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Going Mobile
Apple's iPhone (as shown at apple.com) have plenty of new competition.

Apple's iPhone (as shown at apple.com) has plenty of new competition.

Cell phones blanket the world. Billions of them. But the next phone in your hand — if it’s not there already, on the road, on the move — really isn’t a phone. It’s a computer.

Mobile computing — with powerful smart phones like the iPhone or the new Droid — is exploding in popularity. Big sales. Zillions of “apps.” Lots of power in your pocket.

New users call it a revelation. Industry watchers have long predicted a revolution. Is it here? Is it on?

This hour, On Point: What does it mean for our lives, work and economy when mobile computing goes to critical mass?

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Austin, Texas, is Omar Gallaga. He writes on technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman and is regular contributor to NPR’s All Tech Considered.

From New York we’re joined by John Abell, New York bureau chief for Wired.com. He directs coverage of business and disruptive media and writes for Wired.com’s Epicenter blog.

And from Los Angeles we’re joined by Jason Calacanis. He’s an Internet entrepreneur who has founded many companies, including Silicon Alley Reporter and Weblogs, Inc. He’s founder and CEO of Mahalo.com, a “human-powered” search engine.

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  • http://mymarketingmanager.com Lisa Maini

    Having the right tools to manage both your personal life and professional career is only part of the equation to achieving life long goals. Email, voice mail and mobile computing, for example, have made it easier for us to communicate, but they have also burdened us with being much more responsive and vulnerable to disruptions in our personal life and professional career. As a result, we have become busier with out necessarily more productive towards achieving our life long goals. Please provide actionable advice that will move people from being busy – to becoming productive in the New Economy.

  • http://jp4mobile.blogspot.com/ JP LaFond

    I’m a sucker for the things that make my life easier. Apps that help me find places or things near me, to stay in touch with people on my various social networks, or to stay in touch with work.

    I think the mobile market is only going to grow, but it’s going to be interesting to watch the mobile space to see it grow and mature. And to see which of the current players can stay in the game.

    I’d like to hear what your panelists have to say about the PalmPre and Android, as they struggle against the iPhone and Blackberry behemoths.

  • http://healthblawg.typepad.com David Harlow

    4 or 5 years ago, email on a smartphone was the killer app for me. To respond to a previous commenter’s point, I find it to be more liberating than it is disruptive. I no longer have to be at my desk to be engaged in productive work. The social media tools now available on smartphones take that to the next level. I use ubertwitter on my blackberry to keep in touch — in brief — with my network. (Both mobile email and mobile twitter are great “asynchronous communications” tools, to use one of the overused phrases du jour). Whether it’s a smartphone or a “feature phone” (a friend told me that’s what the cell phone store calls a regular old cell phone these days), it’s just a tool (you can turn it off/ignore it if you’re busy with something in the real world), and the most important part of the network is still the human being.

  • http://www.righttouchediting.com Erin Brenner

    My favorite apps for my BlackBerry have to be e-mail (I have four different e-mail accounts sending to my phone), Google Mobile Apps, and Google Sync for syncing my BB calendar with my Google calendars.

  • http://twitter.com/craigmacfarlane Craig Macfarlane

    Beyond combining all the uni-function devices (phone, camera, music player, GPS…), I rely on the simple ability to do something online without fretting about where my laptop is at the moment. Its browser is comparable to a desktop browser so Web sites don’t look mangled. A challenge is when the sites try to ‘guess’ you need a special version and give you less without an option to see the normal version.

    Looking forward to the show!

  • davidk

    I’d like the panelists to discuss appropriate and inappropriate times for cell phone use. They are ubiquitous and we have generations who believe that they cannot survive without them and that there is no time or place when they can’t be used.
    To quote my wife “Cell phones are the new smoking.” They invade ones personal space like second hand smoke! I don’t want to hear your conversation (and before you say it, NOT listening doesn’t work). I don’t care about your toe or how bad the flight was (I was on the same flight as well!) Oh, and anyone tried teaching a undergraduate class lately? (I do have a cell phone, no house line at all).

  • Olivia

    I’m listening to this show live on my Palm Pre at this very moment!!! Don’t get radio reception in my cube, but never miss my favorite NPR shows, thanks to my smartphone.

    Everyday I use it for navigation, email, texting, facebook, twitter, podcasts, live radio–and even the occasional phone call.

    I literally can’t imagine functioning without it.

  • Dan Saville

    I find it odd how Nokia is always left out of the smartphone discussions even though they still have the most market share. Odd that a Linux based phone(the new N900) is left out of a discussion about the merging of phones & computers.

