Gadget fatigue

GadgetsIt’s starting to look like I need a new cellphone. My current one is two and a half years old now, and while it’s served me well, the hardware is starting to fail in various minor but annoying ways. And since we don’t fix things anymore, that means it’s time to go cellphone shopping.

Here’s the thing: I’m a nerd, and mobile technology is the hottest sector of the technology marketplace right now. There’s been an explosion of options, and sorting through different technologies to find the Right One is the sort of thing I’m supposed to love doing.

So why do I find the process so dispiriting?

I’ve tried four times now to buy a new phone, and each time I’ve walked away without closing the sale, feeling vaguely depressed about the whole process to boot.

I think it has to do with values. I know the kind of device I want to buy; the problem is that nobody makes it.

I want to buy a phone that’s open — that respects my right as the owner of the device to use it in whatever way I see fit. But every modern smartphone is locked down in various ways, either by the manufacturer, the carrier, the operating system vendor, or some unholy combination of the above. They all want to channel you into App Stores where things you used to get for free on the Web you now have to pay a dollar a pop for — and which you’ll never get access to at all unless they approve it first.

I want to buy a phone that’s responsible about power consumption. Modern smartphones suck power at an absolutely unholy rate. I have yet to meet anyone who can boast of getting more than a single work day out of a fully charged smartphone. In this respect phones are actually getting worse, as time goes on and features like huge displays and quad-core (!) processors become standard.

I want to buy a phone that’s ethically built. I want the people who actually build the phones to be able to keep a non-trivial share of the enormous profits they generate, and I don’t want them to have to risk their health or work eighteen-hour shifts — especially when doing so only serves to bump up management’s already huge profit margin.

I want to buy a phone that’s respectful of my privacy. I always giggle a bit when I hear people talking about Cellphone Revolutions, because the only reason those work is that the governments of the world haven’t realized what an enormous opportunity cellphones provide them. (Though a few have figured it out.) Here you have a device placed in every citizen’s pocket that knows (and can therefore record) everywhere you go and everyone you communicate with — and the citizens carry them voluntarily! They even consider them a status symbol! The potential for abuse is huge, and it’s only growing as the devices gain the ability to sense more about the world around them and to connect to more types of networks. I want a phone that puts my interests before that of a government, or a carrier, or an app developer.

So that’s what I want. But the state of things in 2012 is that it’s an impossible list. If you want a phone — especially a smartphone — you just have to accept that it’s going to be a locked-down, power-sucking blood diamond that routinely rats you out to a breathtaking range of third parties.

I suppose that’s the way it is, at least for now. But it’s hard to get excited about, that’s for sure.



December 7, 2013
3:36 pm

Nothing wrong with the Motorola Razr. It’s a barebone but reliable and durable phone with an iconic and classy design. Perhaps the best non-smartphone mobile ever made.

Smartphones are multimedia machines and a smybol of cultural downfall.

Touchscreens require you to stroke a machine instead of pushing buttons. They modify natural behavior in a very subtile way, making for a very unnatural and unhealthy relationship with a machine. When you stroke a machine, you are no longer in command but have an actual sensual experience and relationship with a machine – hence the cultural downfall of people married to their cell phone. You should refuse to operate any machine by a sensual movement that should be reserved for the humans and animals that you love.

If you make an actual phone call with an iPhone, often the audio quality is beyond lousy and sometimes the connection is so weak it will cut off in the middle of the conversation. Some iPhones even depend on the angle you hold (!) the device. Wrong angle? No connection! The battery life of most smartphones is a joke, you basically have to charge these things every single day. For changing the battery of an iPhone you have to send the phone to Apple or take it to an Apple store. If you drop a smartphone on a table just a little rougher than ususal, it might break. If you perform non-Apple technical upgrades and modificiations to an iPhone, it might never function again. I could keep going but I’m sure you catch my drift.

Smartphones are the ultimate consume-and-obey gadgets for utterly vain and unreflective people leading shallow lives with slavery jobs, thinking and living in boxes corporations provided them with.

No smartphone will ever be able to keep up with a real computer, stereo system or television – talking about valuation and cultivation here. Also, you don’t have to look everything up on the go. Nothing posted on Facebook will make your life better. Nothing. Whatever you need to know, you can ask people, anywhere, anytime. In case the right people are not around, you can just call them with a telephone.

The only cell phone you ever really need might just be the Motorola Razr. Maybe a Blackberry if you are texting a lot and want good audio quality and occassional internet access on the go. Anything else was invented to take your money and valuable lifetime.

For an intelligent human being, smartphones are obsolent.

I need a mobile for my job. I have owned three smartphones so far but I woke up and decided to downshift back to a Motorola Razr and ocassionally a Blackberry Bold 9000, pushing buttons and borders while thinking for myself and connecting with real life.