Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The League Against Smart Phones (or Why I Love my Dumb Phone)

I believe myself to be the last person under the age of 60 and living in the UK who doesn't have a smart phone. Even my parents have better phones than I do.

When iPhones first came out I, like many of the rest of the population, goggled at them, starry eyed and full of product lust, thinking that if I was only carrying one in my pocket, the secrets of the universe would surely be mine.  

However, as time soldiered on, in that inimitable way that it has, I become more and more grateful that I hadn't caved (*cough*  - read, been able to afford) a fancy touch screen mini-computer and had stuck with my terribly basic Nokia. The major reasons for this are three-fold. 

1. I quickly noticed that anyone who had an iPhone made all the same spelling mistakes in their text messages. Me became Mr. A simple pair of kisses at the end of the text became fx. You could spot an iPhone user at 100 paces. This is not quite so much the case any more, but all those hilarious Damn You, Autocorrect memes you see? You can bet they weren't written on a 3310. My friends with smart phones (aka, all of them) write me ever-increasingly incomprehensible texts and never really seem to notice. 

I like to think my pals have enough smarts to notice when one word is entirely replaced with another, and it can't possibly be that they just don't care, because that's the kind of thing that only happens in science-fiction, right? So the only conclusion I can draw is that it's so hard to correct these mistakes that no-one really knows how to. This unsettles me. Reading a poorly spelled text message can mess with my head enough. Authoring one would surely ruin my whole week. 

2. Battery life. I could talk about this at great length, but you all know the story. I sometimes don't take a charger on long weekends with me on purpose so I can text the entire time I'm away and then laugh at my friends when they can't play Angry Birds on the way home whilst I can still ring my dad to ask him to come and get me. 

3. There is nothing, nothing that makes me angrier than trying to have a conversation with someone who is more interested in their phone than they are in me. Well, ok, that's a lie... people who get all 'oh, it's so comMERcial' about Valentine's day or give those bloody charity certificates as 'presents' or say daft things like, 'it's good for the garden' as a way to try to cheer me up... those things all make me just as angry. But yeah - people who think you can't see them looking at Twitter when they're meant to be listening to you make me want to punch them. 

I do realise that not everyone with a smart phone is guilty of this heinous crime. However... this is me we're talking about. I am so addicted to the internet that I dream in Facebook colours most nights. If I had the whole of the social network in my pocket, there is no way I would ever talk to a real person again. 

All convincing reasons to stick with the dumb phone forever, right?

Well, yes, right... but still, come May time, I'm going to have to capitulate. Why, I hear all dozens of you clamour? Well, here is the sorry tale of woe. 

Whilst I was in Spain last year, I had an unfortunate incident with a sun lounger, my not inconsiderable heft, and the screen of my phone. I had a moment of smug glee in which I thought it had survived, but the top quarter of the screen went pretty rainbow colours and couldn't be read. This would never do. 

When I got back to London, I went to a phone shop and asked to see their finest dumb phone. I was laughed out of not one, not two, but three shops. In the fourth shop, I finally found a paltry selection of Nokias, huddled together, blinded by the techni-coloured light rebounding from the screens of the all-singing, all-dancing smart phones showing off on the shelves above them. 

In an ill-advised burst of stubbornness, I bought the cheapest dumb phone there (£10 for the world's most basic Nokia) thinking, 'ha, I'll show them! If it texts and it calls, that's ALL I NEED!' (NB... I'm not quite sure who it is I'm hoping to 'show' by having a rubbish phone. I never think that far ahead. Does anyone?)

However, this phone turned out to be so unbearably terrible that we parted company after about 14 hours when I hurled it into a canal. Well, ok, I didn't, because that would be littering, but by Jove, I wanted to. 

Remember the old, old, olden days when you would be happily composing a text message... you'd be three terribly clever puns and four esoteric references in, but then your big stoopid thumb would accidentally press the red 'hang up' button, and rather than saving your carefully crafted message to drafts or something sensible, the whole thing would vanish and then you'd turn apoplectic with rage? No? I didn't remember either, until it started happening again. And then I remembered how it happened three times an hour some years ago and coloured my every day with white-hot irritation. Isn't it funny how these things can piss you off so much at the time, just to vanish from your head the moment they stop happening? 

So I decided the thing to do was buy my favourite ever dumb phone handset (the Nokia Classic 2330) from Ebay. It had Snake on it, it had pictures of fish on it, it never let me down... I couldn't go wrong. 

Or so I thought. 

The first two disappointments came quickly when I realised that the shoddy eBay version of this phone didn't have Snake OR pictures of fish on it. I've never used a phone to connect to the internet and can't remember how to download anything that isn't from iTunes from one second to the next even when I'm on my laptop, so had no idea how I could go about downloading these items. 

It then transpired that, whilst I'd been disappointed with my broken Spain phone, and had thought it had no redeeming features at all, it had actually had some improvements on my beloved Nokia Classic. I had, however, like a mindless Pac-Man swallowing blue dots, absorbed those improvements and stopped paying attention to them. They have only become glaringly apparent now that I've had to go backwards. Plus, the shoddy eBay battery only lasts, like, two days, which is nowhere near long enough to make me smug. 

So... my dumb phone days are numbered. The signs all point in one direction. In May, when my contract ends, I will get a smart phone. What do you think, dear readers? Will I be able to resist the lure of 24/7 internet and continue speaking in person to you, my beloved friends? Or will I spend my whole time writing illiterate text messages and getting excited about apps and develop a permanent crick in my neck from forever angling my head at the fecking thing? Answers on a blog comment, please.