  • Hampton Howell

    Exciting program.
    Tell me how effective smartphone security is. Can it be used for confidential medical info? What about credit cards?

  • http://www.tactiletravel.com Alanna

    As an avid knitter and quilter, KnitBuddy, QuiltFab, KnitGauge and ForgetMe Knit have made my past times a lot easier to organize on the go. Let’s not forget that Bill Gates predicted that the computer would be in our hand nearly 20 years ago, so I don’t find it a surprise at all.

    As for technology disrupting our lives, that is a choice we make. In 1899, Thorstein Veblen’s book “The Theory of the Leisure Class” predicted that improvements in technology had the potential to liberate or ensnare society. Wonder what he’d think today?

  • Peter Jensen

    While it may be “Mobile Computing” at the moment; “Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing” is where we are headed.

  • Michael

    We’re still in early days—not even the Victrola period, more like wax cylinders—for smart-phones.

    Most generally, it’s silly to
    0.) have a tiny screen
    1.) have a tiny keyboard—real or virtual—or pad for gestural input
    2.) keep your data storage
    3.) pay large recurring data charges for broadband uses

    …all in one, easy-to-lose, package. I hope we quickly get to the point where it’s easy to have

    0.) glasses-mounted screens, for the use of nearly all of the visual field, if need be
    1.) finger-sensing tech that allows one to type and gesture in space, or at worst on one’s leg
    2.) separate data storage

    …all bluetoothed (or equivalent) together.

    As for 3.), I hope the price comes down greatly—$30-60/mo is too much of a recurring charge for this unemployed programmer, and in fact felt too much when I was employed….

  • Scott

    My understanding is that in large population centers (i.e. NYC) iPhones and other smart phones are gobbling up band width and thus iPhone users are over loading the network

  • http://jp4mobile.blogspot.com/ JP LaFond

    Previous comments to bring up the obvious factor about mobile etiquette. When did it change, so that it’s appropriate to go out to dinner with someone and ignore them to text/IM, etc…?

    Is there something wrong with putting the phone away and actually getting up and going outside to take a phone call?

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog Laurie Mann

    I’ve been using computers for over 25 years (this is being typed on a Dell laptop using *groan* Vista). Much as I enjoy being online, I find using a smart phone close to impossible because I’m very nearsighted. So, I’ll stick with my laptop for computing apps and my cell phone for making phone calls. Meanwhile, my husband loves using his iPhone. I only wish I could read the screen or use the keyboard.

  • Peter Jensen

    Go GNU/Linux!

  • Meaghan Lamarre

    The most life-changing aspect of my iPhone has been that no question ever goes unanswered — wherever I am, whatever I am doing, if something comes up in conversation, I can look up the answer to any question. I feel like I’m so much smarter because I get the actual answer to a question rather than my or my companions’ best guesses. The flip side of that, of course, is that I carry fewer random facts in my brain since they’re all now available at the touch of a button.

  • Steve Witmer

    I have experienced both the convenience and inconvenience of smart phones in my job. A Blackberry has made my job a lot easier while on location producing and directing photo shoots, cutting back on the amount of documents I need to carry with me and allowing me to make crucial calls and emails while on set. On the other hand, it is so frustrating to constantly battle the smart phones for the attention of my photographers and assistants while on the job. Suddenly, face to face communication made more complex by competing with text, email and social application messages. Smart phones are great, but people need to stick to old fashion manners while on the job and in social settings.

  • Adam Haynes

    I’m a senior in college, work for a law firm and politically involved and it seems that I am increasing the only w/o a smart phone. To me this is fine. I enjoy the good old fashioned phone call. I have resisted the temptation not to get a blackberry 3 times now. Part of me wants one but I know that I am one of those who if I have this much connection I will use and never have a peaceful moment simply because I hate to turn off or leave the phone behind on a trip.

  • http://shulmandesign.net Alan Shulman

    While you are all excitedly discussing one innovation or another that will limit the amount of time people will actually consider and evaluate, please also discuss the increasing evidence for what I understand are some fairly considerable health consequences of this latest “revolution in communication.”

  • http://www.airvana.com Josh Adelson

    Smartphones are not only having an impact on individual lifestyles. They are also having a big impact on mobile operators and their 3G networks. My company Airvana just completed a study on this, reported here http://bit.ly/LXoC1 and further elaborated here http://bit.ly/4uy44b.(Full disclosure, we make network infrastructure products for mobile data services.)

  • dave lee

    Computers get smaller and it’s great.

    To find pizza in New York though, you might have a better experience looking


    Productivity is great.

