Why I Did Buy a Smartphone

6 years ago I wrote a post about why I didn’t buy a smartphone. Yesterday I bought a smartphone. Being a symbol of persistence and the face of the resistance for those who know me, I have some explanation to do. I clearly wasn’t happy with the cognitive changes smartphones brought upon their owners; what changed?

You can say that my transition was a smooth one: I had bought an iPad in January 2014. Although I was using it effectively, I was careful to protect myself from that state of constant communication; email notifications were off and I only checked them when I wanted to. (And Whatsapp doesn’t work on iPad.) Despite my fears to the contrary, it also had a positive effect on my reading as it offered a comfortable way of reading long articles on websites or as PDFs.

But my decision of not owning a smartphone hadn’t changed until recently. And during those years with my not-so-smart Nokia, I got pretty used to being made fun of by people close to me, and to deal with the increasing complications of my decision in a world where everything is moved to that platform. A remarkable threshold for me was when all my doctors started saying things like “I’ll send you the results on Whatsapp”. (“Umm, can I come and get them?”)

So why did I buy a smartphone, after nearly 10 years of abstinence?

  1. Earlier this year, my debit card was copied at an ATM, and my account was drained. I spent many unpleasant hours at the bank and at police stations, my account and my cards were frozen for enough time to make me miserable, and I was able to get my money back only after 2 months. When I learned that I can withdraw cash using the bank’s application on my iPad by getting a one-time code number, I promised myself that I would never use my debit card again at ATM machines. I had no intention to go through all that again. This meant that I had to carry my iPad every time I needed to withdraw cash. Then the system changed and the bank started to send confirmation codes to my phone during this operation. This meant that I had to juggle my iPad and my phone in front of the ATM with people behind me. It was hard, embarrassing, and less safe. A smartphone would make cash withdrawal safe and easy for me.
  2. Music is important to me. Until 5 years ago, I’d been carrying a 60 GB archive on an iPod. Then, for some technical reason, I started using a big enough memory card on my Nokia. But the Nokia had a weird headphones plug profile, and the headphones I wanted to use weren’t compatible with it. So I had to buy plug adaptors. They had a short lifespan and they were hard to find, so I had to buy a lot of them. I kept going like this for years. (Don’t you underestimate my glorious resistance!) Then one day, that one store where I could find them told me they weren’t selling them anymore. This happened nearly a year ago. Since then, I was condemned to use old crappy Nokia headphones. It was like listening to a radio that’s inside a washing machine. Being washed.
  3. Again, music is important to me. I’ve become an avid user of Spotify in recent years. Loading old MP3s in my Nokia wasn’t cutting it anymore. I so wanted to continue listening to that Heart of a Coward album (that I discovered an hour ago thanks to Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist) when I went outside.

These three, combined with the fact that I was able to own an iPad without becoming addicted, were enough to convince me. On top of that, there are also many other apps I got used to over the years, to do things like making task/shopping lists, tuning instruments, or getting navigation help while driving. It’ll be nice to have these without having to carry a bag with an iPad in it.

Two rules will remain: All email notifications will be off (just like my iPad) and Whatsapp will not be installed. (I witness its unavoidable use in professional relationships and it’s certainly beyond my limits.)

I had ended the 2012 post on a hopeful note, leaving open the possibility that people around me would re-adjust themselves and control their addiction. 6 years on, I gave up on that hope. I’m still not happy with what smartphones do to people; my new hope is only about myself, and I think I have enough reasons to be hopeful. At least, it’s something I can do something about if it goes south.

But let’s finish this one too with a call to my friends & family, who will make fun of me because I caved in: I have long years of training against being mocked by you on this subject, so bring. It. On.

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