Is your smartphone a toy or a tool?

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The other day I asked myself a simple question.

Do people recognize the power and capability of their smartphone?

These days we have high-end phones with bigger, crispier screens, and with more RAM (2GB, 3GB), very powerful processors (Qualcomm Snapdragon, ARM chips, etc)  and lots of memory (64GB, 128GB, and some have expandable memory card slots).
Over and above that, these devices come with extra hardware such as NFC, accelerometers, magnetic sensors, fingerprint scanners, heartrate monitors, GPS, powerful camera lens, etc.

The question is: what are people using all that computing power for?

The modern day smartphone has more power than data centres from years ago. My Toshiba laptop from 2006 had far less computing power than my current Android phone. It had far less RAM ( with 128MB), 40GB HDD space, and fewer pixels on the display.

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This is the irony. Most smartphone users just use their phone for 2 major reasons:
1) Communication (Phone calls, SMS, etc) and
2. Media consumption.

And media consumption is mostly composed of 2 major actions.
i) Social media consumption and
ii)Multimedia consumption (videos and music, and gaming)

But the smartphone is a very powerful computer which possesses very high computing capabilities. Here is what one of the great astrophysicists of our time, Neil deGrasse Tyson, said about the smartphone phenomenon.

Apps plus handheld devices… I think that’s a watershed moment in civilisation. I’d put it up there with the invention of the microscope, and the telescope.

Here we live in a time where the most powerful tools ever imagined to investigate and probe our world are in the hand of essentially everyone…

I agree with him.

We should start recognizing smartphones as being so much more than just being a phone that can browse the internet and play music and videos. We should start seeing smartphones as productivity tools that can help us live better lives and make the world a better place to live in.

In essence, carrying around a smartphone is as good as carrying a very powerful computer in your pocket. When you start seeing the phone as a computer, your imagination will suddenly discover endless possibilities.

That weather app you take for granted? It could literally plan what time, what week, and when you plant your next crop as a farmer.
It will plan your week regarding what you will wear and where you will spend your time depending on the weather forecast. GPS and maps will take you to markets you would have spent days trying to figure out how to get there.

GPS and maps will take you to markets you would have spent days trying to figure out how to get there. The Todo list apps could plan your agenda, your goals, and your productivity for a month or year.

Using Google Earth, for example, you can literally travel to Iraq and use street view to actually ‘virtually walk’ the country without being there physically. That means that you can see what the place you plan to visit looks like before you even get there.

I always read about the Great Wall of China and saw it in books, but going to it using Google earth gave me a different perspective as I could literally see what the place looks like in real life.

And we have not even mentioned the sensors and applications that medical doctors are using to diagnose patients using smartphones.
That little medical encyclopedia app can be used by a doctor to diagnose a person’s illness more accurately.

Then we come to politics. Some countries are working on apps that can allow you to vote using your fingerprint scanner and your phone. How about the applications in the mining sector and geography?

Zimbabwe has apps for services like EcoCash, Telecash and Nettcash for mobile payments. Pause for a moment to reflect on the implication of such apps on the financial services sector.

I know of a microlending company that is giving out Android devices to its agents who go to the communities and create new clients, collect loan repayments, and find out about their customers on the go using an app.

There is just so much and so many endless possibilities with the smartphone that people cannot afford to ignore. Choosing to view your smartphone as a productivity tool and a super computer opens your mind to endless possibilities.

I like what Jake Lodwick, a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Vimeo said.

If you change your perspective and reframe yourself into this modern empowered individual who has these incredible and powerful information processing machines in your hand… …then you can delete the apps that distract you… …stop checking the websites that make you anxious… Start loading your device with tools that make you into a super human.

I also agree with him.

Changing your perspective about smartphones can result in a significant boost to your productivity as you take advantage of the super computer that you carry around with you everyday and everywhere.

Adios…

This article was written by James Ritala, a Zimbabwean software developer based in South Africa.

12 Comments

  1. King J says:

    Food for thought …

  2. jb says:

    I loved this article, after reading it i couldn’t help but noticed that you just scratched the surface of what these devices are capable of. I thought, due to internet access, i have access to live events, news, statistics as they are released an ocean away NFP(Non Farm payroll) employment figures. i can make decisions much quicker as a stock trader in Zimbabwe, based on projections of where the value of the US$ will move vis-a-vis other currencies. i can check on the security of my home, spy on my wife lol kikiki ooh no…that means she can spy on me too kikiki
    I can check emails, pay bills, check my heart rate…
    the possibilities are endless, with group chats chiefs in the rural areas can check on villagers whereabouts and status regards food availability and so on. the world can work much more efficiently if we can harness the use of these devisies and the cost cutting possibilities are endless…
    thank you for the article truly eye opening…

  3. Shark says:

    Interesting article and quite challenging. We do need to change the way we look at the world around us and start using the tools in our pockets to make our everyday lives easier.

  4. Wengai says:

    Interesting article, perhaps you could also mention some of the power apps that you are using.

  5. Rodney says:

    I think Zimbabwe is going the other direction to every other emerging market country. Taking advantage of technology has to be part of government policy, I believe it can cut corruption big time. As a country we need to build home grown solutions to home grown challenges, look around, one has to Q for hours to make a payment for their water or electricity bill. All these elements, right up to paying for your parking or speeding fine, should be by now embedded into the tech world. Some countries are already looking into doing away with paper money and we don’t even have our own paper money.
    So frustrating. Internet is still way to expensive in this country to enable even these handheld devices to work to their intended potential. We are always trailing behind.

    1. E says:

      Aaah logging in tickets on a computer saka yemusaa inobva kyupi ipapo

  6. Chrispen Machipisa says:

    Ah interesting article.
    My laptop has been down for almost a month now. Have to be relying on my basic Android phone for all my work, including spreadsheets and presentations. Have been just managing so far. Have actually been thinking of an upgrade because of the convenience the phone has saved me. All along have been thinking that a phone is just a social tool.
    Seriously considering a very good Microsoft smartphone, it looks more ‘professional’.

    1. Wesley Nyawasha says:

      to Chrispen Machipisa I use my android phone as my laptop I can do days without using my laptop. I use microsoft word, excel and onedrive enjoying them big time worse when I’m signed in into my microsoft account on the laptop as well as android. if your android has kitkat and above that would work well.

  7. Aktion says:

    I have an iPhone but have just used 1% of its potential because of our inaccessible, expensive wifi.

    1. tha9ud says:

      @aktion jailbreak your ios device enjoy your econet subscription hope that helps

  8. Kelvin chikakayi says:

    Wow i love this powerfull insight

  9. Kelvin chikakayi says:

    Wow i like

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