Underthecurrent


Cheap, Smart and Quick
October 11, 2011, 7:00 am
Filed under: popconsumption | Tags: , , ,

Yesterday, I bought a new phone.

The two tone plastic no-mugging Nokia died a painful death this weekend where a replacement battery (and replaced charger) would simply no longer charge. After four years of international adventures, six months of unexplained sudden power failures, and a lot of Snake Xenzia in strange places, it was time to let go.

It is true that when I got it I noticed several disenfranchised people in Africa had the same model, and that the woman at the first store I went to (who was over sixty) openly mocked it when I pulled it out of my bag to explain my forced upgrade and lack of interest in features. She obviously did not appreciate that when your phone looks vaguely like it might be a child’s toy from the late 90s it means that you can abandon it at a bar overnight without risk of theft (true story), drop it on any number of floors without the tiny screen breaking, and avoid checking any important emails until a convenient time. You can talk on street corners in dodgy places with no fear that when you are mugged your call will be interrupted due to phone theft.

Initially I considered a few featureless pay-as-you-go models that seemed intended for the elderly, starting at about $35. My guess that they were meant for the very young or very old was based on suspiciously enlarged keypads. No shame in that game. However, as I stared at the glass display case I remembered that my current pay-as-you-go system includes a bunch of as yet unused data… and that the internet cafe is not open on weekends. The tech enthusiastic sales guy approached me and showed me his phone, with an ample touch screen, he said might be available at the local post office for about $200.

At the post office, no phones were on display. At the counter, I quietly inquired whether it was true, whether they had the good stuff hiding somewhere behind the counter. The woman smiled and produced three white boxes from some unseen place. Within forty five seconds I had selected one and gotten out.

And that is how I bought a $75 pay-as-you-go smart phone that looks oddly like the love child of an iPhone and Blackberry and found myself watching Jersey Shore previews from my bed at 2 pm today and reconsidering my stance on Gmail. It is shiny and unscratched and a little overly delicate. It is purple. My fingers are clumsy with the scroll and I remain hostile towards both apps and non-standard ringtones, but it appears I have begrudgingly been dragged forward into a whole new world of cellular communication.

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