The smart phone friend or foe?

William Heneker took over as Chairman of ARMA from Martin Perry in November 2016.

I was having Sunday lunch at the pub a week or so ago and was amused and saddened in equal measures by the scenes playing out at the tables to both sides of ours – to the left, a family of four; the two young children were playing games quietly on their tablets and both parents were surfing the internet. To our right, a couple, out for lunch like us – except they didn’t speak to each other – instead spending their time constantly fiddling with their phones, only putting them down to eat for 10 minutes or so. Then it was back to “important business” on their smart phones.
It got me thinking. Is the smart phone really such a good thing?! During our walk home, we discussed the bizarre experience we had just witnessed and reflected on how different the world has become as a result of the advent of this arguably marvellous creation. These clever devices allow us all to receive our emails instantly, store our entire list of contact telephone numbers, postal addresses and email addresses, take photos and send them around the world instantly, find our way with an online map, shop online, store and listen to our entire record collection and, wait for it … even talk to people (although these days we clearly don’t do that as much as we used to).

In my role as a property manager, whilst the smart phone really has revolutionised productivity, it is definitely a double edged sword. On the plus side, I can keep in touch with my office at all times, check and reply to emails (I’m not actually sure if that is a positive or negative) and I can take photos or even video clips of leaking pipes, unauthorised satellite dishes, damage in common parts, abandoned cars, etc. during my inspections. I often rely on Google maps to find my way to unknown destinations. I use a notes app to remind me to do things. I use a live train times app to make sure I am not going to be delayed and a bus app to check when the next one is coming. I even use the Companies House app to remind me when to complete annual returns. I am now considering buying a professional site inspection app that should make routine visits to the properties I manage easier to record.

However, on the other side of the coin is the downside to all of this wonderful technological advancement. The fact that because literally everyone has a smart phone.

So what is my view?

Well, in the right hands and used appropriately, the smart phone is exactly that. Smart. The availability of time saving apps that can really make a difference is wonderful. If anyone has any top tips for time saving property management related apps, I would love to hear from you.

Having said all of this, only last week, I accidentally left my phone at the office one evening. I have never done that before. I realised when I reached the station but by then it was too late to go back. A strange sense of anxiety and panic started to set in: I can’t get hold of anyone ... no one can get hold of me … I have no music to listen to ... what am I going to look at on the train home? I’m as bad as “them”. Due to train delays I was late home to meet friends for dinner. When I did finally arrive, it turned out that my wife had been checking my whereabouts on the “Find Friends” app and had automatically assumed that I must have died at the office (that’s the location I was showing – obviously) and had left me 2 voicemails and 3 text messages. I can’t blame her though; I would have reacted the same way – we both carry our phones absolutely everywhere. I therefore guess I’m as bad as the rest of them!

William Heneker BSc (Hons) FRICS FIRPM
ARMA Chairman / Director, Lamberts Chartered Surveyors