Technology Use as a Function of Device Type

I’m frustrated! Being a Technophile poses several problems that seem to go unaddressed by leaders of the “Big Tech” firms. As the big firms such as Apple, Google and Samsung continue to develop impressively beautiful, technologically capable, faster and yes, addictive technologies, consumers are left with solving a very complex problem. That is, “how does one optimize the use and efficacy of their technology devices?” To answer this question, I must share with you that I have yet to solve the problem. However, my use of my desktop, laptop, surface book, iPad, smartphone and smartwatch continues to evolve. The question is “How can I best optimize the use of these various technologies?”

To begin to respond to this question, one has to establish a few premises. First, I am device brand agnostic. I have equal numbers of iOS devices as I do Windows 10 devices and Android devices. I’m certain that this is a result of my background in the Technology industry. I spent quite a few years on Unix platforms as a developer with major firms in Colorado’s technology corridor. In addition to this, my first personal computer was the Commodore Vic 20. This computer inspired me to begin writing code and emulating games such as Space Invaders and Missile Command while in high school. Many years later, I continue to rely on technology to perform tasks for my job, personal business, hobbies and research in mathematics. In fact, there are very few times that I can now state with confidence, that access to a desktop, laptop, iPad, or phone wouldn’t make the task or experience better. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to the aforementioned devices as the acronym DLIP.

I’d like to start by stating that the development of computing technology was anchored in a manner that reflected the problem-solving nature resulting in a move away from dedicated computers in dedicated rooms to becoming portable devices. Because of this, we begin with the desktop.


Though many believe that they are well on their way to extinction, desktop computers are still widely used in home offices and businesses as a standard machine for accomplishing a wide variety of tasks. From the graphics demands associated with gaming to surfing the web, these machines have the added advantage of being connected via ethernet and the ability to have connections to large monitors.

In addition to the aforementioned advantages, connectivity to a single large monitor or multi-monitors makes multi-tasking a viable option on desktops. Applications such as Logic Pro and Adobe Premiere take full advantage of the screen real estate. I can also personally attest to the wonderful experience of writing and editing documents that are side-by-side while still having room for surfing the web or monitoring social media. Desktops are also great for gaming and for tasks that require significant computing power. I often rely on my desktop to test algorithms of various kinds, ranging from machine learning to root-finding methods for large-scale systems.

Finally, desktops are the best solution for building a rig that is scalable. If your budget would allow, expect to spend anywhere from $600–$1500 for a good-quality system with a great amount of potential for upgrade modifications in the future.


These devices continue to blur the lines between traditional desktops and the mobility of portable devices. Laptops usually range in size from 13 inches and 2.1 lbs. to the 21 inch, 17.6 lbs. clamshell monstrosity known as the Acer Predator 21x. The laptop was originally designed to allow for computing on-the-go. Having a 17.6 lb laptop just means that you will go slowly. Nonetheless, laptops are a great option for those who like to change their environment while maintaining their ability to complete complex tasks with a computer. As with size and weight, the capacity of laptops to perform complex and computationally complex task varies widely by manufacturer. Having a full-size keyboard for writing makes a laptop ideal for responding to emails or authoring a variety of documents and/or presentations. For a fine balance of computational capability and mobility, Microsoft’s 15” Surface Book 2 with a 1060 GPU hits the mark without compromising on size and weight.

Mobility may be a significant benefit, however, because of the smaller screen size, a split-screen view is ideal on the larger 15.4 inches. Though for smaller 13.3 inch screens, text is still legible, the posture of the operator is compromised. In the case of the four-screen split-screen option of Windows 10, it’s quite a challenge to justify its effective use other than a single side panel along with two corner panels for monitoring low impact, monitoring tasks or consoles.

2-in-one Hybrids

Surface Pro devices are dominating this category. These devices are best described as more of a laptop than a tablet. As such, their battery power with normal usage ranges from 6–12 hours. However, for tasks that tax the cpu, an average of four hours is still achieved. Screen sizes vary from to 10-12.3 inches. You also have the option of the 1T SSD configuration. These devices were originally designed to compete in the iPad-dominated tablet market. Originally, their value-add was anchored in an exclusive tablet experience with a digital pen. This one technology shifted the tablet market to include inking as a standard feature with the option to purchase a digital pen or pencil.

