Get Off My Phone? Get Off My Ass!

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A few years ago, after receiving some bad directions from a man with a cool accent, I found myself embarrassingly lost in New Orleans’ French Quarter, en route to a destination whose name I can no longer recall. (I blame the Sazeracs.) So I decided to pull out my iPhone and punch the place into Google Maps to determine how not-even-close I was.

This, I learned, was a sight so troubling that strangers felt the need to inform me I was squandering what little time I had left here on earth.

An older man, who did not have a cool accent but did wear a hat with a feather in it (these guys always have hats with feathers in them), stopped abruptly on the sidewalk in front of me and placed his right hand on my left shoulder, like an uncle about to deliver bad news to a young nephew with a behavioral disorder.

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Take Your New iPhone and Shove It

Smart phones are stupid.

There, I said it. I feel better already.

With the quiet efficiency of killer drones, smart phones have destroyed any remnants of that quaint, old-fashioned notion called group social interaction. You know, the kind where numerous humans occupy the same space together, by choice.

You’d have to be Helen Keller not to have noticed how smart phones have insidiously stilled the way in which people relate, or more precisely, do not relate to each other. No offense to Helen Keller, but to me, the silence is deafening.
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The Best Feature of My New iPhone 5S – Humility

Line at the Apple store in Philadelphia ahead of the iPhone launch

It’s 5 a.m. and I’m dozing on a cold sidewalk in Philadelphia. Bleary eyed, self-conscious of my surroundings, a bit ashamed. I commune with others of my ilk, sharing stories of our alienation from society. The few early birds out this morning either avert their eyes as they pass or look at us with a mix of bemusement and contempt. They go about their business without any concern for us. We made our beds, now we should lie in them. On the street, if that’s what we deserve.

We’re iPhone campers, awaiting the latest overpriced bauble from Cupertino. And I’m acutely aware that, nearby, there are other people sleeping on the street under very different circumstances. Once or twice a year, our lives overlap in embarassingly parallel ways. In fact, actual homeless people come by every few minutes to ask us for help. They get the cold shoulder. It’s breathtakingly callous of us.

Nowhere is the gulf between haves and have-nots more apparent than on a Launch Day, the periodic tech events that bring out the pampered and privileged — like me. To buy the unnecessary — like an iPhone. While we wait, enthusiastically chatting about which model phone to buy, clean-cut young men from a nearby shop give us free coffee. Free! To people who are patently capable of paying for such things. The homeless guys across the street get none.

So, as I sit on the sidewalk waiting for the Temple of Technology to fling open its doors and let us acolytes join in the worship rituals our modern-day gods demand (silicon wafers having replaced communion wafers), let me remind myself of what I truly have to be thankful for.

• Freedom of assembly. The police won’t come and roust my fellow gadget geeks and me, thanks to a pretty handy amendment written into the US Constitution 224 years ago, about a mile away from where I now sit. Very many countries in the world do not give their citizens this fundamental right. Thanks for doing me a solid, James Madison.

• Safety in public at odd hours. If I weren’t male, I’d worry about being raped. If I weren’t white, I’d worry about the sidelong glances from people who think I’m a threat to them, and the cops on patrol who could stop and frisk me without probable cause. These are both non-issues for white males, and those of us who won the genetic lottery that allows such complacency ought to acknowledge that once in a while.

• Disposable income to buy disposable items. My current phone is fine. A little worse for wear, but it does its job. I don’t need another. Our relationship with technology has become schizophrenic in recent years — so essential and yet so frivolous. I use my iPhone constantly. It does tons of things. I need almost none of it to survive. In a few minutes, I’ll pay several hundred dollars for something I don’t really need but can’t live without. The price tag barely even registers with me. It’s new, it’s cool, I want it, I’ll have it. But all this conspicuous consumption is giving me indigestion.

