Tuesday, July 28, 2015

i got my first smartphone (in 2015)

i guess i forgot to ask what day it was, for the last 8 years. This is the phone I've been using until about 2 months ago:

The LG Cosmos 2. Selling point? Buttons. 
As a person who can assemble a computer from parts, and make it work, it kind of confused people for a long time that I didn't own a smartphone. My reasons were many, and complicated.  
First and probably foremost, I was too cheap for the data plan. I just hated the idea of adding a new monthly bill to my expenses, on top of things like rent, cable and such. I don't consider my self cheap (I really don't) but I'm careful about spending money I don't have to; it feels wasteful. Things like social media access on-the-go just didn't seem worth it. I'm not active enough on Facebook or Twitter to warrant constant checking up, and I prefer taking all of that stuff in at once when I get home to my desktop PC anyway.

I also am a little bit stubborn, meaning peer pressure will often increase my resistance to something. I don't like how people depend on their phones right now. The convenience of things like GPS is starting to cause us to lose things like our ability to navigate on our own. I didn't like that sort of societal change, and was definitely hesitant to hop on the wagon. A similar peeve of mine is when you're at a family event with people you haven't seen in a long time. Say, you have four of them are sitting on a couch. What are they typically doing? All four of them are on their phones, not talking to each other. I hate that.

There were simple technical reasons too, like the fact that physical, raised buttons are much easier to type with. I really only used my phone as a phone to boot. I also had a Playstation Vita that I was using as my MP3 player at the time, which was eliminating my need for such a device. But my favorite thing about the phone was that I could literally do whatever I wanted with it. No kid gloves. To demonstrate that last point when asked, I would often whip the phone out, and fling it upward so that it would spin really fast, and land back in my palm. As the observer would habitually tense up at the thought of dropping a phone, I would catch it (or not; it didn't matter) and say "Can you do that with a smartphone?".

Didn't think so

But I couldn't deny the world was and is changing. I mentioned that I resist peer pressure but that's a bit of a half-truth. I don't just dig my heels into the ground to avoid change, for its own sake. I wait until changing makes sense to me. There were reasons I finally switched. Like I said, the world is changing, and people now text you assuming you can see their last few messages all on one screen. Smartphones display their texts in a sort of "IM" window, where my slider phone required me to individually open, close, and re-open messages, like emails. Often, I would receive a text while I was replying, which would interrupt me, save the draft, and show me the next text. I would then have to start writing back to that text, or navigate back to my draft, depending on whether my response was now changed. In person, I would actually try and remind people that I had this limitation and it made a lot of busy work, if they didn't send their texts in one bulk message. Requesting that everyone text you, and only you, a specific way is a really good way to annoy them.

People also now expect you to be able to do a lot of things that you can (usually) only do if you have a data plan. You're expected to be able to find any location, provided they text you the address. This is even if you're not at home to print directions, a situation that arose more than once as an issue. I would be out with friends or co-workers, and we would decide to continue our evening at a new location. Everyone knew how to find their way but me, and people had to resort to giving me turn-by-turn instructions in person, and hoping I could remember them. You're also now expected to have a camera on you at all times, though this came up less often. This was more about me noticing that people were able to take pictures of whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and personally admitting it could be useful at some point, even though I'm not the photographing type. It's helped me do things like take a picture of the serial number on the back of my TV by reaching around, for when I call customer support.

I was also getting tired of carrying the Vita around. It's big, clunky, and kind of embarrassing to cart around to work and the gym, to use as a player. I mean, look at it:

It's great for games though

Times were also starting to come up where I'd have to ask someone else to use their phone to Google something. This, like many of the other problems, would prompt people to ask why I didn't have a smartphone, and I was getting tired of listing everything above. While I wasn't in a rush to get a smartphone in my hands and combine Facebook, Youtube, games, GPS, alarm clock and the kitchen sink into one device, I finally decided it was time. So now I have this nifty device: The HTC One Remix (16GB), brought to you by the good people at Verizon. They gave it to me for free as long as I promised to stay with them another two years. 

I guess they added record scratches. Re-re-re-remmiiiiiixxxx!

Sorry, awful jokes are my specialty. I picked this phone at random, as Verizon offered a few models for no cost, with a two year plan. The others were a 32GB Sony Xperia, and the 8GB iPhone 5c. It's nothing special to have a smartphone these days, but I do think there's some writing fodder in making that switch in the late-ass year of 2015. What did I learn? I learned that I'm a stubborn jackass who needs to give things a chance. Seriously, I took to this thing as fish to, like, a million waters. Even though I knew these things were designed to be as convenient as possible, I'm still amazed at how quickly and easily it swallowed my life and established what is probably going to be a lifelong dependence.

I got it all. Whutcha need? Cat videos? Bill paying?

It took me a single day to get all of the apps I'd been curious about, upload all of my music to it, and move a few settings around to make it tailored to my preferences. I wound up adding an $8 16GB mircoSD card, for a total of 32GB. My music almost filled it up initially (because of the OS and whatnot already taking up several gigs) and left no room for apps. Now, I can't really see myself running out of space. I know the Galaxy S6 series has no option for SD cards; I'd be screwed if I didn't have that option. By day 2 I was using it at the same level of habit and expertise that I am now, after 1 or 2 months. I caught on that fast.

Getting it set up was just part one, though. Aware of the fact that the Google Play store is loaded with popular and useful apps, I began hunting for junk to load onto it and see what all the hubbub was. I began with the obvious stuff, like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Then the slightly-less obvious stuff like The Weather Channel (it's been crazy-useful this summer; humidity is a killer), Rosetta Stone (if you have a subscription, you can use their app), mobile banking and Instagram. Then the completely frivolous stuff, like games; I tried The Room which is a great puzzle game in the vein as Myst, and a basic Spider-Man game, because Spider-Man! I now have a healthy amount of games, apps, music, and other fun junk, and use the thing constantly. I even got the mobile version of Katawa Shoujo on it, after a bit of reading on how to do that; it involved using a file manager program to install it manually, since it's not on the Play store.

Initially, people were strangely proud to finally see me upgrade. I was also quickly drawn into catching up on all of the stuff people had practically forgotten by now, like Words with Friends. In some ways it's like getting to a party that's starting to wind down, and in others, it's actually re-kindled their interest in those apps. It's also made integrating many aspects of my life incredibly easy. I was wary of having all of my important stuff in one place, but I can't deny the absolute convenience of it.  Having a calendar on me at all times makes it really easy to make sure I don't forget things, as long as I create a reminder. Having mobile banking makes it harder to forget when to transfer rent, because I don't have to be at a PC to do it. If a Facebook event suddenly changes (like, as I'm on my way to it. That has happened before), I know about it. If I'm getting dinner with co-workers or friends, and we're going somewhere afterward unexpectedly, I can look up how to get there.

So it's a pretty big life change, for something so incredibly small and simple. I'm no less stubborn, to tell you the truth, but it's nice to finally join the 21st century. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some butter to churn. 

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