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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.