but smartphones in general seem like terrible investments. For most people, they cost quite a pretty penny, they provide little true utility, and they arguably have made us less sociable and less intelligent, namely by being so convenient and “smart.” I have seen people, even intelligent Princeton students, staring down at their iPhones and swiping at the screen, probably browsing Facebook or Twitter, while walking across the street. I cannot think of anything happening on a social network that is more important than what is going on in my current surroundings, especially in a situation — such as crossing the street — that could potentially be dangerous. When I see a group of friends sit down together at a table in the dining hall, only to stop chatting and start using their phones within minutes, it makes me cringe. It’s not just a quick reply to a text, but a total absorption into whatever is happening on that tiny screen. Most people I know can’t go anywhere for the first time without using the GPS on their smartphones. This can be useful for totally unfamiliar places, but having your own navigation skills is incredibly handy, and it’s not that hard to use a paper map or, heaven forbid, ask for directions.
Most of the things a smartphone can do are not activities that require too much work to perform without an electronic device, and why pay hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year for that kind of convenience? I don’t think it’s worth it, especially when you consider the potential health and environmental risks. Whether the wireless signals coming in and out of cell phones cause cancer is debatable, but, as a male, I would not want something that emits radiation sitting in my pocket all day. Nor would I want my ear mashed against a phone for too long. These phones are certainly not helping the environment, either. Over time, they use up a tremendous amount of electricity that ultimately goes toward mostly trivial uses. Most of their internal components are intentionally designed to fail within a few years, yet the materials are often difficult or impossible to recycle.
Finally, there is one oft-overlooked problem I’d also like to highlight that is probably exacerbated by the abundance of smartphones: poverty. Apple, HTC, Samsung and various other smartphone producers have all done a remarkable job of making a luxury product seem like a necessity. However, in the process they have also turned many people who cannot truly afford to be spending that much money on a luxury item into fanatics who have to buy the newest model of smartphone every few months. A basic phone on a contract, even a prepaid phone, is more than sufficient for the purposes of calling and texting. Anything beyond that is starting to venture into the realm of bells and whistles.
Smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous among college-age people here in the United States, but they are by no means a necessity. If we step back and take a look at all the things we do with our smartphones, I think we’ll realize that few of them are really worth the costs, financial or otherwise, that we are paying for them.
Spencer Shen is a freshman from Houston, TX. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/04/31370/