Tag: iphone

When a Phone Is No Longer a Phone

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

We need a new term for the devices many (if not most) of us carry around in our pockets. I have an iPhone, as do the other members of the family. Several times a day, I hear things like, “Has anyone seen my phone?” “There’s an alarm going off on your phone.” “Mom, you just got a message on your phone.” “Put your phones away, it’s not device time.” However, I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “I’m on a call,” or “you’re phone is ringing.” We use these devices constantly, but we rarely use them as phones in the classical sense.

Thinking about this, I checked the call history on my own phone. There are dozens of “missed” calls because I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize. In the month of September (it being the evening of September 30 as I write this) I made 4 calls from my phone. I received two calls from numbers that I recognized and answered. 6 calls in a month. Meanwhile, I use my “phone”constantly for reading email, text messages, as well as audio books, reading newspapers, keeping up with social media, and occasionally watching shows like the new Foundation series on Apple TV+, or Ted Lasso.

The “reading” screen on my “phone.”

As someone who spans the digital divide, a phone, to me, is the thing on the wall in the kitchen with the cord that always gets tangled and can never be untangled, though which you talk to friends and family at a distance. For my kids, a phone is where you watch YouTube videos and from which you make TikTok videos, as well as play Minecraft or Roblox. It seems to me, we need a new name, something that better represents what this device is.

Sometime in the late 1990s (I think) someone coined the term “personal digital assistant”, or PDA for short. Unfortunately, PDA became a popular shortening of “public display of affection” which makes it an awkward candidate for an alternate name for a phone.

“Smart” phone is frequently used. I see references to smart phone everywhere, but this doesn’t work for me because it seems patently silly. The phone is not smart. It may make its users seem smart, but let’s not kid anyone that it is the phone that is smart. Then, too, “smart phone” still refers to “phone” which is the thing I am trying to avoid.

Taking some inspiration from the science fiction world, “brain pal” came to mind. Brain pal, of course, comes from Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. For something I carry around in my pocket, however, brain pal doesn’t seem to fit all that well.

What about “computer”? After all, a phone really is just a computer, all miniaturized down into a hand-sized package? These days, however, phones often do more than computers. The take photos and videos; they have all kinds of biometric capabilities. They can detect changes in surroundings, can identify their location on the globe, and even their altitude above or below sea-level. “Computer” seems a little too mundane.

When all is said and done, “phone” is likely the best we can do, and I suppose we are stuck with it. Rather than change the term, we just have to understand that the meaning has evolved, and we need to evolve along with it. We did it with albums. An album used to to be a record, a flat disk that you played with a needle on a turntable. Albums had tracks that ran around them and represented individual songs. We still use the term “album” although we usually don’t mean the disk, and we use the term “track” to mean a digitally stored piece of music. Those terms have evolved into what they are today and are commonly accepted. I guess I’ll need to do the same for “phone.”

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My new iPhone 4


I got a new iPhone 4 today. This wasn’t really something I’d planned. My old iPhone was a 3G and it’s battery, at least, was on its last legs. At the hospital yesterday, the battery died after about 2 hours of intermittent use: full charge to no charge in 2 hours. That’s been par for the course. The thing to do seemed to be to upgrade. I know that the iPhone 5 is just around the corner but I no longer feel that I need the latest and greatest. The iPhone 4 is an upgrade for me, and I also have my iPad 2, which is where I do most of my work anyway. I got the black 16 GB version. I have no need for the 32GB version: I have my iPad with me most of the time and that has 64GB which is plenty for me.

Migrating to the new phone was pretty easy, especially since most of my apps are cloud-based. The Apple store folks offered to transfer my contacts, but my contacts are synced with Gmail and apparently their device doesn’t work in those cases. All I had to do was setup Gmail on the phone and there were my contacts.

Of course, since the phone is iOS 4, it means it is much more like my iPad than my old iPhone: multitasking, for one thing, which is nice to have on the phone. I was also able to use the App Store to download a bunch of my previously purchased apps, which is convenient. The new phone also has video, including FaceTime, which is convenient since almost all of our devices now have FaceTime. The flash on the camera is also a convenient addition.

I’ve got Google Voice and my Google Voice phone number working on the phone. Confirmed that texting is working as well.

Things run faster, too. Facebook was taking forever on my old phone. Not only that but if Location Services were enabled, it sometimes crashed my old phone. Not so on the new one, and hopefully things will stay that way.

I still have some customization to do to the device, but that will have to wait until I get home and sync up with my computer. (It will be nice when iOS 5 is out and I no longer have to connect to the computer to sync.)

