A smartphone is a kind of “do everything” device. But how does it fare against equipment that is more specialised?
Smartphone + charger
- Spectacular features/portability ratio.
- Allows the user to feel normal.
- Tiny screen.
- Unpleasant for phone calls.
- Gateway drug to tech over-use.
- Scarcely enough battery power to last into the evening.
- Sensible battery charge capacity.
- Good ergonomics for making calls.
- May have good audio quality.
- Constitutes a physical firewall against the distraction economy, tech over-use, security issues, etc.
- Often rather retro in terms of physical appearance and operating system.
- About the size of a slim paperback book or city atlas, so will fit nicely in a bag or coat pocket.
- Probably the smallest useable screen size for web browsing, working through emails, watching films, etc.
- Can be used with an external, physical keyboard; some keyboards are built into a case.
- Low cost.
Medium or large tablet
- Trades portability for screen size, so not suitable for a handbag or coat pocket.
- A giant smartphone: phone-tablet. The name is mighty ugly and so are you – when you use one to make a phone call.
- The screen is still too small for most purposes.
- Too big for most pockets.
- Too big for most hands/faces.
Ultra-portable laptop; 2-in1 device
- Relatively light, but still a significant object to carry around.
- Physical keyboard, which enables touch-typing.
- With 2-in-1 devices, the screen can be detached and used as a (large) tablet.
Standard laptop computer
- Almost the new standard full-size computer. But a 15ʺ screen is still rather small when compared to a desktop.
- Keyboard almost as good as those available for desktop computers.
- Can be used with an external screen. This brings both larger screen size and better ergonomics (top of the screen should be the same height as your eyes).
- Full-size screen that really allows you to get things done – multiple screens are possible. Good for watching TV or films, too.
- Because miniaturising technology is expensive, a desktop is both cheaper and more powerful than the laptop equivalent.
- Except for all-in-one products (e.g. the iMac), it is possible to upgrade components as time goes on – meaning that you can keep a desktop computer for much longer before it becomes obsolete.
- With separate units, you have free choice as to what screen, keyboard and mouse you use. And you don’t have to replace them when the time comes to get a new computer.
- Ethernet is faster than Wi-Fi.
- More options are available for backing up. For example, a second hard drive can be built in for hourly local backups.
- Optimal ergonomics: wider keyboard is better for your wrists/shoulders; eye-level screen is better for your posture.
- The separate keyboard is the perfect complement to the ultimate tech upgrade: being able to touch-type.
- A desktop’s lack of portability brings a very specific benefit: it makes it much easier to leave all that computer-related stuff behind, and go and do something off-line. When you’re not at your desk, you’re not at your desk.
- Excellent ergonomics (unless modelled on a lobster).
- Generally excellent call quality.
- Extremely cheap to use, including for most international calls.
- Total freedom from everything that is not your phone call. And in the age of distraction, that’s a major benefit.
- Better image quality, when compared to a camera function built into a phone.
- Physical switches, knobs and buttons.
- Better focus within you. When you’re taking pictures, that’s all you’re doing. You’re not holding a device that does everything, means everything, wants everything.
- Makes it easier to miss out on pictures. This is an essential part of being human: it shifts your memory back into you, and helps keep you in the here and now.
- Often already built into a car; readily available as a separate device, including for fitting to bicycles.
- Means that you miss out on finding out about and connecting with the world around you, but sometimes that has to take a back seat.
- Potentially useful tool for anyone seeking the freedom of not always having to carry a computer with them.
Digital audio player (a.k.a. MP3 player)
- Often has far superior sound quality.
- Most give you full freedom of choice as to what file formats to use, for example FLAC, which has a much higher quality than the MP3 format.
- You can have music on the go without worrying about your phone’s battery charge level.
- Very effective as a semi-static music system at home.
- Not having a audio player built into your phone makes it easier to sometimes decide to hear what everyone else is hearing, rather than creating a private reality. It’s possible to get too much private reality…
- Another useful ally in the fight against computer dependency. Printing out a travel ticket, rather than having it on your phone, may sound medieval but lots of people still do it and get on just fine.
- Also handy for all sorts of other projects and activities, like signs, posters, photos, birthday cards…
- Ultra-compact models are available, that can easily be stored away when not in use.
- Printer owners always have lots of friends: “Okay if I pop round and print something out?”