For the past 6 years, I have been using my Samsung SGH-A707 flip phone. It wasn’t my first phone: I actually had a Nokia brick for most of my senior year of high school, but most of my phone experience is with this thing.
But as of roughly 24 hours ago, I have joined the modern world and picked up a iPhone 5S.
I saw 2 main reasons for upgrading to a smartphone. First, I was still driving like it was 1999 and printing out or writing down directions from Google Maps. When that failed, I relied on the resources of my navigator to pull out their smartphone and lead us back in the right direction. Second, everyone believes that mobile is the future (or at least the present), and since I work in that industry, I was quickly becoming disconnected with potential users and their use cases. Unless I wanted to begin working on web apps for either babies before their first phone or senior citizens incapable of using smartphones, I needed to step up.
And I decided to get an iPhone because I own a Mac, and Julie has an iPhone. I have nothing more to add to that discussion.
It’s certainly cool: the fingerprint thing is cool, and I used Siri to make phone calls. But it might be too cool. I have related my many worries to Julie that this device is going to change me. Before, I did not look cool when I pulled out my phone and tried to do anything. Now, the world’s knowledge and entertainment is available at my fingertips in any situation. I can focus on this portal to a virtual world instead of the world around me.
So far, I have downloaded a lot of apps, organized those apps into folders, copied over all of my phone numbers from my old phone, and called my mom. I haven’t quite finished setup as I have disallowed most push notifications and haven’t signed into facebook, twitter, or email yet. So I haven’t yet wrapped myself in the cozy (almost smothering) blanket of social media.
Even so, I’m still not really sure what to do with it after about a day. With my old phone, I could happily forget its existence until it rang with an incoming call. With the iPhone, I feel compelled to pick it up regularly and use it in some way. Although I know I haven’t configured it for anything interesting yet, I still want to play around with it and figure something out.
Nowadays, we joke about people who are constantly texting, playing games, or otherwise engaged with their devices. Having one at hand at all times, though, I can see how it might take some willpower not to constantly check it, and as developers find better notifications and gamefication techniques, we’re constantly drained. It’s like the “curse” of buying chocolate: it’s hard to resist, and you know you’re just going to eat it.
Okay, that was pretty grim, and I promise that I’m more optimistic than that. Maybe the Sherry Turkles of the world see these changes as a detriment to our social ability, and Clive Thompsons see the benefits of global conversations and shared knowledge. I think labeling all of this as good or bad causes us to miss out on the nuances of the effects, and the most important takeaway is that we need to adjust. I like to pretend that I’m a luddite who hangs onto the “good old ways” and isn’t poisoned by the frivolous trends of technology, but that assessment is entirely too harsh. Smartphone in hand, I think I’m ready to re-engage with the world today.
And not get lost because I wrote down the Google Maps directions illegibly.