Is there anything Smartphones can’t do?

Since the beginning of the semester, taking this class has made me reflect on my usage of social media and technology and how it has evolved over the past 10 years. It is interesting because our generation (those of us who were born in the 90’s) is the one who didn’t entirely grow up with social media since we were born but we have been exposed to it at a very young age.

My very first ‘social media account’ was a Hotmail account, which gave me access to Windows Live Messenger. After talking to some of my American friends, apparently it wasn’t a thing in the States. However, it was a super popular way of communicating in Spain when I was about 11 – 13 years old.

Although Hotmail accounts were mainly email accounts, we used in middle school as an instant messaging platform. When I got my first desktop computer when I was 11, my daily routine after school was to go online on Windows Live Messenger and talk to people through there.

windows live meme

Back in the day we thought that it was great because you could have group conversations, add really cool emojis, change your profile picture, add a status, video chat with people, and even, link your iTunes so it would show what you were listening to.

I would waste so many hours having conversations that more or less went like this:

  • “Hi”
  • “Hello”
  • “What’s up?”
  • “Nothing much, what about you?”
  • “Same, I’m bored”

What I liked about it is that I could keep the window open for hours and get my homework done at the same time.

When Tuenti was launched as a new social media platform in Spain, Windows Live Messenger died very quickly and it was eventually taken over by Microsoft, which is the reason I have an Outlook email account right now (which most people don’t have).

Tuenti was Spain’s equivalent of Facebook. What was funny about it is that it was an exact copy of Facebook. As soon as Facebook rolled out features such as private messages, instant messages and games, it didn’t take Tuenti long to imitate them. Tuenti also died pretty fast because it couldn’t keep up with Facebook. After doing some research, I saw that Tuenti became a cheap mobile service provider offering data packages.


What happened to Windows Live Messenger and Tuenti? Why couldn’t they survive Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other new forms of social media?

…. the smartphone happened.

Tuenti and Windows Live Messenger were platforms that were designed for laptops or desktop computers with wide screens and consolidated many features (sharing music, videos, instant messaging etc.) in one same space.

When smartphones became popular, people’s needs of social media accounts shifted and platforms such as Tuenti and Windows Live Messenger only served users’ most basic needs and therefore were not able to meet the more specific needs.

meme about untapped niche

Now we have a limitless array of apps that can serve more specific social needs:

  • Snapchat: send and receive photos and messages that are not stored permanently
  • Instagram: post picture that meet certain unspoken standards
  • Twitter: share one’s own thoughts as well as another people’s content
  • WhatsApp: instant messaging and calling
  • Venmo: sending and receiving money
  • Spotify: listening and sharing music
  • GroupMe: app designed specifically for group chats
  • Tinder/Bumble: meeting new people online
  • Uber: ride-sharing for getting from A to B

And the list goes on and on.

Now that we all have smartphones, we are all hyper-connected at all times and we have grown increasingly dependent on them due to all the things that smartphones enable us to do.

Have you thought about all the things that smartphones have replaced?

Here is a small list:

  1. Dictionaries/Encyclopedias: We can use google to translate words/look up definitions
  2. Newspapers/Magazines: Read news articles and
  3. TVs/Laptops: we can now watch shows and movies on our phone
  4. Credit Cards: digital wallets are starting to replace payment methods
  5. Banks/ATMs: you can now deposit checks online by taking pictures of them
  6. Cameras: I lost my camera’s charger and that was the end of it
  7. MP3 players: not that many people have iPods and MP3 players
  8. Alarm Clocks: I don’t know anyone who uses an alarm (not even my parents)
  9. Gaming consoles: so many games can be played on phones now that less people have gaming consoles.
  10. Flashlight: I haven’t used a flashlight since the iPhone’s flash works like that
  11. Calculators: My calculator’s battery died a year ago and I haven’t needed to replace it

Smartphones have made our lives easier but we have also become extremely attached to them. We use them so often for so many things that it is so important for them not to die on us. If someone cannot be reached sometimes it can be a problem.

When I got my first phone (some old Nokia) the battery lasted many days because I only used it to be in touch with my parents. Now, our batteries last half a day because they phone does so many things at the same time.

low battery meme

In the past, if I wanted to take pictures, I used a camera.

If I wanted to watch something, I used the TV.

If I wanted to listen to music, I would use my iPod.

If I wanted to play Animal Crossing or Mario Cart, I used my Nintendo.

