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Stupid Smartphones: iPhone, uDumb

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I really want to get a smartphone, but I have this intense fear that I am too dumb for one. I have already imagined this encounter with the salesperson many times.

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There are several variations but mostly it goes like this: I walk into the cellphone store. There are seven customers and two salespeople. Lucky for me, one of the salespeople is a nice lady probably in her mid 40s. I will wait for her. I don't want to talk to the tall, skinny kid that doesn't shave yet. He wouldn't even understand the questions I would be asking.

After a half-hour wait, which included watching the young sales guy receive 23 phone calls, send 75 text messages, update his Facebook page 15 times and post five videos on YouTube, the saleslady is free.

I walk up to her and read her name tag, which says "Patience." I already feel more comfortable. I tell her that I am interested in purchasing a smartphone.

Patience: "Are you considering a Blackberry, an Android, a Torch, a Phoenix or an iPhone?"

I recognize the word "phone" so I answer, "iPhone." Meanwhile in my mind I am thinking the "i" stands for: I = smart, you dumb.

Patience: "The iPhone is a very good choice because it has so any amazing capabilities and literally millions of apps."

She lost me on the apps remark. But before I could say anything she asked me, "What are some of the things you would like the phone to do?"

Confused I answer: "Make phone calls."

Patience bursts into laughter, thinking I made a joke of some kind.

So I explain, "Seriously, I would like you to demonstrate how you actually make a phone call on an iPhone so I can see how many buttons there are to push and in what order."

Patience stares at me, blinks and the patiently says, "Are you aware that the iPhone is a touch screen?"

I blink at Patience and say, "What is a touch screen?"

She proceeds to glide her finger across the screen. The screen changes at lightning speed. All I see are rows and rows of icons. Next, she turns the phone sideways and a keyboard comes up and she starts tapping keys to show me how to text message. Then she flips the phone back to portrait mode and slides her finger up and down as the screen, listing what I thought were hundreds of contacts. This whole demonstration took 30 seconds. She handed me the demo phone and told me to try it. So I slid my finger across the phone and nothing happened.

I think at this point Patience is losing some patience because in a controlled, stiff voice she says, "I don't think you understand the touch screen concept. You don't push down on the screen and drag your finger across it. You only need to lightly touch it and gently guide your finger across the screen."

In my defense I say, "I just got used to pushing buttons like crazy to make one simple phone call and I still struggle with a mouse when I use the computer, this whole touch screen concept is going take me a while to learn. It is a totally different skill set of gesturing techniques. Besides, what about smudges? I am thinking after about a week I wouldn't be able to see the screen through the smudges."

Patience: "No the newer iPhones come with fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating."

I didn't want to get into an explanation about why the iPhone was afraid of butter, so I changed the subject and asked what other things the iPhone could do.

Patience's face lit up. Now I was asking a question she could identify with. She even took out her own personal iPhone and said, "Let me show you some of the apps I have on my own iPhone. You will be amazed. Here, look at this. It is my Walmart list. It will list the items in order from east to west or west to east, depending on which door I go in. See this little box next to each item? I touch the box and it checks it off the list."

Me: "I just can't quite imagine that a little checkmarked box is going to give me the same satisfaction as physically crossing an item off a handwritten list with a real pencil."

Patience: "Look at this! It is a calorie counter. Enter your height and weight. It will figure out your body mass index, how much weight you need to loose and calculate how many calories you can eat per day. At each meal, you can enter what you ate and it will keep a running total of how many calories you have consumed and how many you can still eat the rest of the day."

Me: "Unfortunately I would be done eating at 10:30 a.m. after I have had a French Silk Pie Blizzard from Dairy Queen."

Patience: "Let me ask you this: Do you have children?"

Me: "Yes, I have one son."

Patience: "OK, you are going to love this. This app keeps track of family member at all times. Here let me show you."

Her fingers fly across the screen and a Google map picture came into view with a little blue dot.

She used two fingers flyings in all directions to zoom in on the green dot.

Patience: "See the green dot. That is my son and I can tell exactly where he is."

I am truly amazed. She zooms in until I can make out the high school. We watch as the green dot moves away from the high school and heads north. Patience explains that her son has third period free and is probably going to run some errands. I have to say I am fascinated watching the green dot move around very recognizable areas on the Google map before it comes to an abrupt stop.

Me: "Hey, didn't the green dot just stop at the adult video store?"

Patience looked closer at her phone, snapped it shut and said, "Were you planning to purchase an iPhone today and lock yourself into a two-year contract?"

Me: "Actually I am just still gathering information."

Patience: "Then perhaps you would like to check out our competition across the street."

Me: "But wait, I was going to ask about the panoramic camera features, Siri and fring."

Patience: "I am sorry but you have used up all the data minutes we allow per customer."

She turns and walks over to this lady that must be 85, and proceeds to help her pick out a pink glitzy peacock design case for an iPhone.

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