As founder and CEO of Ookbee, one of Southeast Asia’s leading e-book publishing platforms, it comes as no surprise that Thailand Tatler Generation T lister Moo Natavudh Pungcharoenpong is a self-confessed smartphone addict. An app that calculates the number of hours one spends on the phone per day shows that Moo spends not less than 12 hours in every 24 doing something on his phone.
“It’s the first thing I grab when I wake up in the morning,” he says. “Our team at Ookbee developed an internal app with a reporting system featuring countless dashboards and group chats, which means that through my phone I can check on what’s going on with the business in real time from anywhere. It enables me to see how many new users we have and how much money we have made at the touch of a button.”
In addition to his role at Ookbee, Moo is also co-founder of local home-stay platform Favstay by PomPome and a venture partner of 500 Tuk Tuks, a global venture capital/seed fund and startup accelerator. The man is kept busy but, of course, keeping up with these responsibilities is made possible with his phone.
“I can’t be at each of our offices every day so our phones and chatrooms definitely help me to stay connected,” he explains. In fact for Moo, whose life literally revolves around his phone, there is almost no need for his laptop any more. “I probably only use a computer twice a month these days.”
The businessman currently owns two phones, a Samsung Galaxy S9 and the latest iPhone XS, the latter being his go-to gadget. “Given the work that we do, I need both phones in order to test our apps each time we launch a new application. I have to know they work on both Andriod and iOS platforms,” he explains. Having upwards of 100 apps on one phone might seem excessive to some, but for Moo it’s very normal. From the more commonly used e-banking apps, Google Maps and so on to lesser-known ones, the tech guru’s home screen is crammed with app icons. “Partly because in addition to our own apps I also have all those of our competitors on my phone as well,” he laughs.
Work aside, Moo is a keen photographer and regularly posts his images on Facebook and Instagram. “I used to be one of those guys who always carried around a huge camera but with the breakneck advancement of camera technologies in cell phones I don’t need to anymore.” Instead Moo has opted to add a multi-lens slider to his iPhone. And because he travels a great deal, he uses Trip Advisor a lot. He also has country-specific apps that help him to get around, such as Lyft, the American equivalent of Uber and DIDI, which even helps with translation when talking to taxi drivers in China. In addition he is a fan of the Today app, which reminds him when to take his vitamins and to exercise. “It also prompts me to say hi to my dad every day,” he laughs.
If work didn’t exist, how long could he go without a phone? “Maybe a couple of days. More than that and my father would freak out. Of course, the downside of all this is phone addiction. I have to remind myself to put my phone down occasionally. When you meet up with friends, everyone is distracted with Instagram or taking pictures of food.”
But despite the growing controversy over phone addiction, particularly its impact on the younger generation, Moo thinks the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. “If you look at the bigger picture, especially with regards to Thailand, for a significant number of people their smartphone was their first computer,” he says. “Before 2008 there were only 1.5 million computers in the country and most of those were sitting in big corporations, government offices and banks.” He also underlines the influence of smartphones in boosting local startups, which in turn contribute to the economy.
“I don’t think there will be anything replacing the smartphone just yet. They just keep evolving and there’s no such thing as too advanced,” adds the tech guru with a laugh. “Nevertheless, I think more security is needed, given how easy it is today for people to hack systems and scam money from others.”
Also known as Mark, Sutikiat Kittipatrakul is the chairman of Gold Elite Paris, a niche luxury company known for its collection of 24K ultra-expensive gold-plated phones and accessories. Mark knows all too well the value of smartphones today. After all, the man’s business thrives on them. In fact, the company epitomises the important roles phones play in society in that they have evolved from being simple communication tools to luxury statement pieces that connect to lifestyle privileges.
As is the case with most people nowadays, work-related or not, Mark admits to being hooked on his phone. “Because we export phones abroad, communicating constantly with clients is unavoidable,” he says. “So email, WhatsApp, Line and so on are a part of everyday life. I would say 70 per cent is work-related while 30 per cent is staying in touch with friends and family. Additionally, today’s phones allow us to save time in so many ways, be it calling a Grab car, transferring money, organising logistics for work and much more besides.”
He doesn’t play games on his phone but Mark does enjoy Instagram as a way of relaxing and taking a break from work. He also loves to take photos and his current phone, a Gold Elite Huawei, has particularly been useful with its advanced camera. He recalls that one of his first phones was a Motorola clamshell model. Interestingly, he has kept every phone he has ever owned, amounting to a collection of 40. “I can’t see a future in which we will stop using these devices. A newer model will always be around the corner and brands will continue to push innovative.”
In relation to his four daughters, Mark has adopted a more lenient approach when it comes to their access to smartphones. “I think too much restriction isn’t good. These devices are generational. They weren’t around when I was a child but they are the norm for today’s generation. It’s better to embrace them and use them not just for communication but also for learning. That said, I do keep an eye on what my children are doing on their phones.”
Born in the era of the pager and fax machine, Mark has a foot in either camp and an appreciation for the old and the new. “Yes I am addicted to my phone but sometimes, I truly wish we could turn back the clock,” he says. “The world would be moving at a much slower pace, but I do miss the simpler times. I think these days our lives are facilitated by our smartphones but there is much less privacy. Everybody knows what everyone else is doing all the time. I’ve never tried it but the idea of disconnecting completely is alluring,” he adds. “To an extent I think I would be happier.”
