Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Keep your phone until it breaks

  

    Gary Shteyngart's novel, "Super Sad True Love Story,"  takes place in a dystopian future, where we all hang "apparats"—souped up cell phones—around our necks on cords, like security passes. The devices share information with each other, and notify us of the credit rating of the people nearby. Are they Low Net Worth individuals or, better, High Net Worth individuals?
     The specs for the new Apple iPhone 6S are released Wednesday with great ceremony in San Francisco. The 6S will not include a function evaluating the financial solvency of those around us — something to look forward to — and indeed, the general insider view is that the incremental improvements will not charm and thrill the phone-buying public in the way that they expect, almost demand, to be charmed and thrilled.
     A better camera, a faster processor, and that's about it.
     Though lack of electronic marvels will not stop people from lining up to buy the new phones when they become available in a month or two.
     Which makes this an apt moment to whisper, under the roar of unmerited Apple hoopla, a few words in support of my own philosophy toward phones: Use them until they break.
     That sounds practically Amish, and I hope I'm not tarring myself as a Luddite. But that attitude has guided me from my first cell phone, a 50-pound Motorola behemoth bolted in the trunk of my Chevy Citation in 1984 to today. If something works well enough, keep it.
     My own phone is an Apple 4S, introduced in the hazy yesteryear of 2011. And why did I choose that particular phone? I didn't. The paper issued it to me, and in my world, that consideration dwarfs all others. If Apple introduced a new phone—let's call it the Apple 7—that allows you to communicate with your dead relatives, I would not buy one over a lesser but free, to me, company model, not if it involved my personally entering into one of those hellish phone agreements, which the paper shields me from, a perk I consider on par with health care.
     I know, because earlier this summer my younger boy needed a new phone after his broke when he was about to go on a trip overseas and immediately required an operative phone to constantly reassure his mother he wasn't being held captive in a cave. I accompanied him to the T-Mobile store to get one, a transaction at least as complicated as buying our house and involving as many forms. Later, my wife studied the bill — she does that kind of thing — and informed me that T-Mobile had socked us $50 for a phone case that we were told was free, a point I remembered clearly because my heart had swelled in gratitude at the gift. And as much as I wanted to take the pile of paperwork and march right back to the T-Mobile store and demand satisfaction, I had, in the sign-here-and-here-and-here whirl of getting the phone, initialed a page buying the case, and I decided it was worth fifty bucks not to ever return to their pink-tinged perdition.
     I know I'll sound like Andy Rooney passing a kidney stone, but I'll say it anyway: I don't want a new phone; I don't want new features. I have a hard enough time grasping the features on current phones. I'll give you an example.  The aforementioned younger boy and his spanking new, expensively-cased phone leave for college Friday. My wife has been busy equipping him with necessities. During one recent trip to Target, I was given the simple task of picking out a flashlight, because she imagines the lad will need one, both to guide him through the smokey halls to safety and to shine menacingly under his chin while he tells The Hook to his wide-eyed classmates at the wiener roasts we imagine these college kids are fond of holding.
     So I'm standing in Target, looking at my flashlight options, and my first thought is: Thirty bucks for a flashlight?  Sure, it's titanium. But he'll never use it. I decided to look for a cheaper flashlight that would still be adequate for sticking in a drawer.
     An hour later, this thought came to me, like a bubble rising in warm honey: ....you know... his phone.... which he always keeps on him ... already has  a flashlight ... built in.
      I was tempted to tell my wife, "No flashlight necessary, honey, but what about a camera?"
      I resisted. All this is stressful enough as it is.

25 comments:

  1. I still have my iPhone 4. I've thought about upgrading to a newer version but have yet to do so. One of these days, perhaps, though I sometimes feel it's too late for me to try and catch up to the newest technology since I've fallen so far behind (never looked at the instructions either). It's the same thing with the endless apps that are available. I mean, at some point it gets ridiculous, like we've never done just fine without them.

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  2. I took my 84 year old mother to the Verizon store (I imagine it's just like the T-Mobile store with a different color scheme) a couple of weeks ago to get her a new flip phone. I was jealous of the simplicity of that little device but know that while I can do just fine without facebook or twitter on my phone I can no longer be without email or a browser due to staying "connected" for work.

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  3. I would have gone back to the store to show them they didn't fool me on that deal. Handy to have a lawyer in the family. My phone is outdated too but I don't need all the bells and whistles.

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  4. 1: "the wiener roasts we imagine these college kids are fond of holding." LOL, and I do mean that literally. B. I'm totally with you on this. I think it's age appropriate. I understand needing to stay in touch at work, but otherwise, my phone is a good phone and a decent camera. And it stays in my pocket on the CTA, by God. Absorbed in your phone on the train screams PLEASE MAKE ME A VICTIM. I'd rather be reading "Super Sad True Love Story," which I couldn't get into. Maybe I'll try it again (if I can just put down my PHONE...).

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    1. I would give "Super Sad..." another try; it's well worth reading.

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    2. !. and then B. LOL J.J. Tindall !

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    3. I will, in fact, give "Super Sad" another try.

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  5. I bought our first smartphones at an AT&T store downtown. The only phone they brought out to show me was the Iphone 5s. I was double-teamed and walked out with everything they could possible sell me. We'll never be charged extra for anything and if I get mad and beat it to death with a hammer, it's covered. That was two years ago and it's still painful to sit down.