    I wonder sometimes about the value added on these iphone apps though. They’re

    kind of a get-rich-quick or an advertising scheme for developers. People are

    constantly asking me to join google groups in order to contact them or to go to

    google calendars to access their events and I wonder if it’s an insidious plot by

    google (a large company with scads of personal information about people which

    has great potential value and has perhaps been given to them unwittingly).

    You also sacrifice a lot of privacy by carrying these devices.

    I’m often more productive while device-free.

    Also, it seems like the perfect device isn’t out yet. If the apple airbook is possible,

    why isn’t there a pocket-sized full-on computer that’s also a phone, ipod et

    cetera? Some minor or even remote function could attach to and monitor or even

    project your screen onto any flat surface or glasses and boom -awesome

    portability plus less materials used. Maybe they could do this but it wouldn’t be

    as profitable as selling all the components separately. There may be more money

    in “rolling out” products at increments.

  • http://www.airvana.com Josh Adelson

    [Re-posting due to error in URL - sorry!]

    Smartphones are not only having an impact on individual lifestyles. They are also having a big impact on mobile operators and their 3G networks. My company Airvana just completed a study on this, reported here http://bit.ly/LXoC1 and further elaborated here http://bit.ly/4uy44b. (Full disclosure, we make network infrastructure products for mobile data services.)

  • BHA

    Pretty low tech here. I have a TracFone – $100/year. Even though that is only a few hundred minutes, I never use it up. I forget to turn the phone on most of the time, unless I’m on the road long distance.

  • Mark Augustson

    I listen to On Point EVERY day on my iPhone. I would not be able to listen to On Point were it not for my iPhone. Having access to information that I normally wouldn’t have is one of the biggest benefits I find.

    Another, my wife and I can more easily stay in touch, which is important for parents.

    My only complaint is that the price point per month is a little too high!

  • http://mymarketingmanager.com Lisa Maini, myMarketingManager

    Mobile technology can also affect behavior – a colleague told me he was not going to go to a Halloween party because he did not want to appear in costume over the internet. His costume was not anything embarassing – he just wants to be able to control his online brand.

  • Putney Swope

    I see to many students in my class using these devises.
    I teach drawing there is no reason for these things to be on in my class and yet they are even though I do not allow it. They seem to not to be able to live without these things. I often see a group of students sitting and almost all of them are talking into a cell phone or texting. Not interacting with each other. Kind of sad, and funny really.

    The driving and talking and texting is out of control.
    People are using these things to much for the wrong reasons. When your driving, drive, it’s not your living room.

    Being plugged in means nothing people are not any smarter. In fact they are less inclined to be in the moment.

    The best thing about the mobile devises is who it can help the third world countries being that infrastructure is either awful or nonexistent.

  • Robin

    I am not on the iphone bandwagon. I’ve been using computers for 20 years, am very connected on the internet. I type 95 wpm using querty, and I just cannot get the hang of hunt and peck on tiny little screens, or the need for it. I already spend 8-10 hours a day online, I don’t need to have it in my pocket.

  • Todd

    I 100% agree with Alan Shulman’s comment above. Actually, the more connected we become to mobile devices, the LESS connected we become to one another. To hell with being that dependent upon technology. I don’t want some mobile computer device doing all my thinking for me. When you get to the point that you NEED a mobile device to function, then you’re not liberated by it, you’re a slave to it.

  • David

    I like to people watch when we go into the city. Like a previous caller mentioned, it’s interesting to see how many people walk around glued to these devices; totally oblivious to the world around them. Last weekend we noticed a family sitting together at a cafe. Five people sitting there, totally silent, staring into thier little devices. An Interesting comment on this digital “Revolution”.

  • Sam

    I think that boredom is seriously lacking in our lives today. When you are never bored, your life is less full, and certainly less creative.

  • Joshua Holcomb

    I recently ran the music for my sister-in-law’s wedding with my iPhone. Set up a wireless network at the vineyard. Used the Remote App on the iPhone to control iTunes. I did the music for the wedding and the reception. I was even in the wedding walking her mother down the isle. The iPhone allowed me to have fun at the reception without being stuck behind a soundboard.

  • Julie Leonard

    I may be one of the last hold-outs who refuses to get anything but an old phone that I use for calls and texts, and that is all. I prefer to not be so tied to the internet that my attention is drawn away from the real world around me, and I feel that the addiction to the iPhone and other similar platforms is having a negative effect on our ability to interact on a personal basis, and it is making patience a thing of the past. We are so used to being able to do everything behind the mask of the computer screen and to do it right away, that we are losing our ability to interact with each other as human beings.

