Talking tech since 2003

A few weeks ago, our very own, Jeff Weisbein spoke about how smartphone addiction isn’t real. The argument was simple: smartphones have become so prominent in our lives due to them replacing much of the other devices or means of getting information.

For instance, Jeff mentions that unlike in the 1990’s, where newspapers and television were still the standards from where to get your news, today most of us check the latest news with a click of a button on our mobile phones. We can also watch a movie, call or send an email, check the time, update our calendar and even play games – all in one place.

Therefore, it is no wonder that we spend a considerable amount of time on our mobile phones. Now we’re not saying that we shouldn’t reduce the amount of time spent on our phones if we feel we should, but rather what we’re saying that it is kind of inevitable for us to spend this much time on our phones.

Moreover, if we really had to be completely honest about the use of smartphones, then we’d have to mention our phones make our lives way easier sometimes without us even realizing. Apart from being able to Skype call a friend who lives on the other side of the world, or being able to check your location on the GPS when you know you’ve totally managed to get lost, smartphones can actually help us better our lives.

People use the phone for various things, and sometimes you’d be surprised how much of the time spent on the smartphone is done for increased productivity, self-improvement, and even health reasons.

Here are just 6 ways how smartphones help make our lives a bit better:

1.   Smartphones allow us to listen to audiobooks on-the-go

Should audiobooks and smartphone replace physical books? Well, no – and in truth, they don’t. According to various studies, physical books remain the popular medium for readers, especially since ebooks plunged in recent years.

But what is anyone’s excuse if they don’t have time to read and cultivate their mind, when they can find time in the car, or on the tube, or in a queue to listen to an audiobook?

Unlike ebooks, audiobooks have actually contributed to increased sales of print books as people still seem to go to local libraries and bookstores before purchasing a book, in order to find information about new audiobooks.

According to a survey conducted about audiobooks in the U.S. in 2015,57% of respondents claim to browse through local or online libraries and 56% consult local bookstores. By the looks of it, therefore, audiobooks, unlike e-books, seem to be contributing to the growth of physical books rather than the opposite.

So why are audiobooks so popular? Well, for starters, audiobooks are a number one preference for people who are always on-the-go, running from one place to another without a moment to spare. They can listen to their audiobooks on their way to work or school, in a waiting room, or even when doing the boring yet necessary house chores like washing dishes or doing laundry!

Why should people give up on reading altogether just because they don’t have time for conventional reading? Or, rather, why can’t people just sit back and relax and listen to an audiobook when they are too tired to read? Not to mention that audiobooks are a great way to improve overall language skills, both reading and speaking, by listening to the way words are read and pronounced. It is thus no wonder why sales revenues for audiobooks have soared in this area in recent years, almost doubling between 2009 and 2015.

2.   Smartphones allow us to learn any language and in an interactive way

Surely most of us are familiar with famous language learning apps like DuoLingo and Busuu, but how much are we are aware that these applications are helping people absorb new languages and improve specific skills, such as writing, listening, reading and speaking?

These language apps are not only used by children and teenagers, but they are also used by adults who want to travel to a country where people don’t speak English or adults who perhaps want to further their career by perhaps improving their language skills.

3.   Smartphones Can Help With Chronic Diseases

What most of us might not know is that smartphones are also helping to revolutionize the way we cope with health problems, especially chronic illnesses. Thanks to the development of various medical apps for chronic disease management, such as MediSafe and PainDiary, patients are able to manage their medications better and track pain and symptoms of their disease, amongst many other things.

Although most applications have yet to be refined to ensure top-notch quality, there are already a number of medical apps that are making a difference for people who are sometimes overwhelmed by the demands of their daily regimes.

When it comes to health, both prevention and treatment are extremely important, and what the age of technology is doing is facilitating patient self-management by guiding them and reminding them how and when to take their meds, ensuring that they take the right doses and that they do not skip a dose. Overall, these applications help the patient stay on track and prevent them from slipping back into poor habits.

4.   Smartphones offer us an escape

Before you start thinking about how dangerous it is for technology to offer us a form of escape from reality, why not look at it from a different perspective? Don’t you ever feel like you are not in the mood to socialize or have no energy to do anything? Or feel like curling up in a ball and staying like that for an hour or two?

Smartphones can offer us an escape from our hectic day-to-day lives. One popular form of escape offered by smartphones is mobile gaming. There are so many possibilities and variation of games to feed your imagination like fantasy games or marvel superhero games. Who wouldn’t want to fly over a city or search for treasure, basically things that are not exactly possible in real life.

Another area that people are increasingly becoming interested in mobile friendly casino games like Mermaid’s Diamond, Rapunzel’s Tower and White Rabbit. At the moment, about 20% of mobile users are playing casino games on their mobile phone.

Sometimes, you just need to detach from reality a bit in order to be able to get back to it. One of the simplest ways you can do that is with your mobile phone. Considering that most of us carry mobile phones, it’s nice to know that a form of escape is readily available a few clicks away.

5.   Smartphones can help us organize our life and save us a lot of time in the process

Let’s be realistic. Carrying around a diary at all times is not always possible or ideal. Not to mention the possibility of misplacing or losing it in the long run. It’s always good to have a back-up on your phone, and let’s face it, we can’t deny how convenient it is to get a reminder on the phone the day before, or half an hour before a meeting. It just makes our increasingly busy life a whole lot easier.

Whether you want to check emails, schedule appointments, create a grocery checklist or book a flight, you can do all of this in one place – and if you had to think about it, this saves you a lot of time. Perhaps 22 days a year even, according to a report featured on the BusinessNewsDaily back in 2013.

6.   Smartphones make us more adaptive

Although this point is slightly controversial, it actually carries some pretty good points. A recent study conducted by Columbia University Psychologist Betsy Sparrow, entitled Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips, explores how technology is changing the way we remember things.

When a group of participants was told they could look up information online to answer simple trivia questions, they did not make the effort to search the depths of their memory for the answer but rather thought of electronic devices and search engines to use to look up the answer.

Whilst this might seem like a new concept, in reality, it’s been around since the beginning of time. In fact, one of Einstein’s famous quotes goes like this, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

What Einstein is referring to here is one way how our minds work in terms of memory, which is referred to as transactive memory. Transactive memory stores knowledge or facts that we would otherwise look up in books like mathematical formulas, or that we would rely on people to remember for us like the address of a place. Thus, to a certain degree, most of these facts carry little to no importance in our daily lives. Explicit memory, on the other hand, is the memory for skills, motions, and movements, like how to ride a bicycle.

When we use technology to look up information, we are changing the way our transactive memory works – by remembering where to find the information we are looking for, rather than remember the actual facts themselves. Therefore, with the advent of technology, our memory hard drive is changing in a way that we are able to remember where to access “files and folders” to retrieve information, rather than store the information itself.

How we recall and retain memory remains the same, but what changes rather, is what we choose to form memories about. Although this might seem like a bad thing at first, if we had to delve deeper into the implications of this, we would realize that it is actually beneficial in some ways.

For starters, one UCLA study in 2008 found that searching the internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning, thus stimulating and possibly even improving overall brain function. Secondly, this new way of reasoning and remembering things makes us much more adaptive.

What happens if you need an answer to a question you can’t google, you might ask? Well, according to

Psychologist Betsy Sparrow, if we desperately need that information, we will think of other ways and means of how to get that information; whether it’s calling up a friend who knows, going to a local library, or looking up in a directory, which further shows the enhanced ability of humans to find their way around when they’re stuck without an answer to something.

Hence, in a way, you can look at it from this perspective: instead of hoarding useless facts, you learn how to act fast in a situation where you need to find information on the spot.

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