    Doug D.

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  6. The great ceremony isn't about the iPhone 6s. That by itself, would merit a much lesser ceremony (akin to what the 5s got.) No, the great ceremony is about an updated Apple TV, and as many of us expect, an announcement that Apple is entering the original-production realm, as Netflix and Amazon have done.

    After all, Apple's credit rating is cushioned on a bed of cash, a quarter of a trillion dollars strong.

    For flashlights, I'd suggest American Science & Surplus in Niles (Lehigh, north of Touhy,) who will sell you three little lights that clip to your zippers for $4. But who are we kidding? It never gets cold enough in Pomona for a midwestern boy to even notice, let alone put on a coat which includes said zipper.

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    1. Jason, That address is the warehouse (not normally open to retail, but super warehouse sale 9/12 & 13). The retail store has moved to N.Milwaukee in Chicago, Geneva IL, & Milwaukee WI. Otherwise, heck yeah, get the catalogue for flashlights & whatsits.

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  7. Those phone flashlights can be spyware, beware.

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  8. The Ghost of Christmas PastSeptember 9, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    I have a flip phone. It cost $29 two years ago. It makes voice calls. Period. While it has the ability to text and take photos, I have those two functions disabled and have never used them. The only function I would like is an answering machine built in--not voice mail, but audible so you could monitor calls and decide whether to pickup. No one makes those for cell phones. Short of that I never want a new cell phone and I have no "data plan," just voice minutes, or which I use less than 200 a month.

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  9. I have no intention of getting the newest iPhone, but I get a lot of use from my smartphone. I listen to music and podcasts on it. There's an app for my grocery list, so I never have to wonder if there's something I forgot if I make an unscheduled stop, plus I can pay for the groceries with it (at least at Jewel and Trader Joe's). It's handy for price comparisons for both online and bricks-and-mortar retailers. I'll look something up in the dictionary or on Wikipedia or IMDb. It's especially useful when traveling, for navigation or finding someplace good to eat or making last-minute hotel reservations. And when I get home, I sometimes use the flashlight to help get my key in the door!

    I'm not on it constantly, but it sure comes in handy. I'm not ready yet to let technology pass me by; I hope to be around a while longer.

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    1. I agree, Coey. Smartphones are invaluable and almost mandatory in today's culture. It's not that I'm giving up on all the latest tech, it's just that I don't feel it's negatively impacting my life if I don't have every new toy and app that's out there.

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    2. Agreed. I'm getting by OK without Snapchat and Twitter. I only have an Instagram account to keep up with my nieces and nephews who are too cool for Facebook!

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    3. I have about the lamest phone available -- not even a keyboard -- and no "plan" at all. I suppose if I had a keyboard, I'd text more, since that seems to be the only acceptable form of communication to many these days.

      But of the things you mention, Coey, the only thing I would really value would be the travel things you refer to -- even when "travel" might only refer to being elsewhere in the greater Chicago area than I am accustomed to. Fortunately, my wife has a smartphone, so I'm covered when we're together.

      But a smartphone ain't mandatory, yet, dadburnit, Sandy. ; )

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  10. Seneca would have approved your resistance to the power of modern marketing, having observed that it is not the man who has too little but the man who craves more that is poor. Still, every ten years or so something new comes along that is really worth having.

    It is hard -- and sometimes foolish -- to swim against the tide, particularly if you have kids in the household. And it's important to distinguish fashion from necessity. In discussing the point, Adam Smith, writing from hard scrabble Scotland around the time of the American Revolution noted that "In the country of France the wearing of leathern shoes has become a necessary of life."

    Tom Evans

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    1. Props to Tom for the tasty Seneca reference; you just don't find those everywhere these days, and you don't find blogs where such references are spot on...

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    2. I think many of us admire Tom for his ability to consistently strike upon the mots justes.

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  11. on the other hand, have never had a personal cell phone. have survived so far, to the consternation of visitors who have to meet me at the appointed place and time, without the constant update of the 'where are you' call, the included camera and a flashlight. still have the old style separate camera and a flashlight that doubles as a worklight for $8 form Menards.

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  12. What do you do when your car dies out? or running late? there's still some basic needs at least you would need cellphone for.

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  13. Thanks for the flashlight reference, Neil. I didn't know my phone had one until I asked Sori and she told me how to access it. And lo and behold, I found a calculator, camera, timer and instant music (if U2 is music) on the drop up menu. Maybe there is a net worth evaluator in there too!

    john

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  14. I finally bought an iPhone last year to make it easier to communicate with our kids, who live in 3 different states. Love the FaceTime feature to see the grandkids. I'm finding there are apps that I like, including the flashlight and a bubble level. My wife still has a flip phone and yesterday she mentioned that she'd like to get an iPhone next month, after using mine a couple of times. I also like the Air Drop "Vulcan Mind Meld" feature where you can share files, pictures, etc. with other iPhone users without a lot of hassle.

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  15. I'm always three generations behind whatever update, with whatever provider. But, like with automobiles, how much phone do I need? Pay as I go, without most of the bells and whistles, and I'm paying less than $80 per month for mine and my daughter's smart phone. Access to what we need is great and unlimited.

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