  • Mark

    Could you please discuss the future of providing better broadband access in rural areas?

    I live in southern Vermont and for many people its which carrier has the strongest signal around their house that dictates which phone they choose.

    I would like to get an iPhone but there is no way that I would because ATT just doesn’t have good enough coverage at my house.

    What good is a snazzy smartphone if you can’t connect reliably?

  • http://www.value-pointllc.com Charlie

    With all of these video apps won’t we run off the cliff for lack of bandwidth?

  • http://JasonSchuman.com JasonSchuman.com

    The iPhone’s contribution, in my opinion, was more evolutionary to enable people to think differently about how they use smartphones or mobile devices in general.

    This evolution will take us into the next wave of Technology.

    The idea of multi-tasking for those who grew up in the 90′s or even the 80′s will now be supported by the younger generation by a factor of 10!

    Just my two cents.

  • Deirdre

    I would LOVE to have an iPhone but do not want ATT as my carrier. I’m a T-Mobil gal. I thought the iPhone was going to be available to the open market this past Feb ’09. What happened?
    I believe it is the GSM format that ATT and T- Mobil use that is the standard overseas. I wish the USA were on one standard then I think we would have better cell phone coverage.

    I also struggle with the cost of a data plan almost as much as my home cable that can wierlessly power as may computers as I want. As a parent the cost of the full world of smart phones is too high, yet I would love to be able to use what they offer.

    Your thoughts?
    Thank you

  • Ian in Boston

    I do love these devices and own one myself. I don’t want to be a downer, but I am concerned about the potential radiation risks especially with the power of these new phones. The World Heath Organization has put out some literature recently stating that there is now a connection between cell phone radiation and cancer. Can one of your guests speak to that?

  • Bonnie

    The experience of the natural world has changed for me. Riding on the MV Ferry, I couldn’t find a quiet spot to enjoy the scenery and was surprised that everyone was absorbed in their devices rather than in the remarkable beauty around us. No one was talking to a person nearby.

  • Fahy Bygate (fay)

    Hi Tom, I am 73 years old and I have a computer and an Iphone. The Iphone is the single most interesting and useful “thing” I have ever owned. I hear so many times that cell phones and the internet are driving people apart, destroying families, etc. I disagree. My group of friends uses cell phones to plan outings, discuss issues, create occasions to meet, etc. My family and I talk much more often and I can keep in touch with distant relatives.

    I read, knit and paint. The Iphone connects me with books, ebooks and book groups. I buy all my knitting supplies online and keep in touch with knitting experts from all over the world. The world of artists online is endless.

    I imagine that these same issues were raised when telephones were invented. I suspect that the critics of using cell phones and smart phones are the same people who are proud that they still use typewriters and monogrammed stationery.
    Fahy Bygate

  • mary jazayeri

    As a women in her 60′s living abroad all this is fantastic.
    I’m listening to a live stream of On Point on my IPhone as I send this email from my computer (not from my phone since as a 60 year old, I type faster on the keyboard.
    My greatest joy is to now be able to buy and read books in English whenever I want, right there on my phone!

  • http://www.traceypalmer.com Tracey

    The fun bonus of my iPhone is how my two daughters use it, mostly when we’re in the car. My 8-year-old uses it to practice math facts, spelling, and play card games (Spit and Solitaire). My 4-year-old is playing games that teach her her shapes, letter recognition, handwriting, matching and patterns. And list list goes on. And of course, they both love calling their dad, emailing grandma, and watching kid videos on YouTube. (These are all free apps, too.) The crazy thing is they know how to use the device better than I do. Down side is, they fight over the phone!

  • Tad Merrick

    I have my own concerns about the effects on social contact, but I also wonder about all these new phones sending the old ones to the piles in India or China , where people will extract all the heavy metals, plastics etc under unsafe conditions?

  • ray

    How would it change our nuclear deterrent if all smart phones had a radiation sensor in them?

  • Mari McAvenia

    “continuous partial attention”….hmmmm. Sounds more like the fragmentation of thought to me. Can’t be a good pattern for a healthy human brain to be forced into.

  • Laura

    What great devices! They help you stay in the loop when your life is go go go! I’m a huge fan of my Blackberry Curve, and use it for Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! Mail and work email. One major problem I see with these devices is the rapid deterioration of writing. As a professional, I get emails with LOLs, emoticons and a range of other “text language” phrases. Unacceptable! People are forgetting how to write a well thought out missive as they rattle off quick emails and texts. It’s unfortunate.

