Some people like to complain about people hypnotised by mobile phones, because it’s a lot faster than counting their grey hairs or describing their daily routine to a complete stranger. However, despite how it may appear these people walking around staring at a small square of beeps and boop are in fact accessing a portal to the entire world.
The modern focus on phones is actually incredibly time-saving. Mobiles haven’t just replaced an army of other gadgets so we don’t waste time searching for scattered widgets in every nook and cranny; no, this Borg-like absorption of other equipment lets us save time psychologically too.
Watches were once more essential than the left hand they sat above, because you could still do a lot of jobs with one hand as long as you turned up on time. They were an instant barometer of whether a person was worthwhile, (or at least whether they considered it worthwhile to spend a lot of money on a watch). While they still serve a function, they’ve actually become much more highly fashionable – in that they now people only care about how they look and so the watch no longer has a real purpose anymore.
Because everyone has a phone and every phone has a clock, it’s really changed the message sent by expensive timepieces. It used to be “if I depend on a tool I’m prepared to pay for elegance and reliability.” Now it says “I had thousands of pounds and really couldn’t think of anything better to spend it on”. Which is a great time-saver when you meet someone new.
The common camera isn’t just a gadget, it’s an exemplar of machine evolution. Generation after generation improved on its ancestors before a disaster wiped 90% of them from the face of the Earth. The disposable camera was once the identifying mark of the holiday and important event, cluttering up cupboards and costing more in development than they ever did to make, and every single one of the horrible cardboard monstrosities was exterminated by the cameraphone. And it’s a good thing too, as they had less focusing ability than a drunken one-eyed pirate on stormy seas. The cameraphone hasn’t just wiped out the cardboard fakes it’s decimated the ranks of real point-and-click boxes too. The vast majority of pictures simply don’t need dedicated equipment. This is because there is a far vaster majority of pictures than at any point in history, and 99% of them are basically “I existed in this location.” A real camera would be insulted by such an application, but the mobile phone has to put up with the idiot’s blather 24/7 and doesn’t miss a beat.
Like the watch, this merging of camera and phone has a further psychologically useful function as an idiot detector. Because now when you see a blatant backpacker aiming a camera the size of a tank barrel at a public monument, something which has already been photographed more extensively and expensively than the Moon and Lady Gaga combined, you can point and feel sorry for them. Because they’ve brought a huge amount of hassle, expense, and effort to bear on an image which couldn’t be more unnecessary.
The cameraphone’s quick point and click is more than good enough for the tourist’s unnecessary proof that “Yes, the Eiffel Tower is still there, and I wasn’t just hiding in my bathroom for two weeks.” At least that image is taken quickly, and the taker doesn’t imagine themselves skilled just because DSLR pictures automatically look good.
So, in a nutshell the phone saves us from chores, by replacing other gadgets and clearly identifying idiots. Later we’ll look at even more of these labour-saving combinations.