All of those things have been consolidated into one device, which is why phones keep getting bigger and bigger.

smartphone size meme

Although smartphones may be better than flip phones, there is one thing they can’t do:

smartphone giphy




  1. jjaeh0ng · ·

    Reading this post left me with a lot of reminiscence! I remember using MSN messenger all day when I f came to the States in ’09. Back in Korea, I had “cyworld” (then, very famous social media platform at home) that I talked about in my very first blog post. Time has past as I have moved on to Facebook and Instagram. Regarding cell phones, making calls and texting messages used to be how we communicated, but with the rise of smartphones tools for communication has become diversified so much, including Insta DMs and Snapchat. Not to mention, Skype was such a sensation that made video calling so easy: Today, only time I use Skype is for job interviews because I have FaceTime. Smartphones have replaced so many devices as you pointed out. While they made our lives far more convenient, we are dealing with the issues like smartphone addictions/obsessions. Even I can not imagine myself without a smartphone near me. Smartphones and various social media platforms via smartphones have connected people to people around the world so quickly and easily ever than before. At the same time, with many entertainments enjoyable on devices, it is not hard to see people starring at own phones at the café or restaurants. Even dating apps are how we meet our new loves now. With that, there is something the “omnipotent” smartphones can not do: “BUILDING TRUE IN-PERSON RELATIONSHIPS.”

  2. HenryChenChen · ·

    Nice summary list of what a smartphone can do. I agree with your point that now we have Apps that can serve more specific social needs and made our life more convenient. Smartphone also made many people went out of businesses, now there is not much company who manufactures MP3 players and the rise of the smartphone also have a huge impact on the camera industry.

    The fact that so many things have been replaced by smartphone makes me thinking about what current things and business will be abandoned by future technology just as smartphone did on cameras.

  3. oliverhowe14 · ·

    This post reminded me of the days where I had a desktop computer and an iPod Touch that needed WiFi to work. These were the days where if I went into the city I had to bring a backpack to make sure I’d have everything I needed for the day. Now I just grab my phone because that is all I need. It is amazing how many different products that phones have swallowed up and integrated. Companies need to look ahead now to see how and when smartphones will revolutionize their market.

  4. tuckercharette · ·

    Nuria I really liked the post. It’s wild to see that other countries really did have different digital products and yet they really didn’t last. I’m sure you might’ve read on a few other posts that things like AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) dominated in the states and was our equivalent when we were about age 9 or 10 until Facebook came onto the scene and swallowed it all up around age 13. I wonder if Tuenti lost because of Smartphones or if they lost because Facebook just beat them out and the user base was just too large to compete with. Crazy to think though that it lasted for so long just mimicking Facebook.

    I always wondered as a kid when Smartphones would become the futuristic things which we saw on TV. The popular show Cyberchase on children’s public television featured these digital personal assistants called Skwakpads which could do everything from video chatting to mapping. It was only a matter of time before our mobile phones turned into iPhones and could do it all. I think the Smartphone took over because it was timed properly. Nobody thought to integrate personal digital assistants with anything else because the rest of the technology wasn’t ready to be integrated yet. The data speeds weren’t fast enough and the cell phone was just beginning.

    We have seen smartphones become integrated in all the ways which you listed but I’m ready for the next step. Seamless integration with all laptops and home devices. We are starting to see this as certain apps can be dropped on your iPhone and the tabs can be picked up on your laptop. Apple’s ecosystem of products fits nicely with this model but I would love to see more integration between TVs, PCs and Smartphones. I know that WhatsApp has really revolutionized this abroad and was a super cool app to have firsthand experience with in London when I was studying abroad. As for Smarthome, GoogleHome is able to control plugs and lights but I cannot wait until Smartphones are changing channels for us on TVs, controlling home robots to defrost items or cook dinner. It’s only a matter of time!

  5. Jobabes121 · ·

    A great post! Smartphone certainly replaced many of the existing devices/items that we daily use, each app serving as a unique device. For instance selfie apps, or the “Camera” app is better than many of real cameras whose function is solely taking pictures and videos with better resolutions and storage room. Regarding the size of the smartphones that you mentioned, they are in fact getting smaller (despite the Plus size of iPhones) with the most recent incoming editions of iPhone. Even IBM is building a CPU that is the size of a grain of salt, yet it has multiple capabilities including the adaptability of incorporating blockchain in the computer. I believe smartphones’ integration of so many basic items is an indication of people’s desire for convenience, and it will only grow further as AIs, VR and blockchain incorporated into our daily lives in addition to our phones and computers.

    I just sincerely hope that people do not take this too far to a point where they insert a chip inside of their body (this has actually been incorporated in some areas), as this is completely not advised.

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