Now & Then-Smartphones: Our Masters Or Servants?

Adib Noh
5 min readFeb 3, 2022

Nowadays, no one leaves home without their smartphones. With Covid-19 Movement Control Order(MCO), everyone needs a face mask and a smartphone wherever they go. Such is the change we have to embrace due to changes in technology and public health hazards. The smartphone is the lifeline to our family, friends and business. If you can locate my phone, you will know where I am at any time of the day. That is a bit scary for our privacy but on the other hand, if I were to fall down walking alone, my smartphone will send an alert message to my son that I need help with the location attached. Telephone technology is only a tool. It depends on what we use it for.

On waking up in the morning, we check our phones and we do the same before we go to sleep. When husband and wife enter a restaurant, once they make their order, both of them will flip open their smartphones looking for the latest message. Both their eyes get stuck on their small screen until their orders arrive. No one talks to each other anymore. Sadly most of us prefer to interact with the small screen than the people sitting in front of us and around us. By right, we should be using that pocket of time to have a conversation with our family members and friends. The smartphones are clever enough to hijack our attention to some where else. Two years ago when I went back to my kampung(village) to visit my old and sick mother, she commented that I spent more time with my smartphone than with her! What a shame on me. At times, we get carried away with what we see on the smartphone and forget that we are with someone. Immediately I walked to my mother, asked her forgiveness and sat beside her. We had a great conversation between mother and son.

Like other tools, smartphones are very useful and effective tools to facilitate our personal and business life-especially during COVID-19 MCO. At the same time, it is very disruptive to traditional family and friends communication and relationships. The pros and cons always come in one package. We the users must be wise in using the tools appropriately at their proper places and times. Few men had used SMS to send divorce messages via their smartphones! Since two years ago, I started getting wedding invitations via WhatsApp messages from family members and friends. I belong to the old school. So when I don’t get a paper wedding card invitation, I choose not to attend the wedding. At my age, I feel grateful if I am not invited to attend the wedding!

I was lucky to witness the ICT development and growth of social media since the late ’90s. I got my Palm Pilot in 1998 and started learning to use it for data and voice communication. And later the growth of apps to facilitate communications. To learn the new toy, I formed a techy group called PalmX where I managed to gather about 20 similar-minded friends who love gadgets and enjoy tweaking electronics and software to do what we want to do where apps were not invented yet. Twenty years ago, we must know some techy stuff to get certain apps to work on our gadgets. Our phone back then was clever but not smart enough to operate like the present iPhone and Android OS phones by Samsung and Huawei. Back then we had fun muddling through the technology. Now, everything is just like a buffet. Just walk and pick up what you like and use them. Back then, we had to get the right recipe and cook ourselves.

Facebook came in 2007 and was followed by others. Now, we are on Facebook everyday-sharing photo, sound, video and text at the speed of how fast our fingers can touch the keyboard. Social media has gone mainstream. Malaysia government is using Telegram to inform the public on the COVID-19 status as well as the broadcasting of Ministry Of Health policies, statements and SOPs. Almost all Malaysians have smartphones and we now use them to order our lunch and dinner using Food Panda or Grab Food. The online business is a RM20 billion business in Malaysia. MCO has changed how and what we buy.

Gone were the days when telephones were making calls only. It is armed to the teeth with apps and software. It is in fact a very powerful microcomputer in my pocket. The most popular and have many users is the camera built inside the phone. Apple sells its iPhone telling customers that its iPhone is a good camera! Now, everyone can take photos but not everyone can be a photographer. Some camera phone brands can take better images than an ordinary compact camera. The usage of these smartphones is only limited by your imagination. I have seen the supervisor in charge of sweepers taking photos of the workers and work done by them and sending a report to their office.

One negative part of smartphones is we talk more with our fingers than with our mouths! The mouth is only for eating and drinking. Live personal communication is getting less and less in public spaces and more and more people prefer to send SMS and WhatsApp messages. What is worse is seeing parents talking less to their kids because they are busy and use their smartphones to send messages to their kids. A phone call is a better alternative if the parents don’t have time to talk in person to their kids.

As an avid photographer, a smartphone is a good alternative whenever I don’t have my camera with me. I am using Note10Lite and it is better than the normal compact camera. Surprisingly, a few of my good photos were captured using my smartphones. However, when it comes to real serious photography, I will be using my Fujifilm XT20 with zoom and prime lens.

When Waze was invented I started using it for navigation. People questioned me back then why I use Waze even though I know the route to my destination. Later, they discover on their own the benefits-to be informed about durations, accidents, police presence on their route. Now everyone is using Waze or Google Maps.

Smartphones are very powerful for business communication because you can talk, send messages, photos and videos. Nowadays, you can trade shares on the KLSE just by using an app on your smartphone.

On the go, my smartphone is also a radio to listen to news, music and podcasts. With all these contents available, no one will leave home without their smartphones. That is the power of smartphones that have changed the lives of many-the rich and the poor.



Adib Noh

Project & Business Consultant/Coach with more than 30 years of experience. I am an engineer,entrepreneur,writer and enjoy cycling and photography.