Why Touchscreen Tech isn’t all that
New tech really doesn’t grab me
I’ve been musing over the world’s obsession with small-form-factor technology recently - particularly touchscreen devices - and struggling to understand why I haven’t been swept along with it. The simple fact is, while owning smartphones and tablets, I don’t particularly like using them and feel that the scope of their usefulness is an awful lot less than most other people seem to think. I’m really curious why that is.
I have two smartphones kicking around (one personal – one work) and I try to avoid using either wherever possible. Quite often, a week will go by where I’ve not touched them. One of them stays on my desk at home (go figure) and the other remains secreted in my bag. I might check it during the week or I might not. I figure people can either email me or call the office. Quite often they do both.
I feel slightly warmer over tablets. But only slightly. I have a first-gen Nexus 7 and a Surface 2 with a typecover. As I have to grapple with a significant commute to work four times a week, I’ve found tablets to be an excellent way to take entertainment with me while not significantly weighing me down.
But my use of tablets stops there. I barely ever touched (ahem) my Nexus 7 when I wasn’t commuting and, despite going overboard trying to embrace my Surface 2 in the early months of this year, I finally admitted defeat a while ago and acknowledged that if the option is available, I’d much rather use a regular PC every time.
I’ve found that the Surface 2, with a typecover, gives you the option to type on something which vaguely resembles a physical keyboard (as opposed to the on-board touchy-feely keyboards which, for me, are about as painful in use as a tin-tack in a jockstrap). But the typecover is a bit cramped, a bit prone to bending and the semi-furry surface of the touchpad section really doesn’t make for a dazzling experience. I’ve tried marking up draft contracts with it and doing other work ‘stuff’ which has proven fine in a cramped-this-isn’t-ideal-but-I’m-coping kind of way. But technology is meant to make things easier, not harder, so why struggle?
The full extent of my frustration with touchscreens hit me the other day while on a short train journey. I received a personal email on my phone (one of the few occasions I had it with me) and wanted to acknowledge it quickly with a few words in response. I started writing, only to be struck by just how Goddamn painful it was. I quickly gave up, figuring I would far rather wait and type it on a proper keyboard once I got home.
I think that tells you everything you need to know.
Lately I’ve been increasingly pondering as to why I find touch technology so disappointing. I haven’t come up with an answer. What I do know is that I find the novelty of touchscreen devices wears off awfully quickly. To me, they’re gimmicky and far nicer as a concept than in real-world use. I’m always amused by the dogged business commuters you find on trains who are hell-bent on proving they can ‘get work done’ on an iPad. I’m sure that, deep down, they all know they’re kidding themselves. And, please, ladies – the incessant tap of long nails typing on a touchscreen display is hugely annoying. You’d be far better getting your laptop out. Your manicurist might thank you for it too.
And just to be clear, I’m not on some kind of anti-technology vendetta here in which I pan everything with a microchip or circuit board. I use regular PCs more than ever – and I’ve virtually finished my personal SSD upgrade ‘programme’ in which I whack an SSD in any device I own that’ll take one. As I’ve often said, the biggest problem with SDDs is they make going back to a regular hard disk so damn painful.
On refection, I suppose my issue with touchscreen tech is a simple one – their limitations. The world seems to be on an endless hunt to find the everything-in-one device. I don’t think it exists (or ever will – at least in the near future). Let’s stop pretending these touchscreen mobile devices are something they aren’t. They’re well suited to consuming content – reading, watching movies and all the rest. But as soon as the need arises for even a little bit of typing (OK, I’ll say it – content creation), I think they’re utterly hopeless.
Is it me? Is anybody else struck by the severe limitations of touchscreen tech? Or am I needlessly stuck in the 1990s with my mouse and keyboard?
I ask because everyone else it seems – lawyers included – seem to be as happy as pigs in the smelly stuff to be tapping away on touchscreens. In a business context, I really don’t get that - touch technology on regular desktops and laptops strikes me as frankly ridiculous. It’s more than just gimmicky – it gets in the way of getting work done. Please tell me that touchscreen monitors won’t be making a mainstream appearance in legal practice anytime soon. Please tell me that! The day we start to create documents by reaching out with our grubby mitts and fumbling all over a touch-sensitive desktop display, is the day I’ll retire.
And I’ve got to do a bit more topping up of my pension before we’re at that point, thank you.