Business/Finance

You really want your smartphone to be that smart?

Smartphones are getting much, much smarter, writes Alan Mutter at Newsosaur — and that fact is another nail fastening the lid on the coffin of newspapers. But I’m not sure I want to live with a really smart smartphone with the increased capabilities Mutter predicts.

Wielding the hammer on the latest attempt to transfer wealth from newspaper companies to Silicon Valley are Google and Apple as they vie for creation of what Mutter describes as “one master app”:

[Y]our next smart phone will move from being a collection of individually helpful but largely unconnected applications to being increasingly dominated by a single master app that seamlessly and intuitively integrates the essential functions you commonly use. As master apps become more powerful – this won’t happen all at once – they will marginalize the value of free-standing, single-function apps like those offered by newspapers.

Eeep. As if newspapers didn’t have enough problems finding traction in the mobile arena. Mutter’s post is frighteningly predictive about the future capabilities of smartphones and the influence they will have on consumers’ decision-making.

[T]he phone will be aggregating and curating information in real time on topics it has learned you like, ranging from the latest news to cheap flights to Maui. The phone will follow your voice commands to read the items you select and then fetch any additional information you request, alert colleagues to important articles, add items to your read-later list and nag you when you don’t read them.

Over time, the phone will learn so much about you that it will be able to send you advertising, daily deals and other commercial information that are tailored to your evolving interests and specific location. And a great deal of that advertising will be from the local businesses that historically advertised in newspapers.

I’m not sure I want my smartphone — and the vast databases of personal data that support its abilities — to know that much about me. I’d rather it not do that much thinking for me. It seems to be another Eli Pariser “filter bubble” on steroids.

Such condensation of attitudes and abilities constricts the possibility of personal revelations and increased knowledge. Frankly, while these super-smart smartphones are further eroding newspaper companies’ ability to compete in the information marketplace, we don’t necessarily get smarter.

Only the smartphone gets smarter.

5 replies »

  1. That’s a fair cop. I admit that I’m speculating on that point. Given time, adequate resources, and the professional training to review the scientific literature, I’d be rather curious to see if a) there’s any objective data and b) what it means.

    Meanwhile, opinion seems to be all over the place:

    Are we getting dumber?
    https://www.google.com/search?q=are+we+getting+dumber%3F&sugexp=chrome,mod=15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Is tech making us dumber?
    https://www.google.com/search?q=is+tech++making+us+dumb%3F&sugexp=chrome,mod=15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Sometimes I’m too pessimistic for my own good, at least as far as the US is concerned. Between consolidated mass media, the Texas bottleneck in textbook publication, and our increased reliance on “smart” technology, I’m not sure how to feel optimistic on the matter. Any time I need my tendency for confirmation bias to kick in, all I need to do is read comment threads on articles covering hot-button issues at the major news sites.

  2. It’s an interesting thought, but I’m not sure I buy it. In the past, when a company has tried to move past the operating system paradigm into spaces that other companies find profitable, anti-competitive lawsuits usually ensue. Microsoft trying to argue that Internet Explorer was somehow a core portion of Windows, rather than an app sitting on top springs to mind.

  3. Hrm…implication being that media might deny OS owners rights to aggregation, for instance? Now that would be an interesting battle. “Dear Google, congrats on your new integrated killer app that is everything to everybody. Good luck with content. Consider this your cease and desist. Signed, AP.”