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Smartphone Etiquette

Smartphones keep us connected to the important people in our lives, but they can also make it harder to pay undivided attention to other people. If your smartphone use stays on the polite side of the line that divides etiquette from rudeness, you help set an example for friends and family.

Think First

Pretend your smartphone's "Send" button in text, email and social media comes with a padlock. If you avoid sending messages you haven't thought through or proofread, you reduce the amount of time and energy you spend on explanations, clarifications and apologies. Likewise, hold off on sharing the photos you snap of people in unguarded moments that capture them at less than their best. Humor at other people's expense quickly loses its amusement factor when you imagine yourself as the butt of the joke. Finally, envision a chained padlock and barbed wire surrounding the "Reply All" button, the all-too-often invoked and then regretted way of sharing a momentary impulse with a crowd.

Put It Away

You may be so used to keeping your smartphone within reach that you lose sight of how other people feel when you text at dinner, tweet over drinks or keep your phone on vibrate during a meeting. Always remember to turn off your phone or set it to silent mode in theaters, at the movies, in church, at seminars, weddings and funerals, especially when these event venues clearly display "please turn off your phone" signs. The call you expect, or the tweet you think you can't live without seeing the second it posts, shouldn't command more of your attention than people across the table, desk or aisle.

Quiet, Please

Some smartphone users overdo the "cell yell," the too-loud speaking volume used when talking on a mobile device. Not only can the person on the other end of the call hear you, but she probably turned down her listening volume to avoid losing an eardrum. If you frequently find yourself carrying on conversations in loud environments, invest in an earpiece so you can hear and realize you're being heard. Likewise, tone down the loud ringtone music, especially if you use your phone in a professional environment. Find better alternatives to identify incoming calls.

Be Considerate

If you must take smartphone calls in the midst of an event or gathering, excuse yourself and move to an area where your conversation won't disturb your companions. When your communications qualify as optional rather than necessary, consider where you are before you dive in to social media. Friending or tweeting about a first date in the middle of the evening may strike your date as a cross between needy and weird. Just as your social circle deserves in-person respect, those who communicate with you provide contact details they may not appreciate you sharing. Passing on someone else's email address or phone number to gain referral points on a website or signing up an unsuspecting friend for a mailing list you feel certain she'll enjoy may not earn you the appreciation you're expecting.

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