Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for smartphone

I don't take my mobile phone out much, especially not in company, so it was years before a close friend had the opportunity to see it. He looked at my phone and then at me, and then at the phone again. And then he asked in exactly the kind of tone that Katrina Kaif had used when Hrithik Roshan took out his 'Japanese schoolgirl' fluorescent pink phone in 'Zindagi na milegi dobara' - "Is that your phone???"

Nope, my phone is neither fluorescent nor pink. It's just a simple Nokia phone. I don't know what model it is, because frankly, I don't care. Every time I renew my contract, they give me a free phone. A phone that is probably too outdated to be sold to anyone. I accept it with gratitude. I don't really care what kind of phone it is, as long as it can send and receive calls and sms messages. My favourite phone so far was the first phone I had -- the Nokia 3310, also known as 'the blue brick'. I made calls with it. I sent messages with it. Sometimes I even played snake on it. I dropped it several times and it never died. It was also a handy self-defence tool; I was pretty sure that if flung appropriately, it could crack a skull with ease. So there, that was all I needed in a mobile phone back then. And nothing's changed now.

I've not yet jumped on the smartphone bandwagon. Yes, I'm that tadipaar dinosaur. Most of my friends think I'm anti-smartphones, which is not exactly accurate. Smartphones are great. They are indeed very smart and have amazing features and apps and what not, which make our lives very easy and convenient. What I'm anti- is the behaviour that humans exhibit when they become slaves to their smartphones. And the thought of having a smartphone and turning into one of 'them' scares me a little bit.

Every evening all of Xena's friends congregate at the playground. Almost all of them are accompanied by helpers. On some rare occasions, some moms turn up and then spend the entire evening fiddling with their smartphones. I know judging others' parenting styles is an absolute no-no, but it really bothers me when I see the kids trying to get their moms to play with them, or look at the cool things they are doing such as hanging upside down dangerously from the see-saw, but the moms don't even look up from their phones. I don't want to do that. And I think if I had a smartphone, I might be doing that. Or not. I don't know. I just don't want to risk it.

It annoys me when a bunch of people are together, and someone or the other is busy with a smartphone instead of joining in the conversation. Fortunately, my friends though armed with smartphones, know better than to fiddle with them when we are together. We don't have to implement the phone stack rule, which is brilliant by the way. I have also read that some restaurants require you to check your phone in at the entrance, and you get it back on your way out. And did you know that there is a restaurant in Jerusalem that offers a 50% discount on meals to diners who switch off their mobile phones?

Not having a smartphone has made me an outcast on several occasions. I'm not oblivious to the weird looks that I and my phone get when I'm exchanging numbers with someone. And don't even get me started on the current bane of my life -- Whatsapp. If only I had a penny for every time someone said, "Why aren't you on Whatsapp?" Recently, I was part of the group organising an Easter egg hunt. The discussions started on the group's page on Facebook, which I have on my iPad, so I participated actively. As the event neared, at some point the conversation moved to Whatsapp and I simply had no idea what was happening, until the day of the party when it started raining heavily and I received an sms from one of them telling me that they were discussing what to do on Whatsapp, and someone would sms me the outcome of the discussion. Of course, I don't blame anyone. Whatsapp is indeed a very convenient medium for such things, and it was also easy for the organisers when they were buying stuff for the party as they could simply take a photo and Whatsapp it to everyone before buying it, and have live discussions together. And I could imagine their frustration at not being able to include me. I knew the feeling because I remembered how perplexed I was when I met someone who has chosen not to have a mobile phone.

Once in a while, I wonder if I should just stop frustrating everyone around me and get myself a smartphone. And then something happens to make my stance stronger. Like what happened last week. I take the bus every afternoon to fetch Xena from school. One day, I received an sms from my editor - "Going to WA you the diagram, please advise on changes.' I was never more thrilled to message back that I was not on WA and that she could email me the diagram and I'd look at it when I was at home on my computer. What I really wanted to say was -- I will not work in the bus. I simply won't.

The other day, I was seated in the back of the bus and saw an amazing sight. Of the 14 people seated in the lower deck, 12 were on their smartphones, playing or watching something. The 13th was fast asleep and the 14th was me. And I figured that if I had a fun phone, I might be engrossed in it too. I'd want to maximise its features. I'd be working in the bus. I'd be Googling and Crushing Candy and Facebooking and WA-ing and YouTube-ing and what not. I know it's all about self-control, but in all honesty, I'm not sure what kind of self-control I have.

I enjoy my bus time. I just want to sit in the bus and look out of the window and have random thoughts fill my mind. It's my detox time. Also, we all know how important vision breaks are, and the only time I look at distant objects is when I'm in the bus, or the beach or the playground. I don't want to be looking at a near object then. So the best solution for me is really to continue with a really boring phone with extremely basic features.

I don't know how long I can do this without caving though. Last week, Xena's water bottle started leaking in my bag, and nearly killed my Nokia. I opened it up and wiped whatever water I could spot and left it out to dry. I don't even know how on earth I managed to find another phone, but my desperate rummaging in the drawers had somehow conjured up one. It was a Motorola and even more primitive than my Nokia. I didn't know whose it was and why it was there. But I sure knew that it was not a permanent solution. It was extremely user-unfriendly and I couldn't even use the basic features properly. And suddenly panic struck me. Would I have to buy a new phone if my Nokia didn't revive itself? Would it have to be a smartphone? Should it be a smartphone?

