Monday, September 2, 2019

Why I Prefer Traditional Computers to Mobile Devices

Although mobile devices like tablets and smartphones are enjoyable to use, there are a number of reasons why I prefer to do most of my computing on traditional machines like desktops and laptops.  These include ease of use for heavier workloads, ease of repair, lifespan, and privacy.

Probably the most immediate reason why I still do most of my computing on desktops and laptops is simply because I’ve always used such devices and haven’t had any compelling reason to switch to another type of device.  However, as summarized, there are other reasons why I feel that using desktops and laptops – at least for heavier workloads – are preferable to mobile devices.

Tablets and smartphones are obviously great devices because they make life much more convenient than before their existence.  Multiple devices can be combined into one unit – without having lug around multiple different, individual devices.  Finding addresses, listening to music, watching videos, etc. can be done just about anywhere thanks to mobile devices.  I am in no way saying that desktops and laptops are preferable for all purposes.  Mobile devices are preferable for most quick, non-intensive daily tasks (such as looking up addresses, playing music, taking pictures, etc.).  However, they are not ideal for heavier workloads – such as typing essays, video editing, etc.

Desktops and laptops are preferable to mobile devices for heavier workloads for a few reasons.  One is that it is much easier and more comfortable to type quickly on a keyboard than to peck on tiny screens where there’s a heightened chance that the wrong key (or multiple wrong keys) might be pressed – particularly on tiny smartphone screens where the buttons are smaller than a person’s fingers.  It would be uncomfortable to do such an enormous amount of typing in such a small space – compared to the more ergonomic traditional keyboard.  In this day and age, one could say that nobody really needs a keyboard anymore because voice recognition has gotten better and better.  However, I would imagine that nobody would want to wear out one’s throat by dictating an entire novel, report, or any other lengthy, text-based material.  I personally would not like to do that – at least not all the time.  Even if some people didn’t mind doing that, the issue of privacy is raised because others could hear potentially confidential material that they otherwise wouldn’t have.  Again, some people might not mind sacrificing their privacy, but there are likely others, including myself, who would not want to sacrifice privacy.

Another reason why desktops and laptops are better for heavier workloads is that, with mice, more precision is possible.  With smartphone screens in particular, buttons are just big enough to be able to be pressed by fingers, but many buttons are still pretty small, so there is a greater risk of pressing wrong buttons.  Mobile interfaces are generally adequate and large enough for quick, non-intensive tasks, but fingers lack the precision of mouse pointers, which can be very important for doing detailed and/or intensive tasks like using image editors, video editors, etc.  While it may be possible to do things like zoom in on individual pixels, the smaller screens of tablets – and especially smartphones – make it harder to be both precise and efficient.  There are fewer things that can fit on a mobile screen that can also be clicked with the same precision of a mouse pointer.  Therefore, work would become slow and tedious compared to on desktops and laptops.

Overall, one of the biggest reasons why I prefer working on desktops and laptops is that they are physically more comfortable to use for heavier workloads.  Doing tasks like writing and drawing would be much less comfortable on mobile devices – having to cram fingers – sometimes in awkward positions – within the small, limited workspace of a mobile screen – and in some cases get further strained by needing to use one hand just to hold the mobile device – compared to the more ergonomic, relaxed position of having one’s hands evenly spaced – and having a mouse just to the left or right of one’s hand (depending on whether one is left or right handed) – not forcing all the hand and finger muscles to work – and letting the arm muscles do some of the work to relieve the tension in the smaller and more sensitive areas.  One can work longer and with less fatigue with the use of larger, less compact devices like keyboards and mice.

Going slightly off topic, even in the days before tablets and smartphones became widespread, I disliked (and still dislike) using laptop touchpads.  They’ve tended to be located in the middle of the laptop, which means bending my arm at a somewhat awkward angle to reach it – and then having to swipe my finger across multiple times just to get the cursor to move.  A mouse, however, is more in alignment with my arm, so there’s no stretching or straining involved, and I can move the cursor across the screen with one long, simple move.

