Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Power of the Smartphone

After resisting the temptation and being happy with my old  Java smartphone, a bit of extra money meant I could upgrade to an Android phone.

I've just got hold of a Galaxy SII and its frightening to see the amount of power there is in a mobile phone these days.

Its only a week into the relationship, but already its beginning to scare me.  Its like uncorking an all-powerful Genie that I think exists to serve me, but instead serves another master.


I mean, I can understand the advantage of having certain applications on your phone, like maps maybe, social media or even GPS.


The problem comes when they're all combined. I don't think for a second that the people on Facebook that automatically got added to my contacts really understood their phone numbers would be sent directly to someone they don't know very well's contact list.

I can now for instance, if  I so wish phone up my cousin's ex-wife, or a friend of a friend without them ever handing me their phone number. The information is sucked out of Facebook into my contacts as a default setting without any prompting from me. There they plonked themselves, complete with profile pictures, should I wish to know the face of the person I'm about to stalk.

Supermarkets are falling over themselves to get me to put their app on my phone. My local Tesco now has free Wi-Fi, so I can receive the full on-line smart-phone experience and be guided to offers whilst in-store.

The Tesco app handily shows the barcode of my clubcard, but I imagine waving a mobile phone under the barcode scanners now fitted to their petrol pumps may get me in a bit of trouble with the tannoy lady behind the counter.

I now have a barcode scanner that handily nips off and trawls the internet and tells me what I'm holding in my hand, I've a QR scanner so I can now join in and scan those square blobs that appear on everything from magazines to white vans these days. Although trying to scan a QR code on the side of a moving van must be a tad difficult.

The latest app is Google Goggles, which is the freakiest app going. Take a picture of something, anything, and it will identify it for you if it can. No scrolling through pages in a book, or even web pages in a browser. Google Goggles takes all of that away from you and you're instantly presented with results. Handy for students who can't recognise that thing pictured in a textbook: no research needed, just Goggle it and up pops a raft of information about it.

The world of the smartphone is one where life is fast-paced, where companies bombard you with offers to consume their wares, where reality isn't enough; it needs to be Augmented, where academic research isn't needed: there's an app for that.

I'm not altogether easy about the merging of technologies, to deliver in my palm something that hands me so much, yet also takes so much away. I can understand the hobbyist applications, the star charts and the like, but its the slick, corporate apps that try and seduce me into using them, all the time gathering data about me in order to facilitate even more consumption that put me on edge.

This is already turning into a love-hate relationship...

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