7 Household Items Our Smartphones Replaced That Maybe They Shouldn’t Have

Bertel King 14-01-2015

Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes from looking at the same screen all day? Are your friends and family complaining about you always being distracted? Is your phone the first and last thing you check every day?


These days we spend more of our time staring at our smartphones and tablets than ever, and that’s because they have replaced an increasing number of household products over the years. Here are some that maybe, just maybe, you might want to start using again.

Alarm Clocks


Many of us started using our mobile phones as our primary alarm clocks the moment we got our hands on one. After all, this is a feature that’s been included long before cell phones became “smart.” Doing so has its advantages, such as setting a ton of alarms (I want to be up at 7, so here’s one for 6:00, 6:30, 6:40, and 6:55), having them with you wherever you go (great for workers who travel), and waking up to something other than a blaring beep Better Ways to Wake Up: Unique Alarm Clock Apps for Android Wake up! Isn't it great when someone shakes you up in the morning and makes absolutely sure you’re up? If you’re a serial snoozer like me, you know all about stretching your alarm from five... Read More .

But most of us are waking up at around the same time and place day after day. And considering how quickly smartphones drain, if they’re not plugged in, they may not make it until morning. By investing in a separate alarm clock, you can still get up on time in the morning and manage to do so without making the phone the first thing you interact with. You can even get one with a backup battery, so that you’re still awoken on time if the power happens to flicker overnight.

And while you’re picking out that alarm clock, keep in mind what else it can do…




You may have grown accustomed to only using a traditional radio inside of a car, but standalone ones are still a thing, and they don’t all look like this anymore.

Radios are not hard to find, and some modern ones don’t require an old-fashioned antenna to pick up reception. For people who predominantly listen to local stations while at home, it may be an investment worth considering.

Sure, you can stream radio stations over the Internet with apps like TuneIn, which gives you access regardless of how far away you are from a tower Enjoy Podcasts, Music, Talk & Sport On Windows Phone With TuneIn Radio Aware that I should probably listen to the occasional contemporary sound, I became a convert to the BBC's 6 Music channel, which plays an astounding mix of great tunes from the 1950's to the 2010's.... Read More , but there’s a downside to doing so. Online streams may sound live, but they can get delayed due to initial load times and buffering. This isn’t usually a big deal, but when the station tells you what time it is, you might want to double-check, or have a standard radio around to serve as the final word. And a battery-powered one is still a great thing to have around in case of an emergency.




I know, many of you probably (perhaps even begrudgingly) just transitioned over to reading e-books A Beginner's Guide to Setting Up an Ebook Library on iPads The recently announced iPad mini, along with similar digital tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 make for nearly perfect e-reading devices. From the near paper-like reading to the easy download and archiving of... Read More , and you’ve been consuming more novels The Rise Of e-Reading [INFOGRAPHIC] I have a nice paper book collection in my office of 800 titles (and counting), but part of me wonders if, in 50 years or so, that library will be a rare endangered collection. With... Read More because of it. I understand. I started reading books exclusively on electronic devices several years ago, and I’ve loved the convenience of it.

But hear me out here. Physical books still maintain a number of advantages, and encouraging you to put down your phone is one of them. It’s great to cuddle up with a good book in the evening after work, but if you’re reading it on your smartphone, that’s several more hours spent looking at the same device you’ve already been glued to for much of the day. Picking up a paperback lets you perform the same task while taking a break from your phone, and you’re less likely to get distracted in the process.

If your entire library must be digital, consider using a dedicated e-reader instead What's the Difference Between E-Readers and Tablets? E-readers and tablets are not the same thing. Here's what you need to know about their differences. Read More . It’s better for your eyes, you still put your phone down, and you project a completely different demeanor to others when you’re seen reading a Nook or Kindle versus being just another person buried in their phone.


Magazines & Newspapers


You might think the case for physical magazines and newspapers is the same as the one for books, but there are a few significant differences. For one, the digital selection isn’t quite as thorough with magazines and newspapers as it is for books, so while you may be able to purchase all of the same tomes on your bookshelf in a digital format, switching to a phone or tablet can mean giving up on a bunch of smaller, local publications that don’t publish each issue online somewhere.

