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Keep Your Smartphone: An Outsider’s Perspective

by Larry Urish | May 11, 2014May 11, 2014 12:00 pm PDT

Disclaimer: Larry is an old friend (literally, he’s old), and it’s always fascinated me how petrified he is of technology. We all have a Larry in our lives, no? Relatives, neighbors, friends. Someone who refuses to, or is incapable of, learning the joys of today’s most groundbreaking superphones. We all follow the industry and know the ins and outs, and relish the newest advancements. But Larry? Giving him a smartphone would be like giving a dog a driver’s license. We hope his perspective can bring insight to our obsessions, and perhaps enlighten us to the fact that, yes, these fanboy wars are pointless. — Brandon

Last month, my nephew stopped me as I was using my LG flip-phone and said, “Uncle Larry, the ’90s called. They want your phone back.” Rather than backhand the smart-aleck, I snapped my LG shut with a thwak, gave him my best stink-eye, sighed, and shook my head in frustration.

Folks who use a “smart”phone – and that’s probably all of you – must think every flip-phone user must a card-carrying AARP member, or was repeatedly dropped on his head as a child or is just plain stupid. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m none of the above. I am not ready for a retirement home, I’ve been dropped on my head only three times, and I am smart enough to have a printed diploma: a Ph.D. in astrophysics. (Granted, it is from the University of Kinko’s.) All I am is just a frustrated, angry technophobe. A complete Luddite. (Google it; better yet, crack open your encyclopedia).

 I’m not ashamed to admit that smartphones  – like any other gizmo that’s come out since the VCR – scare the heck out of me. Steer me toward anything with a plug or battery, and my brain turns to oatmeal and my gastrointestinal system goes into “evacuate mode.” I occasionally have a ’Nam flashback, even though at my current age I was still in diapers during the fall of Saigon. (I was a junior in high school, but that’s another story.)

 Verizon says I qualify for a free iPhone. What the hell’s the point? Giving me an iPhone is like giving a vegetarian a hamburger.

Advantages? What advantages?

Everyone with a smartphone says they have no idea how they’d ever lived without it. Me? I’m as happy as a clam at high tide not spending hours of every day staring at a tiny screen, my head cranked down like a homeless street urchin looking for cigarette butts or spare change. It took me the better part of a decade to completely master my flip-phone (I hear that these wire-free phones can be used to send messages in “text form,” whatever the hell that is), and I’ll be damned if I’m going to start over with something that I don’t need.

From what I’ve learned at the library (those that still have card catalogs), a smartphone is essentially a cellphone with features that in the past would’ve been available only on a separate personal digital assistant or computer. So what’s wrong with using a separate phone, PDA and computer? Come to think of it, do you even need a PDA as long as you have a legal pad, Day-Timer or index cards? And do you need a computer if you already have a decent typewriter (MS Word? Bah!), accounting ledger (Excel? Folderol!), and colored pencils (Sketchbook Pro? Bite me)? Ponder this as you speed through a school zone while texting your favorite dominatrix.

Maps and other apps

Now, I know what you and all your techy iBuddies must be thinking: “Get lost, butt-munch.”

Well, I never get lost, no small thanks to your smartphone’s GSP or GPS or Global Positron Whatever. I keep a perfectly good Thomas Guide in my trunk, next to my flashlight, road flares and dog-eared copies of Home & Garden magazine. For those of you born after 1995 or have the I.Q. of celery, a Thomas Guide is a “book” composed of “maps” made out of this amazing flexible material called “paper.”

Suppose, horror of horrors, your bipolar pit bull shreds your Thomas Guide to bits. Gas stations aren’t just for pumping gas, Einstein. Try this two-step process: (1) Pull over. (2) Ask for directions. Questions, anyone?

 “But dude,” you whine. “What about all the awesome apps?” Let me show you just a few that I found on this newfangled thing called the “World Wide Web”:

I Am Richer – This app displays a glowing blue diamond. That’s it, just a blue diamond. If you’re vapid enough to get caught up in this, you should be prevented from reproducing, thereby advancing the human gene pool.

Bubble Wrap – You press one of the bubbles and – here’s a real surprise! – it makes a popping sound. This app can be really handy during, say, your annual performance review. You can also play Bubble Wrap while waiting in line at the local unemployment office.

Mosquito Repellent – Press the app’s button, and the resulting ultrasonic sound will supposedly chase away even the thirstiest mosquito. Sorry souls who ditch their bug netting for this app may wind up one night desperately Googling “malaria symptoms.” (Worse yet, they may use Bing.)

Zit Picker – Here’s a meatier, juicier version of Bubble Wrap, created for the same mental pygmies who think pro wrestling is real. It’s easy to picture that fat cokehead mayor from Canada behind the wheel playing with Zit Picker between shots of Grey Goose.

iFart – Every time you move your iPhone, it makes a gassy sound. This app will go over well on a first date, assuming your new sweetie pie is an inbred semi-literate who enjoys a nice, sophisticated tractor pull.

Hold On – You press a Hold button for as long as you can. But wait! There’s more! There’s also a timer, so users can compete with their fellow morons.

History repeats itself

About two weeks ago, my very intelligent sister-in-law asked to borrow my old LG. When she flipped it open – I am NOT making this up – for just a half-second she swiped her index finger across the buttons as if trying to flick away a flattened pill bug. I couldn’t help it; I laughed at her.

Hey, she can take a joke, I thought when she began to chuckle – at my cellphone, at the silver keys that I have to push, at the app-free dinosaur I choose to use. It reminded me of when my smart-aleck nephew told me the ’90s called and wanted my flip-phone back.

So, as I did a few weeks earlier, I snapped my phone shut with a thwak, gave my sister-in-law my best stink-eye, sighed and shook my head in frustration.

Now that I’m out of the Luddite Closet, I beam with pride and bellow to the tech-saddled world that I don’t own a smartphone. No, my touchscreen-swiping, freaky-app-downloading friends, I have a perfectly useful wisephone.

It can’t play Zit Picker or iFart. Somehow, I can live with that.

BenLilley (Flickr)

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