  • eric

    what is the price of admission
    to evolve into a new iphone species?
    i don’t think darwin included the cost of the service provider
    please come back to the reality that access to the service is not free

    the cost of the device is irrelevant
    unless you can afford to make the cost of using it part of your cost of living

  • Caitlin

    The smart phone “revolution” offers enormous promise, but let’s not forget that it offfers those benefits to those who can afford to pay for them. Are we not increasing the gap between the wired “haves” and the unconnected “have-nots”?

  • http://www.gg-mi.com Garrett Myers

    The Smart Phone is indeed changing how the world communicates, recreates and does business.

    I’m a technology strategy consultant. I recently gave a presentation at the Society of Telecom Consultants annual conference in Baltimore arguing that Smart Phones will soon be the communications device of choice in the enterprise. Not only are people attached to Smart Phones for their personal use, but also for professional use. There are 150 million Smart Phones being sold per year. Doctors, nurses, insurance agents and adjusters, sales people and other professionals use Smart Phones for immediate access to real time information access and libraries of information. They are now expecting their Smart Phone to be their full feature office phone. This will soon change the types of phone systems and unified communications systems that are purchased and used in businesses, healthcare and non-profits.

  • Stan Russell

    Remember, there are lots of us who have limited or even no cell phone service (I see lot of white in providers cell coverage maps), much less smart phone service. There has to be better and more complete coverage for this “connection” to be universal here in the U.S.
    Stan Russell

  • Sergio Govern

    Mobile computing is a fad. All your guests and many of your callers have been going on about how different and innovative this is. But they never really answer your question: cannot you do it some other way? The answer is “yes”. Mobile computing of the kind discussed here is just an attempt to sensationalize and create bogus “needs” so that some people can make a buck.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    There are two pieces to this: Being connected all the time through wifi, cell or satellite, and having a portable device.

    I use a keyboard and enjoy writing so my iPhone’s keyboard and even miniature physical keyboards make “serious” writing difficult for me (tweeting fine).

    There is a device in between which might be called the fabled Apple tablet or a cellular modem for a small laptop that appeals to me a bit more than using a smart phone for much of what I do on my MacBook Pro.

    Also, like some above, my old eyes, even with reading glasses, find the iPhone screen a bit too small for reading web sites and reading through serious pieces of writing.

    Of course, these days we’re doing less serious writing so maybe a tiny screen is exactly what we need.

  • Tad Merrick

    I am just wondering what effect the throw-away pieces of ancient technology? Seeing images of families in India and China inhaling all sorts of heavy metals, plastics etc while picking though piles of cell phones makes me wonder what the companies producing all these new items consider?

  • Sergio Govern

    It is preposterous to argue that smart phones will become people’s office. Have you ever tried to manage a slightly complex spreadsheet document on a smart phone? If you routinely deal with such documents on your desktop, you easily realize that it is not possible. The screen and the keyboards are too small. There is no way around it until new technologies are introduced to deal with these critical limitations.

  • Putney Swope

    On Point already did a show on multi-tasking and the consensus is that people are not really wired to do this.

    We can’t drive and talk. It’s distracting.

    We can’t learn anything while plugged into an iphone listening to music.

    I have students who can’t find 11/16th’s on a ruler, or understand how to draw an equilateral triangle using a protractor. A smart phone will not help in these endeavors.

  • Sergio Govern

    Most people hooked to their mobile devices use the constant connectivity (= uninterrupted distraction) as an excuse for their preexisting inability to focus on anything.

  • http://acmerec.com Randall Young

    So, there I am, listening to your very interesting “podcast” on my iPhone, using the NPR app. But just as it gets interesting, an automated message interrupts at (very) frequent intervals to solicit funds. This is very distracting–and very annoying. I don’t think I’ll be using this app again.

    How about selling a version of the NPR app that DOESN’T actively mess up the listening experience? That way you could make a few bucks, AND let me hear the show properly.

    Alternatively, the interruptions could “freeze” the podcast, so that you would at least get the entire content.

  • Delinda Syme

    As I listen to your show, I ruminate on all the ways I have acquired information over my 67 years. And I wonder if these new technologies will ultimately change the structure of our brains as our thought process and dependency on the devices now in such prevlant use increasingly shapes our lives. I love my simple cell phone and am crazy over google but I miss the library and the smell and feel of those paper sources of information. Does anyone even remeber how when you dropped into a friend’s home and they happened to be on the phone,they quickly hung up and focused on you, the person who was present? Luckily, since I live in Vermont(a lower texting state it seems)we still interact directly and can easily be alone and quiet.

  • http://www.paulfalzone.com Paul Falzone

    What a great show! I’m going to make to make this episode an assigned “reading” for my New Media Ecology class.

