Walk anywhere within a 3-mile radius of the PCWorld office, and you'll find legions of new-economy hipsters with smartphones surgically implanted in their hands. But they're not talking on their phones. They're checking Facebook. They're posting to Twitter. They're making connections on LinkedIn. And a few of the more, well, eccentric souls may even be doing something on Google+.
But all these people are also making grave, grave mistakes. For, despite everything you've heard, the ultimate social media experience will never be found on a smartphone. No, it's waiting for you on your desktop PC.
Forget all the conventional wisdom about phones being tailor-made for social media consumption and broadcasting. Desk-bound computers are better--and not just because they protect us from posting inane real-time updates like "Eggs Benedict! Yum!" Our lives were not meant to be virtualized and crammed into the restrictive confinements of a little 4- or 5-inch screen. No, social media is best savored on a PC, where it's more productive, user-friendly, and fun.
Is this thing on?
Social media smartphone apps seems to be in perpetual beta--thus explaining why they crash so many times right in the middle of a critical maneuver. Granted, it's a first-world problem, but it's also a crappy user experience no matter how you cut it. If you run those same social media services on your desktop browser, however, you're much less likely to suffer the heartbreak of a mid-status-update disaster.
Desktop browser interfaces are generally more stable, and have near limitless memory to run their code. And this ensures not only that your social media experience continues uninterrupted, but that all your other fun activities continue apace. Mobile apps, meanwhile, are resource hogs and can drain what little memory and CPU cycles your smartphone has to offer. Scroll through that Facebook app, and everything begins to stutter--oftentimes taking down background tasks (music, navigation, a phone call) in the process.
But perhaps the biggest challenge to a good user experience is data delivery. Barring a freak broadband service outage, desktop PCs are always connected to the Internet. Your smartphone--not so much. It may be connected to Wi-Fi. It may be connected to 3G. You may have just posted something. Or maybe not. Sometimes you're online, but sometimes you're out of range.
The ugly side of social networking
Phones offer very little room for an expansive and clean user interface. Buttons are smothered for space, and there's just too much social networking to fit into those teeny, tiny screens. Indeed, when you only have enough room to see four tweets at a time, scrolling becomes a chore.
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