Friday, July 18, 2008

The attraction of stuff

One thing Michelle and I share is a geeky fascination with cool gadgets. We don't spend a lot of money on nice furniture or fashionable clothes, but dangle a new computer or the latest tech wizardry and we're both likely to feel a burning sensation in our pockets. Michelle refers to the Best Buy circular in the Sunday paper as "the porno."

And so, despite our better judgment, we both find ourselves pulled with Newtonian force toward the new iPhone 3G. You've seen the ads and heard the hype, I'm sure. It's a cell phone! It's an iPod! It's the Internet at your fingertips! It's a mini TV in your pocket! Your calendar, a camera, instant messaging, games, even a GPS system to tell you exactly where you are right now! (Aisle 2 of the Best Buy, no doubt.)

How can anyone resist? This is a device that would have come in quite handy on Pie in the Sky II, and we talked about it often. We're in the middle of Kansas; where's the nearest cup of coffee? What's the deal with these "Purple Heart Memorial Highway" signs everywhere? OK then, where's the largest cross in the Eastern Hemishphere?

Look it up, look it up, look it up, that's what you could do with the cool new iPhone!

Except, back at home, in rare moments of clear thinking, we've both noted the many reasons to resist. Such as, if you're not on the road, how often would you really need to look something up on your phone? Maybe to check a movie time or settle an argument, but not all the time. Also, iPhones are expensive, both to purchase and to operate over the life of the required two-year contract. We already have cell phones that work just fine, and in fact the quality of our Verizon service is excellent. The AT&T service required for the iPhone is spotty, and last time we had that carrier we couldn't get a signal at our house, which is why we switched to Verizon. If we switched to an iPhone and then had to switch again we'd have to pay twice for the privilege.

Another problem with the attraction of stuff is that you end up with more stuff. We've already got a basement full of old network routers, Tivos, computer parts, power cords and formerly cutting edge cell phones that we don't use anymore. I'm not one of those back-to-nature, live-off-the-land freaks, but even I see that piling up so much plastic and silicon is ridiculous and wasteful.

Also, I'm not sure I want the extra level of connectivity that the iPhone offers. As it is I don't want to answer my phone half the time, and I delete plenty of email without even reading it. If anything, I'd like to be less available to most of the world, not more.

And then there are questions about the iPhone device itself. It's gotten terrific reviews, but already there's some backlash out there among people disappointed with the service, or with Apple's bungled rollout, or with the relatively feeble battery life. Some iPhone fans are boasting on message boards that they're able to get through an entire day without charging the battery -- if they turn off the wireless, the GPS, the enhanced "3G" network and they don't play any music ... all the stuff that makes this thing better than a regular old cell phone.

Some are having a tough time reconciling their tech love and their tech snootery. "I just noticed today that the buzz is gone," said one poster on Gizmodo. "Almost makes the instability and constant call-dropping worth it."

I stopped by the AT&T store the other day (my car was parked right next to it) and asked about the cell coverage problem. The service has been upgraded, the guy said, and you always have 30 days to return the phone if it doesn't work, but if you're worried about it you could borrow the phone of a friend with AT&T and check it at your house.


Wednesday, between doctor appointments, I poked my head in at the University Village Apple Store. A line of people out the door waiting to buy from the limited supply of iPhones, with the average wait time two hours. Whenever a customer emerged from the store with that little rectangular bag in hand, the people in line would cheer. It was kind of sick.

And still, I keep surfing back to the Apple review sites to check the latest news. The porno has its pull. I can't decide.

Michelle and I are heading out to the movies this afternoon -- the new "Batman" -- and we'll probably stop at the Southcenter Apple Store. The force will be strong, I'm sure.

Somebody, quick, talk me out of it. Or, alternatively, if you happen to have AT&T, can I borrow your phone?


Rita said...

I say, if you win the poker tournament Sunday, go out and buy the silly fru-fru thing.

Jason Bellamy said...

Talking out of it is easy. Once you go Verizon, nothing else compares. Because what good is it if the battery gets you through the day but you can't use the damn thing when you want to.

Good for you on Batman. I'm seeing tomorrow at 10 am. Pumped. And I already have a return trip planned for Monday night. Which means it had better be better than "Indiana Jones" and "The Happening."

freda said...

The thing about "stuff" is that if you are patient, the price will come down, and it will still do the same things, in fact it will do them better, because all the people with too little patience will have paid good money for the first products with the glitches, and hopefully later models will have had the glitches fixed. I remember when VCRs first came out they cost thousands, and that was back when $1,000 was worth many times more than it is today. The price fell to $100 back when we still used them. Actually I still use one, or will, when I finally find all the wires which got all mixed up when I moved for the umpty ump time.

Mark said...

Lucky for us, the Apple store was sold out of iPhones. We played around with a display version, though, and weren't completely sold. Michelle used it to call me on my regular phone and it had that digital underwater breaking-up sound. And then I tried to call her phone and couldn't make a connection at all.

As for Batman, I don't think I'm giving anything away at all by saying it's better than both Indy and The Happening. Put together.

LaSue said...

Wow - Thanks for the movie review and update on the iphone. I had been hankering myself for the new device. I am the opposite of all of the other Driftwood nerds in that I am at the low end of the techno scale. Still have the original stick Nokia cell phone and love its original ring. But after the 2 weeks with the Germans and Arno's constant trivia guestions on the road, i.e. How much oil does California produce? What type of industry do they have in Newport Beach? How many people live in Laguana? Why do they call it Diesel #2? What is the X in LAX?I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Constant internet connection seemed like a necessity. Now they are gone and I can go back to blissful ignorance. I think Freda and you have convinced me to wait on next year's model. Do I really care what people in Laguana do for a living, anyway?

Best purchase for the German visit was a GPS system. We could program it to speak German, named him Gustav. The Germans could be self directed, Arno did all of the driving and I got to be chauffered around riding in the back with Susanne. It was bliss.