Thursday, 17 May 2012

iPhone agony and ecstasy

It’s terrifying how quickly innovation becomes habit and then dependency.

Few gadgets have ever seduced me as entirely as my iPhone. For years, Danielle — for whom I’d bought one to console her for forcing to move back from Germany to England (it wasn’t enough, but it was close) — kept telling me to get one. But work had issued me with a Blackberry and I soldiered on with it, although I never learned to use more than 10% of its functions. Why? Because you had to learn them. For some of them I might have had to consult a manual. Who does that any more?

Then I lost my job. Having had the Blackberry removed from me, I decided to get myself an iPhone to console me for the loss (it wasn’t enough, but it was close).

What a life-changing moment. There's nothing to learn. You want to find out where you are? You click on a thing called maps. You want to be woken up in the morning? You click on a thing that looks like a clock. What’s to learn?

So quite a consolation prize. In fact it keeps consoling me: music, podcasts, audible books, whatever, to console me for washing up, walking the dog, or even worse, running.

When I
m struggling to place an actor, it lets me find out what else shes been in.  It allows me to discover why Dorothy Parker greeted Calvin Coolidge's death by asking ‘How could they tell?’ On the rare occasions when I want to check the press for David Cameron’s latest inanity, it’s my iPhone that takes me to my newspaper

In fact, the only thing it sometimes falls down on is actually being a phone. It may just be the fault of the network, but it does seem a little galling that this extraordinary device still occasionally loses a connection during a call or can’t find one in the first place.

The worst is that it’s converted me into one of those awful people you see in restaurants or bars. You know, four people at the same table, texting others who aren’t there. Sad, isn’t it? Even sadder that I know it’s sad and I still do it.

And of course when things go wrong, I’m totally thrown. Take this morning. I woke up long before my iPhone alarm went off. I looked at it to check the time and found a message telling me that the phone wasn’t adapted to be charged on device I’d plugged it into.

I felt a terrible sense of unease. I found myself talking to the phone, unless in my semi-waking state, I was addressing the spirit of Steve Jobs within it.

‘What the hell do you mean?’ I asked, ‘I’ve plugged you into the charger. What’s your problem? You suddenly don’t like this brand of electricity any more?’

It was like my cat Misty. One day, after years of eating nothing else, he went off the brand of cat food we'd been providing. We had to hunt for something else that he might like. That in itself wasn’t so bad. What was awful was the look he would give me when I served him what had previously been his favourite. So full of reproach. As though he was not so much angry with me as terribly disappointed that I could let him down this way.

Now my iPhone seemed to be doing the same. And to add insult to injury it started doing it in foreign. Have you ever had that? An iPhone that starts talking Chinese to you? At least, I assume it was Chinese. It was using the kind of characters you see on a Mahjong set. It felt to me as though it was trying to get home, back to the country where it was built, and where they gave it the kind of electricity it liked.

I was traumatised. I carefully put the phone back down and rolled back under the duvet. When I woke up a bit later, it was behaving again. Messages displayed in English. It was charging quite contentedly. I almost thought I heard it purring.

But I’ve learned my lesson: never again shall I take it for granted. It's much too precious for that, and I depend on it far too much.

A great servant, but sometimes a cruel master


Awoogamuffin said...

Oh dear, this could be the beginning of the end... My iphone started to turn off at the most inopportune moments - especially when trying to use google maps, and things only got worse...

And as you say, it's deeply unnerving when this thing you've always relied on starts to become unreliable. Do you think it could be anything as sinister as planned obsolescence, or just one too many drops of the phone? In my case, I suspect the latter, because I dropped it more often than I dare admit.

David Beeson said...

You're admitting that you don't dare admit it? You're confusing me, you're probably deeply upsetting your iPhone.

Sounds to me as though yours is a case of a missing iPhone case.