If you don’t live in a major metropolitan area, you might be surprised just how much is going on where you live if you don’t pick up the local publications. They paint a detailed picture of an area that mobile news apps just don’t do.

It’s worth mentioning that much of this content is still available on websites, even if you can’t necessarily buy a digitized version of each issue Top 5 Best Android Apps For Reading Magazines For reading magazines on your Android tablet or phone, you will want these apps. Read More . But online articles are covered with links and surrounded by any number of distractions that you’re less likely to get burdened down with by picking up a paper or magazine while eating a sandwich at the kitchen table.


This may sound old-fashioned, but it can be liberating to take a task that’s become so associated with mobile devices, such as reading the news, and being able to do it without draining your battery and staring at the same old screen.

Games & Consoles


There are no shortage of ways to get glued to a smartphone or tablet, but the sheer volume of free games makes it especially easy to get sucked in for hours. Yet while this may be one of the most talked about trends in gaming at the moment, it’s far from the only type on the rise.

Board games are making a comeback in a big way. While the name used to draw up thoughts of say Monopoly, Candy Land, and Sorry!,things have changed. Board games like Pandemic, Eldrich Horror, and Eclipse can be even more fun played with adults over a beer than with young children. And when it comes to card games, there’s everything from the extremely irreverent Cards Against Humanity to the comic book-inspired Sentinels of the Multiverse. Even if you can find a digital version of some of these, it’s a good time right now to put the screen down and get together with some friends.

As for video games, it’s still worth holding on to your dedicated machine. Console games offer a deeper experience than most mobile software out there, and they probably will for quite a while to come. Not only that, they allow for more social interaction with the people around you than tapping at a smartphone (which has become recognized around the world as a signal for “leave me alone”). Even if you’re playing a single-player game, there’s still something social about a friend being able to pull up a chair and watch.

And while this may sound funny to gamers who grew up under parents telling them it’s not healthy to stare at a TV all day, looking at the big screen can be a nice break from holding a smaller one much closer to your eyes.

What Items Have You Replaced With Your Phone?

Do you still lug around a digital camera? Probably not. Phones have made it easy to capture life’s moments without having to haul an extra bit of equipment around, and the few moments it takes to snap a shot don’t add up to spending all that much more time with your phone. Nor does opening up a calculator app, using navigation software in place of a dedicated GPS, or listening to locally saved music instead of carrying around an MP3 player. You won’t see me switching back to a flip phone anytime soon.

It’s okay to let our phones replace things, as long as it’s not everything. Phones, like all things in life, should be enjoyed in moderation. If your phone isn’t able to keep its screen on long enough for you to get from one charge to another, getting a model with a bigger battery might not be the only solution worth considering. The thing probably needs a break, and you might too.

Image Credit: Electrohome alarm clock (Amazon), Sentinels of the Multiverse expansion (Amazon), morgueFile

Related topics: Habits, Technology.

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  1. dragonmouth
    January 17, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    I'm surprised no one so far mentioned streaming TV on their smartphones.

  2. John Williams
    January 16, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    When one returns from work, one should turn one's telephone off and put it on charge. Then one can switch on one's personal telephone for the evening, before charging it overnight in the hallway.
    One's alarm clock should tick ..... and have a bell.

    One should also use one's fountain pen once in a while. To keep one's hand in, so to speak.

  3. Sandi
    January 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I love reading books in the old-fashioned way. For anyone who is bothered by severe headaches or migraines reading on an electronic device can be a trigger for a lot of pain. Other than that I love my smart phone. I set my traditional alarm clock and my alarm on my phone because I hate mornings!!

  4. Bill
    January 16, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    - Two Kindle Fire HDs for alarm clocks (main and back-up--G4 and G3 respectively)
    -SurfacePro 3 to replace friggin' near everything...

  5. Ashay Kadam
    January 16, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I dont use conventional torch now... I use "Flashlight" app in its place... which uses either my screen illumination or camera flash...:-)

    I have stopped using my laptop also... my smartphone can do all those tasks much better, faster & anywhere...

