The Dim-Post

July 31, 2012

On smartphones and distraction

Filed under: technology — danylmc @ 2:40 pm

A couple of months ago I bought myself a cheap Huawei smart-phone from Bond & Bond. It was my first smart-phone (I’m a late adopter) and I was impressed by the sophistication of such a low cost device.

I was impressed when the phone suddenly stopped working. I took it back to Bond & Bond, who charged me a $55 ‘repair bond’ and then called me a few days later to say that the phone somehow ‘had water in it’, was not repairable and they’d be keeping the $55.

So the lesson I’ve learned from this is that Bond & Bond see the name of their store as deeply ironic, and you shouldn’t shop there. But I also have a deeper point which is that in the three weeks since my phone died (I can’t afford to buy a new one) I’ve done more creative writing than I did during the three months I had the smart-phone. The ability to distract yourself on the internet whenever you’re bored is a fine thing, but my imagination seems to require a certain level of daily boredom to function properly.

Which is not to say I won’t replace my phone when I can afford it. They’re just too damn useful. But I will regulate its use to enforce a mandated amount of drudgery inspired daydreaming. So feel free to recommend good entry-price Android smart phones in the comments section.


  1. “good entry-price Android”

    Would you like a unicorn too?

    Comment by SHG — July 31, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  2. “good entry-price Android”

    I’ll have a cheap i-pad while you’re at it!

    Comment by merv — July 31, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  3. 2degrees have a special,on where you can get a THE top flight Samsung for free. Might be time for an upgrade.

    Comment by Stephen D. — July 31, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

  4. Assuming by ‘entry price’ you mean sub $200 and on a plan, I would suggest the Samsung Galaxy Y.
    Cheap and cheerful.

    If you wanted to spend more but less that $400, I would recommend go for the Nokia Lumia 710 – Windows phone though.
    The only truly shitty thing with this device is that you cant change font sizes so you wont be able to use it in the middle of the night without scrambling for specs / contacts.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 31, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  5. As a parent with little ones I recommend looking at camera quality as part of your next purchase, I’ve found that I use my phone as much for taking a quick picture or video as I do for email/internet/messaging. Whilst not as good as a SLR type camera, thats not something you can lug around the same when you at the zoo, beach or coating themselves, clothes, furniture with their attempts to feed themselves.

    So build a bit more into the price of your next phone for camera quality and then save yourself money on having an instant camera.

    Also don’t buy stuff from Bond and Bond, your better off anywhere else including telecom/vodafone retail stores, trademe, random tech person at the uni etc 🙂

    Comment by WH — July 31, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  6. And remember, Bond and Bond is part of the Noel Leeming group, so don’t boycott one just to go to the other.

    Comment by Pete — July 31, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  7. HUAWEI!

    Comment by Hugh — July 31, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

  8. “I was impressed when the phone suddenly stopped working. I took it back to Bond & Bond, who charged me a $55 ‘repair bond’ and then called me a few days later to say that the phone somehow ‘had water in it’, was not repairable and they’d be keeping the $55.”

    On the assumption you didn’t drop it in the toilet (which has been known to happen) or commit similar foolishness, can I point out the relevance of the Consumer Guarantees Act to this situation ( and suggest that if Bond + Bond dick you around, you sue their ass (

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 31, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  9. I was also a late adopter, getting a Sony Ericsson X10 MiniPro last year. I got it because it has a slide out Qwerty keyboard, so I didn’t have to learn to txt (I hate predictive texting). It was only $240 with no plan – I use pre-pay and load my apps with offline data from my home WiFi network, so almost never need to access the internet through it while out and about. YMMV. I can also recommend ESquare in Northcote – they replaced my phone with a brand new one when it developed a charging fault.

    Comment by Brent Jackson — July 31, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

  10. I bought a smartphone 18 months ago when it was strongly implied by my employer that I’d need one (and that they’d pay for it). In some ways it’s awesome but in many ways I also hate it and I think I’d happily switch back to a Nokia brick if I didn’t have the work need. I used to be able to escape from the internet but now that distraction follows me around, and it’s disturbing how checking stuff on the internet is so often the first thing I fall back to doing when I have a gap in other stuff. I’m also undecided about how much I like something like Google Maps with me all the time, just because it’s so easy to fall into a trap of taking no notice of the world around you and relying on it all the time. We’ve made a conscious effort not to use phone maps or GPS directions when driving around as much as possible for this reason, because we actually want to learn where things are.

