6 Things Smartphones Should Be Able to Do by Now
Everything in the world should be perfect, and everything that isn't perfect is the worst thing ever. Hello, I'm Chris Bucholz, and I'm a huge baby. And today I'm here to bawl at you about smartphones. Despite being one of the most powerful devices ever wrought by man's hand, my smartphone still has a number of quirks and hiccups that irritate my soft baby skin. And because my tiny, still-developing mind possesses neither the skill nor the drive to actually fix these problems, I am left with no choice but to simply document them for you.
Here then, for your bawling pleasure, are all the problems with smartphones that humanity still has to put up with, like we just crawled out of the fucking trees or something.
The Screen Rotates When It Shouldn't
Some things look better when a phone is held in portrait mode. Some things look better when the phone is held landscape mode. This is normal and even healthy.
Except for videos. If you shoot a video in portrait mode, you will be badly hurt.
Switching between these orientations is easy enough; the sensors in every phone I've used detect rotation just fine. But if you're not rotating the phone intentionally, like if you're laying it down on its back or, heaven forbid, trying to use your phone while laying down on your side, you're basically screwed. Yes, I know there are ways to lock the screen in one of the drop-down or settings menus or with a witch's hex, but ugh man, seriously? Then you'd have to turn it off when you're done, and again, ugh. It's easier just to sit up, which is the worst thing ever.
"This is some serious bullshit right here."
And there's another thing which happens occasionally. I sometimes get in a situation where I'm trying to look at a picture that's rotated 90 degrees from they way it should be, like the phone doesn't know which end of it is down. Rotating the phone, like one might do with any other object in the world, just causes the phone to change orientation, which causes me to twist it again, and so on, and eventually my wrist just snaps off.
The Volume Control Sometimes Adjusts the Wrong Volume
Our phones can play lots of different sounds because of all the computer chips they have, and these sounds all have their own volume. There's the volume for basic phone noises. And the volume for notifications. And the volume for alarms. And the volume for movies and music and your fart noise apps.
"We know that wasn't a real fart, Mike. Frankly, it would have been more professional if it was a real fart."
And yet we have a single volume control to work these separate sources (again, without diving into settings land). It's context sensitive, sure, and will typically change the volume of whatever is playing, which is the right move like 95 percent of the time. But in a few odd cases, it's clear you want to adjust a different sound entirely. Like when you want to watch a video or play a game on the bus without making any sound, pressing the volume button before the thing starts making sound, like you'd do with any other device on the planet, doesn't adjust the video/game volume -- it just adjusts the ringer.
"Can't talk now, Tom. No, everyone's looking at me like they were real farts."
Also, whose idea was it for a phone to beep when you're lowering the volume of the notifications? Yes, I know it's to show me how loud it is now, but if I'm preemptively lowering it so as not to make any noises, I don't want to know how loud it is by way of a bunch of goddamned noises. Come on phones! BE MORE PERFECTER.
There are two big problems with autocorrect. The first is that it still makes lots of mistakes. "Song" becomes "Dong," and "Sorry" becomes "Dong," and "Whoops" becomes "Dong," and... hang on. OK, someone's been fucking with my phone.
OK, but still, autocorrect makes a ton of mistakes, and the web is filled with examples of people who have "hilariously" called their mother the C-word when they really just meant to use the S-word.
"Jeffrey, U R a bad son."
But the second problem goes deeper with that. Autocorrect has made everyone lazy. Because we can drop our phone in the front of our pants and hump out semicoherent text messages, we haven't developed the hand dexterity we'll need to survive in a future filled with very small things to touch. Our growing reliance on autocorrect is dooming our hands to grow ever more sausage-like.
"Like it's my fault my owner has fingers the size and texture of entire candied hands."
"That's nothing. My owner is, if not a seal, then a horrible mistake sired by a lonely seal scientist and a bottle of whiskey."
Mobile Web Pages
With few exceptions, modern websites are perfectly navigable on a smartphone. Even the tiniest of user interface elements can be tapped by simply zooming in a little tighter, a maneuver which every smartphone handles with aplomb. Yes, the user interface of most websites could be made easier for smartphones to use them. But that's only worth doing if it doesn't compromise whatever it is that site is good at. Which it almost never is. It's very common to see sites make an effort to speed up site navigation by presenting mobile users with a completely different site with a completely unfamiliar interface, thus dramatically slowing down site navigation.
But fret not, UI designers! The 'Back' button remains easy to find.
And what toner-cartridge-huffing maniac thought it would be a good idea to put a mandatory "Download Our App!" screen between the user and the actual content they want to see? (Yes I know who's an occasional culprit of this. What can I say? Management doesn't consult their crazy, probably hair-bearded, and certainly mentally unstable columnists on IT decisions.) Sure, in a few cases, where a user is hitting that site multiple times a day, the app might make sense for them. (If the app is good. Is your app good? Are you sure?) But for the majority of incoming users, who might very well have never heard of that site before and might never come back again (some random forum, for example), dealing with a mandatory pop-up ad before giving them the delicious content they crave is madness.
The Screen Keeps Turning Off
Because of the prince of all smartphone annoyances (keep reading), we can't keep our screens on all the time, which means they turn off after some amount of inactivity. This time limit is customizable by the user, and it is always, always the wrong length of time. No matter how you set it, your phone screen will either be on for way too long after you're done using it, robbing the planet of precious energy, or it will shut off after you go absentminded for a few seconds, forcing you to unlock it again, a complicated movement requiring almost several muscles.
"Ugh, don't make me use my second hand for this."
In response to this, some phone manufacturers have created face sensors to detect when we stop looking at the screen, and only then turn it off. In my experience, this only helps automate this wrong-decision-making process. Obviously, it's unfair and irrational to demand our phones have mind-reading capabilities, except yeah, let's go ahead and do that. Get on it, you engineers with extremely fashionable eyeglasses working at Apple, and you engineers wearing substantially less fashionable eyeglasses working at Google. Please read my mind to make my phone nicer, and sure, go ahead and pump some ads directly in there while you're at it. If you can make the phone hover in front of me, that'd be good, too.
How many of you have adjusted your social lives based on the current charge of your phone? I have. Not a lot; not to the point of canceling a fight club or anything. But I've definitely loitered at work with the phone on the charger, and taken a longer route to give the car charger more time, and sprinted into a gathering and seized the host by the lapels while shrieking something about electricity. And I know I'm not alone. People are beginning to develop real anxieties around not having a functioning phone. It's called nomophobia, which is a fittingly dumb name for something so dumb. These devices are supposed to make our lives easier, and yet here they are, measurably making them worse.
"And then my phone is screaming at me for wetting the bed and I'm calling it 'Mommy' and the whole school is laughing at me."
What's even worse is that these crappy batteries are showing to manufacturers and other aspiring tyrants just how much humans are willing to put up with. By proving ourselves willing to adapt our lives around our phone charge, we've essentially all agreed to wear a twelve-hour leash. Smartphones are great devices, sure, maybe even worth that sacrifice. But how long will it be before the concept spreads? When will someone develop a really good shoe which requires a docking station, or an incredible burrito which requires a three-year commitment and a data plan, or something even more humiliating?
"PLEASE LOG IN WITH YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT."
Big Brother isn't your flat screen on the wall (except when it is). It's your goddamned smartphone battery, pressing down on your face, forever.
For more from Bucholz, check out The 12 Most Common Fantasies Teenage Boys Have and 5 Brilliant Ways Historical Figures Dealt With Their Haters.
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