I love staring at my phone. So why are some tech companies trying to stop me?

I love staring at my phone. So why are some tech companies trying to stop me?
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I’m not looking for an iPhone replacement. I love my phone — so much.

  • Bad reviews of the AI Pin point out how it can’t replace a phone.
  • But I don’t want to replace a phone. I love staring at my iPhone.
  •  I only regret that I cannot stare at my phone more hours of the day.

I was excited for the AI Pin, I really was. When the wearable device meant to replace a phone was announced this fall, I was slightly unsure of how normal people might use it, but I was stoked on the idea of a strange new category of gadget, something creative and ambitious and new.

Unfortunately, the reviews of the AI Pin so far have been dreadful. They point out that it simply doesn’t work half the time, overheats, and generally fails at its biggest ambition: to be a screen-free replacement for your phone.

All the problems with the AI Pin aside (I recommend this review from The Verge if you’re more curious), I keep coming back to the central thesis of the device — that you want a way to avoid looking at your phone — and scratch my head. Who says I don’t want to look at my phone screen? I LOVE looking at my phone!

There are two arguments here: the practical and the existential.

The practical argument for a non-phone device that can do phone-like things is that you can accomplish simple tasks without getting distracted by the other notifications and temptations of a phone. I agree — that’s a good thing. Setting a timer, composing a text while driving, getting a quick morning weather report — these are all things that are great use cases for not using a phone. Luckily, we’ve had voice assistants like Alexa and Siri that have existed for over a decade that already do that.

There’s also the Meta Ray-Ban glasses that take video and photos —ideal for hands-free situations, like riding a roller coaster, dancing, or attending a concert. They’re an objectively neat-o gadget, cool for certain uses, and their AI element will probably bring even more useful ways to use them. But I don’t think they’re attempting to replace your phone.

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Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal used the AI Pin along with the Meta Ray-Bans on her recent family vacation and found that the wearable camera aspect was great for capturing quick moments with her kids. She was pleased not to have to take her phone out: “You know the dance. You take out your phone, snap a photo, then get distracted by some message or notification. It felt good to keep my phone in my backpack for most of these vacation excursions,” she wrote.

That practical reason — a phone can be distracting when you just want to snap a photo — is very reasonable and relatable!

humane's Ai pin attached to a white sweatshirt
The AI Pin has gotten pretty bad reviews — and I can see why. I love my iPhone. I don’t need a replacement.

But then there’s the other, more existential argument against phones: We are spending all our free moments with a screen shoved in our faces, mindlessly scrolling for dopamine and ignoring the world around us. Time spent on your phone is bad; time spent doing anything else is good.

This argument I just can’t get on board with. I love mindless scrolling; I find it immensely enjoyable. I love flipping through TikTok, browsing tweets, poking around Reddit. I’ll pop into the group chat. Maybe if I have some extra time, I’ll go to my happy place and watch some movie trailers on YouTube.

I strenuously object to the idea that spending time away from your phone is somehow more virtuous. What am I going to do, go for a walk and stare at the trees? Do you have any idea how many articles there are I haven’t read?

I also object to the idea that, as a parent, I should neglect my phone to be more “present” with my family. I absolutely do spend periods of time during the day giving my undivided attention to each child — I am not a monster. But I do not think it’s necessary to give ALL of your time as undivided attention to young children; they should be lightly ignored a little — it builds independence.

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Frankly, I am not worried about not being present. I can multitask. I am capable of processing many inputs of attention at the same time; I’m running dozens of teraflops; my momcompute is so plentiful Sam Altman wants to get the UAE to invest in it. Glancing at my texts is not going to be the thing that pulls me out of being “present.” I am never not present. And I bet that’s true for you, too.

I concede that it does matter how parents model phone use to their children — it’s not ideal to have a phone in your face all day and then try to convince a kid that they have to put down the iPad. There is a happy and healthy medium here. I’m not saying you should miss your child’s first steps because you’re tweeting, but I feel zero guilt whatsoever about checking email while watching “Frozen” for the 20th time.

There is a lot of concern right now about how phones could be affecting young people. The correlation between phones and teen mental health is debatable, but wanting to limit social media and screen time for teens and kids is very valid.

However, I am not a teenager. I am an adult. Do not confuse the conversations about phones being bad for 15-year-olds with phones being bad for grown adults.

The most straightforward part of the phones-are-bad-for-kids argument is that time spent on a screen would be much better spent on other things, like in-person socializing or sleep. This is very true for teens, and maybe it’s a little true for adults, too. (Sure, I’d probably be better off with an extra 20 minutes of sleep.) But I’m a grown-up with a fully formed frontal lobe who has already shaped my social skills in my formative years.

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The one advantage to being old now is that my phone can’t hurt me. I can handle looking at Instagram and seeing my friends having a good time and simply feel happy for them. I can watch as much TikTok as I want and the only thing that happens is that now I know the teen slang words and learn about the lives of people I’d never meet in real life. Haha! Mindless scrolling only increases my powers.

I don’t want to be rude, so I try to follow reasonable phone etiquette. I don’t stare at my phone in a restaurant, a movie theater, or while talking to someone. I like my Apple Watch for this reason: It allows me to put away my phone in social situations without worrying I’ll miss an important text or call. I appreciate that there are functions and situations where something other than a phone would be great.

But I don’t want to replace my phone. I don’t want to downgrade to a dumbphone as some act of reclaiming my attention from greedy tech companies. I don’t think my consciousness will ascend to a higher plane if I could only tear myself away from the 2,000-nit light of my iPhone 14 Pro Max. As far as I’m concerned, the smartphone is the apex of humanity’s achievement. I treasure it, I revere it, and I am thankful for it. I don’t look at this amazing gift of the sum of human technology and think, “I’d be happier without it.”

If anything, my only wish is if I could stare at my phone more.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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