This is my third iPhone. I got my first in the summer of 2007 and my second in 2009 (when a crack in the screen of the first one pretty much killed it). I’ve been happy with them for the most part. I’m just hoping the battery life on this one is better than the old one.

Alarmfail 2011

I use my iPhone as my alarm clock. I rarely need an alarm clock because I generally wake up when I want to, but I set it as a backup. It has a soft harp sound that won’t wake Kelly and I can have an alarm for weekdays and weekends. Last night I set my alarm for 5am.

I woke at 5:20am and my alarm hadn’t gone off. I got up, went downstairs, made breakfast and set about my writing work for the day, mildly annoyed that I lost 20 minutes.

Turns out, there is a major bug in iPhone alarms in 2011. Apple is working on a fix, but until then, the best solution I’ve seen is this one. What’s even more annoying for me is that the fix will no doubt be released as iOS 4.2.1 or something like that. And since my iPhone connects to my old PowerPC iMac, I can’t get the update because it is not supported in iTunes on the PowerPC anymore. I have 3 choices in the short term:

  1. Live with the workaround
  2. See if I can buy a version of OS 10.5 which will allow me to continue to use the most recent iTunes and receive updates for my phone
  3. Get a new computer

My iMac is limping along and is nearly 7 years old. I probably should get a new computer, but the iMac is only used as our desktop server. I have a MacBook which is up-to-date. I suppose another option would be to kill the iMac, take it offline and use my MacBook as our “server” in the short term, until I’m ready to replace the desktop machine. I plan on replacing it with a Mac Mini, but I ‘m not yet ready to spend the money on it.

All of this because the stupid alarm clock won’t work on the iPhone. Bad Apple. Go stand in the corner for the rest of the day.

eReader, take 2

I checked out Journey to the Center of the Earth from the library and haven’t gotten around to it yet. The other day, I renewed it.  This morning, after talking to John, it occurred to me that maybe this is anopportunity for me to give eReader on my iPhone another shot.  Turns out the book was available from Project Gutenberg for free, so I downloaded it to my phone.  We are heading up to NJ this weekend and that means roughly 8 hours in the car over the course of the weekend.  I’ll see how it goes…

(Oh, and if you are a fan of eBooks and iPhones and didn’t already know, Kindle has now come out with free Kindle reader app for the iPhone.)

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Short break (4 hours into my day)

I took at short break at 11 am after wrapping up the Day 2 slide deck (209 slides!) finally! 

I headed over to the Apple store because after nearly 2 years, I’ve been having some problems with my iPhone (which I never bought Apple Care for).  Turns out the problems were caused by a small crack in glass on the front of the phone and moisture getting in.  (The touch screen, for instance, wasn’t detecting touches throughout the middle.)  As the cost of repairs was pretty high, I opted to get a new phone.  So I now have an iPhone 3G (16 GB), identical to Kelly’s phone except that mine is black and hers is white.  I got a screen glare protector for it as well, and had the Apple rep put it on the phone for me.  And of course, this time, I also bought Apple Care.  The phone is working and I’ve got it synced with my Google mail, contacts and calendars, but I’ll have to resync it when i get home to get everything else on it.

Okay, short break over.  Back to work on the Day 3 slide deck.

X-Plane for iPhone: Too cool for school!

I just downloaded this app to my iPhone.  It’s called X-Plane and its about the coolest flight simulator I’ve ever seen.  The graphics and smoothness of the application are far better on my iPhone than MIcrosoft Flight Simulator ever was on my Windows machine.  If you are interested in flight simulators and have an iPhone, this is definitely worth the $10.

Kelly’s new iPhone

We checked the website last night and it said that Pentagon City Apple store would have more iPhones this morning. We were there just before 9 AM. There was a short line to wait in, but everything went quickly and smoothly. The net result is that Kelly is now the proud owner of an iPhone 3G (white) with 16 GB. We added a phone line to my account so that we are both on the same account and can do some consolidating for our usage.

We stopped at Target again, this time to get some things for the house. Then back home. AJ and Denisse are coming over around 2 or 2:30 PM.

eReader for the iPhone

Since I mentioned upgrading my iPhone to the 2.0 software today, I should also mention that I downloaded the eReader application for the phone. I have always been on the fence about eBooks, not for any particular reason other than I like turning pages and having the book in my hand. But even with all of the space in the new house, I am out of shelf room. I got to thinking I should at least give the eReader a try.

So I bought 2 books and 1 story today. First, I bought Charlie Stross’ latest novel, Saturn’s Children. I also bought the book that I’m currently reading, The Count of Monte Cristo (the Fictionwise version was $3*). And I bought mabfan‘s story, “Cosmic Corkscrew”, just so I could taunt him and tell him that I can read his stories on my iPhone. 🙂

I’ll let you know how it goes. The interface is simply and intuitive and the text is clear and readable.