    No wall calendars anymore...
    No traditional calculators / scientific calculators anymore... use "Panecal" app...
    No physical card holder... use "CamCard" app...

    Frankly speaking... smartphones have changed d way I live...

  6. Ashay Kadam
    January 16, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I dont use conventional torch now... I use "Flashlight" app in its place... which uses either my screen illumination or camera flash...:-)

    I have stopped using my laptop also... my smartphone can do all those tasks much better, faster & anywhere...

    No wall calendars anymore...
    No traditional calculators / scientific calculators anymore... use "Panecal" app...
    No physical card holder... use "CamCard" app...

    Frankly speaking... smartphones have changed d way I live...

  7. Ashay Kadam
    January 16, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I dont use conventional torch now... I use "Flashlight" app in its place... which uses either my screen illumination or camera flash...:-)

    I have stopped using my laptop also... my smartphone can do all those tasks much better, faster & anywhere...

    No wall calendars anymore...
    No traditional calculators / scientific calculators anymore... use "Panecal" app...
    No physical card holder... use "CamCard" app...

    Frankly speaking... smartphones have changed d way I live...

  8. Sledge Tiberius Sparrow
    January 15, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Video game consoles? In 2015? Maybe if you're some kind of idiot.

  9. Chris Dickinson
    January 15, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Not good writing Bertel, the advance in technology & the convenience it brings will change our behaviour. You describe some of our behaviour as if it is bad or poorly conceived when really new technology demands changes in the way we use it & it takes us humans a while to get it right.
    I'm tempted to label you " captain obvious" I'm disappointed in Makeuseof publishing something as mundane as this article. You usually do much better.

  10. Brian D
    January 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I also use my phone as my media backup drive, in addition to playing the music to a half dozen bluetooth speaker systems in my home and my car. Well, at least as one of my backups. I try to keep two backups of my 86gb mp3 collection.

    My Galaxy Note 2 with a 128gb microSD card makes a slow but very useful storage drive.

    Its also my PDA with direct syncing to my PC"s with pimlical.....avoiding the cloud.

  11. Jaishankar
    January 15, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Apart from the mentioned are mine

    1.GPS navigator
    4.Scribble pad
    6.MP3 player
    8.Printed pocket calendar

  12. epiquestions
    January 15, 2015 at 2:41 am

    books and magz are essentially the same.

    Smartphones did not replace books and magz or games and consoles or even radios. It just provided an alternative. Replaced is the wrong word.

    • Brian D
      January 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      Access to internet radio has killed shortwave radio. And I miss it.

    • jazzphotog
      January 16, 2015 at 1:34 am are so very correct. An ereader can be convenient, but nothing replaces the wonderful tactile feel of good paper. Nor the appearance of printed photos/drawings. As for a radio...not even close. OK only if you plug the thing into your ears. I prefer my good speaker system.
      Never play games, so I have no comment there.

  13. Illy
    January 14, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    What's the point if you already have a device that you've paid a decent amount of money for that does all those things you're suggesting? I use my phone for all the things on stated in the article bar reading books since I'm an English literature student and doesn't make me any less of a person because I use my phone to set my alarm?

  14. Darl
    January 14, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    +1! :)
    I disagree with many of the points raised in this article.
    While an e-reader may have great battery life, I'm not going to carry an extra gadget with me *just* to read. I've been reading e-books since my OMP (the first Newton) and whilst I love stories, could never understand the attraction of a piece of dead tree over an always-with-you, self-backlit, read-anywhere-except-underwater device.

    My phone charges by my bed overnight - and its case has a built-in stand. What additional benefit does a stand-alone alarm clock provide?

    I'm not much of a newspaper person, although I do agree about the "neighbourhood" publications.
    My wife, OTOH gets 4 papers a day - all electronically because she can easily read them in bed and take them with her to work.
    To be fair, she uses a tablet vs a phone, but then she carries a handbag...

