Thursday, 24 May 2012

Attachment theory and obsolescence conspiracy at the human/technology interface 101

Amazing what a bit of cropping and overexposure can do, eh!

My iPhone died this week. Can we have a moment’s silence, please?

Thank you.

Mysteriously, it died about four weeks after my original two-year contract with my service provider expired. While I still continue on the plan, of course I am not entitled to a free replacement phone now. How do obsolescence conspiracy theories start exactly?

I hadn’t backed up my phone to iTunes because I run a PC laptop and I just didn’t want to install it. Ergo, I was going to lose all my contacts. Oh, how I used to shake my head in bewilderment at those people who didn’t keep a copy of their contacts somewhere safe and then lost everything when they lost their phone. And here I am. There. At least I had only just downloaded all my recent photos.

As usual in times of adversity, my pragmatic side took over. I don’t have a lot of random contacts that I desperately need to get hold of once in a blue moon and have no other way of contacting. I have my peeps and I can let them all know via email or Facey that I’ve been a numbskull and can they please text me so I get their number again. (Please don’t forget to include your name in the text, ahem!) So, enter the resident tech head in my life, my awesome mate Phil, to the rescue if at all possible, yet again. After steeling ourselves (and finally giving in and installing iTunes on the PC) hitting the restore button was a major anti-climax because: Absolutely. Nothing. Happened. “Oh, Bev, I think she’s real sick, mate,” might get entered in the Understatement of the Year Awards 2012. 

After quick trips to Telstra and Next Byte, death was confirmed at 4:24pm. So, what to do now? And this is how it happens. I had to become a tech nerd for 24 hours. Choosing a phone is a big commitment these days. Does anyone else remember when Telecom (as it was then) just handed you a new home phone and everyone had the same model? It was like living in East Germany. Anyone with anything other than the standard issue was clearly either loaded or up themselves. Now the choice is bewildering and I wasn’t going to be able to make a sound decision at 4:45pm in a state of grief in the middle of a shopping mall. My evening was to be spent—remotely, thankfully—in the company of a thousand more committed nerds than myself, all with endearing online identities such as Xcover joy, CorpSe, VixZen and bigdaz666. 

The field was rapidly narrowed down to three contenders, but the fine tuning was exhausting. Did I want to commit to another two-year plan when I am moving overseas next year? Was it cheaper to pay out an unused plan instead of buying a phone outright? (A: yessiree by a long shot!) Would I stick with Apple for a financial premium, or would I cross over to Android? If the phones came out of the box with Android 2.3 could I upgrade them to Android 4? Why the hell were the operating systems called Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich? Who was responsible for that!? Which had the longer reported battery life and would I really treat the phone like ‘MG’ and be pissed off that the battery went flat after eight solid hours of music playback at work in an area with 4G coverage? (srsly!?) Did I want a 28mm lens, or would it annoy me for closer shots? Which phone was faster? At no point did I consider, nor did the forums mention, the small-yet-important details like: this phone has really boring ring tones and, since it’s not an iPhone, if you can find a case at all you can guarantee it will only be available in slime green.

I delved into the esoteric worlds of CPU processing speeds, active lockscreens and 4G capability. I made my decision, pending some test photos in store. I purchased, and then spent another entire evening customising the damn thing, getting rid of all the rainbow-coloured theming, upgrading the software (yes, I abandoned Apple, much to Phil’s disappointment), and tracking down and installing my favourite apps. (What!? No Hipstamatic for Android users!? Somebody do something about it immediately!) I know so much about my new phone’s capabilities: more than I want and nowhere near enough in terms of what it can really do. When I think that two phones ago I couldn’t store more than 60 text messages without running out of memory I am all amazement. But I know that pretty soon I will forget all about the Bluetooth capabilities and I will be using a USB cable to download my photos like I always have, I won’t be backing my data up to the Cloud on a regular basis, I won’t have my work computer calendar and contacts synced to my phone, I probably won’t even be sending an MMS. I’ll be calling my Mum, texting my besties, making shopping lists and taking vintage-style snaps on my very modern equipment. This phone has capabilities I don’t even know I need. Worse still, by the time this phone dies of old age (or planned obsolescence, p’haps) it will seem like a dinosaur in comparison to what is then available. After a few tentative days of getting-to-know-you, however, I think I am going to be just as grief-stricken when the time comes as I was last weekend.

PS Thank you to my beloved, Charles, for pointing me in the direction of the Lightbulb Conspiracy doco (sorry about the breathy female narrator, though).

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