10 Amazingly Dumb Things We Do with Smartphones

Smartphones are getting smarter all the time, but the people using them aren’t necessarily doing so. Today, we have devices at our disposal that snap photos faster than you can blink, surf the Web at speeds that make your home broadband jealous and download apps that can do everything and anything. So why are we so dumb sometimes when it comes to using these powerful pocket-size computers? If you do any of these 10 things with your smartphone on a regular basis, you probably don’t deserve to own one.

Obsessively Take and Share Pictures of Food

Hey, look at this chocolate cream pie I made! And these kung pao chicken tacos! And don’t forget my blueberry limoncello cooler! I love food as much as the next guy — in fact, "Restaurant: Impossible" is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. But I just don’t get this obsession with taking photos of eats and sharing them with Facebook and Instagram friends. The only time I want to stare at pictures of food is right before I order it off of a menu.

Try to Settle Arguments via Texting

I don’t know when this happened, but at some point humans thought it was a good idea to text a loved one or friend with their anger or disappointment instead of actually talking to them. Yes, sending a text is easier, but you lose two very critical ingredients: context and tone. (No, emoticons don’t count as tone.) I’ve seen way too many seemingly innocuous exchanges devolve into digital shouting matches over a texting misunderstanding. Hey, you could always Skype video call to apologize so they know you mean it.

Use Your Smartphone as a Lighter at a Concert

The first time I saw thousands of people use their phones at a Coldplay concert as a lighter replacement I thought to myself, “That’s cute.” Five years later, I think it’s time to move on. Today, you can download all sorts of apps that look like real lighters, including a Zippo lighter that opens with a flick of your wrist and a turn of your thumb. How meta! I would rather you blow cigarette smoke in my face than witness this display of mass stupidity.

Take Too Many Selfies (Duck Face Included)

Part of me wishes that front-facing cameras on smartphones were never invented. That’s because way too many people feel the need to take self-portraits and share them with the world. “Look at me out with my friends drinking — again!” You know the type. For these people, the smartphone should be smart enough to cap how many selfies they take. Siri: “That’s enough, Jenny. They get it.” And while we’re on the subject, please avoid taking selfies with your duck face on. Even as an ironic gesture, it’s over.

Use Your Phone as a Boombox in a Public Space

Today’s smartphones can get pretty darn loud — the HTC One’s dual stereo speakers come to mind. In fact, a commercial for the phone has some hipsters rocking out to the device in the middle of a cafe (or bar, I can’t tell). The problem is that no human being should ever do that, unless your goal is to annoy everyone else around you.

I’ve seen lots of people in New York City use their smartphones as mini boomboxes, not realizing how disturbing it can be to others. Unless you’re John Cusack from "Say Anything," plug in headphones. Actually, him too.

Taking Calls or Incessantly Checking Phone in Elevator

Think about how long you typically spend on an elevator ride, even if there’s a few stops along the way. We’re talking 20, or maybe as many as 40, seconds. And yet, as a society, we’ve become so averse to eye contact and real human interaction that we’d rather stare at the same inbox or Facebook news feed that’s waiting for us five feet from the elevator door.

Worse, some of us make the horrible decision to continue a call as we get on the elevator, making the obligatory announcement that “I may lose you; I’m getting on an elevator.” I have a better idea. Wait!

Shooting Videos in Portrait Mode

I literally cringe every time I see someone shoot a smartphone video vertically instead of horizontally. “Don’t you know that your video is going to look cut off?” I say to myself. A lot of folks just don’t know any better, but there’s hope. A hilarious PSA video started circulating last summer from Laughing Squid that clearly illustrates the problem using puppets. Even if you know how to shoot video the right way, you need to watch this clip.

Use Apple Maps for the iPhone

As much as I appreciate finally having free turn-by-turn directions on the iPhone, Apple’s Maps app should not be your go-to choice. For starters, you need to use a third-party app to get public transit directions, like Waze or Google Maps. The app also still suffers from serious inaccuracies. When I searched for Brio Tuscan Grille in my hometown of Freehold, N.J., Apple Maps displayed a location on Route 9, while Google Maps accurately showed the restaurant in the area mall.

Here's another annoyance. Oftentimes Apple Maps doesn't know where you are. For instance, after searching 550 Fifth Avenue while in New York City, the first search result that appeared in a list was in River Edge, NJ. Unless you like starting at fancy 3D flyovers, I would stick to Google Maps until Apple can work out the kinks.

Smartphoning While Walking

Would you ever walk across a busy intersection with your head down if you didn’t have a smartphone in your hand? If you answered “no,” congratulations, you’re sane. So why is it OK to risk your life just to like your friend’s snarky comment about Gwyneth Paltrow’s see-through dress? Fortunately, some folks are working on litigating some common sense into your brain. Fort Lee, N.J., issued a ban against texting while cross the street, and Nevada has introduced a similar bill.

Keep Notification Volume on Full Blast All the Freakin’ Time

I totally feel you. You don’t want to miss that critical tweet about the latest “Man of Steel” trailer. But when you’re heading into an important meeting, the last thing your colleagues want to hear is “DROID” screaming from your phone or that damn Samsung whistle coming from your Galaxy. Do the world a favor and drill into your settings and do what needs to be done. Or I’m going to hunt you down and turn it off myself. Unless I’m using Apple Maps. Then you’re safe.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.