Issue: August 1, 2014

The Smartphone: Anatomy of an Industry.
Woyke, Elizabeth (Author)
Sep 2014. 304 p. New Press, paperback, $18.95. (9781595589637). New Press, e-book,
(9781595589682). 384.5.

Although smartphones have only been around a fraction of the time automobiles have, many of us consider these ubiquitous mobile devices equally indispensable to our lifestyles. Yet few of us suspect that the convenience of being able to text messages or find directions to the nearest Starbucks at a moment’s notice might have any serious downsides. In this provocative exposé of the smartphone industry, telecom expert and former Forbes magazine staff writer Woyke reveals the dark side of our favorite gadget’s usage and manufacture, from the cutthroat competition between its designers to the exploitation of Third World laborers who mine the precious metals they are made of. After describing the evolution of primitive cell phones into the first BlackBerry handhelds and iPhones, Woyke looks at the waste involved in both assembling and discarding smartphones, as well as radiation concerns and privacy issues. Readers who fully absorb the more disturbing details of Woyke’s report will never be able to download a new app or listen to a podcast without a twinge or two of consumer guilt.

Carl Hays