Monday, June 4, 2012

10 things a PC can learn from a smartphone

Things have gotten so that most of my online time is spent on my (glorious) Galaxy Note. While no one is pretending that a phone or a tablet can replace a PC, there are many things that strike you time and again which just seem better on a phone. Of course, there is a flip side as well, but that is another blog post.


My biggest beef with PCs comes down to Email. On a phone, you configure your accounts, set an update frequency, and forget about it, safe in the knowledge that your emails will find you through notifications when they arrive. On a PC, you configure your accounts, your browser, or programs like Outlook, and look for the bold headers to see if there is new email.

I know, most email programs and online providers have desktop alerts, but it is often harder to set them up than on a phone. Additionally, on a phone, when you click on an email notification, the email appears. On a PC, it is buried among a thousand interface elements and ads.

On a PC, the content just doesn't know when to get out of the way.


On my phone, I have a widget that shows me the calendar and appointments. Another that shows the latest weather information. Another that is a scrolling list of Facebook and Twitter feeds. Another that gathers all my RSS feeds and displays the headlines. One widget covers tasks and their status. Another shows a carousel of YouTube videos, another one a carousel of latest magazines on Zinio. One covers a scrolling list of my web bookmarks. And it wouldn't do without a scrolling Email one. Through a few flicks of my finger, I am instantly updated from my social networks, email, as well as news feeds, not to mention REAL LIFE.

On a PC, I have to open ten different applications to get the same information surrounded by a lot of clutter. My Windows desktop is as useless as that of the iPhone (sorry), showing me date, time and a sea of icons.

I have seen the Windows 8 desktop and apparently it is a step in the right direction, though the utility of the widgets is open to question.


Quick, where are the contacts on your PC?

In Outlook, in your Google Account, in your Yahoo account, and in something called the Windows Address Book. And nowhere does it include phone contacts.

On a phone, especially on an Android phone, you can have your contacts integrated - their phone numbers, email IDs, social networking accounts, Skype accounts, WhatsApp accounts - you name it. It does take a few weeks initially to link all your contacts in this way, but the facility is there and it gives your connectivity a whole new dimension.


Here's a little exercise: if you are reading this on a laptop, disable wifi, then re-enable it and try to connect to a network. The whole exercise can take about 40 seconds.

On a phone? It is all instant. The phone connects and disconnects from wifi networks at lightning speed. You walk into a router's range, take out your phone and you will find it is already downloading emails. On a PC, it is all quite slow.


I know this is a no-brainer: A PC is running an advanced processor with lots of RAM and a huge screen, so it WILL consume more power, right?

Right. But how come a laptop lasts for 3 hours at most while my phone can easily give 12 hours or more under heavy usage? A laptop's screen is bigger, sure - but it also has a lot more space. Why is the battery timing of laptops still pathetic?


I am sure everyone has used Skype video calling on PCs. So what do you see? The top of your head. Or a shot of you looking to one side. Reason? The webcam has to be placed on top or side of the PC screen.

Such deviation is there on phones too, but very minute.

So what has been done about it? Nothing! Both callers on a PC video call continue to stare at each other's heads or profiles. I don't know what can be the solution to this one, but it needs fixing.


Quick: What do you do if you want to see all the apps installed on your Windows PC? Why, you go to Control Panel - Programs and click....Uninstall!

On an Android phone, all the apps list is just a click away in the app drawer. I know, I know the PC has Start Menu - but have you EVER used it to see what apps are installed on your PC? Thought so.

That's right. There is no other way to see what is eating your PC's hard disk. On a phone, it's just a tap away in Settings - Apps. And what do you do when you want to remove an app from a phone? On an Android phone, open the app drawer, and drag and drop the app's icon to a little dustbin. That's it. On a PC, click Start - Control Panel - Programs - Uninstall and then wait an eternity for the list of programs to load.


All mobile platforms have app stores which provide a handy reference to what's available for your set. Windows? It's all over the place. No contest really.


Granted, phone web browsers are hampered by the limited screen size. But, when you want to have web content pushed to you, there is no place like a phone. Just install any of the countless RSS apps, set a schedule for syncing and forget. You will have your web content updated with you every time.

On a PC, there are websites doing that but I don't see any decent desktop solutions.


Take $50. What software can you get for your PC for that sum? Probably a game and a half. And not even the latest one.

For the same amount you can get 20-25 apps and games for your phone.

I know this comparison is incredibly naive, since PC games look better, have more content, etc etc. But tell me: when you are playing FIFA on your phone with graphics that look as good as those on the PC, do you care about the content? You only care that you paid 1/12th the price for having the same fun. And thanks to touchscreen, many games are better to play on mobiles.


Again, a naive comparison but very significant for an end user's point of view. It is very possible for you to spend money on a PC software and discover that it is not compatible or won't run properly. Yes, some software houses do provide compatibility checks but they are rudimentary at best.

On a phone, the app you downloaded means that it will run on your phone, period. There is no uncertainty.

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