Going ‘simple’ with new cell phone


When you get a new cell phone, it’s sort of like picking out some sort of new accessory. After all, in today’s society it is with you wherever you go—school, work, business trips, the bathroom.

It sort of becomes a part of you, unless you drop it in the toilet, in which case it becomes a part of you that you must be willing to let go.

You don’t want to get a phone that’s dissonant from your real personality and style. After all, you want it to get good reception (rim shot).

For example, you’re not going to want a real fancy, bells-and-whistles kind of phone if you are a minimalist and conservative. Similarly, if you enjoy a flashy and extravagant lifestyle you won’t want a phone that merely buzzes if you get a call.

I personally prefer conventional and practical. I want a phone that I can text with, maybe make a few phone calls and—if spur-of-the-moment documentation requires—a one megapixel camera capable of taking photos about the size of my byline mugshot for this column.

So basically when it came time to purchase a new cell phone this last summer, I was looking for a device that can be described in two words: sensibly functional.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I followed through. I actually did the opposite: I got a touch-screen phone.

The fact that I got a touch phone is bad enough (I will get to that in a little bit), but what’s worse is the fact that I completely biffed it when it comes to “conventional and practical.”

My phone is capable of—and forgive me for only presenting you with a partial list of functions—texting, storing and playing music, taking pictures on its 3.2 megapixel camera, recording video, playing games such as Rock Band and The Sims, monitoring my e-mail, accessing Internet connection and displaying web browsers, mathematical calculations (including restaurant tips), setting calendar reminders, directing me via Global Positioning Satellites, waking me up in the morning and, on occasion, sending, receiving and missing phone calls.

My phone is also equipped with voice command, which means that I can orally instruct it and it will respond by saying, “Please repeat command” because my phone does not really speak English, and therefore has no idea what I am telling it to do.

Regardless, it has that capability. And probably thousands of others that I will never, ever discover. I was still finding hidden functions on my previous phone, which I owned for nearly three years.

Here I am—good ol’ practical me—with this tiny gadget that has the capability to do just about everything but pick my nose. (“Please repeat command. To inhale deeply, press one. To discharge nasal congestion….”) I’m starting to feel a bit out of place with this excessive technology; like a shih tzu wearing a thick, red collar studded with chrome spikes.

And if that’s not bad enough, my phone is capable of doing all this with only three physical buttons.

That’s right: almost everything is done by touching the screen. This means that I can’t actually feel if I’ve hit the right “button.” I just have to trust that my finger touched the part of the screen that will open my voicemail, and not the part of the screen that will, for all I know, activate an automated missile attack from Russia. (“To locate bomb shelter, press….”)

This has proven to be a problem for me, since I grew up in a very button-oriented world.

Ever since rotary phones completed their cycle, practically all technology required buttons.

I am very comfortable with the buttons system. At home we have three complex, completely separate remote controls for the same entertainment system. One remote runs the television set and its Dish Network hook-ups and another is specifically for our VHS/DVD player. The third, as far as I can tell, is merely to switch from the first remote to the second, yet still contains just as many buttons.

Not to mention the remote control required to send the TV sound through the stereo system.

Sure, this touch-screen phone has taken some getting used to. But I think I’m getting a handle on it, despite the definite personality differences between it and me.

But just in case, keep an eye on Russia and be ready to duck.


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