The same uneasy relationship extends to cool new tech gadgets. This may in part be influenced by my parents, who fled New York City in the early '70s to live on a farm in rural Vermont, and who always seemed the last people on the pasture, dirt road or block to become hip to the flashiest new whatever. I'm pretty sure they didn't buy their first CD player until the mid-90s, and I'm almost positive that when they did, it was hooked up to a receiver from the early '80s.
Given these factors, it should come as little surprise that I have chosen to eschew the iPhone for the past two years. And practically, it makes great sense to do so. For starters, my LG NV flip phone works just fine, and why do I need internet at my finger tips at all times? I spend 9 hours a day at work glued to a computer the size of a Mini Cooper, and return home every night to an old iBook that while decrepit, navigates the web as well as a four year old computer can. If anything, I should be encouraged to adopt a less dependent relationship on the web's capacity to entertain me, not to buy a device that allows me to obsessively check to see if anyone "likes" my latest Facebook status update fifty-five times a day. But recently I've been wondering if it's time to rethink this. A project at work has picked up speed these past few weeks, and I've become a little more phone and internet dependent. It seems that when you create a world where one's professional peers have constant access to email and internet, you too are expected to maintain the same ties.
A pesky effect of technological revolutions is that they set the paradigm for what mainstream communication is. And with technologies developing at faster and faster paces, the standard evolves pretty quickly. We're currently at the point where my inability to read PDFs while eating my lunch on a Saturday is accepted by many. But how long I can squeak by without a smart phone before I'm that annoying, contrarian Luddite is anyone's guess. Well, it's my guess. I'm sure there are plenty of industry experts with a lot to say about that.So earlier today I found myself pondering an upgrade to a smart phone. As a Verizon customer, there is great economic sense in getting a Droid. On the other hand, I played with a friend's Droid two weeks ago and almost chucked it out the window of the S4 bus it annoyed me so. With the gold standard of smartphones being the iPhone, I felt obligated to read some specs about iPhone on the Apple site, and to try not scoff at the annoying cultishness of the whole affair.
iPhone evangelists cite the thousands of aps available on the market as an incentive to buy the gadget. Because you can look up movie times on your phone and get restaurant reviews, information readily available elsewhere and through other means if you have the forethought to hunt for it ahead of time. I mean, is there any essential information in the world available only through Apple aps? To me, the whole business of aps just feels like another reason for Apple to overcharge consumers for something flashy and pretty, that appeals to some emotional and non-objective information vetting system buried deep within our psyches.
But not having an iPhone or experience with aps what do I know? Maybe I'm just forming prejudices, letting my own dislike of the new and flashy bias my opinions. So I took a little stroll through the ap store, and here are some impressions.
"Make your own espresso beverages at home," says the description. Wait, you mean to say that in addition to being a phone, an iPod and a web browser in one, the iPhone also makes coffee? No, apparently it just tells you how to mix foamed milk and espresso together. Or if you're really ambitious, how to add vanilla flavoring.
"If you’re headed back to school soon, don’t forget to pack a copy of Shakespeare. On your iPhone. The free app brings you the full text of all forty plays, as well as the Bard’s poems and sonnets." In my day, we had actual books, and they were awesome. In addition to being able to curl up with one (the sentiment of curling up with an electronic device is so impersonal) you could even scrawl notes in the margins, which is handy when it comes time to write your English papers.
Set your DIRECTV from afar." That would actually be rather great. But I have RCN. Does RCN have an ap for that? RCN sucks, so probably not.
"Maneuver a wooden ball through a wooden labyrinth." In all fairness to Apple, this was one of my favorite games when I was 8. But part of the charm of Wooden Labyrinth is the lovely tactile experience and the old timey fun of a game consisting of a plain wood box and a metal pinball. While Apple's ap version is pretty, I do wonder how the experience measures up.
"Read reviews of places near you." Or I could just a.) research these choices ahead of time or b.) be adventurous and test out something new.
"Check surf conditions world wide." Precisely what this urban, ocean-fearing non-surfer needs.
"Take inventory of your belongings." You mean like, the iPhone and iPad I don't possess? Is there a prize for who has the most stuff? I know this is America and all, and whoever dies with the most stuff wins, but the concept of an iPhone ap actually illustrating and encouraging this is both hilarious and ironic. It's hironic, if you will. Yeah, Apple. You own us alright.
The bottom line here is that the ability to purchase aps will never be a deciding factor in my decision to "upgrade" from my clunky, pedantic, slightly-above-average-in-intelligence-phone. While I like the idea of Shazam, which tells me what song is playing at a given location, there is always a music snob around capable of providing that answer, and do I really need a tool to accelerate my compulsive music-buying habits?
No, if I do eventually fall victim to the flashy seduction of the iPhone it will be thanks to its ability to allow me to keep up at work and to maybe serve as a replacement for my aging iPod. And if it happens to provide me some entertainment on the metro in the form of obsessively checking my Facebook feed, so much the better.
*The Warholian brilliance of Lady Gaga not withstanding.