10 technologies made obsolete by Android smartphones

July 21, 2014

old obsolete camcorder Justin Scott Campbell

Smartphones are like the Swiss Army knife of the technology world. They can do a little bit of everything, and you only need to carry one device in your pocket to cover a lot of bases. Technological convergence is about increasing functions and delivering more features in a single package, and it’s hard to think of anywhere it has been more successful than in the smartphone market. The combination of portability and multiple functions has really driven the smartphone revolution.

We’ve come a long way from the days of slapping a clock into every appliance. Convergence for the sake of it doesn’t always make sense. Remember how LG once made a microwave with a TV in it? The usual criticism is “Jack of all trades, master of none,” but the leaps in smartphone technology have made the latest Android phones capable of outperforming dedicated gadgets in a number of areas.

Here are some of the technologies that the Android phone in your pocket made obsolete.

Samsung Galaxy S5 camera

Point-and-shoot cameras

The cameras in the latest Android smartphones easily outperform a lot of dedicated point-and-shoot cameras. The software is better, there are lots of editing apps, and it’s much easier to share the photos you take with the rest of the world. The best camera is the one you have with you and you always have your smartphone with you.

GPS units

Google really shook things up by releasing Google Maps. We take it for granted now, but at the time it was a shock to see Google giving something away for free that the SatNav companies had been charging us serious money for. It has improved considerably since it first came out, with additions like lane assistance and offline maps support. Android phones are getting better at graciously handling in-car usage, and it’s also much easier to update your Google Maps app than it is to update a GPS unit. Put all of that together and it’s very tough to justify the expense of a dedicated GPS unit.

music spotify

MP3 players

Sales of MP3 players have plummeted in the last few years as smartphones have taken over. An Android phone can do everything your MP3 player could do and more. It comes with headphones, it’s always in your pocket, and it can also access the increasingly popular range of streaming services like Spotify through tailor-made apps that offer a much better user experience than your average MP3 player interface.

Calculators

We used to carry calculators in our school bags back in the day, but the current generation will never need to use one. Basic calculators are a standard inclusion on every Android smartphone. Even if you want a graphic calculator with a bunch of extra functions you’d be better served dropping a few bucks on a decent Android app.

Voice recorders

Does anyone remember Dictaphones? The most successful brand of voice recorders became synonymous with them, but the idea of carrying around a device solely for the purpose of recording interviews or voice notes now seems ridiculous (the brand is now owned by Nuance Communications). Every basic Android phone has a voice recorder built-in and you can snag some great apps for extra audio recording features. Google’s automatic speech-to-text transcription is also improving fast.

life time alarm clock

Alarm clocks

Standalone alarm clocks are extremely limited in scope and a waste of space and electricity if you already have a smartphone on the nightstand. Android phones offer you a wide range of alarm options, you can set multiple alarms, and you can choose whatever sound or music you want to awaken you.

Camcorders

The latest Android flagships can record 4K video. The software offers more options than most people require and it’s easy to share and backup your videos. We undoubtedly shoot more video nowadays than we ever did in the past because smartphones have made it so convenient to do. There’s very little incentive to own a camcorder anymore.

Wristwatches

Walk down a random street and ask the strangers you meet what time it is and the chance are good they’ll take a smartphone out of their pocket to check. Old wristwatches may be about fashion for some, but they certainly don’t offer much in the way of functionality. The jury is still out on whether smartwatches can reverse this trend because right now they’re really just an extension of your phone that saves you from taking it out of your pocket.

Flashlights

When’s the last time you stopped what you were doing to go and get the flashlight? If you’ve got your smartphone right there then the screen light will generally suffice, but there are also plenty of free apps that repurpose the camera flash, and most Android phones have a flashlight option built in.

sony xperia tablet z aa remote control

Remote controls

Combined with smart TVs, game consoles, DVRs, and devices like Chromecast we are increasingly able to use our Android smartphones as remote controls and second screens for choosing new content or browsing while we watch. It’s also not uncommon to find IR blasters and remote control apps that make your phone into the equivalent of a high-end universal remote.

