How A Phone Changed My Life

***UPDATED***

to include link to Clive Thompson’s article in Wired on the death of the phone call.

This morning I downloaded the new Arcade Fire album, that I had pre ordered over the weekend (initial review – the sound of the autumn, you need this in your life), then checked my Twitter feed before heading off to the station. On the train, I began to write the post you’re now reading. I have a couple of photos of the cats that I took, cropped, post-processed and will drop onto Flickr at some point this morning.

I did all this on one device. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that was in all the papers a month ago. The one that was irreparably broken and was to be recalled at a cost of billions.

That didn’t happen, although my device is now snug and secure in a free case the manufacturers were good enough to offer to anyone that was having problems with phone reception.

That was not my experience. It has not been the experience of hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. This phone is rock solid. Although I can’t talk on behalf of the worldwide user base for this device, I want to go on record, and state that it is the best phone I’ve ever owned. It grabs and holds onto signal without a problem, and 3G reception is a dream. The only point at which it drops a call is on the train, in the signal-free zone somewhere in Southall which kills a conversation with every phone.

But I didn’t really buy the device to be a phone. Along with the general trend of mobile users, I would much rather text than phone anyway, and the software keyboard on this phone is a joy. I’m up to about 30 wpm on it, both thumbs a blur on the surface.

I bought this device primarily as a street computer, and in that aspect it succeeds admirably. It’s an excellent music and video player, a more than adequate word processor, and an amazing camera. With a couple of application downloads it becomes a powerful image capture hub that does significantly more than the camera I dropped £200 on a few years ago. If I felt the urge, I could even edit video on it. In fact, people already have.

This sounds like a gush from someone blinking in the full glare of the Reality Distortion Field. Yes, I know there are plenty of devices out there that do all this and more, that are not proprietary and locked to one platform. Yes, fine, it was expensive. Yes, fine, I queued for almost six hours to get my mitts on one.

You know what? Don’t care. Completely worth it. If I need to check my email, look up something on Wikipedia, while away a dull ten minutes with a game, then this is the device I reach for. My Blackbook is currently on loan to a greater cause (more on that later) and with this and my little Linux netbook, I’ve hardly missed it. It gets used every day. It will get used every day. It’s the most 21st century thing I own. Until the next one.

Please, feel free to hit me up in the comments and tell me why your phone is better than mine. I’d love to know what I’ve been doing wrong!

Fandom – when obsession becomes passion

My post on fandom a couple of weeks ago was very much coloured by the fact that I’m not part of a fan community. I thought that this would give me an objective outside view of the world. All it really did was provide a barricade behind which I could lob brickbats and snarks without fear of blowback. That’s unfair to a lot of people, and nudges me dangerously close to the kind of snobbish commentary that drives me to fizzing spasms of rage when it’s directed at something I happen to like.

I’ve decided to offer a right to reply to a friend and writer who is deeply involved in fandom. WDW runs a very well respected blog on one of the more interesting A-listers on the scene, Jake Gyllenhaal. She knows the highs and lows of being a fan, and I’m delighted to offer her a slot on X&HT in order to set me straight.

Continue reading Fandom – when obsession becomes passion

Padded Out

the wonders of nature.jpg
Rampaging elephants couldn't tear me away from this article on how technology is disssociating us from the wonders of nature.

The time has finally arrived. This Friday, the 28th, the iPad will finally be on sale in the UK. I can already, with a sinking heart, report some of the things that will happen on that day.

There will be photos in all the papers of Steve Jobs holding up the iPad in his keynote at the Macworld conference back in January. You will recognise this photo, as it’s the only one the papers have been using to illustrate news about the device since its announcement.

There will be a sad and slightly droopy queue of obsessives outside the Apple Store in Regent Street, who just have to be there to pick up the iPads they preordered, rather then have the devices FedExed to their front door like a normal person.

There will be live-blogging. Dear gods, there will be live-blogging. Each and every one of these will include the phrase “The queue is starting to move. No, wait, false alarm.”

These people will be interviewed by BBC Breakfast. They will look slightly desperate, and a little crazy. They will be condescended at by an over-styled moron who has to get his eight-year-old daughter to sync his iPod. There will be an in-studio interview with an advocate like Rory Cellan-Jones, or Hugo Rifkind of the Times, who will gush like a perfumed faucet about the device. The phrase “game-changing” will be used to excess. This will be followed for balance by a spokesman from Sony, whining that it’s really just a big iPod Touch.

The queuers will be applauded by Apple staff when they finally pick up their iPads. They will feel the urge to hold their newly-purchased devices above their heads as if it’s the World Cup. They will look a little desperate, and slightly crazy.

Any coffee shops with wifi in the immediate area around Regent Street will be absolutely fucking unbearable until about 4PM, when purchasers get bored with the novelty of reading the Times or watching Star Trek on their new toys and go home to irritate their partners instead. There will be much discussion of the on-screen keyboard, and everyone will be insanely jealous of the smug git in the corner with the venti macchiato who splurged on the keyboard dock. He will merrily spend the afternoon whooping it up on Twitter instead of doing any actual writing.

Meanwhile, those of us in the know will be patiently waiting for June the 8th, and the moment at WWDC when Steve Jobs digs in his pocket.