Ten Things That Are Practically Obsolete Now that We Have Smartphones

Woman using smart phone, drinking coffee in cafe

We’re living in an age of unprecedented technology. It’s not the future that our elders promised to us when we were kids – I mean, where are the flying cars? – but technology has made our lives exponentially easier.

Take the smartphone, for example. What used to take a computer, a Walkman, an atlas, and more now fits in the palm of your hand. In fact, the advent of the smartphone has rendered obsolete some things that we used for years.

Here’s a list of ten things that our smartphones have replaced. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but I think you’ll get an idea of what revolutionary technology our phones have become. Enjoy!

10. Landlines and payphones

Obviously, the biggest thing that our smartphones have made obsolete is the landline phone and everything that goes along with it. For starters, it’s nice not to have to pull over and look for a payphone when you need to make a call. Of course, handsfree laws are causing many people to have to stop to call others, but that can happen anywhere these days.

We don’t have to look for a payphone to get in touch with others, and we don’t have to use a phone book or directory assistance to find most phone numbers. Answering machines are part of the dustbin of history too. And one of the greatest blessings of having a phone that can call anybody, anywhere, anytime is that we don’t have to worry about long distance.

Of course, we’re all aware of the problems that having a phone that can call anybody, anywhere, anytime brings, but that’s a discussion for another day.

9. Flashlights

I can remember for years the conventional wisdom that a flashlight was an essential item to have handy for safety purposes. Nowadays, it seems crazy to have an extra flashlight nearby when your smartphone can light the way for you.

Let’s be honest: cellphone flashlights don’t give out the best light (and don’t get me started on the Apple Watch’s joke of a flashlight). But in a pinch, when it’s a little too dark to see, the flashlight on your smartphone can be a godsend. Personally, I like to have a couple of cheap LED flashlights around the house or in the car for emergencies when it’s legitimately dark.

There’s just something convenient and appealing about knowing that you can pull a flashlight out of your pocket or purse anytime.

8. Calculators

For years, many of us kept a calculator in the desk drawer at home or work just to keep us from having to do hard math ourselves. It came in handy, especially because those cheap battery-powered calculators lasted forever. Doing math with a pencil and paper was a thing of the past.

Now our smartphones have rendered the little calculator in the drawer obsolete. Open up your calculator app, and you’re able to do things that the little cheap calculator never dreamed of doing. Our phones can even do most of the things that we could only do with those expensive calculators we had to buy for high school math. (You know, the things you swore you’d never use after you finished the class.)

The richness of the features in our smartphone calculators is a testimony to how technology can provide practical solutions to our needs.

7. Timers

Here’s an innovation that we don’t think about much. These days we have timers that allow us to throw out those old kitchen timers and keep up with time just like we keep up with everything else – on our smartphones.

I’m not just talking about cooking, though it’s nice to know that if I walk out of the kitchen, I can still hear the timer because my phone (or smartwatch) is with me everywhere I go. I use the timer on my phone for plenty of other things too. I may set a timer when I’m reading or for walks and workouts so that I don’t lose track of time. Sometimes I even time my Sunday afternoon naps so that I don’t oversleep.

Let’s face it: a timer isn’t a terribly exciting technological marvel, but we can admit that having one on our smartphones is pretty convenient.

6. Guitar tuners

Here’s something all the musicians out there will appreciate. Smartphones have birthed all sorts of apps that make creating music so much easier. Apple’s Garage Band app allows a single person to put together full instrumental tracks with ease. Other apps imitate instruments of any stripe, and vocalists can benefit from apps that allow them to practice or develop their skills as well.

But one of the best musical revolutions that the smartphone has ushered in is the guitar tuner app. There’s nothing worse than an out-of-tune guitar, and having a smartphone handy makes tuning a guitar easier than ever. Sure, not everyone will appreciate or even understand how convenient having an app on your smartphone for tuning your guitar is, but anyone who has ever needed one can vouch for their importance.

5. Cameras

For generations, we relied on cameras – first film, then digital – to help us record life’s moments. These days, we don’t have to lug a camera around to photograph the minutiae of our lives now that we can capture our lives with smartphones.

The first couple of generations of smartphone cameras were serviceable, but they didn’t hold a candle to “regular” cameras. Each generation of the smartphone has given us cameras with better features and even options to touch up photos that we hadn’t dreamed of in the past. We can learn from YouTube videos how to make the best of the photos we take, and the possibilities for nearly professional-grade photography with our phones are endless.

And let’s not forget how our smartphones have made carrying bulky video cameras a thing of the past. Those of us who are old enough to remember the heavy cameras of days past can be especially grateful for the technology that allows us to create a video using what’s in our pockets.

4. Photo albums

While we’re on the subject of smartphone photography, our phones have made yet another part of our picture-taking lives obsolete: photo albums. We used to have to rely on photo albums to physically look back at the moments in our lives. There’s still something special about sitting down with family and friends and looking through books and boxes full of photos.

But we don’t have to do that anymore now that our phone holds every one of the pictures that we’ve taken over the past few years. It’s so much easier to pull out a smartphone and show off those vacation shots or the latest family photos.

While we’re at it, does anybody carry those photo sleeves in their wallets anymore? I used to always feel the pressure to have the most up-to-date pics of family and loved ones in my billfold. Not anymore. The smartphone does it for me, and I don’t have to print a thing!

3. Alarm clocks

The alarm clock has been an essential feature of modern living for a while now. We moved from the wind-up kinds with actual bells on top to analog and digital electric clocks with tons of features. Occasionally we’ll see those clocks with gimmicks like flashing the wake-up time on the wall or moving around so that you have to get up to stop the alarm.

Thanks to the advent of the smartphone, all of that annoying alarm business is a thing of the past. These days our alarms are completely customizable. We can set any alert tone or song we want as an alarm – even if we want to set a different alert for every day of the week. Smartphone alarms aren’t a nightmare to program like so many alarm clocks used to be, either. The alarm clock function on our smartphones might be one of the best features that users could ask for.

2. Maps/GPS

It wasn’t that long ago that I carried an atlas in my vehicle. That’s a practice I picked up from my parents, who had picked it up from their parents. We can’t value enough the ability to find our way to and from places.

With the rise of the internet, our travel planning and mapping changed. We could look up and print routes to where we needed to go. Later on, people purchased GPS devices that could point the way just about anywhere.

Today, our smartphones provide better directions in real time than any map or GPS device we ever used in the past. Directional apps account for traffic and construction, and they can recalculate faster routes on the fly. If you’re traveling out of town or are using a rental, your smartphone is on the go with you.

Smartphones have definitely made getting from place to place easier than ever. And that’s something we can all be grateful for.

1. Address books

Remember the old address books that everyone used to have? Every bit of information about everybody in your circle of friends was in that book – addresses, phone numbers, even birthdays. I’d bet that nobody keeps up with address books anymore.

Our smartphones have replaced the old address books these days. We can store so much information about our friends and family in our phones – the same info we used to write down. I would even wager that we have information about more people in our phones than we would have ever dreamed of putting in an address book. Our ability to program so many numbers into our contacts has just about rendered business cards obsolete as well.

The upside to having all the info at our fingertips is that we can call, text, or email anybody with ease. The downside is that the phone numbers we used to commit to memory aren’t in our heads anymore. Then again, when we can pick up a phone to access anybody’s information, who needs to remember phone numbers and addresses?

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What other ways have smartphones affected the technology we use? Speak up in the comments section below!