Having said all that, desktops and laptops are generally more ergonomic in design and, due to larger screens and input devices, allow both precision and efficiency.  Therefore, they are better suited for lengthy, intensive workloads.

Although comfort and precision are the biggest reasons why I prefer using desktops and laptops – especially for more intensive tasks, I also appreciate the ease of repairing and upgrading such machines.  Desktops in particular are relatively easy to repair and upgrade because the parts are larger, so they are easier to handle without worrying as much about breaking them or stripping the screws holding them in place.  Mobile devices are much smaller, and thus, more delicate and at risk for damaging, and since everything is condensed compared to desktops, if one thing gets broken, there’s a chance that the whole device could stop working.  Also, upgrading is next to impossible since mobile devices aren’t really designed for that purpose.  They are relatively disposable – meant to be replaced maybe every year or two.  Desktops are good because they are more easily repaired – as well as more customizable.

Similarly, desktops are preferable to mobile devices because they are more likely to have longer lifespans.  Since the computing components are larger and more spread out, they are, at least seemingly, less likely to wear out as fast since heat is ventilated better, and the components are generally thicker and more durable – and less delicate and prone to breaking.  Also, as stated before, if one thing breaks, it is less likely to compromise the whole system than if something broke in a mobile device.  While it is true that mobile devices generally run cooler than desktops, as stated, their components are still smaller and seemingly more prone to breaking, but also, mobile devices tend to use SSDs for internal storage – as opposed to traditional hard drives.  SSDs tend to be limited to 100,000 read/write cycles, and internal memory is next to impossible to easily replace in mobile devices, so that is yet another advantage for desktops (which ties in with what I said before about being more easily repaired and upgraded).  It is true that mobile devices tend to rely more on cloud technology than internal storage, but I think that it is important to not rely so heavily on the cloud.  For privacy purposes, I believe in the right to control one’s own data, and therefore, while the cloud is very useful, people should still be able to have a decent amount of internal, local storage available on their devices.  Given the larger, less delicate parts of desktops and their ability to ventilate heat better, I feel those things also make desktops a preferable computing choice for heavier workloads.

Finally, as touched on before, privacy is another big reason why I prefer desktops and laptops to mobile devices.  Since 2018, I’ve realized how important privacy is for things like freedom of thought, freedom of speech, etc., and nowadays, with the rise of mobile devices, online services, and the sharing economy, it seems that privacy is diminishing.  Cloud computing is becoming more widely used, and people store lots of their personal data with private companies.  They are at risk for having their files lost, deleted, shared, etc.  They no longer have control of their own data as they should.  Mobile devices appear to be designed to heavily rely on cloud computing, whereas desktops and laptops are more designed to use local storage.  Also, a number of countries require the registration of SIM cards prior to buying prepaid cell phones – putting up more red tape and bureaucracy – making it potentially impossible for a disenfranchised person, having no government-issued ID, to be able to use a computing device.  This makes such a person’s situation worse – given that the world is relying more and more on computers for daily life.  Not only that, but with a phone being registered to someone, the phone company and/or government can now track what that person is doing on that phone.  There is no sense of privacy.  On the other hand, people have not been required to register desktops or laptops, so even someone lacking a government ID – but still having some money – would have the potential to use a computer without worrying about red tape or being tracked by corporations or governments.  The increased privacy in using desktops and laptops is yet another reason why I prefer them to mobile devices.

I definitely like the convenience provided by mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.  However, that’s primarily what they should be used for – convenience – things like getting driving directions, messaging someone while out in the middle of nowhere, quickly looking up an article on Wikipedia, and so on.  However, that doesn’t mean that they should be a complete replacement for desktops and laptops.  As stated, there are some tasks just better suited for traditional computing devices – and some reasons why they are preferable to use to mobile devices.  Having said that, I think that a computer in the future could very well incorporate some of the best of mobile and traditional computers – perhaps in the form of a mobile device (like a tablet or smartphone) that can also be docked at a station hooked up to a keyboard and mouse.  In any case, I do prefer doing much of my computing on desktops and laptops.