Let’s face it: the iPhone is a Game Boy for grown-ups

Thanks to the generosity of my BFF, I am now the owner of a two-generations-old iPhone.

Okay, so it’s not exactly cutting-edge – but it’s my first smartphone, so I was pretty excited. After all, for the past four years, I’ve been hearing about how WONDERFUL smartphones are, how many awesome apps they have, how they’ll make my life so much easier and everything more convenient, and how some people really do suffer from iPhone addiction because these phones are so freaking amazing.

I’ve now had the phone for a couple of weeks – and so far, I remain underwhelmed.

The first thing I did was go to the app store and look at the top 25 apps to see if any of them would be useful for me. The list of top free apps currently looks like this:

  1. ArcheryWorldCup
  2. Very Hungry Cat
  3. Modern War
  4. Voxer Walkie-Talkie
  5. Office Jerk
  6. Tap Zoo 2: World Tour
  7. Hangman
  8. Pictorial
  9. Tap Fish Seasons
  10. Tap Ranch 2

…ooookay, I’m not really interested in games, but maybe I’ll find useful stuff among the top paid apps.

Or not:

  1. TETRIS
  2. Angry Birds Seasons
  3. Angry Birds
  4. Camera+
  5. Fruit Ninja
  6. Amazing Breaker
  7. Flick Kick Field Goal
  8. TurboScan <— (this could be promising. It turns your phone into a scanner)
  9. WhatsApp Messenger
  10. Infinity Blade II

A full 90% of the most popular apps seem to be games – hence the title of this post.

Let’s get to the phone’s other aspects:

Access to e-mail on the phone – Here’s the thing: I’m never away from my computer for more than 5-6 hours at a time, and I don’t think I’ve ever received an e-mail that couldn’t wait that long for me to see it. What ends up happening is I check my e-mail on the phone, read the new messages… and decide to wait till I’m back in front of my keyboard to reply, because I don’t have the patience to tap out a response on the little phone keyboard, whose AutoCorrect always wants to change “Obrigada!” to “Intifada!”

Facebook and Twitter on my phone – In my 27 years of life to date, I have not yet encountered a situation in which I’ve thought “OMG, I wish I had a smartphone so that I could post [whatever’s happening] to Facebook/Twitter RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!” – and I suspect owning an iPhone will not change that.

Anything location-related – Using the phone to find restaurants/pharmacies/banks/whatever in my area is moot since many businesses in Salvador aren’t on Google maps or don’t have websites. If I find myself in desperate need of a pharmacy or bank or directions, I’ve always just asked somebody on the street… and it’s never gone wrong.

To-do list and productivity apps – Although I do have a lot going on, my life just doesn’t seem to be complicated enough to warrant multi-level to-do lists with tags and audio files and multiple calendars and reminder alarms that sync with my computer. Honestly, I’d waste more time and mental energy simply trying to remember to input everything into the program.

Using the phone to amuse myself during my commute – I’m reluctant to use the iPhone at all in public, because even these “old” models are still selling for R$700 used and R$1200 new in Brazil – and I don’t particularly want to flaunt that kind of cash on public transportation.

There are a few things I do like about the iPhone:

  • The touchscreen – it’s still a novelty to me  🙂
  • Having the phone also be a camera and iPod is handy – so I can carry 1 device rather than 3
  • The speakers are good enough that I can store mp3s in English for my one-on-one students to listen to (meaning I don’t have to lug my netbook to class or burn a CD)
  • The Kindle app enables me to read books while I wait for students who are late to class, or on line in the bank, etc.

My verdict?

I like it. But until they invent an app that makes Salvador’s rush hour traffic go 70% faster or changes my R$50 bill into ten R$5 bills, I don’t think I stand a chance of becoming an addict.

  • Wow – where did you find that pic? It says it all!

    I had been toying with the idea of getting a smartphone, but after further consideration (and after reading your blog), I’ve decided that a smartphone wouldn’t do anything to substantially improve my life – and I would probably end up becoming enslved to it (as I’ve seen happen to a number of my friends). I don’t want to become a “tool” of the tool.

    • Shayna

      Picture comes from here:

      9 Signs You’re an iPhone Addict

      I agree about not becoming a “tool” of the tool. The way my life is now, I don’t “need” a smartphone – I would have to actually train myself to need and depend on it, and I’m not willing to do that!

  • Check out Star Walk if your interested in Astronomy… it’s pretty neat to see the southern hemisphere laid out for you when your so used to seeing the stars in the northern hemisphere! You have to pay for it though so it may not be worth it to you. Also it won’t make you become an addict 🙂

    • Shayna

      Thanks for the recommendation! Actually, I am interested in astronomy – I always found it freaky to see Scorpio directly overhead here. Sadly, Salvador has a lot of light pollution, so I’ll have to get away from the city in order to see the stars…

  • Linda Schiffhauer

    Boo. I am NOT a gamer or a facebook addict and I completely disagree with your position. But, we are all entitled to our own opinions!

