The iPub

According to Guy Phillipson, the chief executive of the Internet Advertising Bureau, 75% of the UK population will own a smartphone this year.

However, if you’re anything like me, people’s use of mobile technology can sometimes be a cause for much annoyance and anxiety.

Technology in general should be used to improve experiences – not ruin them.  For me, in particular, it’s certain uses of smartphones in pubs that really gets my back up.

The Great Debate

Now there are a number of petty things that wind me up about the use of phones in pubs (don’t worry, I’ll just finish my sentence AFTER you’ve responded to that text) but over the last couple of years, one stands out above the rest.

Picture the scene:

Two patrons are sat supping their chosen beverage in their local pub. They are good friends. You can tell this because there is a packet of crisps torn completely open in the middle of the table.

They are discussing a film. One of them very casually states that so and so played the love interest. The other disagrees and argues that is was actually whodyamacallit.

Now, in the good old days (2006), this would have resulted in a two hour debate containing lots of “No, you’re thinking of…” and grossly exaggerated claims as to how many times each person has seen the film.  It would eventually end in agreement, agreed disagreement or a pistol duel in the car park.

What happens now, however, is that after twenty seconds of frantic tapping on touch-screens, the victor of the inevitable Google Duel thrusts their device-wielding hand furiously towards the face of their opponent – until the vulgar, boast-filled screen is only 3.7 millimeters from the sad, dejected eyes of the defeated party.

At this point the conversation is over. They will both probably stay a bit longer but really they should call it a night and go home. One to snuggle up in a cocoon of smug self-satisfaction, the other to spend the night studying IMDB.

For some reason, pub landlords don’t seem too receptive when I propose that these people be branded ‘Conversation Murderers’ and subsequently barred from the premises.

I feel wholeheartedly that, especially in such a sacred temple of relaxation like the pub, your mobile phone should stay firmly in your pocket/handbag/phone-holster-thing-that-were-popular-in-2001 during a conversation.

The only exceptions being if you’re expecting the imminent birth of your child or an important call from a doctor.

Although if you’re expecting an important call from your doctor, you may be better off ignoring it and having another drink.

My passion on the subject has not only given food for thought to the many people in my local pub, but it has also saved a lot of storage on my own phone by significantly reducing the number of texts I receive, inviting me to the pub.

The problem is that this is just my subjective view of what ‘good etiquette’ is.

In an age where more information than we could possibly consume is available at our fingertips, why shouldn’t a disagreement be settled using the brilliant devices we all carry? My opinion is only driven by a romantic notion of how a pub ‘should be’.

Coming soon to your smartphone?

I went to an Ice Hockey match recently and while queuing at the bar, I was handed a card about an app called Bar Pass.

From this app you can order and pay for your drink then simply collect the drink from a collection point.

In some participating establishments, you can even order your drink from your phone and they’ll bring it over to your table.

This is a brilliant idea. If you’ve ever queued at the bar at a football match, or a concert, or any high attendance event, you will understand how much easier this app would make the process.

At these events, usually the good old fashioned British queue system is replaced with a disorderly melee of parched attendees.

You are forced to stand with your nose pressed against the back of somebody else’s head, being pushed and kneed in the back.  All whilst you’re being over-looked for service because the bloke behind you is frantically waving his cash in the air barking his order at one of the two stressed members of staff.

Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone had placed their order before the intermission or half-time and had to simply walk to the collection point, scan a BR code and walk away with their drinks?  All within the space of 30 seconds?

Despite how brilliant I think this is, I wouldn’t like it in my local pub. But why not?

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could order a pint from your phone and have it brought to your table, put some tunes on the jukebox without having to push your way across the crowded room, or even place a virtual fifty pence on the pool table without having to run the gauntlet of running past the dartboard without sustaining an unwanted piercing?

With an estimated 18 pubs closing each week in Britain, could this sort of technology actually be the way forward?

I see this as the way technology should be used – to improve experiences and not cause the collapse of polite society as we know it.

Please tell us what you think about the use of smartphones in pubs in the comment section below.