Dr Chettha Songthaveepol
While Dr Chettha Songthaveepol, chairman of Penta Media and owner of shabu restaurant chain You&I, says that having a mobile phone is a necessity, he also voices his dislike of how ubiquitous they have become. “Having worked in publishing for the past 15 years I have witnessed first-hand the impact of the digital world on the industry as a whole, on my work and my income,” he says. “However, you can’t put the genie back in bottle. To stay at the top of the game you have to adapt and move forward.”
It’s fair to say he has a love-hate relationship with his smartphone. “I have indeed become a phone addict, but mostly for my work.” His phone, which is on 24/7, enables him to access social media platforms at all times. “I follow Facebook on my phone a lot because I have all this content for my magazines that I distribute online and I have to monitor how it is being received,” he explains. Moreover, his mobile phone is connected to his home security system, so keeping it on at all times is a must. Chettha also uses his phone to send his location to his family whenever he is out of town, “So that in case of an emergency, my wife will know where to find me.”
How does the businessman choose his phones? Chettha currently uses an iPhone X but also has a Porsche Design Huawei, which was given to him as a gift. “When picking out a phone, I usually go for the most expensive model,” he says. “You cannot cheat on that. The more technology and memory capacity it has the pricier it gets.”
A frequent flyer, he has become quite enthralled with the latest Google Trips application. Designed to make exploring the world easier, the travel application serves as a one-stop organiser, trip planner and travel guide with essential information and personalised recommendations at one’s fingertips, even when offline. Once logged in via a Google account, and without having to provide any information, through algorithms the app already knows where and when you are travelling, thus providing a complete list of things to do in the city you are visiting, a detailed map and anything else you may need. “Frankly, it creeped me out at first,” he laughs. “But now I find it incredibly useful. Although sometimes when travelling I change rooms at the hotel when checking in, just to add another layer of security.”
Family time is precious and although he never turns off his phone, Chetta makes sure it is on silent mode when he is at home. Raising children in today’s tech-driven world has fostered issues when it comes to the use of smartphones. While recognising the advantages of smartphones and the online world, the father of three children aged between 7 and 12 still retains an old-school streak. “Frankly, there is a lot of dangerous and inappropriate content online and I don’t think there are effective filters for it,” he says. “I don’t want my kids growing up glued to a phone. I like to take them to bookstores and encourage them to spend more time with books.”
He continues, “One of my kids has her own Instagram account but I have the password. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want them to have their own smartphones until they reach 18,” he adds with a laugh. “Even though I am guilty of doing it occasionally, it irritates me when I see parents giving very young children a phone in a restaurant to keep them quiet and entertained,” he says. “I do miss the good old days,” he says wistfully. “The days when you made an appointment with a friend to meet up and you had no choice but to be there on time at a specific location.”
Co-founder and CEO of popular Thailand-based restaurant review platform Wongnai, Yod Chinsupakul says he still goes to the office frequently even though his phone allows him to do everything from home or while on the move. “I spend 70 per cent of my time at the office,” he says. “Despite digital tools such as iCloud, Slack, Google Drive, chat rooms and all the rest of it, I prefer to have face-to-face communication with my team. Chatting on the phone doesn’t really convey emotions very well so face-to-face is still important.”
Yod, another Thailand Tatler Gen T lister, rates his phone addiction at 7 out of 10. “I think I am an early adopter of technology by nature because of my job,” he explains. Checking in each time he enters a restaurant and uploading photos from his phone is part of his work. “I am addicted to my own Wongnai app,” he laughs. But even when he is not working, Yod enjoys using his phone for entertainment purposes, watching films, gaming and of course, social networking.
Although his career thrives on the continual improvements in technology, he acknowledges there are drawbacks. “If you are too addicted, life passes you by,” he says. He recently became a father and while he doesn’t have to make a decision just yet, he says he would prefer to keep his daughter away from smartphones until she is at least 10 or 11 years of age. “I think the first thing I want her to enjoy is the natural world around her—things that she can touch and feel, but I admit you cannot stop technological advancements. The world moves on and you need to learn to adapt and move with it. In the end it all boils down to achieving balance and having self-control.”
Currently Yod uses the latest iPhone X. In fact, he has been using Apple phones for the past decade. It is the brand’s interconnected ecosystem between iPhones, Mac computers, ear pods and iCloud that he likes. “Android phones have a good interface but I prefer iPhones. That said, I would actually like Apple to bring back the finger print recognition feature because the facial recognition is not always convenient for me,” he says.
Looking to the future, Yod thinks that eventually even smartphones will be obsolete. “Eventually we might not even need to carry a phone. There might be hologram systems for us to talk to one another, or maybe even a contact-style lens for the eye or something in the brain that downloads information. Okay, it won’t happen any time soon but you can’t halt progress. In the nearer future it would be great if smartphones had unlimited battery power or if they could function using self-renewable energy so that there would be no need for power banks,” he smiles.
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