WASTED PO­TEN­TIAL

TekSavvy Insider - - Contents -

In the past decade our mo­bile de­vices have taken huge strides, trans­form­ing from crude key­pad driven mono­liths to touch- en­abled, hi- tech mar­vels be­fore our very eyes. These days it’s un­think­able that we could go about our daily busi­ness with­out our trusty smart­phones in hand, but for all the im­prove­ments in specs, are we get­ting left be­hind by our de­vices?

For all the leaps in com­pu­ta­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the vast ma­jor­ity of us still use our de­vices mainly for just a hand­ful of things. Calling and tex­ting ob­vi­ously re­main a sta­ple, but in­ter­net and email use are now right up there with the stan­dard ca­pa­bil­i­ties ex­pected from any mod­ern smart­phone, and you’d have to go back a long way to find a de­vice that wasn’t more than up to those tasks.

Be­yond that, though, what ex­actly

are we us­ing our smart­phones for? Ac­cord­ing to a study con­ducted by Cat­a­lyst Mo­bile Re­search, 68% of Cana­di­ans now own a smart­phones com­pared to around 18% just five years ago, so it’s fair to say that the de­vices have more than made their mark on mod­ern cul­ture. Of those users, many now use their de­vices as the go to for a num­ber of tasks that were pre­vi­ously re­served for more tra­di­tional com­put­ers or even printed ma­te­ri­als. Some of the most pop­u­lar tasks Cana­di­ans now rely on their smart­phones for in­clude search­ing for prod­uct in­for­ma­tion while out shop­ping ( 70%), nav­i­ga­tion ( 50%), check­ing the weather ( 47%), so­cial me­dia ( 51%), check­ing sports scores ( 34%) and restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions ( 34%), but none of these are par­tic­u­larly tax­ing on our de­vices, and cer­tainly don’t make use of the abun­dance of power now avail­able at our fin­ger­tips. That’s where apps come in to play. While the bulk of the func­tion­al­ity men­tioned above comes built in with most hand­sets these days, it’s app mar­kets like Ap­ple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store that plays host to the kind of soft­ware that’ll re­ally al­low you to make your de­vice sing and dance. With count­less games, util­i­ties, con­tent sources and quirky odd­i­ties avail­able both for free and for a ( usu­ally) small fee, there’s al­most lim­it­less choice avail­able these days to Cana­dian con­sumers - which makes it all the more in­ter­est­ing that, since last year, the av­er­age num­ber of apps in­stalled on Cana­dian smart­phones has plunged by 26% from 25.57 to just 18.82. Sim­i­larly, we’ve seen a re­duc­tion of 52% in the amount of apps

down­loaded by users each month, to just 2.57. It’s clear that, de­spite the in­crease in re­sources in mod­ern smart­phones, Cana­di­ans are us­ing these de­vices less and less to their po­ten­tial, and as the specs con­tinue to in­crease it would ap­pear that the gulf be­tween what we can do and what we ac­tu­ally do will only in­crease in size. Why, then, are we con­tin­u­ing to gob­ble up the lat­est smart­phones in our droves? Ap­ple needs only an­nounce a new it­er­a­tion of its iPhone to have line­ups around street cor­ners out­side its stores, while An­droid flag­ships like the Sam­sung Gal­axy S6 con­tinue to per­form bet­ter than ex­pected on an an­nual ba­sis. Some­where along the line smart­phones have be­come far more about po­ten­tial per­for­mance than ac­tual per­for­mance. The octa- core CPU in the Gal­axy S6, for ex­am­ple, cou­pled with its 3GB of RAM and min­i­mum 32GB of stor­age space, hints are in­cred­i­ble things. From al­most con­sole- qual­ity games through to in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions that could po­ten­tially go head­to­head with their desk­top coun­ter­parts, we’re see­ing an ex­po­nen­tial in­crease in hand­held power and rush­ing out to pay for the priv­i­lege of owning these de­vices… be­fore re­sort­ing to us­ing just email, in­ter­net, calls, texts, so­cial me­dia and the oc­ca­sional sports or weather up­date app. With users now unin­stalling more apps each month than they down­load, it’s pos­si­ble that users are fi­nally start­ing to fig­ure out that the ma­jor­ity of apps are lit­tle more than skinned web­sites, re­lay­ing the same in­for­ma­tion al­beit in a slightly eas­ier- to- di­gest for­mat. The del­uge of in­tru­sive push no­ti­fi­ca­tions, an­nounce­ments and up­dates may also be play­ing a ma­jor role in the de­ci­sion to re­move apps at an un­prece­dented rate, as the nov­elty be­gins to wear off and users in­stead opt to glean in­for­ma­tion when they choose to, not when an app tells them they should. We technophiles love hav­ing the lat­est and great­est hard­ware. We get a thrill from know­ing that our hand­set has out- bench­marked other high- end de­vices. We fan­ta­size about the fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tions for our su­per powered smart­phones. But, at the end of the day, it seems that we’re just as bad as ev­ery­one else for fork­ing over not in­sub­stan­tial sums of money for the shini­est pieces of kit and then sim­ply not us­ing them to even a frac­tion of

their po­ten­tial. The idea that we need faster CPUs and more ad­vanced GPUs is one that’s pushed on us by hand­set man­u­fac­tur­ers and op­er­at­ing sys­tem cre­ators. Each year we typ­i­cally see a cou­ple of “ma­jor” up­grades to both iOS and An­droid, with each promis­ing all- new ways to in­ter­act with the dig­i­tal world at large, stream­lined in­ter­faces that’ll make our ex­pe­ri­ence a joy and fancy new graph­i­cal em­bel­lish­ments to make ev­ery­thing seem new and shiny - and you’ve got to have the lat­est hard­ware to take ad­van­tage of all these new bells and whis­tles, right? From a fi­nan­cial stand­point it makes per­fect sense for these com­pa­nies. If the gen­eral pub­lic knew that, tech­ni­cally, a high end smart­phone pur­chased now should be up to the task of do­ing ev­ery­thing most users would need from it for 4- 5 years then there’d be a mas­sive re­duc­tion in the amount of rev­enue made an­nu­ally. In­stead, it’s a much more sen­si­ble op­tion to push out a new model an­nu­ally, ac­com­pa­nied by all the mar­ket­ing hy­per­bole and blus­ter that we’ve come to ex­pect. What does this mean for Cana­dian smart­phone users, though? How about next time you find your­self start­ing to feel that “new tech” itch, in­stead of run­ning down to your near­est phone store and ty­ing your­self up in another mul­ti­year con­tract, you stop and con­sider what it is you ac­tu­ally use your smart­phone for. If your an­swer amounts to lit­tle more than calls, texts, web browsing, email, so­cial me­dia and a hand­ful of apps ( like the ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans), then per­haps an up­grade isn’t quite as es­sen­tial as you had first thought!

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