Learning to use a ‘smart’ phone

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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I was one of those holdouts who, until very recently, owned a “flip” phone. It did what I needed a phone to do. It allowed me to call people and receive calls from people. I insisted I didn’t want or need one of those “smart” phones because my communication needs were so simple.

Then last fall, the latest flip phone I owned died. It was a decade old and frankly, just worn out.

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By then, more and more people were sending me text messages. I could receive them, but returning them on that old phone was, at best, cumbersome, so I decided it might be time to succumb and buy a smart phone. Being a Mac sort of person, I bought an iPhone.

Interestingly, my children didn’t encourage me to buy a smart phone because they were sure one or both would be saddled with teaching me how to use it and, patience not being my greatest asset, they were not looking forward to trying.

Well, let it be known that I have — somewhat — learned to use the damned thing on my own. Not proficiently, mind you, but sufficiently to be able to make and receive calls and return messages. That puts it one step ahead of my old flip phone, so that’s a plus. Not that I particularly like using it as a phone. Being a bit clumsy, I found the flip phone easier to hold and operate.

But now, several months into it, I will admit that it’s a nice little device, though I’m still not convinced I need it or that it’s worth the cost.

It’s nice to be able to check the weather, for example, but I’m not sure I need to do so several times a day, and the local daily newspapers still carry a pretty good summary of what to expect during the next few days. And, if you ignore the hype, so do local TV channels.

Then, there’s the map feature. It will instantly tell me where I am, just in case I don’t know. One of these days, that might come in very handy, but for now, it’s mostly just fun.

If you fancy yourself a savvy investor, you can watch the ebbs and flows of the stock market and various companies, but I absolutely refuse to become obsessed with that.

Still, there are all kinds of neat Apps — I think that’s the right term — to do lots of fun and interesting things. My favorite is “Sky Guide,” which, when turned on, will tell you what stars and planets you’re seeing in the sky. It even offers soothing background music. For a lifelong stargazer, that’s cool.

But necessary? Hardly.

In fact, I am increasingly convinced that we are becoming over-saturated with information today and that much of it, though interesting, is of minimal value to us.

And smart phones have become just the latest way of reaching all that generally unneeded information.

Walk through a mall, go to a restaurant, or any other public gathering place, and you will find people with their eyes glued to a smart phone. I see this phenomenon and wonder, what on earth these can be people looking at all day. Undoubtedly, some are texting their friends — and maybe their enemies — and are busy learning about what those friends — and enemies? — are doing with their day. As though we needed to know.

Maybe one day, we will grow up sufficiently to use the technology we have in responsible, adult ways, but I kind of doubt it. For now, though, I still sort of miss my old flip phone.