It’s difficult to envision a time when students weren’t reachable on the go, when there was no such thing as texting in class, and when every dorm room had a landline that people actually used.
But only in the past decade have cell phones become ubiquitous on college campuses, and only even more recently have students been able to check their e-mail, IM their friends and browse the Web on their way from class to class.
Phones called smartphones have the capability to handle calls and Web browsing and manage e-mail, and their devotees tend to be divided into two camps — fans of Apple’s iPhone (a close cousin of the iPod) and fans of Research in Motion’s (RIM) Blackberry.
Despite differing appearances — the most notable difference being the Blackberry’s solid-state keyboard versus the iPhone’s touch-screen — both devices perform largely the same functions. Still, among the smartphone-using community, the rift is strong.
Blackberry devotee and Tufts junior Julia Carlson is particularly partial to her own device. She says the Blackberry is useful “just as a phone for calling people and text messaging. The added bonus is these really nice features: chat, Facebook, etc.”
Freshman iPhone user Amy Calfas prefers her device, noting its expandability and plethora of functions.
“I originally bought my iPhone because it automatically provides you with three services all at once — it’s a phone, an iPod, and an Internet device,” she said. “Unlike the Blackberry, it can sync up with my Mac using MobileMe, and because it is also an iPod, I can sync up to iTunes more easily.”
Both users agree on one thing, though: They are all-in-all more efficient now that they always have a computer in their pockets.
On the Tufts campus, where students are often highly involved in extracurricular activities, smartphone owners use their devices to keep track of busy schedules and make the most of free time.
“Although it can be distracting at times, I think ultimately the iPhone does make me more productive in many ways,” Calfas said. “It’s nice to have everything I need in one place so I can find whatever information I need and continue my day.”
New smartphone applications come in handy, too, filling in where e-mail and other standard Web sites sometimes cannot. CourseSmart, an electronic textbook supplier, has come out with an application that draws on a library of 7,000 college textbooks. Users can look up chemistry textbook diagrams on their iPhones, zooming in and scrolling around on the images. Pearson Higher Education launched an algebra tutorial application with mini tests and math lessons.
Students can also use their iPhones to buy textbooks online. BIGWORDS.com, a book-shopping Web site, offers an app that offers price comparisons of particular books from various online sellers and calculates shipping costs and discount offers.
BlackBerrys, too, have a number of student-friendly applications. An application called Cram allows users to create, import and take mini quizzes on subjects from math to foreign languages. Other applications include advanced calculators and unit converters, as well as a dictionary.
But smartphones are not only for workaholics. Both the iPhone and BlackBerry offer Facebook applications for when students need a little break from studying. With their phones offering so much, students sometimes find it difficult to tear themselves away.
Some students are bothered by this tendency among smartphone users, and for them, a typical cell phone serves their needs well. Senior Kevin Terhorst finds smartphones’ added cost of service unnecessary. He also feels that the ubiquity of laptops and desktop computers on college campuses makes the ownership of smartphone devices seem frivolous.
“I normally have sufficient access to computers,” he said.
Carlson said she has to turn the phone off before bed so that it does not invade this part of her private time.
“At night, I turn my phone off so I’m not listening to it vibrate and beep,” she said.