I thought I could easily survive without it. I was wrong. I could survive, but it wasn’t easy. In fact, I was surprised about how hard I found it. It should have been a doddle. It is not as if an iPhone has been part of my life for most of it.
I could be described as being in young old-age. I can remember when we didn’t have a television, and how when we got one, our neighbours came round on a Saturday evening to watch the small, black and white screen. I can remember the envy when some relatives got their first colour TV set. I can remember my girl-friend at university spending hours using a calculator the size of a small house in order to process by hand the statistics needed for her research.
I can remember too the joy of the first personal computers – the ZX81, the ZX Spectrum (“What on earth do you want one of those for? What good will it do?”) – and learning to use code to make machines do relatively useless things. And then the big breakthrough, the Amstrad PCW – technology that actually did things that made life much easier for someone who regularly typed thousands of words.
After that came the mobiles. Telephones we could carry round and which enabled a new form of interpersonal communication – texting. (Can you imagine humans now not being able to text?)
You see, I was well past 50 before the SmartPhone arrived. I had lived most of my life without one. I shouldn’t be missing mine so much. I had coped before. Why is coping now so difficult?
About a week ago I had to send my iPhone back for repair. It worked perfectly for most of the time in most ways, but ironically, there was a small glitch when it was asked to do one of its most basic jobs – work simply as a telephone. Some callers complained they couldn’t hear me too well. A microphone issue. So it was backed-up, wiped clean, and sent back to the gurus under guarantee. And, courtesy of the store, I was given a basic mobile that made calls, sent and received texts, but did nothing else. “I will cope,” I said to myself. “I can still send and receive emails at home and have Net access there. No problem.”
What have I missed?
Ok, I haven’t missed the emails on demand, and have been able to continue to make a receive phone calls at will, but it feels that an instinctive, playful, routine part of my daily life is missing.
- I can still send texts, but I miss the ease of text entry and of being able to dictate a message. I miss the ease, fun, spontaneity, and flexibility that modern messaging offers.
- When learning new music at choir, or sitting in important meetings with clients, I could no longer make a recording of what I was trying to remember. And when making important transactions over the phone, I could no longer keep a recording of the call and store it in Evernote.
- I regularly make around half a dozen diary entries a day. This would take too long on my basic phone and would not automatically sync with my Gcal. I had learned how to use Siri to make the diary entries. Now I have to write them down on the hoof and then enter them manually on my laptop when I get home. And without a physical diary, I can no longer check my appointments on my phone.
- As part of my work I hold regular appointments with clients and I need instant access to my notes on them and on my last meeting with them. I use Evernote, the wonderfully flexible electronic filing-cabinet/database to store all my professional material, with each client having her or his own folder. Because I am not always physically present in my office where I can access my desktop machine, access to Evernote via my SmartPhone (to follow-up phone calls and prepare for meetings) is essential. I miss this app greatly.
- I am hopeless at navigating, especially when trying to find my way around London on foot. The ability to watch my route progress in real-time on Google Maps has taken away a lot of stress when visiting the city – as has the travel apps which tell me which tube station to be on and which route to take. A recent visit to the City resulted in a longer walk and a much more stressful day.
- And yes, I miss the ability to do Google searches on the hoof.
- I miss the ability to take pictures. On a serious note, I am having to use a scanner to fulfill my aim of “going as paperless as possible” to convert important documents and letters into pdfs. On my SmartPhone it was a quick snap on a scanner app. However, I am missing the relaxation of following one of my hobbies – photography – using the 12 megapixel camera and the wonderful Snapseed photo-editing app. I can no longer quickly capture the moment and produce the satisfying image using the convenience of the powerful camera and software in my pocket.
- I can’t forget the tediousness of the daily exercise walk by listening to the informative or provocative podcasts. Or I can’t pace my exercise by listening to music.
- I miss the activity that helped the waiting times pass – reading the latest news, laughing at, or being outraged by social media posts, drafting an idea for a blog article, reading my kindle. The waits for the GP or Hospital Consultant have become much more tedious.
- I can’t FaceTime my grandchildren before they go to bed.
- And yes, I know it’s sad, but I actually miss using a completely useless app which records my presence in various locations, and lets me know how many times I’ve been there.
After nine days away, my SmartPhone returned, courtesy of the alleged CarPhone Warehouse Gurus. Within seconds I could tell that it wasn’t fixed and that they hadn’t really understood the problem, and they hadn’t tried to contact me to find out what I knew was wrong. At the time of writing, I can’t face sending it away again, but I know I will have to at some stage. The cold turkey will return – sometime before Christmas.
What has been your experience of being without your SmartPhone? How have you survived?