  • Chris

    As a part time Luddite, I really enjoy my “disconnect time” writing, walking the dog, cuddling with my spouse. Must I now feel guilty when some friend or associate can’t reach me for an hour, a day, a week? Who am I to my neices, my grandkids who expect connectedness almost as a second skin? As a senior boomer I grew up in the country where the only media was a book or mag, an evening radio broadcast or a Saturday movie. I enjoy silence. I don’t need music when I walk. Yet I love the Internet and have worked testing software. How do I politely convey the message that I want to control my connections and it it is not rude to opt out of being constantly connected?

  • http://www.latd.com Ian Schulte, Latitude Research

    It’s fairly safe to assume (and takes very little imagination to do so) that mobile computing is not, in fact, a fad, as Sergio posits above.

    There certainly are technological hurdles to overcome on the user experience side, as well as valid privacy concerns and issues relating to dependency and attention span. But the right question to ask really isn’t “can’t my laptop accomplish the same thing as my smartphone?” (or, as Sergio put it, “cannot you do it some other way?).

    One of the fundamental innovations embodied in the iPhone and similar devices (at least as it pertains to me) is the transition of the smartphone from a mere communications device to a discovery/navigation device. Full HTML web browsing certainly is a nice feature, but in the final analysis, a large-screen browsing experience is preferable if given the choice. As is typing on a full-size QWERTY keyboard. Those who dwell on these features are missing the point.

    My phone (a Palm Pre) isn’t just a phone. It isn’t just an email/texting platform. And I don’t love it because it’s a fabulous web browsing device (although it’s pretty good). My Pre enables me to be spontaneous, to explore new places on a whim, and to know that wherever I am, I can pull location-specific information about entertainment, food, history, etc. The entire contents of the internet live in my pocket, and I can filter through them to find exactly what I need, wherever I am, and at any point in time. No other class of devices is capable of handling all of that in a compact, eminently portable form.

    Whether the phone connects people to (or disconnects them from) their physical surroundings is a matter of personal motivation, and not an inherent flaw in these devices. Personally, being able to get lost and truly explore a place, knowing that I can always pull up a location-aware map if needed, is something I could not have dreamed of doing a few years ago. As a result, I find that my sense of place and discovery is heightened immensely.

    A phone is only a crutch if you will it to be one.

    (Shameless plug: check out Latitude Research’s thoughts on mobile Augmented Reality and digital connectedness more generally at: http://www.life-connected.com)

  • Dan

    Good program. The answer, as always, is that it’s all about making choices. My 3G is liberating and a great tool and I have some delightful apps, even though most of them are useless after the first time you run them (look up Sturgeon’s Law, #2, on wikipedia — it applies). But, we need to find time for silence too. Read Julia Baird’s column “The Devil Loves Cell Phones” in this week’s Newsweek.

  • Michelle Ruth Smith

    In comment to the end of the program when monitoring the body was mentioned:
    I am a doula (birth assistant) in training and in the birth technology world constant fetal monitoring systems were supposed to be the best thing for the health of mom and baby, and although it can be helpful in certain situations, it has been directly correlated with a dramatic rise in unneeded c-sections.
    Technology will always be important but I think we are much too starry-eyed about it.
    A commenter above noted that i-phone is in it’s infancy and I believe we are in our infancy in our dependence on technology.

  • John

    I’ve often wondered what is everyone going to do if there is some sort of disruption (natural, terrorist, etc) and all these devices no longer works or you no longer have access to these devices because you no longer can pay the monthly bills because you have been laid off and no employment is in sight?

    Will it be similar to when the electricity goes out and time drags??

  • wavre


    All this while we are chatting and texting away. Just like with the Holocaust, the world will say: We didn’t know? How many people have to die before we say enough! Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Obama, Bill Clinton are all aware of the pillage, but choose to look the other way, relaying on their allies( the Tutsis, trained and lead by the US army!) to secure access to those minerals.
    And while enjoying the latest technology for cheap, we’re asking ourselves:”why in some part of the world, they hate us so much?”

  • Sergio Govern

    I have no doubt that the folks at Latitude Research and similar companies would want to create a need that does not really exist. That’s why THEY exist and that is what they need to do to continue existing. Personally, I’m fine with getting lost and having to do some detective work to figure things out as opposed to just “looking them up” all the time. Actually, I often find myself intentionally not using my iPhone for this reason.

  • http://www.polladium.com Jacki Buros

    I didn’t get to listen to the program live, but if I had I would have wanted to hear the guests’ perspective on mobile phone development overseas (see, for example, the Special Report in the Sept 24, 2009 Economist).

