Hands up if you need a Smartphone Pledge!

Over the last few days, a few articles have come my way (including one I wrote myself) about smartphone addiction and the impact of our ‘always connected’ society. My favourite so far has been this fromm Joe Kraus at Google Ventures: http://joekraus.com/were-creating-a-culture-of-distraction

Hi, my name is Sonia and I’m addicted to my smartphone. Except it’s not my phone itself per se, it’s that feeling of knowing what is going on right now and what my internet friends are talking about. I’ve reverted to my teenage self and I don’t want to miss out, on anything, even for an hour.

The problem is that I am missing out. I’m missing out on the present. And yes, as new agey as it sounds, with the background of all of those talks that tell us to ‘truly be in the moment’, I’m missing out on what is going on in front of me. That’s kind of important when you have a family.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love to reach for my phone to look up the opening hours of a store or find a recipe or check if a TV program is on tonight. But I don’t need to constantly check it to see who’s posted what on Facebook and Twitter.

So I think someone needs to start up a website with a Smartphone Pledge. You could then sign this ‘contract’ and commit to it for a certain period of time (start with one day if you are seriously addicted, or one week, one month, or even until further notice?).

I’ll start with a few Pledge condition ideas:

– I pledge to not check my Smartphone before I’ve had a shower and eaten breakfast.

– I pledge to not have my Smartphone within reach during mealtimes.

– I pledge to go to the bathroom without my Smartphone.

– I pledge to not have my Smartphone when I am a passenger in a vehicle.

Is this all a bit much? Are we going to far here, or not far enough?

Today I discovered that my parents do not have email on their iPhone. It’s distracting. If somebody wants them urgently, they’ll call them or SMS. They don’t feel it’s necessary to check out what their friends are doing today or to share their day online. I don’t think that our teenagers or most Gen Xers even could cope with that.

We are the generations that have embraced technology. I know and share with a great bunch of people online that I would never have met in real life and I feel richer for it. But now I have another thing to add to my juggling act of balancing my life, to ensure I’m truly present for my kids and to show them have to squeeze the joy out of the present moment. If I don’t, they’ll grow up glued to their phones too. So you see, there is a lot at stake here.

Pass me that pledge to sign, please.


P.S. If it’s the ‘meal out with friends’ that sees all of the smartphones in hand, check out the Phone Stacking game http://www.news.com.au/technology/smartphones/phone-stacking-game-to-get-friends-off-mobiles-at-meal-time/story-fn6vihic-1226247534506


Logitech Harmony One Review – Logitech Australia Product Tester

Logitech Australia Product Tester – Harmony One Remote (Dec 2010)

Logitech Australia reached out to its social media community and asked for volunteers to test some of their products.  I was accepted as one of the ‘chosen few’ and here is my completely unbiased report on their product.  Enjoy!

On arrival, the Harmony One remote was staring at me through clear plastic, just waiting to escape!  The packaging did a clever job of hiding all of the boring bits (software installation CD, instructions, charge cradle and cable), whilst leaving the feature product on clear display.  The plastic was a bit of a mission to get in to… or maybe that was just my impatience!

The first step was to charge the remote, as it had a Li-Ion rechargeable battery (like most cordless phones).  It fitted snugly into the cradle.  The downsides to the charging process were 1) the lack of indication as to whether it was still charging or had completely charged (you needed to press a button on the remote to find out – a colour changing LED on the cradle would have been great, or the ability for the remote screen not to ‘sleep’ during this process so you can see the on-screen indicator all the time) and 2) the cradle took up a bit of bench space, being slightly larger than the remote itself (would have been great to be able to charge it vertically, but with the battery contacts being near the top of the remote, a stand-up cradle would mean you’ve have to place the remote in upside down).

While that was happening, I wandered around and gathered the information for the devices I wanted to control (TVs, games machines, DVD players, set-top box, VCR etc).  Once the remote was charged, I installed the software onto my Windows 7 Professional laptop and connected the remote via the USB cable, and received an error (Step failed Updating region: 0x10a00102 – The information was not sent.  Check your USB cable and try again.  If the problem persists, contact customer service. Step 2 of 4 Applying settings 80% complete).  To fix this, I tried a different USB port on my laptop, and then it had no problems.

Adding devices was easy, and I was surprised to see cheaper & older devices listed (eg DSE DVD, DGTEC Set-top box and 10yr+ old Panasonic rear projection TV).  Unfortunately neither the Installation Guide nor the device worksheet tell you to note your input channels for your devices, so I had to wander around again to check which AV channels were needed for which devices.  With that information, setting up Activities (like Watch TV) was also easy.  It was great to see that I could have a ‘TV’ and ‘TV2’ and also multiple games machines etc, so this one remote could be used in both rooms where I have AV gear.  Though the remote can’t natively control a Nintendo Wii (Wii’s limitation of being a bluetooth device though you can buy a Wii IR receiver), I could still setup an activity so my TV and Amplifier would come on and set to the right channels for the Wii.  Only downside to the software was a full-screen limitation where the software doesn’t ‘maximize’ to the full edges of my screen (the icon areas stays the same and it just extends the grey background).  It would also be nice to have the Activities in a vertical list, instead of tiled with big icons.

The remote is comfortable to hold, with the buttons in the right places and a gloss finish matched with an underside rubber grip right where it’s needed.  The screen also sleeps automatically when you put the remote down, and lights up when you pick it up again.  A friend commented that it would be nice to have hard red, yellow, green & blue buttons (eg used by Foxtel), but I don’t have Pay TV and apparently they do display onscreen as touch buttons.

It’s fairly intuitive to use and the remote assistance feature is great when things don’t seem to go quite right.  Watch the screen and follow the prompts and it will sort everything out for you.  Remember that some devices will have to be physically turned on at the switch and in standby mode before the Harmony One (or any remote) can talk to them.  Once it’s configured to turn on and set the correct devices to the correct channels at the press of one icon (Watch DVD, Play Game etc), it’s just like having a teenager in the house .. but significantly less expensive!

The Slideshow is a little gimmicky but my family loved seeing their photos on the remote.  It only allows for 8 photos of max 160kb each, so I had to resize them before loading them on.  The only way I can find to display them is through the Options menu, and then you can turn the slideshow on to run once.  It would be great if this had more options, or could be set as a ‘screensaver’ though ultimately that would affect the battery life.

The battery life is really the only other negative, it seems I have to charge it every 3 days or so.  Perhaps that’s just because I’m using it so often to test it?

Overall, this remote is fantastic.  It has easily replaced 8 other remote controls in my house and sits there looking unobtrusive, even stylish, on my coffee table.  If you are looking to consolidate the number of remotes you have, or if you are looking for an easy way to control multiple devices and make them simpler to use, I would highly recommend the Harmony One.