What else?

There are a lot of other things that we no longer carry or need thanks to our Android smartphones. How about notepads, calendars, address books, diaries, landline phones, USB sticks, compasses, translators, pagers, guitar tuners, and shopping lists?

As screen get bigger the days of ebook readers are surely numbered. Gaming handhelds are in the sights, credit and debit cards could be next, and further down the line we could see home automation and security features that allow our Android phones to replace things like light switches and keys.

It’s not like your Android smartphones are just serving as portable alternatives for a lot of these functions either, the fact they are connected to the Internet and have huge developer communities working round the clock on new and improved software for them makes them better in many cases than what they are replacing.

Did we miss anything? What else has your Android smartphone rendered obsolete? What do you think is next? What can Android phones never replace? Post a comment and tell us.

Comments

  • Taiyo

    They could’ve said “smartphones” but they just had to add the word “Android” because it’s the only OS that deserves all the credit for some reason.

    • andrew

      Or because this is ANDROIDauthority and not smartphone authority.

    • kg2105

      Other smartphones don’t necessarily do everything that android phones can do, and even when they do they often do it worse. So why pretend and suck up to non-android devices which aren’t as good?

  • TechGuy

    Myfi hot spot adaptors are pretty redundant as well.

  • aNYthing6

    Not sure about the calculator one. It’s true that Android phones have access to some really nice calculator applications, but last time I checked you aren’t allowed to use a phone on your exam. Calculators are still very relevant.

    • MasterMuffin

      Most schools don’t allow phone calculators even if it’s not an exam!

      • retrospooty

        That and I am pretty sure there is a whole world of users outside of school.

        • MasterMuffin

          Android does have some pretty good calculator emulators, like TI emulator.

          Never had a portable DVD player. I did have a VHS player, not a very portable one but we did take it to places :D

        • pizzamannetje

          I love RealCalc. It has unit conversion and integrates nicely with the clipboard. For nostalgic reasons i’d switch to a TI-30 or TI-30X emulator if it ever came available in the Play store. I think the “whole world of users outside of school” usually uses their phone.

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    • Cole Raney

      That and dedicated calculators still have more functions and easier to use.

      • Alex Ohannes

        If you have a big enough screen, then you can just use a calculator emulator.

    • dodz

      they forgot radio, car head units and some navigation or measuring devices like compass, angle ruler, bar level, sure these things are not yet as endangered or as obsolete like example a camcorder, but i can see the future, some carpenter will just bring a, maybe hammer, screwdriver and his phone to build a table.

      • Jon Johnson

        The problem is very few smartphone on the market right now offer true FM radio. My Moto G does and it saves me from saving music to my phone for offline music.

        • Mike Reid

          Many (most?) budget phones still have FM radio.

          It’s the flagship phones on which FM is harder to find, especially Samsung, Nexus, GPE and most phones on Verizon. And IMO it’s because US carriers and Google (and Apple) both find free FM radio, with non-Google ads, to be counter to their businesses. US carriers want to sell data plans (exception for Sprint who is being paid millions in ransom every year by US FM broadcasters.)

          Sony’s almost always have FM, though some carriers don’t include the app. HTC is still pretty good with FM, and same for LG. Samsung flagships, and Nexus and GPE are the primary holdouts.

          I deal with these issues every day. My Spirit FM apps are pretty much my only income, and IMO the only notable 3rd party FM app besides the Sprint/Emmis/NextRadio app.

    • fruitsoda08

      yah it’s not allowed during exams or even not exams!

    • Ryu

      Not to mention no Android app I have found can beat my Nspire CX CAS

    • ineptone

      You make a valid point. It can’t, however, be used as a blanket statement. As a teacher, at both the high school and middle school levels, I tend to actively go against school policy on “no cell phones”. I’ve been able to have my students use them as work aids regularly, without issue or fear of dishonesty. It took time to establish usage behaviour – and does with every new class – but once the rules and acceptable uses are understood, and excepted, by the students they are more than willing to cooperate in order continue using something that has, ultimately, become an extension of them in productive and context appropriate ways.