All my questions were answered when the next day, my Nokia started working normally. Phew.

Yesterday, Viv announced that he might be ready for a new phone. He asked me if I would like to take over his HTC, or I'd prefer sticking to my Nokia. I was tempted because it looks cool and is more user-friendly than my Nokia. I just didn't know if smartphones could be 'unsmarted'.

"Can I have it without any 'smart' features?" I asked him. He said yes. Wheeeeee.

Not a bad idea at all. Win-win, in fact.

I'd still be free. And yet, friends like the one in paragraph 1 above, would not ask me silly questions like "Is that your phone???"


Argentyne said...

Sayesha! When can we meet?

Btw, is that your daughter's name up there? :O [a very beautiful name if so]


Thisisme said...

:-) yes indeed u can keep it smart apps- free. Just do not install any if these fad apps! I was of the same thinking as u n managed without a smart phone till this year!it was only when I needed to be connected due to some reasons...did I go for a smartphone n I'm still on a very basic version of it! N I'm happy that ways. I find spending 40k on a phone totally pointless! Its still something which I use to make calls n messages!

Thisisme said...

N I'm glad that I did most of my education back in 90s! All these apps r heavily distracting. Also now that I'm preparing for some exams...believe me this watsapp , Facebook twitter r soooo bloody distracting ! These days all college kids have such phones..I wonder how do they manage ! Groups on watspp exchange 400-500 msgs in a day...though I'm rarely part of it but I wonder on the amount of time all these kid cousins of mine waste chatting on these!

Horizon said...

Gr8 post--I don't even have a cell phone and I really don't think I need one.

Anonymous said...

Just get a phone that doesn't require you to use a 3G SIM card and you should be good. Or just switch off mobile data. Having internet on the go is pretty much the root of all smartphone problems.

Sri said...

I fell for the smartphone mania about 2 years back and spent 18k on my phone..days were spent on FB and Watsapp...my daughter loved fiddling with the phone and even dropped it a few times..the touchpad became unresponsive..by then i was bored of the silly groups on watsapp and the constant FB updates..had to sell my phone for just a thousand bucks!i shifted to an old Nokia phone and had a peaceful existence..i now have a simple smartphone that is not very expensive..I have only watsapp on it and I joined just 2 groups!

Varsha said...

I own a smartphone. But no games installed. I have the FB ap, Whatsapp, and very few other basic apps.
But you know what, I don't have a data connection. Which means, my phone is totally 'un'smart, if that is the word. My husband tried to persuade me to get the connection, but it was a strict no-no. So, the phone becomes smart only when I enable it to connect to the wifi at home.
I need it to take random pics of my kids. The 'un'smart phones do not come with a good resolution camera.
And I enable the wifi only when the kids go to sleep.
I need to ask my husband to read this blog entry, as he is used to fiddling so much with his phone when he should be enjoying the 'better' things.

TMaYaD said...

My first smart phone was a Nokia 7710 that was before apple iPhone. Believe me when I say I used to wonder what's so special about iPhone when my phone does everything it does and the iPhone doesn't even have apps. Never the less I lost my phone and I, ahem, imported the iPhone. I switched to nexus one when Google released it and stuck to the nexus line ever since. So when you see a guy engrossed in his phone on the bus, that could be me visiting Singapore. Come and say hi. But I never take it out in company without permission. 'Can I look it up?' I will ask when we want something cleared.

The most used two features on my smart phone are navigation and news. I love to travel, drive around just go places. Maps is a god send. Secondly travel time is the only time I get to catch up on news(tech and design, no Bollywood or politics for me). I've set my system to lockup every now and then to force me to take breaks so I'm not much worried about that.

TMaYaD said...

BTW, you can have what's app without smart phone. Install it on tablet and give your not-so-smart phone number. Won't let your boss send work on bus but you don't have to miss out on the planning discussion

Nikita said...

I am that person without a cell phone :) I dont think I need one yet. My aunts and uncles made a group on whatsapp and they are on it everyday. I check them on my husband's phone once in a while but I cant be bothered to use it. I feel older than my previous generation. :)

Arun said...

"What I'm anti- is the behaviour that humans exhibit when they become slaves to their smartphones."

-- hear, hear! (but maybe it needs to be texted to smartphones for people to pay attention :( )

FYI, I just happened to hear this on the radio:



In research for her book, Steiner-Adair interviewed 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 18, asking them about their parents' use of mobile devices. The language that came up over and over and over again, she says, was "sad, mad, angry and lonely." One 4-year-old called his dad's smartphone a "stupid phone." Others recalled joyfully throwing their parent's phone into the toilet, putting it in the oven or hiding it. There was one girl who said, "I feel like I'm just boring. I'm boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime — even on the ski lift!"

Arun said...

The one useful thing is to be able to take pictures and instantly send them to someone.

Arun said...

Review of aforementioned Steiner-Adair's book

Ruminating Optimist said...

Oops ... you stole the topic of my next one :( So many similarities bhai ... Nokia 3310, slaves to smart phones, being an outcast, whatsapp, the bus experience ... exactly the same set of experiences!

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