There is absolutely nothing novel or prophetic about talking about smartphones (a word I loathe to use, but heck, I can live finally with “Web 2.0”) as potentially replacing computers as a primary device.

I got to try it out this weekend.

This was not a planned exercise.

After visiting friends in Phoenix this weekend, I returned home (a 2 hour drive normally, extended to 5 due to highway closure) and was dismayed to realize I had left my backpack at the restaurant where I attended a holiday party.

Dismayed is a #&@^* understatement. In that pack was my MacBookPro, my iPad, my DSLR (and extra lens), my portable hard drive with my photo archive (THAT was backed up before I left)…. I was able to call the restaurant 10 minutes before they closed, and they assured me the backpack was found and could be picked up.


I was without my main camera for doing dailyphotos. The computer was backed up on TimeMachine before I left, and I do have an old one, but I decided to use only my iPhone over the weekend (it would be Sunday until I could fetch the pack, thanks to my frield Coop who fetched it Saturday night).

This is not to say this was an eye opening experience, but frankly, for ordinary tasks- email, twitter, web browsing, even doing photography on the phone and uploading, I was able to do it all. I am also not saying that I would ever suggeste I could replace my laptop with a phone, but can see more and more the potential for being laptopless (now there is an awkward word to split at the end of a line).

Of course I could not do (serious) video editing, audio editing, or programming on the mobile, but there’s a lot of tasks I can do. And its just going to get better and better.

I got all my stuff back, a huge relief, and after 2 days of dusting my stupidity for leaving my gear behind, it was a worthwhile experience to be untethered from the laptop and keyboard.

I suggest giving it a try sometime, just for the heck of it.

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for cogdog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I agree that it’s amazing what you can do with smart phones these days; you can even use Office programs, FTP stuff etc. I am ok without access to a desktop for a few days but I cannot do without my phone. It is my lifeline to the world.

  2. You could actually do some programming on a remote server using a ssh app, of which there are a few (possibly even some good ones – I’m not sure since I don’t use one). Vi (or emacs, if that’s the way you roll) makes a fine programming tool. That doesn’t help with the audio and video editing but it’s YATYCDWAI (yet another thing you can do with an i{phone|pod touch|pad}).

  3. Hmmm….Interesting post.

    As a member of a certain age-group (I will not admit just how FAR I am into said category)…who functions with annoying but entirely necessary visual devices called ‘bifocals’ I will NOT be trading my ‘smart phone’ for my laptop. Yes, the smart phone is shiny and new and fun and can offer up a lot of functions and interactivities my laptop offers. But here’s the rub for me: I just plain cannot SEE it well enough to want to use if for extended periods for said functions. Yes, I know things can be enlarged on the screen with a couple of flicks, but the experience is a little like getting only the elephant’s foot – incomplete and highly unsatisfying.

    So, is the smart phone handy for short bursts when absolutely necessary? You bet. Will I be planning how to extend those short bursts for…say… for example…reading books via free e-reader apps and such? Nope. Not likely.


    1. CIndy- I was never suggestion people replace a laptop with a mobile phone, but that more of what we do on a QWERTY box can be, in theory, done on the phone– and that, not finding all the stats, in many places the phone is the primary device people reach for.

      That said, there are things I grumble about. With autocorrect and my fumble fingers, anything I type takes at least 2x as long. And while we have copy/paste, it is not as fluid as using a mouse.

      It’s not about choosing one- its about using both.

      Might I suggest a big screen iPad? 😉

      1. I’m with ya….

        I must admit to just a little iPad desire last week after meeting with a colleague who brought hers for our worksession. She had collected readings/resources to share while we talked. Very nice. Made me want one…just a little…or….at least see how I could get used to one. 😉

        1. One little accessory for the iPhone 4 that can help with this: the VGA adapter. Not all apps work with it – but for those that do (particularly VNC apps), it can be incredibly useful. I have yet to find a hotel room with a flat panel TV without a VGA input. Not what I would recommend for everyday work – but a great way to extend the reach of the “lively sketchbook” when I’m on the road and I want to travel light.

  4. I think it’s definitely possible for short periods of time. Accidentally left my laptop at home on a work day. By time I realized it it was too late to go back for it. I was able to make It through an entire day of meetings with phone only. Granted, because of the meetings, I didn’t need a platform for heavier computing (screen caps, editing etc).

    I often go with just the phone and have started doing that MUCH more frequently at conferences where before I felt as though I HAD to have the laptop.


  5. So we were in Florence, Italy 2 summers ago … I left my backpack with my laptop – which had the 2 weeks of photos from England, France and other Italy locales on it … my camera, flash drives, and more in the cab. The hotel called every cab company … no luck. I walked outside to make one last check in case I left it on the sidewalk … nothing! … a cab pulled up and out of the cab came the driver with my backpack … wouldn’t take the $50 I tried to give them … my heart started to beat again … my family still hasn’t really forgiven me … WHEW!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *