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. 


  1. I fear I am about to enter the smartphone world - my dumb phone is dying and as I'm getting into this blogging/tweeting shiz I've realised that a smartphone or something very portable and web enabled is something of a necessity so one can 'report live' from certain events. In my case, I'm looking for a job, so if I want to network, it's a bit of a handicap if I can't do that live reporting from an event I want to associate with professionally.

    NB - I made the mistake of buying the world's crappiest phone when mine seem to have died. I chucked it at the floor in a rage and broke the screen after two weeks. Luckily, my other phone recovered in the meantime.

  2. I like my smart phone. I don't send texts to people that are riddled with spelling mistakes. I never get lost. I have all my music with me all the time. I don't end up standing around for ages at train stations. I download Kindle books on a whim. I take pictures and post them immediately to Facebook. Sometimes, I stare at my phone, marveling at the beauty of its form and the ingenuity of its construction. I'll put my eye really close to the screen and will wonder if I'm really discerning the pixels. So, yeah, I'd get a smart phone.

  3. Imagine the hilarity we'd have missed out on without all those autocorrects?!

    But more seriously - the errors are because I don't often check over my texts before I send them, especially if I'm in a hurry (the shame! Sorry, I rush them more than I should). There's no fear of not being able to change the word. They're dead easy to change! The problem I have is that because its touch screen, you don't realise the wrong key's been pressed and you just keep going, and sometimes, if you get 1 letter wrong, the phone comes up with a crazy alternative rather than being clever enough to realise you were just 1 letter out. If you check as you go or read through when you're done, it really is easy to change, so have no fear, you won't become the text moran that I am! ;)


  4. fx to Jenni.

    Jasp, I had a whole section written about how I need to spend time on public transport reading PhD papers and books rather than listening to music and watching TV on my phone, but it wasn't very funny so I axed that paragraph. But I'm afraid it's still accurate, even if not funny, so your point holds no water with me. Next!

    Hi to Seen and Not Seen as well.

  5. My beef with the smart phones, is the dumb users.

    No longer can people tell a story, or describe something great. Now they just show you a shitty picture that more often than not isn't very funny as they hyped it to be.

    The users will tend towards boring the longer they own a smart phone.

    Obviously not all smart phone users are as such... I have just had two extremely bad cases of 'dumb users' in the last week, so I un-friended them IRL.


  6. You'll be able to download audio books to it. You'll like that.

  7. Freddie, I can download audio books to my laptop if I want to. Mostly, I like CDs. And Cheeeeeeese - is that you, Stoo? I concur, good point well made!!

  8. 1) Text-editing on a touchscreen is indeed a pain in the arse. There are of course bluetooth keypads and smart-phones with slide-out keyboards but most of the fasionable phones these days just use the touch-screen. It's a pain frankly. Without tactile feedback, you tend to be looking at your fingers rather than what you type, so it's hard to be sure what you've swyped in is what was actually added.

    You should have no trouble however, for you are still intending to proof read, right?

    2) Battery life can be managed. Either get a phone which can have it's battery replaced and carry spares, or get a giant battery to carry around when you might not get home for 48 hours. Turn off cell-data, bluetooth etc to save battery.

    3) This was a problem with people playing Snake and texting before it was a problem with people playing Angry Birds and tweeting. The smartness of your phone is not really the issue, it's the smartness of the phone-owner.

    I'm sure you'll be glad to have a smart-phone when you do get one, but consider this new release from Nokia: http://www.engadget.com/2013/02/25/nokia-105-301-candybars/

    15 Euro, month-long battery life, flashlight, no fancy Android shinanigans.

    May well be worth a try even if it just ends up being a festy-fone.

  9. Is this: "so it's hard to be sure what you've swyped in is what was actually added" a joke? If so, it's a damn good one. :)

  10. Not really a joke, no. Swype is the name of a keyboarding app where you stroke a pattern touching each letter in a word rather than pressing each letter individually. It's faster, but probably makes more mistakes unless you're well practised.


  11. Darn. I just thought it was an awesomely placed spelling mistake. Truly, I am from the days of yore.