Smartphones and tablets – are they actually useful? (Part 1)

Smartphones and tablets have been around for quite a while now, and no doubt they have been useful, but how useful?

Imagine this scenario: you have a word document that you need to do but you are away from the computer. You pick out your phone and get typing. But no it’s not as simple as that; you find out that you can’t access the file because it’s in the cloud and there happens only to be 2G in the area you are in.

Now all you’ve got is a £500 brick phone.

Maybe later on you get a 3G/4G signal but you’ve already wasted about 15 minutes trying to download it and convert it to a .docx file from the original .gdoc file!

Quite often, I find myself wasting time trying to get my phone or tablet to do what I want it to do, whether that’s a question of no internet connection or just the wrong app installed.

Maybe you should have just waited until you got to a computer?

So there’s the time wasting aspect of smartphones. What about actual usefulness?

Imagine this scenario: you are again away from a computer and you are waiting for an urgent email. Helpfully your smartphone buzzes in your pocket and you read the email.

If the email was so urgent, wouldn’t you have stayed at a computer? Wasn’t the whole point of email being that the recipient could reply when they had time?

Personally I think that smartphones and tablets are very useful but I’m just debating this with myself. I think I could probably survive without one but I’m not sure…

Ironically, I wrote some of this on a tablet!

So, what do you think? Do you find them useful? Or are they purely a waste of time?



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About tech189

Casual blogger on technology, photography, and science at

14 responses to “Smartphones and tablets – are they actually useful? (Part 1)”

  1. Alex Yong says :

    They’re good for social media, news, podcasts. Not good for creation, typing at length. In the case of phones, good for emergency situations.

  2. Hethradyah says :

    I think that when network technology has filled the gaps to ensure connectivity to the cloud then one major barrier to efficacy is removed, but the form factor is still an issue when using a smart ‘phone for certain tasks IMHO and I personally don’t want to carry around a device that’s got a big screen – I’m currently happy carrying a tablet or maybe something like a Surface along with my smart ‘phone.

    And you raise a good question about usefulness in other ways. I don’t make anything like full use of my ‘phone’s capabilities. I need to get up to speed !

    • tech189 says :

      Yes, there are a lot of “notspots” around me, meaning a lot of the time my phone is useless…

      What kind of things do you think you could use it for?

  3. Hethradyah says :

    Well, thinking about it I do make rather more use of it than I first thought !

    I regularly use : web browser; an email app to manage 3 accounts; a cloud-based central password store app; two banking apps; 2 social media apps; a news app and a train service app, Having said that, I’d like to extend this to decent diary integration and also task management.

    I have to label mine “useful” after all 🙂

    I think what I really meant to say about form factor in my earlier reply is that the ‘phone won’t suit me for main work tasks, even if notspots become extinct.

    • tech189 says :

      You seem to be using it pretty well! 😀 Are you on Android or iOS? I could recommend a few good task apps.

      Also, for tasks, you may be interested in IFTTT, which can automate tasks on the web, like if you get an email with some specific content, you can make it add the email to a Google drive document.

      There are good calendar apps like the default Google calendar app which you can add entries with different colours for easy management but if you’re looking for a diary to write memos, there are also apps for that!

      • Hethradyah says :

        Hadn’t realised how long it’s been since I logged on checked email on this account ! Life’s been crazy – apologies.

        I’m on Android. For tasks I currently use Remember The Milk since it also has a IOS equivalent and I do have an iPad which I use. The thing with a calendar app is that I haven’t researched it well yet. I have a work life and a personal life, of course, and currently I keep both diaries on my Exchange-hosted work account, but for my ‘phone and iPad I don’t seem to be able to easily manage that calendar – e.g. entries I make on the devices don’t always reflect in the main diary when I view it at work. This could be a bug or some security config thing with my work place, I guess.

        Also, the form factor on the ‘phone (i.e. fairly small screen – it’s an HTC One) doesn’t lend itself well to management of a packed diary 🙂

      • tech189 says :

        Oh wow sorry for not replying, life got in the way for me as well 🙂

        Google Keep is a great option because you can use it on iOS and Android!
        I’m not sure what’s going on there with the calendars though, sorry. Probably a sync issue.

        Yeah, I can see why a tablet would be better for looking at a calendar.

  4. Janice Wald says :

    Hi Tech 189,
    I met you on Jason Cushman’s site. Thank you for liking my comment to him on his article. I recently posted about using smartphones as well. Small world!
    Nice to meet you.

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