    I guess the world changes over time. Various people said the same things about cellphones when they were new. Some still do.

    Comment by izogi — July 31, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  11. I’ve found Google Maps a positive boon, but I live in an unfamiliar country and am constantly needing to find things for the first time.

    More seriously, what is the thinking behind this “repair bond”? Is it supposed to cover their time and expenses if it turns out they are under no obligation to repair it as part of their legal obligations?

    Comment by Hugh — July 31, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  12. The Nexus S is a great device still (mine just got jellybean) and reasonably priced now. It’s about the equivalent spec to an iphone 4, so pretty good mid range really.

    Comment by Chris Bull — July 31, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  13. I took a piece of junk back to Dick Smith outside of warranty, claiming that IMO 2 years 11 months was too short a life span for the kind of device I bought. (Warranty was 2 years.) They charged a bond – in case it was my fault the device was faulty. (It wasn’t). Anyway, it cost $80 to fix and they must have spent $800 of their time trying to get out of their legal obligations. I was having a great time, running rings around them with the law. My partner spoiled it all by telling them I worked with a lawyer who specialised in the Consumer Guarantees Act, at which point they magically sorted everything out. Shame really, I was looking forward to suing their arses off.

    But back to the point of the post: I limit my kids’ screen time very tightly for this reason. Kids need time to get bored in order to get creative. And for reading books to become appealing again. It bothers me when people brag about how their 2 year old is so good on the iThing. 2 year olds don’t need technology. They need sand and blocks and books and things to bash and time to explore.

    Me, I do a lot less housework and gardening and piano practice since getting broadband and wifi. I hate to think what will happen when I get my work-issue iPad next week….

    Comment by MeToo — July 31, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

  14. I upgraded my phone a few months ago on a $70 deal and promptly got Telecom to switch off the Internet. I work from home so I just don’t need two systems.


    Comment by JC — July 31, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

  15. Place the phone in a ice cream container full of dry rice overnight. The rice will absorb the water out of the phone allowing it to work again. I have done this twice with my Huawei piece of crap. Still works.

    Comment by Jordan M. — July 31, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

  16. I did some research and bought a new smartphone recently – you really can’t beat the parallel importers on the price of cellphones, unless you’re prepared to sign up to a signficant monthly contract. They were usually about $150 cheaper. I’m not clear that they’re necessarily harder to debate with if something goes wrong.

    Not necessarily ‘entry level’, but I paid $450 for a Samsung Galaxy S Advance, and it is a lovely phone. Good sized screen, reasonably fluid. Only problem is that I have to charge it every night – but that’s true of pretty much all touchscreen smart phones. I had a tiny Huawei previously and the screen was just too small for poking at with big fingers (but at least the power adapters were the same – finally!). You could also try the HTC One Y. You can get both phones from a normal cellphone store, but they’ll probably cost $600ish.

    Comment by Adge — July 31, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

  17. I’ve survived by not really using the ‘net on mine: I’m on prepay, rarely connect except on the home wifi. The games are still an issue – I suspect I do better doing nothing on the train, perhaps listening to music.

    Comment by lyndon — July 31, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

  18. You know this happened to Cathy. She paid money, they said the phone had “somehow gotten wet” and she couldn’t have the phone or the money back.

    Comment by John-Paul — July 31, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  19. If I was buying a phone with my own money I’d pick the Sony Experia Ray: $269+. Runs Android 4, if you’re into up-to-date OS, but it’s Voda/2degrees only.

    Comment by Owen — July 31, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  20. By the sounds of it Danyl, they probably did an Oswald Risi on it.

    Comment by deepred — July 31, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

  21. Dick Smith are also poor with their CGA obligations. JB HiFi, however, are excellent.

    Comment by detmackey — July 31, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  22. PS. Which Huawei model was it? I purchased an Ideos X5 from Warehouse Stationery for just $299 – one of the last ones available – and it’s replaced my iPod Touch and CDMA phone in one fell swoop. And still more.

    Comment by deepred — July 31, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

  23. I got the vodafone 858. Does everything, but no arcade games (puzzle games are good). Paid under 700ZAR (about $85, in US dollars) with no contract and no plan. I’ve not yet run into any limitations with it.