  • Michael

    Correction: 9 technologies made obsolete by iPhone

    *Remote controls are not obsolete yet.

    • Sunny

      What’s your point?

      • Michael

        My point is pretty much the same as Taiyo’s: ‘They could’ve said “smartphones” but they just had to add the word “Android” because it’s the only OS that deserves all the credit for some reason.’

        • TTechie247

          There’s isn’t a single thing here attributable to Android. Not one Smartphones in general … perhaps … Android Nope. More red meat for the rabid and uncritical

    • MasterMuffin

      I remember having phones with calculator, flashlight etc. before iPhone…

  • mexcor

    I disagree about calculators. Sure there are apps for phones but they’re not practical. I don’t think that real physical calculators will be replaced any time soon.

    • Arturo Raygoza

      Cash transactions look better calculated on a calculator instead of a phone. Yard sales, flea markets, food trucks etc more “professional”

  • http://nimooli.com Nima

    I don’t think smartphones have made wristwatches obsolete. Aside from the fashion point made, checking your watch takes a second or less even when your hands are full, compare that to taking your smartphone out of your pocket and turning on the screen then putting it back in your pocket (you can’t do this if both your hands are full). I always wear my watch even though I’m carrying my phone and I still find it much more convenient than checking my phone.

    • Peerpressure

      Completely agree. I heard about a year ago that watches were on their way out because of cellphones. Sounds like a lot of people that don’t value their time. Checking a watch is so much faster than checking a phone.

      • kg2105

        Nah watches are definitely more fashion than function at this point. If you desperately need to check the time in 1 second (vs 3 seconds) or you check what time it is every few minutes okay, but that is true for pretty much no one. You also have to buy a watch, and it adds another thing you have to put on in the morning or when you go out. So it adds cost and inconvenience to cancel out the minuscule savings you are referring to.

        • Peerpressure

          Oh, I wear my watch 24/7, except in the shower. And my current watch was less than $15. :)

          I guess I’m just different than a lot of people out there. Don’t really care about the fashion, just the convenience to see what time it is quickly. But I am very time-oriented, so it’s important to me.

          • Arturo Raygoza

            The point is NO ONE cares about the extra 2 seconds waisted on a phone, just take a look at watch sales.

    • Jon Johnson

      I have a Casio watch with a calculator. Is it “smart” enough yet?

      • loop6719

        not really but you may be able to get a hotel room with that watch and a few shower curtain rings.

    • thomas sim

      We simply need smart watches that aren’t ugly or for nerd only. I had pebble smart watch, but use custom skin and custom strap, so that it felt less nerd.

  • naduh

    Imo I think having a home phone is obsolete. Everyone is always on or around their phones anyway.

    • wezi427

      The only reason I still have a home phone is for my home alarm system.

    • Mike Reid

      For various medical reasons, my family dials 911 way too often (at least 1-2 times a year) to not have a wired and reliable home phone.

    • thomas sim

      The only reason I had home phone is because Telco gave me one.

  • Gabor

    It made obsolete the periodic table, and many other paper tables for students.

  • MasterMuffin

    Still use 4, 6 and 10. Remote control especially is still a thing pretty much everyone uses, with or without a smartphone

  • Kamen Minkov

    I still use an mp3 player. Yes, it’s old, no, it doesn’t play FLAC, but it lasts a week’s worth of listening several hours a day and sounds better than my phone.

  • Sync Babi

    I am learning English to study abroad…so portable electronic dictionary was really essential for me at that time..I used to find words at least 10 times per day with it… but Now it’s totally useless. I got Cambridge advanced learner dictionary on android

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  • TechLover

    I am skeptical abt some pts made abt GPS units, ebook readers:
    There’s always the limitation of battery life and data usage of smartphones when using them as GPS units (while I certainly used it on many occasions to find my way, GPS units are more useful when travelling overseas –where data usage is expensive and the battery definitely are longer lasting than your smartphone (Which is used for various other purposes)
    The same limitation applies to translators:in addition, translators these days are still more accurate and comes with various other functions to facilitate in learning of a language.

