Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Great Stupid Smartphone Debacle

So, not too long ago my trusty Nokia flip-phone became untrustworthy. Its little LED screen expired in a blaze of blue, and I could no longer access any information except by guess. And that really wasn't much good.

I knew the SIM was okay. I could still receive calls, and make calls. So that was all right. I figured I'd just replace the thing, you know? No drama.

Bit of backstory: I grew up in Far North Queensland, mostly. Did not have a landline in the family name until I was eighteen, and living in a flat of my own in Brisneyland. Horrible bloody place it was, too... and as it happened, the phone number was literally one digit different from one of Queensland's non-existent illegal brothels, so we occasionally received some very peculiar calls.

The point I'm making is that I'm pretty ambivalent about phones. I don't like conversing over the phone. I don't like the lack of feedback. If I can't see you, read your posture and your gestures and your expressions, it's not a conversation at all. It's just a limited exchange of information. I expect I have all the phone manner of Jack the Ripper, to be honest. But I absolutely do not give a shit.

The mobile phone revolution has left me quite unimpressed. I'm a big user of computers, and I love the Internet, but mobile phones? Meh. Who really cares? Who actually needs to be on-call to the world 24/7, eh? Not this little black duck.

Nevertheless, I have three school-age kids. I live on a rural property. My wife is a GP, often on-call, who delivers the occasional baby. It follows that sometimes I need to stay in contact. The choice is: get a mobile phone, or don't go out.

I got a mobile. And you know - it's been really cool to have it for the SF conventions, and the occasional visit to friends and different cities and stuff. Very convenient. Yep. But not so's I couldn't live without it. Completely pre-paid; that's me. And I generally spend maybe twenty bucks a month that way.

So I trundled on down to the post office, and went through their shiny toys looking for another cheap-arse mobile. Turned out they were carrying a funny little thing, branded by Telstra. It was called a 'Touch', and it was Android-based Smartphone, and it cost under a hundred bucks.

Well, I didn't expect much at that price, but what with everybody in the world positively fuckin' swooning over their you-beaut World Interface Devices, I figured I'd put a toe in the water. See what it was like.

And in fact, if I were to extend the toe-in-the-water metaphor, I'd have to say it was a lot like discovering the water was full of toxic waste and mutated piranha-squid with a vengeful hunger for toes.

First of all, the Telstra Touch is as fugly a piece of coprophagic illegitimacy as ever I'd hope to avoid seeing again. Even with the provided stylus, its touch-keyboards are buggy and untrustworthy.

On top of that, it comes preloaded with a mile-high pile of shite. Instalinks to Facebook, Fox News, SportShite, and a hundred other pieces of dung. Good luck figuring out how to remove 'em: half of 'em appear to be permanent. Unless you wanna crack open Android, of course.

If I'd been more interested, I might have bothered. But I wasn't. Instead, I went and turned all sorts of shit off. I did enable the 'contacts' application. Which was stupid of me. I should have twigged when it demanded my gmail address - but how was I to know it was going to download all my gmail contacts? That was especially pointless, actually, since I don't keep phone numbers on gmail. Just email addresses. I have another database for addresses and numbers. I don't trust "the cloud" with vital information, and I don't trust it with the personal details of my friends.

So, having pared the new phone down to a minimum, I figured I'd try using it.

...what an utter waste of time and money.

What do people use these bits of crap for? Oh, Bluetooth? I never use it. Music? Hey, I have an MP3 player, and it doesn't chew through batteries like the Telstra Touch. GPS? Oh for fuck's sake: I'm an ex-cabbie. I use maps. I don't get lost. And if I did, I'd use my goddam phone and I'd ask for directions. It's not difficult. Appointments and calendar shit? Hey -- that's what a memory is for, right? I've still got one. How about you? Games? I don't have the time, or the interest. I play a bit of Dwarf Fortress because it's crazy-making complicated, and I'm considering this new "Skyrim" because it's supposed to be an open world, and I like that. Otherwise? Sheeit.

I can't write and type on a Smartphone. And data access is brutally expensive. Besides, as most people who know me will confirm, I'm used to keeping a small Wikipedia in my head. If I really need a piece of information I don't have, generally I can wait. Oh - and I don't mind actually carrying a Netbook computer if I think I'm going to be doing that sort of thing.

So. The Telstra Touch. Battery life: maybe 24 hours, even with everything I could find switched down. And as a prepaid customer, the fuckin' thing cost me around $100 a month because it kept quietly accessing the 'Net at ruinous prepaid rates. On top of that, it barely worked as a phone.

I have now purchased a little, minimalist Samsung flip-phone. Of course, I can't transfer my number, because I had to get a Telstra specialist to transfer my number to the Touch - and the Touch used a mini-SIM which (upon investigation) appears to be irretrievably lodged in the phone, now.

Therefore: if you think you have my mobile number, you're wrong. And if you think I have your mobile number, you're probably wrong, because I didn't manage to transfer most of 'em from the old Nokia to the Telstra Touch.

If you really want contact details, you can email me, or even leave a note here. And of course, there are a number of you from whom I would very much like contact details. You know who you are... and even if you just suspect, well, hell: take a punt, and send me a note.

In the meantime, it'll be a cold, cold, farkin' day in hell before I waste time and money on a so-called Smartphone again. For me, the 'Smart' side of the phone is near-enough useless. And y'know... I have a sneaking suspicion that all you people who are using them to augment your own memory are busily making yourself more stupid and forgetful. Your brain is like most other organs and systems in your body: stop using it, and it atrophies. Smart phone -- not so smart brain.

Use it or lose it, they say.