The Requirement to Have a Smartphone

Published: July 4, 2022

I've been reading a lot of books lately that could be described as "anti-tech" and for better or for worse, it's shifted my general view of modern information technology. I recently wrote about how the laundry room at my apartment complex now requires a smartphone to use, but I'd like to dive a bit further into how smartphones are not just useful tools, but that they've become a requirement in order to participate in the economy and society. Even more specifically, software like Google Play Services is required to be installed on your device. I'm beginning to think that a world that requires everyone to have a smartphone is not a world I want to live in.

Personally, I think there should be a law against mandating the requirement of a smartphone (and maybe even requiring a credit card) for an ordinary business transaction. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the laundry room at my complex required an app to use the laundry room facilities, but there's also complexes that require an app to even enter the premises. If your phone is dead or lost, well you're in a very unlucky situation especially if it's late at night and you can't contact anyone.

Smartphones are convenient for many things, there's no denying that, but I don't think most of us spend much time thinking about the negative ramifications of using this technology. In addition to that, many if not all of these applications require Google Play Services in order to use and therefore a separate terms & conditions that we need to agree to. Do we really want Google's existence to be a requirement in order to do basic everyday things that now require an app?

The laundry room app for example required a ton of seemingly unnecessary permissions in order to even use it including location, bluetooth, wifi, etc. The company responsibly for the app also had an absolutely atrocious privacy policy where they make the contradictory statement of "Your privacy is important to us" at the beginning of the paragraph, then not three sentences later say "We share your data with marketing partners". I think I'm probably on of the very few people that actually read through privacy policies. This is not only absurd, it's disgusting.

Generally speaking, I try to avoid using any services that requires a smartphone without offering other options and try to pay for things with cash as much as possible. I understand that I'm probably coming off as a grumpy old guy yelling at airplanes flying overhead. I also understand that a computer is required to engage with many things in the modern age as well and that they've become very much a necessity. I think that's problematic as well, but I think people should be able to choose the type of computing device they use - especially when one particular computing device leads to more surveillance as is the case with smartphones.

If modern smartphones by design respected everyone's right to own their device and their right to privacy, I would have never made this post. But that's not the world we live in. Do we really want a society where everyone is required to purchase a smartphone and a cell phone plan in order to engage in commerce, shelter, health care, security, etc? Should smartphones be a convenient tool rather than a necessity in order to live?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to hey@chuck.is.