Thursday, September 12, 2013

The endless cacophony of smartphones

By default, the smartphones I have used attempt to advertise their existence with an endless cacophony of sounds.  They are very annoying mostly, and typically draw attention to oneself just when one doesn't want that attention.  A typical example is the shutter click.  Whenever one takes a picture one gets a gratuitous shutter click sound, louder than the loudest film camera I've ever used, even on the lowest setting (if such settings are even available).  This has little value to the picture taker (who can usually see other indications that the picture was actually taken--and such indication shouldn't even be needed if the camera is reliable and fast enough.  But it might be useful to art museum staff, pretty girls on the beach, and so on, to hear that their picture is being taken, intellectual monopolies being sidestepped, and so on.  One of my earliest experiences of this was at the famous Field Museum in Chicago, where, yes, I was trying to sneak a photo of one of the exhibits to show a friend.  I was very careful to be sure there was nobody around me.  I hid the phone close to my body as I was taking the picture.  But all my subterfuge was made useless by that little shutter click, which echoed through the surrounding area.  As I left the area, there was at least one security staff following me.  But they hadn't actually seen anything fortunately and didn't bother me.

I figure that smarphone makers are some of the biggest intellectual monopolists around, and so they add this shutter click feature to help their fellow monopolists.  That is so typical of mobile devices, computer programs, and operating systems these days it's hardly worth mentioning.  Over time, features that users actually like keep on being eroded (remember the freewheeling days of being able to record analog audio and video from nearly everything?), and features that users don't want keep being added (often, endlessly promoted as major user advances by legions of fanboys and fangirls) but with the actual primary interest of advancing intellectual monopolies, captive user base, and the like.  Well they might fool kids with these tactics, but they don't fool me.  Not that I can do anything about it other than complain.  And by the way, I do have a perfect right to complain, there aren't many choices and there all pretty much the same, and I think my complaining is part of the process of moving things forward.  I have actually seen things I've complained about actually get fixed.  Another thing that fanboys and fangirls typically say is that you have no right to complain (after the great corporations who rule the world have done so many wonderful things for us) and we should just buy some other product, or none at all.  That usually gets you a slightly different but usually pretty similar set of things to complain about.

Perhaps I don't remember all the audible annoyances of my iPhone 3G because I had it so long, by the time I retired it I had figured out how to stop most annoyances.  And the fully centralized settings widget was helpful in doing so.

Android seems less user friendly in shutting these things off because you may need to visit both the general settings menu, which itself has 4 parts, with the 4th "developer" part being full of additonal submenus, and so on.  And the applications have their own settings menu, which as I demonstrated in another post are often uselessly context sensitive, meaning that to get to a particular setting you have to be doing, or not doing, a particular thing.

Now I'm especially annoyed by text typing sounds, phone dialing sounds, and the like.  I did figure out how to shut off the email sound already, that was way over the top, waking me up in the deep of the night to alert me of new spam.   NONE of these sounds should be enabled by default.  Or perhaps there should be some kind of built-in expert or mode you can set, such as the All Silent Mode which stops all sounds except the essential phone ring and text message notification.

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