    For ebook readers, I much prefer to do my reading on eink devices like Kindle Paperwhite which provides a superior reading experience compared to that of my mobile phone screen. (ebook readers provide a more comfortable screen for reading books that resembles reading a hardcopy. )

    Smartphones have a lot of functions but some are more effective

  • chanman

    Flashlights: Because depending on your phone in a power outage of unknown duration is a brilliant idea.

    • Jon Johnson

      If you told me to go find a traditional flashlight in a power outage I’d probably use by screen light to find one. Just saying.

    • William D

      candles: because depending on your flashlight batteries in a power outage of unknown duration is a brilliant idea. =)

      yes I keep flashlights and candles and a generator for power outages.

  • Fer

    And hopefully, Android will be obsolete one day, one beautiful day

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    • Craftershw

      I don’t think so, what could make Android obsolete? It would have to be a much better mobile operating system that can do all that android can and more. That operating system does not exist, and probably never will.

      • michaelmicro

        Personally I think iOS already makes Android obsolete… But I wouldn’t bet against someone else coming out of the woodwork and usurping Android. Just as soon as Google drops out of fashion (which is due quite soon), we’ll see the tides turn. Smartphones are now so commoditised that it’s no longer about what is actually good or bad technology, it’s about what is ‘cool’ and ‘fashionable’ (I don’t subscribe to that notion myself, I can’t stand the vacuity of ‘fashion’ and ‘trends’, but sadly most people do).

    • Jayfeather787

      Hopefully you will be obsolete, you stupid piece of trash.

  • Shark Bait

    land line phones???

    meaningful human contact??

  • Teic

    Huzzah for technological advancement!

  • beano

    I disagree with both point-and-shoot cameras as well as MP3-players. In both cases battery life still very much is a problem. And with camera’s the picture quality still isn’t on the same level that my p&s camera gives me. I’l admit that it is getting better but there is still a lot of work to be done.

    • Grail0375

      I agree. If they ever discover the holy grail for battery efficiency (1-2 weeks per charge, 30 second charging, etc…) I’ll be more than willing to drop my mp3 player. But for now, I’ll keep my AAA powered, 30 hour runtime Philips GoGear.

    • Ryan Web

      Agreed .I still rock my Microsoft zune and no smartphone will ever replace my Nikon dslr camera.

      • kg2105

        your Nikon dslr is not a point and shoot camera.

      • Arturo Raygoza

        Were talking about point and shoot cameras not dslr’s

    • Alex Ohannes

      I totally agree. I have a cheap 8 gigabyte Coby MP3 player that I bought brand new for 25 dollars. I can get over a week of use without charging it if I use it less than two hours a day (ding ding ding, guess what, that’s as good as a $180+ iPod).

    • thomas sim

      They should put entry level point and shoot camera. I rarely saw anyone holding one anymore.
      For mp3 player, I tend to agree. While battery life is concern, isn’t you charging your smart phone once or twice per day? If it can last me one day if music listening, I’m perfectly happy to leave mp3 player to dust.

  • Mur

    Psht remote controls are still easier and faster than phones.

  • Bishop

    Although, it is true that the video recorders on cell phones have replaced actual camcorders for the general public, videos recordered at 1080p on a cell phone still don’t compare with the 1080p recordings of good entry level camcorders. The audio recorded on a cell phone isn’t on the same level as an entry level camcorder either.

    4K video recording is another advantage cell phone cams now have, but with a lot of limitations. OEM’s now don’t have much reason to release entry level camcorders that can record videos in 4K. If we had that option, camcorders wouldn’t be bound by the restritions of 4K video recordings of a cell phone. Still, 4K recording on a cell phone is a great option to have and it’s still impressive that they managed to put such a recorder in a small camera sensor as those found on cell phones.