    Magazines: one important fact wasn't covered: cost.
    I buy my subscriptions on Zinio when on special, and pay ~30% of the (NZ$) cover price. As a bonus, I get the issues up to 6 weeks before they appear on the newstands here (to be fair, most of that is due to the time spent in Sea Freight to New Zealand).

    Radio and Gaming - yes, agree with the points raised.
    In these (as in many other use-scenarios), a phone or tablet is a swiss-army-knife: it _can_ perform a function, but is useful mainly because it can do it and you have it with you, not because its as good as a purpose-designed tool. So yes, there are times when purpose-designed items perform a task better.

    However - it seems to me your last paragraph focuses too much on the device, not enough on the function.
    If I'm going to read a book, use a calcuator, head due north, listen to music or pick up some groceries, what matters to me is the function, not the form. That they all occur on the same device is a benefit, not a hindrance.

    Key additional functions my phone performs/replaces:
    Shazam. Lets see a radio do that!
    Shopping list replacement: Our Groceries
    Voice recorder.
    Sometime laptop replacement via TeamViewer

    • feelbert
      January 16, 2015 at 3:29 pm


      • Mihir Patkar
        January 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

        "On the other hand" :)

  15. Martin (Chaim) Berlove
    January 14, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    As someone who just got their first smartphone this summer, I can verify how much that little device has replaced in my life.

    And yet, it's rarely as good at any one thing as those original things were -- and that's why this article is dead on target.

    Reading a book is actually painful on a phone, especially if you're reading for an extended period. Gaming, for someone with large hands, is practically impossible on a smaller phone, and definitely not as fun (or as social) as a console. And my phone's alarm clock has failed to wake me so many times that I've just given up on it.

    That being said, I love my phone! I do so much on it. But it can never replace some really good single-purpose objects that do what they do really, really well.

    Finally, I am a huge fan of this quote from the article:
    " project a completely different demeanor to others...reading a Nook or Kindle versus being just another person buried in their phone."

    Amazing how even switching between two fairly similar devices can make such an impression!

  16. Brodie Krause
    January 14, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Alarm clock... check.
    Daily Planner... check.
    TV Remote... check.
    Flashlight... check.
    Notepad... check.
    Guitar Tuner... check.
    And in many ways, my laptop... check.

    The more I can use my Note 4 for, the better.

  17. Dmitry
    January 14, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Actualy there's some pros for supplementing or replacing larm clock with phone - sleep trackers like SleepAsAndroid. IIRC similar stndalone gadget was around $200,a bit expensive for just trying.
    Yet really important mixed blessing is PIM functions - while huge paper daily planners rightfully succumbed to PDAs/phones , there is somethig unnerving how different _our_ approch to notes and contacts changed when we switched to digital - some became hoarders, some purge anything not needed immediately, all are dumbfounded moment battery dies. ...Recently i've found my 20 y.o. phonebook - while most numbers are obsolete, there are NAMES i've unintentionally forget.

  18. Khai
    January 14, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    yup I use a phone for my alarm clock.... but not a smart one.
    it's an old "candybar" dumb phone.. that I get 7 days to the charge on... best alarm clock I've ever had :D

  19. Davin Peterson
    January 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    When we say Smartphone, we don't mean iPhone. It can be any Android or Windows phone. So, don't show a picture of an iPhone.

    Another problem with streaming radio is that it uses allot of battery and requires you to be connected online whereas an FM Turner does not.

  20. BrentC
    January 14, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Your comments resonate with me to a certain degree; however . . . .

    I can remember when it was inconceivable to me that I could use the same device for voice calls and email, calendar, notes, etc. How would I ever refer to my calendar while talking on the phone to set up a meeting? That, of course, ignored the possibility that multi-tasking mobile devices and bluetooth headsets would come along!

    Never say never.

  21. Jon
    January 14, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I replaced my alarm clock back in 1995 when I got my first Newton. And then I transferred that to my Palm Tungsten, then Treo--my first smart phone. I find using my phone much more flexible than any stand-alone phone. Starting with my Tungsten, I've pretty much plugged in every night anyway, and so it's no big deal, IMO, regarding battery life.