My contract with my cellphone carrier is ending, so I will get a new phone next month. I feel underwhelmed by the prospect. It’s not that I don’t like high-tech toys; it’s just that I have a bad habit of focusing on what the tool can do rather than how cool the tool itself is. I’ve never been a car buff, nor did I ever need a top-end sound system, nor do I care greatly about the number of pixels on my TV screen. I care about where the car is going, what music is on the stereo and what ball game is on the television.
So, when it comes to the new iPhone 6, I will upgrade from my Galaxy S4 with something resembling ambivalence. I really don’t care much about case composition and beveled edges. What I need is a device that lets me make a phone call. Long ago, a quarter in my pocket and a payphone solved the problem.
My dad sold mainframe and mini computers for a living, so I grew up with computers. I learned draw flowcharts and to program in Fortran (you’ll have to Google those), and my first computer was an Atari 520ST (it had a graphical user interface years before Microsoft came out with Windows). In my 30 years of personal computing experience, Apple software tends to be solid if uninspiring. As for hardware, the Mac was great while the Apple III bit the big one. Microsoft had real winners with DOS 3.2 and Windows XP, while Vista was plain awful. I prefer Ubuntu Linux on my laptop, but for games and taxes, it’s limited. The point is, I am an agnostic when it comes to this stuff.
In upgrading, I am leaving Android, with which I have been content. I haven’t had an Apple product for years, and it’s time to check it out. What do I do with my phone? I make calls, send texts, take photos and videos, do very little web surfing, and I listen to music (Pandora, Milk Music, Rdio, TuneIn). That’s it. What do I expect when I change? I will do the exact same things by pressing different buttons. It’s hardly a reason to get worked up.
The whole Apple unveiling on Tuesday left me bored, and even the abridged reviews don’t get me hot and bothered.
I do like the idea of the iPhone 6 plus having a bigger screen (5.5 inches). You see, I was cursed with fat fingers, and I find texting with small screens a real pain. Also, my eyesight is not quite what it was back when I had that Atari. A bigger screen is easier for me to read.
And that brings up the Apple Watch.
Smartwatches are the newest thing you need that you didn’t know you needed until someone invented it. It’s really just Dick Tracy’s watch from the 1930s. And the screen in inherently small. So, no matter how cool the smart watches out there are, I won’t be wearing one because it’s too hard to make out what the hell the app it might be running is telling me.
To be fair, I haven’t worn a watch of any kind in a couple of decades — there are clocks and mirrors all over New York City (it’s a conspiracy). And I hate analog watches, so those really expensive Swiss models are wasted on me. If you’ve been partying all night, you can’t tell which one is the big hand and which is the little one. And you certainly can’t tell which number each is pointing to. Granted, I don’t party all night anymore, but that doesn’t change my outlook on the stupidity of analog watches.
The other thing I don’t much care about is Apple Pay. This is a nifty way to use your credit card without giving Apple your card number, letting the cashier see what your security code is or letting a company figure out what you bought where for how much. Call me old-fashioned, but I carry cash. It’s faster, and you don’t accidentally leave it at the restaurant.
As for having U2 as part of the launch, I think Apple needs a rethink. I love U2; I saw the band’s very first U.S. tour at a 2,000 seat place when “Boy” first came out. But it reminded me of when Microsoft used the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” as its theme for a new version of Windows. I thought, “This is 20 years out of date.” You don’t position yourself as cutting-edge technology by using a band that has been around more than 30 years. Arctic Monkeys or Daft Punk would have been better choices.
These unveilings have devolved into the kind of crap we see from Detroit with its new line of cars every year. More bells and whistles, but incremental improvement at best (when Ford can get a door to make the same sound a German car makes when it closes, then I’ll be impressed with its engineers). And very few people can tell a 2012 Mustang from a 2013. Phones are getting stuck in the same rut.
I know my lack of passion will offend a great many who believe in Apple the way the Pope believes in Jesus. And I know those who dislike Apple fanboydom will think I am not critical enough of the company and its products. Too bad.
When they invent a phone that only rings when I want it to, with the person I want to talk to on the other end who has good news to tell me, then I’ll get excited. Until then, the iPhone 6 is out … yawn.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.