by Mathew Klickstein
Why is it that I’m spending my Saturday morning filled with equal parts excitation and dread? It is because it is this Saturday – today, in a few hours – that I will step into the Verizon store and finally join the hordes that have transitioned from classic feature phone to super smartphone.
This is my last morning without a smartphone.
I’ve had my little Nokia feature phone for so long that I can’t even remember when I switched to it from my bulky flip phone that came along after I realized I couldn’t very well work in LA’s film industry answering calls from pay phones any longer.
It was my principled tenacity that kept me from getting a cell phone in college, but once producers of shows I was working on couldn’t get in touch right away, I realized these luddite principles were just making me an obnoxious asshole no one could ever reach.
Now I’m finding the same problem with my feature phone, the tiny little gadget that slips easily into my pocket, can be dropped a million times without even losing a call, and whose only recent app is the clear tape I’m using to keep it held together. (Before, the tape was this blue masking tape that was more durable but made phone use an added chore for lack of screen visibility.)
People are always wondering why I can’t receive pictures on my phone. They want to know why they have to give me such detailed directions (“Jesus, Matt, just use your GPS!”). I’ve had old friends call me from time to time and along with asking if I still eat a jalapeño every day at lunch, there’s the inevitable, “Do you still have that same old phone?”
Yes, I still have that same old phone. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it doesn’t have GPS and does not receive pictures. In fact, even when people send me pictures, I receive only an error message … that doesn’t even bother to tell me who sent me the picture.
But I wouldn’t say my Nokia feature phone sucks. For one thing, I’ve had it so long that the plan I’m using is incredibly inexpensive (and for unlimited text and calls). I actually phoned AT&T a few months ago to check on that and after pausing for a moment, the operator got back on with me a little flustered, “Wow, uh, sir, you actually got this plan so long ago we don’t have anything to compete with it now. You should stick with what you’ve got.”
For the plan, that is. She – along with everyone else I talk to when I discuss phone-ness with my AT&T operator friends – can’t help but let me know how very overdue I am for a phone upgrade.
Why have I kept it all these years? Why hold out for a smartphone?
As a phone, my Nokia works great. Yes, it drops calls like everyone else’s phone. Yes, sometimes reception renders the call bombarded by what sounds like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” (which is fine by me but not always so great for people who never really “got” Velvet Underground or who need to tell me something really important without being cut off by howling feedback).
As a phone, my phone is a great phone.
I remember just a few months back being in Central Park watching a symphony with some friends and everyone was using their iPhones as homing devices to get other friends to find where we were in the park and to play awesome-looking videogames while waiting for the show to start and to make 3D movies and launch rockets and god-knows-what. But, when a call needed to be made by someone, well, they each had to use my crummy old feature phone enveloped in scotch tape because it was the only one that got reception.
But now those halcyon days are over. It’s smartphone time. It’s 2013. I need GPS. I need to be able to check emails and GChat and Twitter and everything else constantly. We live in a world that would have terrorized Aldous Huxley, but we’re here and I’m here and I have responsibilities and bills to pay and I need to have a smartphone.
I’m afraid of what will happen when I drop that smartphone. Don’t they break so easily? What happens if it freezes? What happens if I lose all my data? How do you work these new-fangled things anyway? Am I going to be stranded somewhere and have no idea how to even make a call? Tiles? What is that? Can I use my Windows 8 phone with my laptop? Wait, do I need a laptop anymore?
Do I need a key to unlock my phone? Do I get in trouble if I jailbreak my phone? That sounds terribly illegal just by name alone!
And then a great calm washes over me. I’ve been holding off for far too long. I’m looking at my inert, black phone with the tiny keypad whose numbers have worn off. It’s laying there, perched carelessly atop the beige, wrinkled blanket next to my girlfriend’s tucked in peach-colored feet.
It seems to be looking at me, knowing what’s next. It’s the look our family dog gave us at the vet’s office that day when we left without her. It is a knowing look, the look of, “Let me go, Matt.”
I will let it go, I will get my smartphone (likely a Lumia 822, free with my Verizon contract and what I’ve been told is a good “starter” phone for children like me). I will stop hounding my friends for directions and stop running from coffee shop to coffee shop with my bulky laptop (who soon will be switched up too, oh yes) to check for important emails.
I will, after this day, be a smartphone user. Just like everyone else.