    Reading their report, it seems that phones and apps are much more focused on utility and efficiency rather than entertainment in these markets. People can bank, trade minutes, transfer money, get weather updates, barter and buy goods via their mobile phones. The W3C is experimenting with its Voice Browser, etc.

    If the utility and innovation are mostly driven by developing markets, what does this mean for us consumers in the developed world? When will we learn to make useful innovations rather than entertaining distractions?

  • Stacey

    Is it irony that I can’t listen to this on my iPhone? I’ll be back once I download your podcasts to iTunes etc.

  • http://www.brianshall.com Brian S Hall

    Great topic! I believe smartphones combined with the real-time web are going to fundamentally change commerce and culture and power. The most marginalized families in developing countries can soon have access to the real-time Internet, to new markets and to ‘cashless’ smartphone transactions.

    Or, we can be empowered to find the lowest price on any item, anywhere, all the time.

    Or, they can reward real customer service by aggregating personal recommendations.

    And they can change how we interact with the non-human world — such as using ‘augmented reality’ while walking through a park.

    I could go on (and do, at http://www.brianshall.com).

  • http://www.giuseppetaibi.com Giuseppe Taibi

    This was a great show. I am thrilled that my twit got mentioned on the show http://twitter.com/giuseppetaibi/status/5232029839

  • karen

    I really want a iPhone but don’t want to give up Verizon coverage. When are we, Americans, going to be given a choice? This is ridiculous!

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/about-on-point/wen-stephenson/ Wen Stephenson

    But Stacey, you can listen to us on your iPhone. Check out the NPR app.

  • Laurie

    I’ve worked with computers since the late 70s and with Macs since 1985. The iPhone was a sea-change for me of the same magnitude as the first graphical interface. This is because it liberated me from several things: 1) hard to use text-interface cell phones; 2) desktop e-mail; and 3) the daily schedule of the local NPR station. I now use the iPhone more for e-mail and podcasting than for phone calling. I like having the whole internet on call to look things up where ever I am, and the ability to send e-mail from anywhere. I don’t have any use for social networking. I do not use the phone while driving or during meetings; my pet peeve is people who are looking at their laptop instead of the people in the room with them. Technology is good if we use it well, if not, not…

    thanks for a good show.

  • JR

    Could someone post the apps Jason mentioned on the show today?


  • Eric


    Jason talked at the half hour about the greatness of the future but I want to know who (ownership)and how my data will be used? Should not I be allowed to sell my data? Being a data miner myself, who studied and works with GPS, I track clients/customers data constantly with code. The public even with their zip codes are giving away free data for research to retailers, we collect data upon and then proceed to sell to companies (marketers)almost all without much care from the consumer. Who in turn pay for marketing. Listening online.

  • Preston

    I think the availability and prevalence of smart-phones will also bring with it the assumption that everyone has one and that everyone is connected–and that those who would opt out by choice maybe the subject of a new scrutiny. If we choose to sacrifice the benefits of being totally connected, to opt out of contributing to the massive global pool of data, don’t we run the risk of being ostracized? I think the availability of new global monitoring schema will include stigmas for those who would choose not to participate.

  • http://www.wirelesswatchblog.com david ehm

    It is clear that cell phones, wi fi, and cell towers should be banned as thousands of studies worldwide confirm that this untested, unregulated technology was rolled out with no oversight whatsoever and will be responsible for a health debacle that many predict will surpass tobacco and asbestos combined in number of casualties. Another American innovation that puts profits over human life. Millions of kids world wide will suffer devastating lives and deaths due to alzheimer’s, brain cancer, lowered IQ’s, M.S., Parkinson’s and a host of other acute and chronic diseases. The heads of the telecom companies should be brought before the courts and tried for murder.

  • Louise

    “I have students who can’t find 11/16th’s on a ruler, or understand how to draw an equilateral triangle using a protractor.” No wonder so many parents are pulling their children out of the failing public schools and home-schooling them instead. Just another prime example why we need school vouchers in lieu of the under performing and failing public schools.

  • Cory

    It appears as though on point has changed the forum to preclude comments being made before the broadcast of the show. This, of course, is their right. I am a third shift working schlub who liked to comment on the upcoming shows and listen to them the following night. This new “wrinkle” will make it unlikely that I will comment on future shows, as my comments will now be “a day late and a dollar short”. I have appreciated participating and have found the forum stimulating and liberating.

    So farewell Putney, Millard, Mr. Fnord, michael, Alex, and yes… even you Louise. Keep fighting the good fight, my fellow commie pinko lefties!

