Since when did the cell phone become a digital Swiss Army Knife? Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that—hold your horses because there’s a caveat involved here. And before my ADHD takes hold and blasts me into 199 different channels in space, I’m going to lay down that caveat right now: cell phone manufacturers are adding too many colors to a palette.
It’s a phone that’s also an Internet browser that’s also a camera that’s also a calculator that’s also a portable gaming console that’s also a word processor that’s also a personal assistant that’s also a GPS that’s also a music player that’s also a notepad that’s also a voice recorder that’s also an alarm clock that’s also a TV that’s also a weather forecaster that’s also a library of books that’s also an address book and it’s soon to be a wallet.
I will say that a decent chunk of the aforementioned digital tools are quite useful. But not all of them are practical. A phone as your wallet!? No way, Jose! You should see my wallet. It’s awesome. It’s the entire map of Hyrule from the Legend of Zelda for NES, secrets and all. So when I encounter a rabid pack of Moblins and need to find the exact rock formation to bomb or bush to burn with haste, I just take out the extraordinary wallet in my back pocket and it’s time for the Money Making Game. My wallet also holds cash, credit cards, receipts, fortune cookie fortunes, pictures, loose change, subway passes and business cards. Where the hell am I going to put all of that junk if my cell phone consumes my wallet like the Blob? Am I to invest in a miniature manpurse for all of my incidentals? I can see it now—P. Diddy’s lavish new line of portable designer manpurses for the chic, urban male. How many rappers could we get on this? Call up Dre and make a Beats manpurse! Oh, how the cash money will roll in! Implementing wallet functionality in a phone is one of the most idiotic ideas I’ve ever heard.
Then there’s the camera quagmire. Yes, the imaging sensors on modern day camera phones are improving at the speed of sound, but there’s a crucial element absent from a smartphone: the tactile feel of quality external controls. Without that, a cell phone merely equates to a 3.5 or 4.3-inch LCD screen that’s wickedly difficult to steady and vexing beyond belief when it comes to actually snapping a picture. Regardless of a virtual or physical shutter button, the wafer-thin phone is so hard to steady that I feel like I’m a Squigglevision cartoon character who just downed an urn of espresso and snorted a forest of Pixie Stix. Without any substantial weight, taking pictures with a cell phone is like trying to balance a potato chip on the tip of your nose while standing one legged on top of a moving New York City taxi. And the lack of a quality shutter button, Mode dial and control wheel render a cell phone camera as a novelty. At the end of the day, a digital camera will run circles around a cell phone.
Music on a cell phone is another fingernail on my chalkboard. There’s nothing more irksome than being assaulted 347 times per rollerblade session by a call, Facebook notification, Tweet, email, or other form of annoyance that forces you to pull over and be the jerk on the side of the road in rollerblades swiping furiously at a touchscreen. Furthermore, most affordable phones have jack squizzle for storage, so I can only throw a few Cars, Beatles and Tears for Fears albums on there before the digital storage unit is maxed out. And the more applications you add, pictures you take and things you download, the less space you have for your Best of Kenny Loggins tracks and Grandmaster Flash compilations. You see, all of the different tools on your phone require storage and they’re battling it out in a megabyte war to the death. Just get a freaking iPod or MP3 player.
I’m one of the most hardcore retro gamers from here to Timbuktu. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve got Mario’s number on speed dial and Mega Man and I are Best Friends Forever. Naturally, I grew up playing NES and other TV-based console games piloted by controllers, and was one of the first to transition to the glorious Gameboy. Today we have the DS, and it’s a solid piece of portable gaming weaponry. But at some point in the timeline, cell phones decided they were going to gobble up a portion of the portable gaming market with cheap, easily accessible games. The only major issue here is that playing any sort of action game on a cell phone makes me want to hurl it onto a landmine. Hacked Nintendo and Sega ROMs are wretched on a cell phone because of the glitch-infested virtual controls. That’s why games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja have become shining stars—they have simple controls and brainless plots: swipe things to destroy things. Cell phones will never go down as serious gaming machines in my book—they are novelty devices in that department.
I could continue to babble about like a bromidic drone, but I’ll spare you the extra paragraphs. I won’t go on about how word processing on a cell phone via the virtual or physical QWERTY keyboard makes me want to punch a baby. I won’t ramble about how watching TV shows or movies on a 4-inch screen makes me feel like the Jolly Green Giant at a drive-in theater. I’ll spare you the sob story about how the thought of reading a book on any sort of electronic screen repulses me beyond the threshold of repulsion.
But there’s something seriously at stake here. Think about this. If your cell phone becomes your life, and it gets pilfered, then there goes your life! You wallet, your contacts, your games, your music, your documents, your pictures—all in the hands of an identity thief hermit crab who will use your device as its temporary shell.
And there’s another thing. All of these exciting Swiss Army features are mere novelties. When you try to cram everything and the kitchen sink into a device, you’re bound to make compromises and cut corners. A lack of external and manual camera controls, limited music storage, poor gaming controls, nowhere to put all of your wallet belongings. And many of those features on cell phones are just half-assed attempts at adding more selling angles to a phone. More megapixels on this one, Beats on the new Rezound. It’s still not a dedicated camera or music player, and will never be, because of that one minor constant—it’s a freaking phone.
And the worst part is that all of these new, delightful and wonderful features are sucking the life from one battery! One battery powers the iPod, the camera, the video recorder, the Internet Browser, the gaming console, the GPS…need I go on? That’s part of the reason why cell phone batteries cannot last thoughout the day—we’re using them to do too much crap!
It’s a phone! It’s supposed to make the best calls, text messages and provide light Internetting for crucial situations. Too many colors in a palette renders the entire canvas an eyesore. Give me a calculator, an alarm clock, a voice recorder, email, an Internet browser and Wordfeud on a phone and I’ll be happy. Gadzooks, I am addicted to Wordfeud.
Outside of that, I’ll take an iPod, Canon PowerShot S100, Nintendo 3DS, hard copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Complete Tales & Poems and MacBook Pro with Microsoft Word and Adobe Creative Suite. And there’s still the NES, Sega Genesis, record player, tape player and the game of Scrabble sitting on the living room table.
This rant has been unofficially approved by the AARP and Ft. Myers Rotary Club Bingo League.