• The job security of a white-collar worker. I’ll show up late to work today, and my boss won’t mind. Hell, he won’t even notice. At other jobs, I could be fired for being just a few minutes late. There’s a level of trust and freedom in the white-collar world that makes an indulgence like today possible. Oh, and the company pays my phone bill. Thanks, guys! So, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to malign people who get a free “Obama phone.” I’m on the take as well. (Yes, it’s part of my compensation — but it’s icing on the cake and I know it.)

• An abundance of innovation. The corporate grudge match between Apple and Google/Samsung for bragging rights to the innovation crown assures that every year I’ll get a new phone that does some nifty new tricks. This year’s model takes great pictures and scans my fingerprint, sparing me the abject horror of having to type in a four-digit code once in a while. For 80 or so years, phones had one function, and houses had one phone. Now, my phone grows in capability every year. It has replaced about a dozen consumer electronics products in my life. I try to remember to marvel at this amazing good fortune, especially when the online tech discussion boards turn vitriolic in the debates between the pro- and anti-Apple factions. We’re all winners in the end.

It’s now late September. Before you know it, the retailers will be pelting us with Christmas messages. So, my fellow iPhone early adopters, heed the words of sourpuss extrordinare Ray Davies, from the Kinks’ annual radio staple “Father Christmas”: Have yourself a good time. But remember the kids who got nothing while you’re drinking down your wine.

The last word: I wrote this on a $630 iPad 3 — sitting outside in the pre-dawn hours with no fear of getting robbed. It works just fine. I’ll replace it next month for an iPad 5. The next Launch Day awaits. So, perhaps, does absolution.

Follow Jack Persico on Twitter at @jackanape.

 

30 Mobile Apps Every Philadelphian Should Have on their iPhone or Android Device

You like lists. You like your smartphone. You like where you live. So how about a list of the best apps and mobile-optimized sites that every Philadelphian should have (or have bookmarked) on his or her smartphone? OK, here it is. Well, at least according to some of my friends and some other well-known Philadelphians. (They’re listed below. Can you guess which one is my sister?)

Of course, there are lots of mobile apps that Philadelphians can use. But only a few select apps are really geared to Philadelphians or are essential for navigating and mastering the Philly experience. And these are the ones that my friends recommended. Some of these are national, but with good localized versions for the city (those are the links here). And I’m not including Yelp or Foursquare just on principle… so there. Most of these are compatible for both iPhone and Android devices. I’ve included just one link–you can Google the rest if you want.  Oh, do I have to tell you?  By the time you’ve finished reading this list it will already be out of date.

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How I Got a Free iPhone 5 From Walmart

There are lots of websites that supposedly tell you how to get a free iPhone 5. But I’m pretty sure that they’re all scams.

So when I legitimately got a free iPhone 5 from Walmart last week—and when Walmart told me that “anyone” could get a free iPhone 5 from Walmart—I thought that it was my civic duty to tell you all about it. Read more »

Somebody Sending Creepy Threatening Texts to PGW Employees

On Wednesday, according to police, a Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) employee received a text from an unknown number on his company cell phone telling him that a family member had been involved in a car crash and had been taken hostage by the sender of the message.

When the victim dialed the provided number, an unknown male informed the victim that the family member would be killed if he did not wire $1,500 USC through Western Union to a male in New York.

But when police located the family member in question, he/she was “unharmed, and completely unaware of the incident.” Either this is a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome or somebody is sending fake hostage threats to PGW employees. And it looks like it’s the latter, considering two other PGWers got the same text.

Wharton Grad Wants You to Charge Your iPhone Everywhere in Philly

If one Wharton grad’s start-up takes off, your late-night bootycalls may never again be ruined by a dying phone battery. Douglas Baldasare, through his start-up “ChargeItSpot” wants to install 76 portable charging stations in businesses across Philly by June. Consumers would power up for free, while businesses would pay a monthly fee for the kiosks, in exchange for the boon in customers they would ostensibly receive. To sell local merchants on the idea, Baldasare is sending out 150 cakes to businesses across six city neighborhoods. They’ll look something like this:

In June, according to a press release, the start-up will also release an app that alerts people to nearby charging stations, once their phones dip below a certain battery level.

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