What you really need to know about your smartphone

Steve Jobs will undoubtedly go down in history as having revolutionized the telecommunications industry, and hey, we wouldn’t have it any other way (except for those cringe-worthy autocorrect moments – eugh.) But as we always say – an informed choice is always better than an oblivious one. So in the spirit of balance, here are three important things to think about next time you slip that smartphone from your pocket:

Where it comes from (and where it goes)

When we hear the word ‘sweatshop’ we normally think of running shoes or cheap shirts, but unfortunately, there’s really no such thing as an ethical smartphone. Dig into the journey of an iphone and you’re very likely to encounter labour exploitation in the mining of the minerals, hazards for workers on the production line, or irresponsible disposal practices. Escaping this morally questionable supply chain is hard, but the website makeitfair.org aims to inform and investigate, and suggests that you at least try to hold onto the model you have, rather than changing every two years. You can also sign up to pre-order the fairphone, a new initiative that aims to create a phone that’s created with conflict free materials, long-lasting, and made with care. If you do have to get rid of it – think about donating it to a shelter, or asking if the store you bought it from can send it to be recycled.

What it can do

We’re all aware of the positive things our smartphones can do for us, but how often do you think about the negative impact this mini-computer is having? Sure, it’s quicker to win a bet with a quick google search, but it’s also easier to procrastinate for hours scrolling through facebook and pinterest. Aside from a serious drain on productivity, smartphones have been linked to poor sleep (the bright screen interferes with the production of ‘sleepy hormone’ melatonin), strained and dried-out eyes, and – this one’s especially for the squeamish – lots of germy fingertip and face action. Oh, and the jury’s still out on the radiation thing, so, y’know, don’t keep the thing next to your ovaries, just in case.

How well it knows you

Smartphones are smart not just because of what they do, but what they know. Your device stores a lot of data all about you, in fact, you may be a little uneasy when you consider the subtle spying it can do. Location-based apps track your every move, and can send that information to marketers. They in turn use that info to create targeted advertising, and put together dossiers on the age, gender and habits of app users. Even more worrying, some apps can even turn on the microphone and listen in on what’s going on wherever you are – and they don’t have to tell you about it – so double check those privacy settings, and think twice about your check-ins.

Photo credit: The4thMonkey.com

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