    Comment by Lelanthran — July 31, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

  24. Whatever you settle on, if you’re going handset-only, check PriceSpy before you buy. The price variance among retailers can be enormous for non-Apple products.

    I don’t do much creative work outside of my job, so my smartphone hasn’t noticeably affected my creativity, but I have got a lot faster at reading – in non-phone media as well.

    Comment by Gael — July 31, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

  25. This month’s PC World has a useful article testing a dozen or so entry-level Android smartphones. The Sony Experia U came out on top but there were a decent number of others that looked good too.

    Comment by Ethan Tucker — July 31, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

  26. Get an iPad or nexus for the internet etc and the cheapest dumb phone you can find for calls and texts. Smartphones are a waste of time and money and unless you get a galaxy note the screens are too small to bother with. Plus you can Skype on the iPad.

    Comment by Michael — July 31, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

  27. I have the X5 and my partner the Nokia Lumia 800 (which runs Windows…is there a reason you’re only interested in Android?), and GOD I WISH I HAD THE LUMIA (fully aware that all caps = shouting). Superior in every way I can think of. The only downside is that it has fewer apps.

    Comment by Zo Zhou — July 31, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

  28. Ugh, Reminds me of my first phone. Battery dies, I was an innocent teen, they started giving me the run around, my dad intimidated them and suddenly it was fixed. Three months later it dies again (with the new battery), and I have an indignant tantrum, they tell me it will be fixed for free, as clearly three months is ridiculous… OR it wasn’t fixed the first time. I come back a week later to pick it up and they haven’t even sent it anywhere and were demanding money to even look at it. I can’t remember if it was Bond & Bond or Harvey Norman.

    It was a cheap phone, so I gave up and went and bought another cheap one for the same price as they were demanding. Never had any problems since (and I’ve had this one for about six years). Yes, I’ve only ever had two phones. This was before the ‘batteries must be fit for purpose including mysterious moisture’ ruling, but obviously its made little difference.

    (also: cue long thread of phone repair woes).

    Comment by Flynn — August 1, 2012 @ 1:47 am

  29. speaking as somebody with a fairly aaddictive personlaity I had to turn off twitter and Facebook off to make sure I don’t check phone too much. I think it is not just about boredom. browsing and constant stimulation mess up your concentration span quite badly. also some research showing that social media makes depressed people feel worse bc they are constantly seeing others post about their success/ happiness. its easy to scoff at these things but I think mental illness linked to phone use will become increasingly common problem in future.

    Comment by lucyjh — August 1, 2012 @ 8:48 am

  30. I was a reasonably early adopter of smartphones, I got a Motorola Milestone when they first came out, the thing cost me a grand. I got it over the early Galaxy largely because it had a slider QWERTY keyboard for ease of texting, and I wasn’t convinced Android touchpads would make for swift texting. While I used the maps and Facebook apps a bit, I didn’t really use it for much more – it main actual use was as a telephone that played music and took OK pictures to push to Facebook. I find 3.7″-4″ screens to small for proper internet use, and I think anything bigger than that is to big to comfortably fit in my pocket.

    What really revolutionised my life was buying the 32GB wifi/3G iPad1. After dealing with some identity issues I wore the little manbag (in manly brown leather) my girlfriend got me to to carry it in and the first thing I installed was the kindle app (I stood on and crushed my kindle when I clambered onto the sofa to change the so-called long-life eco-bulb in the living room, curse you Russel Norman!).

    I use my iPad for everything. Maps, reading, and especially for web browsing everywhere. 3G means it really comes alive when I am out on the street, it is still connected. I love it to bits. So my next mobile is going to be a much lesser spec – I am giving the LG Optimus P970 the glad eye at the moment – and an iPad 3.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 1, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  31. I agree with WH @6.
    If you want to buy a smartphone, go to a specialist phone retailer who’s also going to be providing you a connection service afterward – that’s where you get the quid-pro-quo on good after-sales.

    In defence of Bond and Bond (as well as their sister company Noel Leeming) I’ve found their service and product quality on ‘big-ticket’ items like TV’s, fridges, laptops etc to be generally excellent.

    Comment by Phil — August 1, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  32. @Michael#27: Smartphones are a waste of time and money and unless you get a galaxy note the screens are too small to bother with. Plus you can Skype on the iPad.

