Let me start off by saying, I do not own a smartphone. I owned a pseudo-smartphone with my last model, a Nokia E71x, but I didn’t have a data plan and what was considered a smartphone in 2009 does not quite meet today’s standards of phone intelligence, capabilities and what have you. I loved that phone, and it got me through a couple of years of high school, but it was not stunningly impressive.
Today, I live in a dorm room with several stunningly impressive phones. One of my roommates has a Motorola Droid X, another has a BlackBerry Curve, and a friend who might as well be a roommate has an Apple iPhone 4.
On any given day, if someone were to peek into our living room, chances are we’d all be sitting around doing something digital with the TV on in the background. The difference between me and them: I’d be sitting under a laptop, while their phones would be catching them up on world news, friend news and e-mail. When I need to know what’s on TV, I ask my friend with the Droid X to check out his TV Listings for Android app. If I need to know how the New York Mets are doing, I ask my friend with the BlackBerry to keep me updated (just kidding, I already know how the Mets are doing: poorly). Granted, I could do both on my laptop, but sometimes it’s on the other side of the room.
These are just every day conveniences that I’d love to have a smartphone take care of. Apps are tailored to directly and quickly give information on a very particular subject, which is what the kids want. Sitting around the dorm room, though, does not quite showcase the times when I’d really need to have a smartphone on me. That really becomes more apparent, for me at least, when considering the unexpected events that make up my week and weekend, and that occasionally lead to me ending up on the wrong side of Boston (or in an entirely different municipality).
As a college student, I’ve found that two themes have developed regarding my life’s activities: spontaneity, and a severe lack of planning. Spontaneity is hard if you’re tied to a computer, so generally when I make my way into the world I’m cutting my electronic leash (or poking a hole in my electronic life preserver, depending on how one looks at it).
The two biggest things that I lose when I go out are Google Maps and Facebook. Both show me where I’m going, in essence; Google Maps in an obvious manner, and Facebook through its events and constant updates on where my friends are and what they’re up to. Both of these staples of college life have been fully integrated into the large majority of popular smartphones currently available, and I think you’d find that most people my age would find it to be a huge boon to have constant access to these apps. Without them there are points in time where I’m out, and I don’t know where I’m going, how to get there, or how to get home.
Add on to that the fact that I don’t know my team’s score (ESPN Radio app), I can’t figure out what the song playing in the background is (Shazam app), I’m dreadfully bored (1,000’s of games in the iTunes App Store or Android Market) and I don’t have a flashlight (an embarrassingly high number of flashlight apps), and the whole situation becomes pretty terrifying.
When I’m in my car I have my GPS, when I’m at home I have my iPod Touch, but I can’t bring my peripheral technology with me everywhere. My pockets simply don’t have the space.
From majorly important, incredibly useful apps like Google Maps, to the little list above, smartphones have the incredible ability to have seemingly everything you could need, and to always have it available. Smartphones are the modern embodiment of the Boy Scout motto “always be prepared.” They are the technological Swiss army knife, and all I would need to survive in the wilds of Boston, Massachusetts and on my college’s campus.
Do I absolutely, desperately need a smartphone? No. But should I have one/would it be nice? Absolutely. (Does Dad still read my articles? I certainly hope so.)