  • Brett

    All school vouchers do is allow people who are in upper income brackets to save money on the cost of sending their children to private schools. The average cost of private school is above $10,000 dollars a year, well over the dollar amount that voucher systems would supply. So, middle income and lower income families would still not benefit and upper income families would. This is another conservative non-solution to problems, a fake solution that is really designed to help the rich make even more money.

  • Ben

    Is anyone concerned here about the myriad things we are LOSING connection with in the attempt to stay “connected” with reality via virtual avenues. We are becoming more like robots running on data input and less like sentient creatures running on our senses, past experiences, contact with the earthly and human world in front of us, underfoot. More like machines less like human beings. There is a thin veil of techno-insanity here. And to think of the costs to learning, health and young people – when a term like ‘partial continuous attention’ comes to be needed. Any connection to this digital age lifestyle and ADD, obesity, food security, learning, depression, etc? The conversation had by these experts was sadly limited to the techno-economy sphere. It’d be nice to from someone sensitive to the human-evolutionary consequences of this shift in lifestyle, attention, engagement.

  • Sergio Govern

    We are also forgetting that constant connectivity does not come for free. Actually, the price tag in the US is pretty high, especially for families who are already struggling to pay their bills (health insurance being one of the main drags). People can perform all the tasks they have to without being constantly connected and paying for it. You can get a cheap Treo for $40 and use a prepaid plan. There is your mobile office. Occasional texting would cost 2 or 3 bucks per month. All the other stuff is just a scam by companies that want to hype this constant connectivity idea for the purpose of selling their services.

  • cydney robbins

    HI! I love your show. I listen to the whole world on my computer at home. BUT!!! How do all you people USE a cell phone? i have some basic physical problems with it:Basically this: it is TOO SMALL!! the buttons are too small to push. how do you push only just one? and i even have small hands. and also: how can you SEE on that tiny screen??? okay. i am only a little bit nearsighted, but hey, those things are way TOOOO SMALL!!! i mostly still inhabit the 20th century. hmm. have fun, everyone! sincerely, cyd in ocala, FLA.

  • Sergio Govern

    I love the show too, but I wish Tom was able to push his guest more in terms of answering critical questions. He asked many times how this changes anything in a more than superficial way. All he got were superficial answers by overcaffeeinated folks about how “cool” this is. Yes, we got it, it’s “cool”. But so is silence and being able not to be bothered.

  • Expanded Consciousness

    Do you think they said they same thing about books? Look at all these people sitting looking into there little mass-produced books and not talking to their neighbor.

    Now we say that about mobile devises because they are new.

    Yet, no one now would be critical if they saw someone in a cafe reading their book and not talking to their neighbor.

    “Talk to your neighbor! Talk to your neighbor!”

    “Oh, why is that strange man talking to me? Is he trying to pick me up. He is harassing me!”

    A lot of hyperbola in this argument!

    I sense a lot of hyperbola here in the Luddite panic.

  • Dave

    Greatshow, I think an interesting effect you could have touched on was the smartphone’s effect on national politics. Members of Congress and their staff have blackberries and expect instant information. It’s sped up politics and maybe added to the vitriol as there is less time for considered opinion.

  • issy53

    I’d like a slate format computer, lots of connectivity, good hi-rez 7″ to 12″ (3:2 ratio) screen (1080p would be nice), multiple multi-core arm chips. The power of a desktop in a hand held system, with the ability to expand its capabilities cheaply and simply. I want a computer not so much a phone.

    To work for me it has to be cheap to run, with a total yearly cost that’s under $100. It should be designed to use only open, non-proprietary software (and I should be able to chose the OS it runs), it should have no DRM of any kind. It should be reliable, modular, easy and cheap to repair, and designed to never become obsolete.

    The main issue is that its internet connectivity should have immense throughput; each slate system should itself be a connected node on the internet that provides secure access to all the other systems in its range. You should be able to connect to any other slate system without going through a Sprint, AT&T, or other commercial network. Each slate system is part of a pervasive internet “cloud” that shares its connectivity and processing power.

    I know it sounds improbable yet we have the capability to build it now, with its biggest technological issue being battery power.

  • Ed Crockett

    Hi Tom,
    Listening via Podcast means I can’t call in, so this is delayed somewhat…
    Why, in all the talk about the iPhone in the OnPoint show I heard, did nobody (none of your experts, non of your callers) bring up the fatal (in my opinion) linkage of the iPhone to AT&T such that the service (GSM) is poorly distributed across the country and dominated by few carriers in America. Also, the cost of an AT&T contract (part of the price of an iPhone) is quite high compared to other carrier’s plans.
    Ed in Raleigh, NC

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