    But you can’t make a phone call directly through the mobile network, by design, even though it has all the necessary hardware (microphone, speakers, SIM slot, bluetooth for a headset, etc). I found this when I was gifted an iPad which I haven’t really found a place for in my life as yet.

    It might sound silly to be holding an iPad (or any tablet) to the side of your head, but I bet there are plenty of people who carry it around everywhere and would happily give up a phone if they could answer incoming calls on a headset or similar. This whole enforcing of a perfect vision for its products onto users, and crippling what doesn’t match, is the reason I tend to prefer to stay away from Apple stuff generally, although I guess it’s great if you’re not sure what you want and just want something safe that everyone else has.

    Comment by izogi — August 1, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  33. I wonder why they don’t make a bluetooth headset for iPads, so you can use it for phone calls as well? Because it would damage iPhone sales? Anyway, I’m unlikely to spend money on Apple products so long as I have a mortgage.

    Comment by danylmc — August 1, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  34. @ Sanctuary 9.10am, Have you considered or looked at the Nexus 7?

    Comment by merv — August 1, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  35. I’m sure you can use a bluetooth headset for anything else you might want to do (I haven’t checked for certain), but for whatever reason, Apple decided that an iPad is a tablet, not a phone, so it doesn’t allow you to make or receive phone calls as a phone, using the SIM in the SIM slot, at least. That’s for nothing but data.

    I’d be more than happy to be corrected about this but so far it’s more or less what I’ve verified through other random people on the internet.

    Comment by izogi — August 1, 2012 @ 10:22 am

  36. I am not an Apple fanboy, and I pretty much refuse to buy there control freakery stuff. But it staggers me it has taken over two years for Apple’s competitors to start to produce comparable products, especially as the iPad was rumoured about since at least 2009. What the hell do they actually do in the R&D and marketing departments of those mega-electronics corporations??? My flatmate got the latest Toshiba tablet last week, it is about as good as the iPad1. Apple stole a huge three-four year (plus) march on its opponents with the iPad, and the reason I now own one is because it was far superior to any other tablet on the market 12 months ago and because of the cool aftermarket stuff that sprung up when it was the only game in town – I threw out my clock radio and now have an iPad base thingy instead, for example.

    I will consider Toshiba and Kindle though for my next purchase. I am a bit wary of being to heavily tied to Amazon with the Fire, and the Toshiba has to get a bit better yet, but I won’t be going back to the market for a new phone/tablet combo until early next year anyway.

    Merv – I am with our dear departed control freak Steve Jobs when it comes to screen size. 9.7″-10″ is the minimum size I’ll consider for watching movies, reading books and magazines, and browsing the internet. 4″ is the maximum size I’ll consider for my pants pocket. Everything in between combines all the disadvantages of being to small to be useful and to big to fit anywhere comfortably IMHO.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 1, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  37. When you get a new phone and your blogging output falls, can you sub-contract to Andrei? He was funny.

    Comment by MeToo — August 1, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  38. The Register reviews budget smart phones…

    Ten… Androids for under 200 quid

    Comment by Fentex — August 1, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

  39. First world problems huh

    Comment by Tim — August 1, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

  40. The National Research Unit has just drawn Danyl Mclauchlan as the grand prize winner in the iPhone4S raffle with 3 year full warranty and replacement. Get in touch with the National Research Unit to collect your “prize”.


    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — August 1, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  41. On the subject of distraction and deep though, I recommend the immensely practical blog of Cal Newport. Worth a read, especially if you’re in academia, but widely applicable outside of it.

    Comment by George D — August 1, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  42. Not sure if it works back in NZ but bought my last phone through Amazon, was a heck load cheaper, unlocked (so can use what sim in what ever country I want) and well easy. I used to buy from shops on the premise that they provided better after service care. I realised it was a blatant fallacy however after working as a student at one of the main electronic retailers in NZ. Service = hmmm.

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — August 2, 2012 @ 1:08 am

  43. Bond and Bond
    Guess which retailer gained the lowest score for maintenance & customer satisfaction, in the July 2011 ‘Consumer’ survey of computers?

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — August 2, 2012 @ 8:48 am

  44. Samsung Galaxy Ace: $350, works just like an IPhone

    Comment by max — August 2, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

  45. You get what you pay for (and who you buy from). But at least you have written this post. For act two just copy and paste (comments too, it will save everyone time).

    Comment by emissive — August 8, 2012 @ 9:42 am

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