Over the last few months I’ve been spending some of my time looking into Web 2.0 and the mobile internet. On the back of that I’ve found myself being pulled into examining some of the social networking services on the web, which has naturally led me to the whole Twitter phenomenon. And I have to admit that having now spent some time using it, I just don’t “get” it. Or at any rate, not for it’s purported purposes *
There seem to be two main classes of “normal” (ie, non-celebrity) user for Twitter out there; the people who are using it as a very restrictive instant messaging system (and this class of user seems to lock their updates and strictly manage their followers), and the people who seem to be “collecting” as many followers as possible, and broadcasting their every thought to them in the hope of becoming some sort of celebrity themselves.
And this brings me to how these people do that broadcasting, and the real point of this post; the more prolific “tweeters” appear to feel the need to broadcast their every thought, no matter where they are or what they are doing; and the only convenient way that they can do that is by using internet-enabled smartphones.
And I find that very interesting because IBM gives me a smartphone; a Blackberry Pearl. And it’s dreadful. It’s not powerful enough to do anything useful with the internet, the screen is too small, the keyboard is unusable, and the battery-life almost non-existent. And yet, because it’s supposedly been designed with the internet in mind, it’s also a very poor mobile phone, with absolutely terrible usability. In short, it’s the worst of all worlds. It’s so shockingly bad that I’m thinking of actually spending my own money to replace it with a really good “ordinary” phone.
This then got me wondering; who are smartphones actually targeted at? I see lots of people with Apple iPhones, but with a single exception (my oncologist) they are all owned by people who I would class as “geeks” who work in the IT industry. Is that because that’s just the people I happen to see with them, or are they much more widely accepted? And if they are more widely accepted, are those people actually using them for productive work, or (like a lot of Apple products) are they just being bought because they happen to be stylish, and therefore desirable to be seen with?
One thing’s for sure; from my initial perusal of the current cellphone market it’s looking like all the major manufacturers are concentrating a huge amount of effort on creating ever more complex smartphones. I suspect that it might be extremely difficult for me to find a high-end mobile phone at a sensible price that isn’t a smartphone. Which leaves me wondering if the solution to my quest may be to buy an older (second-hand?) high end mobile phone from the times before smartphones became the “in thing”.
I’m actually quite tempted to see if I can track down an old Nokia 8810, simply because I had one about 10 years ago when they were the pinnacle of mobile phone design, and loved it. All it can do is make phone calls and send SMS messages, but it did both of those things exceptionally well. Using an 8810 these days would certainly be making a statement, if nothing else! Given that thought, any comments or suggestions for ordinary “non-smartphones” that you’d particularly recommend, along with your reasons why, would be welcomed!
* – the thing that I do see Twitter being very useful for, is to act as a cheap and simple notification fabric for applications that want to notify people of events via SMS. For that purpose, it’s great, though probably not what Twitters creators were expecting it to be used for.