Remember the days when the most important selling point of a new Apple gadget was that it was smaller and lighter than a nearly identical product from a competing company? Well it seems like those days are far behind us. Rather than focusing on size, tech companies are now engaging in a digital arms race to spew out a product with as many universal controls as possible. You forgot to turn your thermostat down before going on vacation? Not a problem, just hit a button on your smartphone and it virtually connects to your home thermostat. Concerned about your health? Just snap on a simple wristband that tracks everything from your sleep quality to the number of calories you’re burning and then automatically transmits the info to an app on your smartphone. Pretty convenient, right?
While many people are celebrating the digitization of real life, those of us who are less technologically inclined may feel left behind. The problem with running your life through universal apps, remotes, and controls is that many products on the market now have been subject to their own technological developments. Each brand of coffee maker has been customized specifically to stand out from other coffee maker brands, for example, and using a universal switch to control your particular coffee maker may limit the amount of features you can use. And let’s not even get started on TV remotes– nearly everyone has experienced the paralyzing confusion of getting a new remote and spending two hours trying to figure out what all the buttons mean just to determine that at least half the buttons aren’t even capable with your TV.
An even simpler argument against universal control apps is simply not wanting to have your entire life controlled by one piece of technology. There is nothing wrong with keeping your life simple and organic, and not wanting to use a universal remote doesn’t mean that you belong back in the 1950s. As new smartphone and tablet companies race to make their products more user-friendly, maybe we should keep in mind that sometimes the most effective way to accomplish tasks is through real-life interaction.