Chang­ing mo­bile habits

TechLife Australia - - THE WALL -

Is it just me, or are peo­ple start­ing to use their mo­bile phones dif­fer­ently these days? I don’t mean in the ‘we’re not us­ing them as phones any­more’ sense, ei­ther. More and more, I’m see­ing peo­ple walk­ing around with them not pressed up against the side of their heads (where reg­u­lar hu­mans have their ears) but held par­al­lel to the floor, with the user speak­ing very loudly into the bot­tom. Some­times, the user is wear­ing ear­buds, some­times not.

Phone mics are sen­si­tive enough to pick up your voice from where the de­vice should be held — against your cheek — and don’t re­quire that you hold them like a plate and scream at them. If phones did re­quire that the mic be that close to your quivering lips, they would be as long and un­wieldy as the tele­phones of old — you know, the ones without screens and with the twirly cords that you couldn’t take with you more than a me­tre. Why are peo­ple us­ing their phones this way? Is it truly a be­lief that their voices can be picked up more ac­cu­rately, or is it some hip new thing I’m too old to un­der­stand? [ GE­OFF HUTCHENS]

Ed replies: We reckon this ac­tu­ally makes sense in in­stances where some­one’s wear­ing ear­phones, as oth­er­wise the phone can push against them and cause pain in your ear — al­though if those head­phones also have a mic (which is in­creas­ingly com­mon these days), then you can put the phone in your pocket be­cause its mic will ac­tu­ally be com­pletely switched off. Peo­ple hold­ing their phones like this while on speak­er­phone, how­ever, is a new one to us — we don’t think we’ve ever seen it in the wild be­fore. Per­haps they’re be­ing ex­tra cau­tious about pro­tect­ing their head against ex­po­sure to the small amount of ra­di­a­tion that our mo­biles emit? Even though there’s never been hard sci­en­tific proof that phone ra­di­a­tion in­creases the chance of can­cer, there’s enough peo­ple who re­main scep­ti­cal about it to sup­port an in­dus­try of stick­ers and phone cases that claim to be able to pro­tect against it. (And in fact, com­pared to the ef­fi­cacy of those prod­ucts, hold­ing your phone away from your head is prob­a­bly a more sound strat­egy — a small sticker whacked on the back of your phone isn’t some­how go­ing to soak up all the ra­di­a­tion it emits.)

IF PHONES DID RE­QUIRE THAT THE MIC BE THAT CLOSE TO YOUR QUIVERING LIPS, THEY WOULD BE AS LONG AND UN­WIELDY AS THE TELE­PHONES OF OLD — YOU KNOW, THE ONES WITHOUT SCREENS AND WITH THE TWIRLY CORDS THAT YOU COULDN’T TAKE WITH YOU MORE THAN A ME­TRE.

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