The problem with smartphones: they imitate

As a journalist, I need a highly functional digital voice recorder. The one I primarily use is pocketable, does not distract me with phone calls and notifications when in use, doesn't skimp on battery life, and I can 'record' with a hit of a button rather than swiping and tapping my way through an app.

My smartphone is also a voice recorder, but I will only need it as my backup voice recorder in case I misplaced my main voice recorder.

I also feel that the physical notepad and pen are still much more efficient than a note-taking app.

Other devices such as alarm clocks, calculators and satellite navigation systems ought to be obsolete after having fused with the smartphones.

Smartphones are geared towards this direction; to be this one single tool that does everything for you beyond making phone calls, so you don't have to be weighted down by multiple gadgets.

This is, of course, a wonderful time to live in. Laptop computers are no longer necessary to be carried around wherever we go, satellite navigation is at our fingertips, and our camera is always with us so we won't ever miss taking that important shot. All that thanks to the smartphone.

But the idea of fusing all these technologies does not necessarily make the smartphone better in performing all these tasks. It gets the job done, but not ultimately better, at least not yet.

Call me old school, but I'm still attracted to the novelty of standalone devices, even though my smartphone can pretty much perform the same tasks at my will.

Recently I've decided to look for a portable music player (an odd choice for today's generation), because my smartphone cannot hold my entire music collection. I hate going through all the process of deleting and transferring my music between my computer and smartphone.

I could simply upgrade to a new smartphone with a larger storage capacity or the ones that support microSD cards, but all I wanted is a portable music player that syncs all my music automatically.

This came at a time when the portable music player market is at a decline.

Apple has already projected a huge tumble in sales of its iPod product line, and there's a possibility that the company is going to kill off the iPods down the road.

But there I was browsing through some iPods at an Apple retail store, and bought myself an iPod Classic, one of the last few great portable music players out there that can truly satisfy my needs.

Surely my smartphone has a far more advanced music interface, but the iPod has physical buttons which will help me skip through my music when I'm in the car while keeping my eyes on the road.

Yes, I'm one of the few music hoarders out there that lived through the golden age of the iPod, but that doesn't mean we're not excited about new technology, just as how we were excited when the iPod replaced the Discman and Walkman about a decade ago.

Today, the way we listen to digital music has expanded from physical storage space to the cloud, and streaming music from our smartphones is the way forward for many industries.

Unfortunately, there are no music streaming services that actually work in Brunei yet. I'm still waiting for Spotify to open up for Brunei.

Another issue is that streaming requires internet connection. Take that away and the music streaming player app is useless. The technology is still not mature, but we're getting there.

There are also other devices besides the iPod that I feel are best utilised as standalone devices.

The camera is a good case study: while the camera technology on smartphones continue to improve to provide better quality images, it still cannot beat the functionality and versatility of standalone digital cameras.

Sure, a lot of us really just want to take pictures and not worry about the technicalities and learning curve, and that's fine. Smartphone cameras are designed just for that; to make life easier for the rest of us.

But for the photography enthusiasts, the manual controls, physical dials and knobs, interchangeable and larger sensors are essential.

The smartphone may have already killed the digital point-and-shoot, but it won't replace the power and versatility of mirrorless cameras.

This is the main problem with smartphones. We use virtually apps that imitate the functionality of their physical counterparts, but there is less tactile and precision. All we do is tapping and swiping.

The fact that we use multiple apps for various tasks is also causing another problem; battery life. Standalone devices has this advantage whereby it conserves the energy from our smartphones.

With an iPod and digital camera at our disposal, that smartphone battery life can be saved for more useful things like taking emergency calls or play Flappy Bird to help kill time.