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androidThis is my new Smartphone. It’s a cheap one I bought direct from China, saving me a fortune on the price of an equivalent device with a more familiar western brand name. Dual sim, it takes both my Orange and my Vodaphone PAYG cards that I’ve had for years in other phones. It runs the Android ICS operating system, has accelerometers and a GPS built in. It can be a satnav, wordprocessor, ebook reader, spreadsheet, diary, planner, address book, a reasonable camera,… even a seismometers and an inclinometer if you should ever find yourself in need of one, plus a long list of other stuff that may or may not be useful to you. Oh,… it also makes calls and sends texts. It is the Swiss Army knife of mobile computer technology. It’s not perfect, but it’s well built and I’ve used it every day for the last couple of months, and I do like it,… really.

However,…

If you forget to plug this ravenous beast in overnight, and I mean every night, it’s useless. Battery life is worse than those old brick ‘phones we had in the nineties. At first I thought it was because I’d been a skinflint and gone for a cheap knockoff ‘phone with a poor battery, but reading reviews of more well known brands of similar size and spec, this pitifully short operational life is typical, so I know my device is no worse than any other. It’s simply the price you pay for having all that functionality in your pocket.

By comparison I was told the tale of an ordinary “dumb” text and call type ‘phone that was lost on a camping trip two years ago. It was found recently on another camping trip when the tent was unrolled and the phone discovered lurking in a fold of the groundsheet. And yes, it was still working!

I’ve not thrown my old ‘phone away, thank goodness. I haven’t touched it for several months, and I note the battery still has 50% charge. That’s it with those old “dumb” phones – it had got to the point when you were almost surprised they needed charging at all. By contrast I unplugged my smartphone at 8:00 am this morning, and now (10:00 pm) it’s down to 15% and has already nagged me to plug it back in again. And no, I’ve not been playing games on it. I’ve sent two texts and the rest of the time it’s been on standby.

I feel like a slave to it, like to one of those little Tamagotchi pets – conscious all the time of this thing in my pocket that’s dying hour by hour unless I do something to sustain it. I think once the novelty has worn off, I’ll be going back to my old ‘phone. Until battery life catches up with all that power hungry functionality, Smartphones look like a pretty dumb idea to me – a little ahead of their time.

The best gadgets are those you use every day, yet remain an inconspicuous part of your life, providing a useful function without adding even more nags to you list of things to do.

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