Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Your iPhone or your life! Really, what's the difference?

I recently returned from New York City with my 12-year-old daughter. The highlight of the trip, for her anyway, was a visit to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.

Actually, calling it a “store” is like calling Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner a “bank teller.” Visitors to this store walk through a massive glass cube bearing the ubiquitous Apple logo and descend an escalator into a single room containing iPhones, iPods, iTouches and thousands of iGeeks. The store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That’s correct, it’s even open Christmas Eve and Christmas morning just in case Santa’s elves miscounted and their boss is one MacBook short.

After spending two hours in the store touching every iButton on every iShelf, my daughter has already added an iTouch and a Macbook to her Christmas list, even though it is October as I write this. While those may wind up under the tree, I am forbidding her to get an iPhone. Why? Because my daughter has already lost her phone. Losing an iPhone today is worse than losing the keys to your rich and newly deceased Aunt Gladys’ safety deposit box, after years of listening to her at holiday meals tell the entire family that, when she expired, “there’d be a little something for everybody.” But more about that later.

Saying that my daughter lost her phone doesn’t do the story justice. Nine months after receiving a Sprint Rant for Christmas, and using it daily to send approximately 1.3 billion text messages and 400,000 self portraits of her teeth and nostrils to her friends, (thankfully her plan includes unlimited text, otherwise her parents would be living in a cardboard box under a viaduct) the phone failed to appear one morning as she was getting ready for school. This in itself was no cause for alarm as the Schwem household begins each morning with a frantic search for shoes, backpacks, hairbrushes or homework. The phantom item is always located approximately three seconds after the bus pulls away.

The phone, however, had never obtained “milk carton status” until now.

Sue and I began our detective work by asking the question burned into every parent’s vernacular: “Where was the last place you left it?”

The answer was just as common: “I dunno.”

Every time I hear that response, I wonder, “What’s the fuss over waterboarding?”

Eventually we gleaned a little more information from her. She couldn’t remember bringing it in last night. No wait, she remembered having it when she got out of the car. Okay, it’s getting clearer. She remembered putting it down while she retrieved her backup from our SUV’s hatch.

And here’s where she had a “CSI moment;” the case suddenly becoming crystal clear. She remembered placing it on the bumper of the SUV while she retrieved her backpack.

This would have been perfectly okay if the car had remained in the garage between 4 p.m. and 7 the next morning. But our family car is never idle for that long unless the battery is dead. No, our car had made at least three trips since 4 p.m., meaning the purple Sprint Rant had made at least one of them, without a seat belt if you catch my drift.

Natalie ran to the bus, minus her phone. Sue and I began walking the streets, searching for the phone the same way a heartbroken boy searches for a lost dog. It had all the makings of a scene from Marley and Me except we weren’t combing the neighborhood calling, “Here Rant. Come home Rant!”

Two days later, Sue found the phone. Check that, she found pieces of the phone along West 123rd Street. There were just enough parts and accompanying tire tracks to ensure the phone wouldn’t be covered under the “drop” section of the warranty.

Natalie took the news hard, knowing that a new phone would come from her bank account. But, as she began to save, she began looking at newer phones and cooler phones. Cell phone manufacturers have a season for introducing cooler phones; it begins mere seconds after a 12 year old has purchased a phone.

Truth be known, Natalie always wanted an iPhone. But the price tag stymied her. Besides Sprint, her parent’s provider, was not compatible with iPhone. Since her phone was being added to our plan, she opted for the Rant.

The iPhone wouldn’t be so cool if its owners used it as simply a phone. My Blackberry contains my address book, calendar and that’s about it. Oh sure, I occasionally use the camera to snap grainy photos of objects that I will delete within 24 hours and yes, occasionally I find myself playing Brickbreaker while waiting for planes. Otherwise, I use it as a phone, meaning I talk on it.

I rarely see iPhone users speaking into their phones. That’s because they are too busy diddling with iPhone applications. At last count the number of “apps” was approaching 100,000, including several that seem to do nothing more than make – ahem – gaseous noises on the iPhone. The user pays for that, by the way.

If I lose my Blackberry, I know that everything is backed up on my PC. Somehow I doubt that the fart app, or any other cool iPhone app, exists anywhere except within the iPhone. So let’s see what would happen if it got lost.

I’ll start with a blank iPhone and download ten random applications from the Apple Store. (Hint: It’s much easier to search the iPhone app store if you actually OWN an iPhone. I don’t so I have to resort to more primitive methods, such as Google searches and recommendations from the on line Apple staff or “Genuises,” as they prefer to be called).

First I'll download iOwn, a $4.99 app that allows the inventorying of everything one has acquired over the years. Think one of those metal self storage sheds on your phone.

Okay, now that I have EVERYTHING I OWN on my iPhone, there is still room for nine more apps. So I’ll add Pennies, a finance app that lets me keep track of my expenses; Grocery iQ for control of my shopping list, and Barista, so I can make my favorite espresso beverages with the skill of a tenured Starbucks employee.

I may be tempted to sweeten that frothy drink so my iPhone better contain BloodSugar, an app that allows me to test my sugar intake. I’ll add FlightTrack to get real time flight updates and Gas Cubby to record my gas mileage in the event that I miss my flight altogether. RedLaser lets me scan UPC codes while DIRECTV allows me to program my DVR from faraway places.

Finally, I’ll add Things which, according to the Apple website, allows one to “manage tasks and get things done.” I assume nobody in Congress has ever downloaded it.

Now I will drive around the neighborhood with my newly loaded iPhone on my car bumper until it falls off and becomes pothole filler. In one instant, I have suffered amnesia of every sort. I no longer have any idea what to buy at the grocery store and without a UPC scanner, wouldn’t know how to buy it anyway. Of course, lacking Pennies, I’m not sure I can afford groceries period. Or gas for that matter.

Since purchasing coffee from a store is out of the question, I’ll just go home and make some. Wait, no I won’t because I lost all the recipes. And I probably couldn’t find the coffee maker anyway since I downloaded its location on iOwn. My next flight came and went (I think) and my DVR is suddenly useless. So I will sit in my house, unsure what to do since Things is not around to guide me.

Wait, I’m feeling light-headed! Could my blood sugar be plunging? How should I know? Quick, dial 911!

Damn, I can’t do that either. Cause of death? Missing iPhone. Bag him and tag him.

Now you see why my daughter will never get an iPhone. There is, however, a nice rotary model on Craigslist.

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