place for a picture

Egregiously mobile

19.07.23

Since Spring 2020, I am not using a smartphone (well, mostly - I do turn it on for trips, but these don't happen that often). During that time, I was getting massive overloads from online school and thus went full luddite outside of school hours (also the same spring I got the habit of shifting the hard work to the morning and spending the entire evening on long walks, which is the best way to live imo).

Now I see that I made the right choice. Not only because phones are much harder to make private and fully control (though this also plays a huge part), but mostly because I feel much better when Internet stays separated from real life. And because the experience on a small screen objectively sucks. Seems like it's becoming a trend among my generation, either - though nowhere near big enough to be truly impactful.

And then some companies decide to say "fuck you" to users like me. Sometimes this is bypassable by using Android-x86, Waydroid or similar solutions, sometimes absolutely not. It really doesn't matter that much. What matters is the attitude of "We expect all our users to carry spyphones!" So now I'll list a few examples of how this trend impacts me.

First would be the one I have to deal with the most: Steam. They demand a mobile authenticator confirmation for trading. ANY trading. Even for an inventory like mine, which is worth less than a dollar. Good thing it runs just fine in a VM. But again - what matters is the attitude. Solution? For example, they could've given you an option to confirm each trade with a TOTP code of your choice, like KeepassXC.

Second happened a year ago and is especially notable given that it's a government project. (Note: I would have been much more opposed to it if I weren't already using that bank for other purposes, so no new data was lost). Pushkin Card is a program for teens/young adults where they are given money to spend on theaters, museums and so on. You can get it three ways: by getting a physical one (which is what I did), obtaining the credentials for a virtual one on the bank's website or downloading a dedicated app. Of course I am joking, it's only the physical card or the app. The app does literally NOTHING that a website could not do and could be deleted immediately after getting the necessary credentials. The single benefit over a website would only be provided if the phone had an NFC chip - and if I am not mistaken, NFC only became really omnipresent a few years ago. No one from my family, for example, has NFC in their cheap-to-medium priced phones.

A third example is, I'd say, outright malicious.

Podorozhnik - the most common transport card, not pictured here - is not tied to an ID and can be filled with cash. The ones described here - "Mir" and "Karta Peterburzhtsa" - are bank cards, so tied to an identity. And the cheapest options are... The same bank cards tied not only to your ID, but also to tons of other juicy data like your location history! Though I can hardly call it "cheapest" - the poster does not include a price of "upgrading" to an NFC-capable smartphone.

A bit unrelated, but... I really don't get the whole "phones are more convenient than cards" trend, even putting aside my disdain for cashless payment in general. How is " unlock -> open the app -> choose card -> tap the card" more convenient than "take out the card -> tap it"? It is also worth mentioning that one of my banks has a payment system that needs the bank's app to be activated: it's not prevalent now, but still a worrying trend nonetheless.

I have seen people complaining about menus being digital. I have only experienced this once, but this was outrageous enough for a mention. It was not a menu on a website. Not even a menu on Instagram. No. The restaurant outright wanted people to download their app to make an order. Until you say "I don't have a smartphone" or outright say you refuse to install, they do not mention that the menu can be browsed on an iPad on the secondary counter. And from what I've seen around the restaurant, more than a few people actually let the app onto their personal devices. I left the restaurant without making an order, but instead with a weird story, which is arguably better.

One can go on and on about this topic: phone-only social media (which are evil anyway), e-scooter rentals (which are prohibitively expensive), apparently sometimes even parking payment... I only mentioned those that impacted me personally, but there's so much more.

Moral of the story: be the cool kid, ditch your smartphone now before it's too late :)