Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

You love your iPhone, but can you love it too much?

My iPhone will only accept movies made by Wes Anderson.

This sounds like the setup for a joke, but it’s the literal truth. I had a dozen movies ready for transfer when my darling arrived last week. I gave it 12; it accepted three. I wanted to upload four gigs of scifi action, quirky coming of age drama and obscure British comedy, but iPhone decided that these movies were not good enough and refused to accept them.

My iPhone is demanding and high-maintenance, but this probably my fault for giving it a girl’s name. I named her Pandora, not after the music service, but after the Greek equivalent of Eve — the woman who opened a box of trouble and released evil into the world.

And if you don’t think of iPhone as the mythical root of all evil, you probably don’t know what I use it for.

I should probably write about applications, customer service hassles and technical specs, but every reviewer on the planet is doing that. I want to approach iPhone on an emotional level. I want to talk about the way it makes you feel.

First is the anticipation as you wait three weeks for your back-ordered wonder widget to arrive. Some people think of three weeks as a hassle. I view it as a kind of initiation — like boot camp or fraternity hazing. You endure three weeks of frustration and want, but when your iPhone finally arrives, you feel like you’ve earned it.

The worst part is reserving $300 dollars for a device you don’t actually have yet. You pay your money, you leave the store and you stare at the brochure; but you’re stuck with your old phone — a constant reminder of the flaws that made you upgrade in the first place.

It’s like sharing an apartment with a girl you just broke up with. Emotionally, you’ve moved on, but you’re stuck with last year’s model until the new one gets here.

And then my iPhone finally came in. The guy at the store grabbed my old phone, ripped its SIM card out and said “You should probably destroy that.”

I complied but this seemed cruel to me. Sure, I was breaking up with my old phone, but I wasn’t ready to kill it. But iPhone is a jealous creature. There can only be one phone in my life now, and it’s too late to turn back.

My emotional connection to the device started immediately, as soon as the sales rep took it out of the box. I felt he was being rough and impersonal with it, so I leaned forward a bit to intercede. My friend James stopped me.

He said, “Relax. This guy handles phones all the time; he’s like a doctor.”

I got back to the car with it and immediately started playing with the GPS. “Look James, it tells me exactly where we are!”

James was not impressed. “Or you could look at the street signs.”

I argued with him all the way to the office. Eventually we determined this was better because it was new and new things are always better than old things, even if your contacts don’t import right and you have to disable networks that Lubbock doesn’t have yet.

My first call went something like this:

ME: Hey Scott, I’m calling you on my new iPhone! How do I sound?

SCOTT: What? Hello? Who is this?

Then the call dropped. But you can’t expect too much when you walk out of the store. You have to give it a few hours to activate first.

I got to the office and immediately started taking pictures of my friends. People hate this. I went to associate photos with my contacts and realized that everyone was wearing the same expression — angry, annoyed and busy. Now those expressions will be immortalized forever, ready to pop up and glare at me every time someone from work calls.

The contacts that came from my SIM card were a hopeless mess, so I wiped them completely and imported everything from Outlook. Anyone anticipating an iPhone purchase should spend an hour with their old phone and make sure every number they have is in their personal Outlook list. Organize the phone numbers, web pages, notes and email addresses ahead of time — make sure names are complete and spelled right. iPhone’s photo interface is pretty good, but it’s easier to assign pictures with Outlook and ship them over later.

Then, once your Outlook phone list is clean and organized, everything will come over automatically. I did this with mine and I assure you it was time well spent. Besides, I think it’s healthy to spend time with your old phone while you’re waiting on the new one. It gives you time to say goodbye.

Once I had the names in, I sat down and started assigning ringtones to each person. I’m too cheap to buy new ones and I’m not smart enough to hack them, so I had to work with the defaults.

I got halfway through and realized I was assigning sounds to people, not by formal relationship, but according to how they make me feel. Soothing female friends got the harp. Macho redneck types got the motorcycle. People who only call me for work got the barking dog. Family members got the nuclear launch alert siren. Hopeless geek friends got the robot sound. And editors get the duck.

Then I got home and started showing iPhone to my friends. They were all skittish and giving me weird looks. That’s when I realized I wasn’t just showing off my phone; I was cradling it, kind of like a baby.

I had friends take pictures of us together and asked them why they didn’t love me enough to bring gifts. That’s when they started planning the intervention.

I didn’t realize I was in trouble until I had a problem with the app store last week. My transaction failed, and instead of simply checking support or rebooting the device, I picked it up and yelled, “How can you hurt me when I love you so much?”

This is why I don’t usually keep jobs very long. And incidentally, why Online is segregated from the rest of the newsroom.

I came home that day and found a dozen friends waiting for me. The editor of Frenship Today took charge. “Michael, I know you love your iPhone and we all admit, it’s a lovely and useful device. But we think — we think maybe you need a vacation.” She pulled out a brochure and handed it to me. “This brochure is for a…resort in Galveston. It was founded in 1993, after some programmers had extreme reactions to the Apple Newton. We think they can help you.”

I said the resort looked lovely and promised her I would think about it. Then I did what I always do during moral crises and times of stress. I went to my editor.

“Shelly? I spend every waking moment plugged in to my iPhone and sometimes I have dreams about it. Do you think I need help?”

Shelly said, “Nah. Just write a column about it.”

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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 31, 2008 at 14:07

Posted in Apple, Columns

2 Responses

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  1. this was funny….I could totally relate.

    New IPhone lover

    November 25, 2008 at 17:37

  2. […] yes, those of you who think this is karmic retribution for bragging about stuff last week, I assure you the irony is not lost on […]


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