All-in-one vs. specialized devices

Electronics often come in many forms. Some devices are made to be used as a jack-of-all-trades, or a multipurpose device, while others are designed with one particular purpose in mind. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which device is better in these situations and there is often not a clear answer. However, there are a few important factors to consider when making your choices.


Multipurpose devices often offer a more affordable solution. The more functions a device could potentially have, the better the value. One of the most common multipurpose devices used today is the smartphone.

Smartphones are phones, have access to the internet, function as multimedia players, can be used as a GPS and also offer camera functionality.

At first glance, it seems that a smartphone could completely replace all of these tools without blinking an eye. This is true for many users and especially for basic uses.

Battery shortfalls

The obvious argument for owning a multipurpose device is that it is easier to carry around one device instead of many. However, a multipurpose device has to worry more about battery life. Since you will be potentially using a device for many functions, it will be used more often. Because of this, it can be difficult to rely on a single device for so many functions. If the device is dead, you can not use it for anything, which makes it effectively a paperweight.

Power constraints

Another common issue is that a multipurpose device isn’t as powerful when it comes to specific functions. Although a smartphone camera may be quite good for smartphone standards, it can not compare with even an entry level camera in less than ideal conditions.

GPS functionality in smartphones is often closer to a stand alone GPS unit, but many options require network connectivity by default. Some do not allow you to download offline maps at all. This differs depending on the app and device.

Gaming consoles

Dedicated devices typically offer a more pleasant experience as they are streamlined and designed with a specific purpose in mind. One example is handheld gaming consoles like the Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita, and Playstation Portable.

All of these devices offer a better gaming experience than calculators or phones with a few games available. The dedicated devices offer a better handle and feel which provides the opportunity for a wider variety of gaming experiences.

In this particular case, the gaming devices also try to offer a multipurpose experience. However, they clearly specialize in one area.

Getting the right device for your particular needs is more important than getting the one with the fewest disadvantages. Unless you carry a bag or have a method of carrying multiple devices, a single device is most likely the way to go.

Another option is to have both. Carry the jack-of-all-trades device unless you know there will be a specific need for something more advanced.

A smartphone camera suffices for many situations in day-to-day life, but you might still want to pull out a true camera for special moments. Just remember that the dedicated device is generally going to be more reliable even if you can’t always have it.

Myron Jones
Tech Columnist

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