*One thing I’d mention: eReader did not, in the case of The Count of Monte Cristo distinguish between abridged and full version. The first version I bought turned out to be abridged. Because it was so cheap, I’m willing to overlook it this time, but I hope someone over there gets a clue and corrects this.

Who said no lines at the Apple Store?

I read in some reviews of the new iPhone that people wouldn’t be flooding Apple stores the same way they did for the original phone more than a year ago. I don’t know why the reviewers thought this would be so, but they were definitely wrong about it. The picture to the right was taken from my office at about 8:30 AM. I circled the location of the Apple Store, which is right across the food court from my office, but you can click on the picture to see the full-sized image.) Note the long line that comes away from the store and curves through the center of the picture? And that’s not all. Here is more of the line winding it’s way through the second floor of the Mall. I can’t quite tell how far it wraps way around, but it seems to me there are more people than there are phones available.

At this time, I have no plan to get the new phone, although I do plan to update the software on my iPhone to the 2.0 software this weekend some time. However, Kelly is thinking about getting the new iPhone since she is going to be changing cell phone providers (to get on my plan). Maybe when the initial fuss has passed and the lines at the Apple Store are back to normal.

At any rate, it makes me wonder: if the reviewers were wrong about people not lining up for the new phone, I wonder what else the reviewers can be wrong about?

Haunted, House, Halloween

We put on our haunted house at work this afternoon and it turned out really, really well. There were 3 “tour guides” that would lead groups of 5 through the house. In my role as a lurker (dressed all in black and with a scary Halloween mask–pictures to come), I would pick a person in the group and stalk them. I’d stand close behind them. I’d follow them around, and in general, be creepy. It was a lot of fun. There was an office-wide happy hour afterward with lots of candy and chips and beer. A definite success!

When I got home from work this evening, I stopped at the vet to pick up some more dry cat food for Zeke. I got 2 5-pound bags this time. On the way there, a serious of police cars went zooming by on Riverdale Road, so fast they went airborne when they crossed the railroad tracks. I don’t know what it was all about but it was the closest thing to a TV-style car chase I’ve ever seen in person.

I watched last night’s TiVo’d episode of House this evening and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was the best so far this season.

It’s strange, but every house in my neighborhood seems to be shunning Halloween. Lights are off, doors aren’t being answered when the 3 kids that I’ve seen in the streets have knocked. (They didn’t come to my house for some reason, but that’s good because I didn’t have a chance to get candy. And my lights are off.) It made me feel bad for the kids. But it seems different now than I remember Halloween when I was a young boy–or maybe it’s just my neighborhood. I don’t recall going Trick-or-Treating when it was dark. It was always in the evening when there was still light. It was always with my parents. And everyone else was out and about at the same time so that the neighborhood streets were crowded with ghosts and superheroes. My fondest memories of this type of Halloween were in Somerset, New Jersey. I remember going through the sack of candy afterward to see what I got. It was pure bliss. Strangely, I never remember eating any of that candy.

November 1st tomorrow and that means the first day of NaNoWriMo. I’m kind of excited about it. I think I’m going to try writing during lunch on occasion, even though that means giving up my lunchtime nap during November.

Weird issue with my iPhone today. Videos were not playing. They’d play for a while and then get all wonky, like a bad DVD. I think it’s something about the episodes of 30 Rock I downloaded from the iTunes store the other day. I had some problems with them on the new laptop as well. I’m not too worried about it at this point. Episodes of The Shield played just find on my iPhone last week.

I had a phone call from kruppenheimer last night, but it was after I’d gone to bed. I’ll call you back soon, Lisa, I promise!

Off to bed…

Updated my wireless phone plan

After having my iPhone for a month, I realized that I needed to upgrade my plan with AT&T. I changed to the $59/month package which gives me 900 anytime rollover minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile. That will take effect on my next billing cycle (October 5). I also changed my data packaged to the iPhone unlimited data (which I already had) plus unlimited text messaging. That plan is $40, so it’s $20 more than what I was paying. All told, my bill will be in the neighborhood of $100/month, which is fine considering what I am getting. The unlimited texting takes effect immediately, so I no longer have to worry if I am going over my 200 message limit (which I did break in the first month).

A refund, of sorts

If you haven’t already heard (I’ve had 5 people tell me in the space of 5 minutes), Apple has announced a refund of $100 to all purchasers of 8 GB iPhones prior to yesterday’s price slashing. The refund will be in the form of a store credit, but hey, that works for me. It’s nice to see that they are doing something for those of us who helped their stock prices soar by buying iPhones early.