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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Do You Really Need a Smart Phone?

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Over at Study Hacks: Decoding Patterns of Success, Cal Newport considers an idea raised by a piece in The Verge:

Vlad Savov ... asks if it's time to bring back the dumb phone. If we return to thinking of these gadgets in a more purely instrumental sense -- that is, asking what important problems they solve -- then, perhaps to our surprise, we might find ourselves wondering why the appropriate answer is not just a simple "yes."
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Even considering Newport's very good points about the much-improved utility and portability of computing devices sized between the smart phone and the laptop, I find myself answering something like, "It depends, but probably, you do."

Granted, Newport is speaking mainly from a productivity standpoint, but a recent road trip I made showed me that there are at least two things a smart phone can be quite valuable for (on top of improving our enjoyment of our lives, if used with discipline): memory insurance and remote connectivity. Yes, phones can do many of the things a Chromebook or a tablet can do (but not as well). But during the trip, a contact I'd been trying to reach called me to set up an appointment. I was nowhere near another device at the time, so I put her on speaker and glanced at my calendar, using my phone. Later, at a gas station in the boondocks -- whose proprietor may not have even known what wi-fi even is -- I was able to quickly confirm another appointment right after sending my wife a brief text on my progress home.

Yes, I could have done either of these things later or on another device, but... In neither case was I trying to concentrate or otherwise deeply involved with something else, and in both cases, it was a fine time to do a short, one-off task. Indeed, had I not done the first of these, I might have missed a chance to batch the appointment with others -- and I would have had to expend an amount of effort to remind myself to return the call later (an amount equal to or greater than ... just setting the appointment). All this I could do just by reaching into my pocket or using the device I was already using.

Was this necessary? Maybe so, maybe not. But sometimes, small wins can pay off in unexpected ways. Unless you have great difficulty controlling the urge to check your phone every few seconds, I'd say that these are great for collecting small wins. I vastly prefer using a real computer for scheduling and other productivity tasks, but as annoying as it can be to do them on a phone, it's a great ability to have.

-- CAV

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