Do You Really Need a Smart Phone? I Mean… Really?

I heard that Google has released its newest Nexus smartphone and short googling on “nexus iphone” gets me series of threads where Google vs Apple wars are going pretty heated. There’s video reviews that point out how “Nexus obviously is better on this and that feature” and “iFony fanboys” (as some guy commented – heh) shouted back.

Over and over.

I have a really, really basic cell phone. It cost like… I dunno 30 eur? 50 eur at top I’d say. Can’t even remember. I use 2 features of it: (A) phone (aka talk with people) and (B) text messages (aka send text messages to people).

Maybe 3rd one is the calendar that tells me when somebody’s birthday is… but that’s pretty much it.

For game development, I simply haven’t seen much use for smart phones.

I know many game devs have smarty phones (and I’ve mentioned this topic earlier), but now as Nexus was released I started to ponder again: for what would game producers (indie or not) need a smart phone?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Ive so changed my mind on this during one year :)

  2. I remember life before smart phones, It was alright. From what I remember society functioned better, before smart phones.

  3. This is extremely true. The only thing I use my phone’s internet for is to check bus route info and ebuddy so I can use msn(since phone only has aim/yim). My phone is a pay as you go phone as well. Also, I randomly use camera.

  4. @Jake: Yeah, sometimes I do wonder if filling up my “wasted” time with tasks is good for me overall. I try to let some time just be for thinking. I guess there’s just a balance that has to be achieved.

  5. Sometimes during wasted time I don’t check my iphone and listen to music, I just think, or sometimes I don’t even do that!

  6. To contrast what I’ve said though, I love my iPod touch. I use a different player for music, but it’s the ultimate little PDA’ish device. Surfing, e-mail, and tweeting from… um… that place. No downtime! :D

    Having an iPhone instead of iPod would be a convenience, but not one I desperately need. Like Juuso, no real traffic problems here, and I know my city well enough I can usually work from a google maps printout.

  7. I have had two laptops and I noticed I didn’t use them too much. I have access to desktop computer almost everywhere I go and most of things I did with laptop (web surfing, email, IM/IRC, social media) could be done with smartphone.

    I sold laptops and I’m currently waiting for info about availability of Google Nexus One in Finland. I think it’s perfect laptop alternative for me.

  8. Oh, but I didn’t answer the question, did I? Nope, you don’t “need” a smart phone to be productive. :)

  9. Well, I can make much better use of wasted time, like clearing out personal emails, checking virtually any online news source, checking bank and credit card statements, checking blog stats, tracking UPS/FedEx shipments, checking flight information, checking the weather for the day, shopping on Amazon, watching a bid on Ebay, staying up to date on Twitter feeds (or Facebook if you’re into that)… the list goes on and on.

    This is all the kind of stuff I usually have to fit into my day sitting at my computer, but now I can do it waiting at the pharmacy, in line at the grocery store, on my way to the car in the parking lot, at the deli having lunch, etc.

    Plus, the convenience of having to remember less information is great. I’ve got an app to remind me when to service my car, one to allow me to add movies to NetFlix when they come up in conversation, one for identifying music and storing for later. And of course lists and spreadsheets at your fingertips. I’ve always been a list guy… I’ve been carrying spiral notebooks in my back pocket for 13 years, and I still do. And I still use them when they are a better solution than I phone.

    I’m really trying to avoid sounding smug when I say this, but everyone told me I wouldn’t understand until I got a smart phone. I hesitated for years (yes, holding on to my crusty N-Gage). But now I’m very much an advocate.

  10. As a Creative Director / Producer type, i.e. not a coder or contributing artist, I find myself wondering what I need my laptop for anymore. The iPhone is great for surfing, email, blogs, etc. I don’t care much for phones of any type, but as a personal electronics device, I’m sold. I’ve been trying to find a good tool like this since the Newton and Palm Pilot days.

  11. traffic jam… I think I’ve heard about those.

    (I live in Finland… 5 mil people… no huge cities… no huge traffic… nor huge traveling by me :))

  12. If you’re a one-man mISV – you really need one. Instead of just _sitting_and_doin_nothing_ in a traffic jam or in a train – you can actually use this time to answer your emails.

  13. So… in short summary:

    For people who travel: it’s pretty good to have. (can do email & stuff while mobile, and of course maps & gps helps finding the place where you are supposed to go).

    Daily tasks can be managed. Russell, I would feel it slightly odd to manage daily tasks with that thing. In what scale do you handle daily tasks? Can you give an example? :)

    For testing (and for those who do games for mobile devices) it’s pretty obvious.

  14. Bought an iphone when I moved to Vancouver. The Google map and GPS is worth it alone. Also can do email on the bus in the morning to clear out my inbox before I get to work. Oh and it’s an iPod so that’s cool. Don’t really use anything else.

  15. My smart phone makes daily tasks so easy to manage that it has increased my productivity. There, I said it.

    They told me I wouldn’t understand until I had one, and they were right.

  16. I don’t have a smart phone. I do however think the iPod Touch is pretty neat.

    But I have no need as a producer (or human, for that matter) for mobile apps right now. It will be interesting when micro-projectors get better and cheaper. Touch approximation on projected images combined with the closing gap of Moore’s Law will probably change computing quite a bit. It’ll take some time, naturally. I hope to have a mobile workstation that fits in my pocket within my lifetime.

    An iPod Touch is arguably more powerful in a lot of ways than the Apple Quadra 840 I started out on back in ’93. That’s less than 20 years ago.



    And the Quadra, once fully loaded with RAM and HD cost over 8k.

  17. IMHO game development itself does not need smart phones, testing applications on target devices excluded. Can anybody imagine a modern IDE or graphics program running on such a little screen?
    For me phones (smart or not) have one main purpose: communication. All the apps are nice helpers but nothing can top the good old features SMS and phone call. Would people buy the iPhone if it does not support SMS/calls?
    BTW my cellphone is a simple Ericsson Cybershot which does not demand more than 4€/month. No twitter, no facebook, no surfing… As a game coder I’m in front of my PC half of the day anyway.

  18. Strictly as a game developer I think you hardly need a smartphone. It could help with certain tasks, but there’s a big difference between “need” and “could use”.

    And there are quite a few tasks that a smartphone can accelerate. Having an internet connection on it provides quick access to mail, IM, tweeter, etc. Having a program that can attach notes to contacts (as well as a proper contact manager) can be usefull as well.

    There’s really a lot you can do with a smartphone, but of course, 80% of the time you will still use it as a phone.

  19. I disagree, I travel quite a bit (even when it’s mostly to work and back) and it’s great to have my calendar / e-mail / social networking stuff in my pocket. And with Yammer on it, I can stay in touch with HQ even when I’m not at the office.

    So yeah, I’m hooked :)

  20. You’re right, “we” don’t really need smart phones. Since I develop for mobiles, I have a dozen devices sitting on my desk. But my actual cellphone is a cheap Pay-As-You-Go phone I top up yearly for $100 (in other words, I’m paying a little over $8 a month for phone service). I’m a less common case I imagine, as my friends, family and colleagues are all internet savvy. Heck, we make plans over twitter. ;)

    But generally speaking, we’re not really the market for mobile games, smartphones and whatnot. Rather, as software and game developers, we serve that market.

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