    Biggest issue I have is seeing how many people record videos in portrait mode, instead of landscape mode. It’s bad seeing all those portrait style videos on a tv or while watching a news report and seeing someone’s home video showing the report. Really wish a voice instruction would remind people to tilt their phones into landscape mode when they are trying to record videos in portrait mode.

  • arcwindz

    Not obsolete lol, that’s so wrong. Just like swiss army knife, phone is jack of all trade but master of none

    • kg2105

      It’s master of a lot actually, though not all.

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  • Prince Michael

    my smartphone doesnt even have an sound recorder :D

  • Felipe Barousse

    All of this substitutions are great… except for the battery life… with current battery technology.

    Use the smartphone a little more than usual say: Use the map and GPS to “get there”, then use the flashlight function,… the take some video and pictures and suddenly, pam!… your battery is dead… You end up with a very sophisticated and expensive multi-device that is now useless, dead..

  • khingjay

    They’re about to make 1080p screens obsolete. Have you seen the price of a 100 screen these days. 4K TVs and curved TVs are about to take over.

    1080p is no longer essential when phones better resolution than most TVs. Let’s see what happens if Samsung comes out with a 4K 6″ screen that doesn’t run the battery down (maybe on that one, would be awesome though.).

  • SecureJonny

    iOS, was it not made obsolete too?

  • Grail0375

    I’d disagree with flashlights though, since it’s not recommended to use the phone’s LED for long periods. Although it could be argued that for general use, it’s more than enough. I’ll take back what i said when Phone LEDs can output 300-400 lumens, until then, i’m keeping my 4$ Cree XML with me.

  • Jan-Albert de Leur

    Metronome and music tuner…

  • Rubber Chicken

    totally agree , still use my TomTom device every day though for work and wouldn’t change it as it is so reliable and simple and no data needed

  • ziplock9000

    Loads of them are completely wrong.

  • Irfan Shafiqy Dwi

    When have android tablet, you can watch movies as long as battery life. Of course download torrent then. Also radio fm still.
    But there is a thing you can’t do with, a real book still much better to read than ebook. I can guarantee that you just can read ebook less than an hour.

  • .

    Currency itself is being replaced.

  • Paul Oiheccer

    how about a portable gaming system,or a presonal adult BabySitter?

  • truth_cutz

    When they start allowing you to shoot in RAW, I might get rid of my P&S.

  • TDN

    Not sure if any of the items listed are rendered obsolete. Obsolete means that they are completely replaced or no longer in use, while a smartphone can be more convenient, it doesn’t really completely replace any of these items.

    I still have a P&S that I prefer to take good photos with, standalone GPS units will still be more reliable than a phone’s map system, and the proliferation of IR blasters is so shallow that remotes are still much more functional and available. Furthermore, because of battery life, mp3 players, flashlights, camcorders, voice recorders, and alarm clocks will never be completely replaced by smartphones.

    Smartphones are convenient and useful for all of the items you listed, but doesn’t completely replace any of them.

  • Will S.

    Amazing list! But as others have said, smartphones, not just Android.

  • Doctor Who

    I will agree with the camcorder one, though quality is better on a camcorder. As for point and shoot cameras, I will disagree to a degree. If I am on vacation or at a setting where I need a good camera without the bulk of the SLR, a point and shoot will win everytime over a camera phone, as camera phones are still off some in terms of quality. I rarely get motion blurs on point and shoot, my controls for exposure and ISO are easy to get to, I have a bigger apererature, and my flash is invariably better on my point and shoot. Phone cameras are nice for the in-the-moment candids and in sunlight.

  • Twelk

    Think I’ll keep using a flashlight and save my precious battery life.

  • http://the-justice-league.tumblr.com IKnowKungFu

    This is the most peaceful comments section I have ever seen. Everyone is getting along.

  • loop6719

    gps? i was out in the sticks of NC and had no signal at all. The gps was useless to me because I could not get maps to update as I was traveling and I did not pre-load maps on my device. I just sold my Garmin for 20 bucks and now I realize I need to get another..crap

  • MaryJane

    Also..
    Calenders, maps, and in some cases friends.