15 things that were much harder before we had smartphones

google maps iphone
A mobile phone with the Google Maps application.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Smartphones haven’t been part of our daily lives for that long, but it’s already impossible to imagine our lives without them.
  • From getting from point a to point b to splitting the bill, these 15 tasks were way more difficult to do before we had smartphones.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

The very first smartphone entered our lives in the early ’90s, but it wasn’t until the late 2000s and early 2010s that they became so prevalent. Today, it’s hard to picture what daily life looked like before them.

From splitting a check at a restaurant to finding your way in a new city, smartphones have made our lives infinitely easier. Keep scrolling to see which 15 tasks used to be harder back in the day.

If you veered off the turn-by-turn directions you had printed out, you were out of luck.

A mobile phone with the Google Maps application.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We might take it for granted that we have multiple different apps that can tell us exactly where to go, when to turn, and the ways to best avoid traffic, but it wasn’t always this simple. Before smartphones, people had to use websites like Mapquest on their computers, print out directions, and either memorize them or get someone else to read them out loud.

And before that? Drivers had to use physical maps real, folding, paper maps with tiny little roads crisscrossing and intersecting. Driving anywhere new yourself meant budgeting some extra time to pull over on the side of the road and ascertain where you were.

Keeping in touch with your friends and family was more difficult.

A panel utilizing a video chatting app.

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Yes, you could still call someone on the phone or even text them on older cell phone models, but FaceTime, Skype, or any other app dedicated to video chatting has made it that much easier. From seeing your grandchildren grow up even though they live across the country to catching up with your best friend from around the world, smartphone video chatting has changed the way we communicate.

But video chatting isn’t the only way smartphones have improved communication. Apps like WhatsApp and GroupMe have also made it easier for international friends and family to speak without racking up phone bills.

Splitting checks at meals and bars was always a challenge.

Cash app and Venmo are two options.

Lauren Lyons Cole

Before apps that let people send money back and forth, splitting checks came with many a challenge. Now it’s much easier to split the bill.

Apps like Venmo and the big banks’ Zelle are also good for paying rent and bills without having to pass checks and cash around. It’s hard to remember life without them.

Getting food delivered meant speaking to someone on the phone, a physical copy of a delivery menu, and cash. Apps make all of that obsolete.

Seamless is an option for food delivery.

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Listening to an incredible array of music was much harder before smartphones.

Commuters use their mobile phones while riding on a PATH train to New Jersey on December 8, 2016, in New York City.

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

With smartphones, we have almost unlimited access to hundreds of years worth of music. All it takes is a pair of headphones, some WiFi, and apps like Spotify and you’ve got access to everything from the music of Buddhist temples to Beyonce’s latest jam.

If you forgot your wallet at home, or even worse, it was stolen, you were unable to buy anything.

A worker demonstrates Apple Pay.

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Now, plenty of stores across the world accept things like Apple Pay, a mobile payment system in which your credit card is hooked up to your phone.

Doing math on the go required a physical calculator — or a sheet of paper.

A calculator on an iPhone.

Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

How many times can you recall your teachers saying that “you won’t always have a calculator on you, so learn to do this math yourself?” Little did they know that soon enough, everyone would be carrying calculators on their person at all times.

Meeting someone might’ve been harder before the many options dating apps offer.



Balancing your checkbook used to be the only way to keep track of your finances.

A smart phone with the icons for the finance banking apps from Citibank, DBS, Bank of China Hong Kong (BOC).

S3studio/Getty Images

In 2019, you can check all of your finances as long as you’ve downloaded the app associated with your bank. All of your transactions, savings and checking accounts, credit cards, and even your credit score are all available in one place.

Before smartphones, watching TV was limited to just that, a TV.

The Netflix logo is seen on the screen of an iPhone in February 13, 2019, in Paris, France.

Chesnot/Getty Images

Now, almost every single streaming service is available on your phone, and you can even download TV shows and movies offline to watch without having WiFi or a data connection.

The only way to get news was from a newspaper, television, or the radio.

A man uses his smartphone to read a tweet from US President Donald Trump.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

News from all around the world is available at the tip of your finger in this day and age. From Twitter to news apps to online newspapers and websites, anything you need to know about current events is easy to find.

If you had plans to meet up with someone, you had to pick an exact moment and location, or else you risked not finding them at all.

Texting is key.

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

While texting’s been around for decades, apps like Find My Friends is now also an option, and shows you exactly where everyone that has shared their locations with you is.

Something as simple as finding a flashlight was harder.

A man uses a flashlight on his smartphone.

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You never know when you’ll need a flashlight. Luckily, with smartphones, you always have one handy.

Calling a cab used to be one of the only ways to get from point a to point b without driving yourself.

An Uber.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Now, with ride-sharing apps, it’s much easier to call a car that will take you anywhere you need to go. Between Uber, Lyft, Via, and others, getting a ride has never been so simple.

If you were positive that you were correct about a trivia question — or any other random argument you got into — the only way to know for sure was heading to a book or a computer.

Google search engine.




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