This week the telephone company “Everything Everywhere” started the roll out of its 4G mobile phone service, which will allow speeds on smartphones faster than many people get for their office broadband. Early tests show that people are getting speeds of between 13Mbps and 17Mbps on a mobile phone – about twice as fast as reasonable broadband and more than ten times faster than a typical 3G mobile device. Whoopee…it means you will be able to do even more things when you are not in the office.
Of course, that’s what we were told when 3G came in over a decade ago. And indeed it proved to be the case. Prior to 2001 sending emails on a mobile phone was tedious, difficult and time consuming. But with the arrival of 3G phones it was so much easier, which led to even more people sending more emails than ever before. Now with 4G with us the promise of being able to do more “on the move” is being touted as something worthwhile and what we all want.
But is it? New research from Pixmania shows that the smartphone has added 460 hours EXTRA work to each of us. That’s two hours more work you are doing each day “thanks” to the smartphone. These devices may be convenient, but that comes at a price. And the price is high – two hours a day removed from your ability, for instance, to go to the gym, to go for a walk or to simply be with your family. Having a smartphone is actually taking you away from things which have significant psychological benefits.
One of the frequent findings in psychological studies is that our conscious perception of the world around us and our behaviour in it is often false. People, for example, will say they did not do a particular action or say a particular phrase, when in fact there is video evidence to the contrary. People, for example, will say that there was definitely a set of traffic lights at the road junction they just passed, when in fact photos reveal no such lights existed. In other words, our immediate memory of the world around us is often not true.
And that means that our immediate memory of using a smartphone is that it helps save time, that it is convenient and that it has benefits. But such memories can be false and an illusion. This research suggests that we are not getting the benefits we think we are getting from mobile phones – our brain is playing its usual tricks on us.
People who do spend time with their families, who do go for regular walks and who do “chill” from work tend to be more productive when they do work – they work fewer hours, but get more done. Similarly, such individuals tend to have fewer psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression, making their working life more enjoyable anyway.
Giving up your smartphone could actually improve your working ability and make your online life more enjoyable and productive. Your web activities could well improve if you give up your smartphone.