    I particularly like the youversion Bible…a free app with multiple translations and the capability to take notes and highlight verses etc. Our kids enjoy the educational apps….and they beg/fight for the phone to use them. I have used the flashlight and maps extensively. And, your aunt Karen wants to use a free GPS app that I can download to settle a property dispute with a neighbor.
    Also, the ability to share photos and access music is enjoyable. There are many more useful features.

  • Dave

    It’s the best productivity device I’ve laid hands on since the invention of the PC.

    • Shayna

      But how exactly does it help? Can you give me some specific examples? I really want to know! 🙂

  • Dave

    Well, absolutely nothing if you don’t bring it with you! And very little if you live where instant communication means nothing, business aren’t on the net, locations aren’t pinned on maps, and general lack of efficiency is the locally accepted way of life.

    Otherwise? Think of it as a PC that fits in your pocket, has full internet capability, that you can use to make phone calls & take pictures, and even use as a payment or GPS device. Pair this thing with even the basic wi-fi iPad at home, and many people really could do without a PC. All without long waits for the thing to boot up. And – with the iPhone – largely virus free.

    (1) Ability to read email anywhere at anytime. There are times when that’s very important, even if an immediate response is not required. The ability to perform these checks without having to boot-up a PC and wait for 5 million virus and OS updates is priceless. Never mind the ability to reply if needed.
    (2) All your contact info with you at all times, automatically backed up and sync’d to your PC and iPad.
    (3) Messaging.
    (4) Ability to make phone calls. Not to be underestimated in a day and age where pay phones no longer exist.
    (5) The entire internet at your fingertips. Anywhere. Instantly. Look up phone numbers, addresses, maps, read news sites, play on facebook, make purchases, etc. Anything. Anytime.
    (6) Pocket camera. Not quite as good as a good point and shoot, but the market for good point and shoot cameras will shrink dramatically in the next few years – if not disappear entirely – because of these devices. On the same platform as your mobile email and text device means, you can send that photo instantly, anywhere. One example: “Hey, here’s a photo of what I found in the store – buy it or leave it?” Saves a trip back, returns, etc.
    (7) Facetime calls. Forget laptops, PCs, Skype, etc. When traveling, instantly see your kids, anywhere, anytime.
    (8) Music and video. I can store my entire music library. I can watch ESPN. I can sample hundreds of versions of a particular song before deciding which to purchase, and then play on my car stereo via Blu-Tooth.
    (9) Radio. I can listen to hundreds of radio stations from around the country, any format: Rock, Country, Christian, Alternative, Politics, Sports, etc. Again, over my car speakers if I wish.
    (10) GPS / Maps. Hey, SIRI, where’s the nearest gas station?! “I found several in your area. Here are maps to get to them.” Great, how about a coffee shop or some fast food?!
    (11) With a Bible app, any translation you want. At your fingertips. Anywhere you are. Most can be downloaded so that you don’t even need G3 or wi-fi.
    (12) Games. Yes, you can download and play games, they don’t come out of the box. But they do provide entertainment when waiting in line, or entertain the kids while at a restaurant waiting for a table to become available.
    (13) Alarm clock, calculator, calendar management.
    (14) Weather forecasts and advisories.
    (15) Emergency notifications (school, road, weather, police alerts, etc.)
    (16) Books / magazines / sports scores / levels / educational apps.
    (17) Recipes. From any internet site or your own on your app. Anywhere, anytime (can be handy at the grocery store).
    (18) A payment device. Look at what Starbucks has done. Over $110M added to their cards via phones. More than 26M transactions in less than a year. That’s just scratching the surface. I’d expect gas stations and other fast food locations to follow suit.
    (19) I won’t even go into some of the amusement park, traffic, skiing apps.
    (20) Airport check-in. Presumably access to rapid transit in some locations. If not now, soon.

    • Shayna

      Fair enough!

      I guess what it comes down to is that when I’m outside the house, I’m usually doing something in which I either don’t want or don’t need the internet. Can’t purchase anything online here without a Brazilian credit card… prefer not to listen to music when “on the street” for safety reasons… traffic/directions won’t help me much since I use public transit… my cooking is limited by the availability of ingredients in my local market, rendering many of the recipes in the apps unfeasible. I’m willing to concede that this would probably be different if I was in the States.

      So far, what I’ve most used is the alarm clock, calculator, Bible, and Kindle apps. I think I may be in love with the Kindle app :-p

  • I totally laughed out loud about the obrigada–>intifada.

    • Shayna

      So far, I haven’t actually SENT any texts with “intifada” yet… let’s hope I can continue to catch it before hitting “Send”!

  • Dave

    Soon to come? Submit and receive instant medical/dental insurance pre-approvals. Submit travel expense forms, with mgmt approval also via mobile device (actually, those apps both exist today). Doctors can pull up the latest info & make notes on all patients on their rounds. I expect that these will soon serve as the keys to new automobiles. The only limit is your own imagination.