Again, these devices can be taken and used anywhere for multiple hours. Their cameras are typically not up to the quality levels as modern smartphones such as the iPhones X, Xs, XR or Galaxy S10s. However, having the option to detach the screen and use it as a tablet is a clear added advantage. In particular, if you have a need to edit a document or to review presentations and provide feedback, there is no better tactile workflow that comes close to the experience. However, Microsoft has work to do in improving 3rd-party editing software by imposing standards for inking. For example, when editing documents in the Learning Management System (LMS) Canvas, the experience is clunky and quickly begins to impede the process of effectively commenting on a piece of work.

If you are interested in using these devices for surfing the web or responding to email, stick with the i5 models. However, if you have a need for running algorithms while using these devices, spend the extra money on a quad core, i7 configuration. These devices range in price from: $399 .00— $2300.00 depending on configuration.


The Apple iPad continues to dominate this market. Recent moves by apple to release the 11” and 12.9” Pro models along with updates to the 7.9” iPad Mini and 10.5” iPad Air indicate that Apple has no intention on giving up market share. So, what’s the draw? Simply stated, the User interface and battery-life justify the demand. As a device for consuming media, nothing comes close. In addition, the App Store continues to provide tablet software that, for the most part, leveraged the size, power and design of these devices. This is a topic with which the Android operating system and Play Store still continues to struggle. The user interface changes from manufacturer to manufacturer when using the same app. This is simply unacceptable in today’s tablet market.

As mobile devices, tablets are very attractive for their size, portability and battery life. On average, iPads are getting anywhere from 7–12 hours of battery life, consistently. Of course, with the new A12 Bionic chips and dedicated graphics chips, these usage times may vary depending on the tasks. Along with the Apple Pencil, these devices are now beginning to rival the performance of gaming machines and desktops. However, there is still much to be desired with regard to developers porting their desktop-level software to work on these machines. Adobe has stepped forward to be one of the first companies to port their desktop-class software Photoshop to the iPad Pro.

The cameras on the iPad Pro use the same larger sensor on the iPhone. What this does is change the game for tablets as photo and video recording devices. Add to this, the myriad of apps available for creating music, art and writing and you have a mobile device that creatives can leverage in a secure manner. These devices range from $399.00 — $2499.00 depending on size and configuration.


This category is the most personal and intimate of technologies on this list. It’s no surprise then that smartphone shipments worldwide are projected to be around 1.7 billion units in 2020. Smartphones have continued to spawn a variety of new products such as EarPods, PopSockets, cases, camera attachments, gimbals, etc. No other device gives users a convenient access to every aspect of the web on-the-go. The device strength lies primarily in access to quick consumption in the form of articles, text messages, news, social media, music, email and yes, communication via telephone. In addition, the camera capabilities continue to improve at an alarming rate. As a result, cameras now have abilities that were previously reserved for high-end SLRs, bokeh being one example.

That being said, there are limitations to these devices. Screen sizes range from Palm’s 3.3 inches to Galaxy S10’s 6.5 inches. If a task requires creation beyond responding to texts, emails or social media, a larger screen would be more manageable. Now that Microsoft and Apple have created companion apps for their phones and tablets, responding to text messages, emails and even phone calls can occur on either device type.

When it comes to cost, smartphones range from below $30.00 to $1500.00 depending on features, memory and manufacturer.


Smartwatches have become the go-to device for monitoring your health and activities. Though they are also great for a quick check of notifications, their value lies in the data that they collect. Any device that can reveal trends in my behavior or inform me of how my body is responding to various activities is important and invaluable. The Apple Watch 4’s new EKG feature goes a step further in detecting atrial fibrillation. Several stories indicate that this feature, though only a single point of contact, still provides valuable life-saving information. Beyond these features, smartwatches are difficult to use due to their screen sizes ranging from 36 mm to 44 mm.

Prices range from $80-$799.00 depending on features and accuracy of measurements from associated sensors. The Apple watches tend to be on the high end of this range and have a battery life of about 2 days. On the other end of the range you can find the Amazfit Bip which has basic functionality, including constant heart rate monitoring with a battery life of 30–45 days.


In summary, if you’d like to optimize your productivity based on device type, take care in identifying your task first, then the device at hand. Outlined below is a chart that I created based on my usage. Staying in the green zones optimizes my usage as a function of device type. Research is referring to computational math research. The green regions represent the optimal zones of usage based on device type. The red regions represent those activities that can be performed on the device type but is either overkill or a stretch for the given task. Finally, the yellow regions represent tasks that can be performed but is not optimal. Note that “dd” signifies device-dependent.

Originally posted here

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