In an Era of ‘Smart’ Things, Sometimes Dumb Stuff Is Better

02-25 13:18
There are times an old-fashioned alarm clock may be a better choice than an Amazon Echo Spot. When you don’t want someone taking a picture of what you do in bed, for example. Credit From left: Nick Bilton/The New York Times; Ruth Fremson, via The New York Times

It still feels magical to light up your living room by saying “Alexa, turn on the lights.” But with all the hype surrounding so-called smart things — everyday devices that are connected to the internet — it’s easy to forget that sometimes the dumb stuff is just better.

Tech companies are adding internet connections to just about everything you can imagine so that they can be controlled with smart speakers or phones. Thermostats, surveillance cameras, mosquito zappers, coffee makers — you name it.

And smart devices are becoming more popular. In 2017, 15 percent of American households owned a home automation device, up from 10 percent in April 2016, according to NPD Group, a research firm.

But before we get carried away setting up the Wi-Fi connections on all our appliances, lights and fashion accessories, let me play Luddite for a second. Some of the most mundane devices are designed to accomplish a simple task extremely well — and in some cases they still execute those duties better than their high-tech brethren.


So let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the best dumb things. Here are my top picks.

A wristwatch vs. Apple Watch

The Apple Watch, by all measures, is a hit. The latest iteration of the Apple Watch , called Series 3, is fast, water-resistant and versatile with long battery life, making it a superb smart watch for tracking your fitness activity.

For telling time, a regular wristwatch is often superior to a smart watch. Credit From left: Maaserhit Honda for The New York Times; Jim Wilson, via The New York Times

Yet a normal wristwatch is still superior at one crucial task: Telling the time.

The Apple Watch’s screen wakes up when you tilt your wrist at an angle, which indicates you are trying to check the time. That helps conserve battery life. But any Apple Watch wearer is familiar with situations where this feature gets frustrating.

标签: AppleWatch
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