Commentary

So I Bought a Smartphone!

After years of vowing never to own a smartphone, viewing them as needless childish gadgets, I finally caved in and bought one.

The phone I’ve used for the past ten years (I’ve had three) is the Nokia 105 Dual SIM that weighs 74 grams and is the size of a Mars Bar. It has the battery life of 13 days and even has a radio (and two games). My new phone weighs 220 grams, has the battery life of a day, and has the portability of a chopping board.

There was a time in the not so distant past when people would laugh at you for carrying around a ‘brick’ of a phone. So what happened? At what point did these massive, chunky, cumbersome phones become so popular when twenty years ago you could buy one the size of a matchbox. I’m not a technological anthropologist, if they even exist, but I bet it was the day Steve Jobs stood on stage with his iPhone and said something dumb like “This is the future!”

Cheers for that, Steve. Now even I’ve got to buy one.

Of course, I didn’t have to. He didn’t force me from silicon heaven. But I did. But why? Why did I dispense with a phone that was working perfectly, and had served me well for nearly a decade?

I’m not entirely sure. Yes, I’d been thinking about it for a while. There had been a few occasions when I could have done with one. Like getting lost recently in Caen in sheeting rain at one o’clock in the morning after making a wrong turning from the ferry terminal. There were also a few other times when companies sent me verification texts that could only be accessed via a smartphone, you know the kind.

Of course, none of these warranted the purchase, I could have plodded on regardless and got by with my Nokia. But then I went to my brother’s wedding and everything changed.

During his speech, he affectionately alluded to the fact that I lived in deep technological isolation on a farm in France. Which is true, I do. And I enjoy it. But for some reason, as I was munching on the wedding cake, I felt the urge to buy a smartphone, right there, right then, as though my life depended on it.

I couldn’t as I was in the middle of North Yorkshire, but when I got back to France (after getting lost in Caen), I decided the time had come. So I ordered a Xiaomi Redmi 9A (for Christmas) and when I got it, instantly messaged my brother:

“Hi, Guess what!!!!???”

I waited for the reply, which I assumed would arrive within minutes, seconds even.

I didn’t get one. So I sent it again. But nothing. Had something gone wrong? Was my message lying in some heavily encrypted Xiaomi outbox without me knowing it?

No. Turns out my brother had switched his phone off for Christmas. The irony wasn’t lost on me, for sure.

I actually felt like sending the phone back, as it had served its purpose – I’d made contact with the outside world. But I didn’t, of course. Who sends their own Christmas present back? Not me, so I plugged slowly on, becoming like everyone else: loading up Apps and photographing inane things and then adding faux artistic filters. Like this wine box with a vanilla b/w sheen:

(good idea though, don’t you think?)

So do I miss my Nokia? Yes. Absolutely. I miss the compactness of its design. Its tactility, its sleekness, it’s smallness. The fact that you can hold it between your index finger and thumb with ease. Twenty years ago, this type of phone was the height of sophistication. A statement of cool. A symbol you were on the move, heading boldly into the 21st century, no holds barred.

Now what have we got? A brick in our pocket that weighs us down like a lead weight. Going out of the house these days feels like training for a strong man contest. Have I got my phone, my wallet, my keys, my bag, my laptop, my life! Were things this complicated when I was 25? I can’t remember but probably not. I didn’t even have a mobile phone until I was 28. And even then it was one of those real chunky Motorola affairs made out of indestructible plastic that you could open bottles of beer with. Or even use as a weapon. Not that I did.

When you think about it, the very definition of a mobile phone has become some sick joke. Which is probably why at some point it was changed from a mobile phone to a smartphone to avoid the obvious confusion. Probably by Steve Jobs.

But anyway, the deed is done now. I’ve got it, and it’s not going back. One, the time period to send it back has elapsed. And two, I do like the star constellation app Star Walk. It tells me what stars and constellations I’m looking at as I look through the camera. So if nothing else, if I get blasted into space or kidnapped by aliens, at least I’ll know where I am.

(Main photo/Julius Drost)


Further (hypocritical) reading:

Why I Don’t Own a Smartphone (here)

Why I Still Don’t Own a Smartphone (here)


When a faulty satnav unexpectedly sends British tourists into a deathly quiet French village, it gives its idle mayor, Jean Marc Bulot, a final shot at redemption.

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