Mobile Mayhem

As you probably know I’m quite a gadget hound and and Apple fanboy. I have gadgets all over the place, not just computers, iPads and iPods, but GPS devices, Sat Navs and numerous training devices. In fact my triathlon training would barely be possible without electronic gadgets as I use my Garmin Forerunner 910XT on every swim, bike and run that I do, I use loads of digital apps for recording and analysising my training, I even sync my turbo trainer with a laptop using ANT+ technology and the TrainerRoad application to provide me with a virtual power readout  whilst training indoors on the bike. This isn’t new either as I’ve had Garmin training devices for years and used to use them for windsurfing before I was training for triathlons. If I’m doing something and there’s a gadget for it, then I’ve got it!

I’ve even got a Withings Body Analyser Scale on my wish list and who knows I might just get one for Christmas!

I run my own business as a website designer so work on a computer all day long. My main computer is an Apple Macintosh. I’ve had Apple computers since my first Mac LC back in about 1990 – Now that was quite a computer, 16Mhz 68020 chip, 2MB (yes Megabytes not Gigabytes) of RAM and a ‘massive’ 40MB hard drive! Since then I’ve had an LC 475, Mac Performa 6400, a PowerBook, an eMac, Mac Pro’s and currently have an iMac (that will need replacing soon!). I’ve had numerous iPods, had the original iPad when it came out and have to admit to being a bit of an Apple Fanboy. Morgan seems to be following in my foot-steps too as he loves all things Apple and has his own iPod Touch.

Nokia 1110

Nokia 1110

All of this therefore means that it has come as quite a surprise to people lately when I tell them I don’t have a mobile phone and that I’ve never had a smart phone. I did have a mobile until a few months ago when I lost it, but it was never anything particularly gadgety. It was a very basic Nokia 1110 – Yep, phones don’t get more basic than this. It made and received phone calls, sent texts and that was it. No camera, no colour screen and certainly not a smart phone. I lost it a few months ago and never bothered to replace it as I rarely used it and had been increasingly leaving it uncharged and unloved at home anyway.

In a way it was quite liberating not having a phone and I think it was me rebelling against the modern lifestyle and embracing the ‘simple’ part of our Simple Life of Luxury. I liked the fact that people couldn’t contact me whenever they wished, I liked being able to get away from it all and I liked being different by not having a phone. I also stared to abhor the way that people were constantly attached to their phones. You’d sit down for a coffee with friends and they’d be forever checking their mail, texting and generally ignoring you whilst buried in their digital life. I guess this rebellion against mobile phones was the part of me coming out that always thinks it would be lovely to live on a remote Scottish island cut off from the world doing our own thing.

If my lack of a mobile phone and general loathing of what they had become wasn’t anything to do with the romantic idealism of living a life of secluded luxury on a Scottish island then it could just have been me being an unsociable, grumpy old man who didn’t want to talk to people – I’ll let you decide!

It did however occasionally cause problems. I’m sure I must have missed out on some work because of it simply because I missed calls and enquiries from potential clients. It also caused issues with family logistics when plans changed. As any busy parents will know we spend a large part of our lives ferrying the family from activity to activity often with complicated arrangements where children are taken one place by one parent, collection by another, dropped off elsewhere and then collected later by someone else, whilst in between we rush about trying to do the things we need to do and get to places we need to be. If plans change, as they often do, then a mobile phone is a life-saver. Not only can the changes be quickly and easily communicated and new convoluted arrangements be made, but you can have a chat at the same time and even update each other with lists of groceries that we’ve run out of and instructions to get some cat food on the way home before the cat starves!

They are also a useful safety item in times of emergency. I’m often out training on my own, biking in remote forests and on the quiet roads of Wales, running at all times of the day and on the beach in all weathers. I always tell Anna where I’m going but having a phone in case of emergency is always useful and until I lost it I did always take my little Nokia 1110 with me. I rarely (if ever) had to use it but it gave Anna and I peace of mind that I could use it in case of emergency.

Yes, I may be a grumpy old luddite when it comes mobile phones but I can see that they have a use. I needed to replace mine, join the modern world and have mobile communications once again. I’m also off to Turkey next week representing Team GB and racing in the European Age-Group Triathlon Championships. Anna and Morgan can’t come with me so having a mobile for that might be handy just to keep in touch. I’m sure my iPad would suffice but really I needed a phone.

At first I was just going to get another very basic phone for £9, although even that had a camera and colour screen so was quite an upgrade from my old one! But then the gadget hound in me started baying. If I was going to get a new phone maybe I should look at a basic smart phone. Afterall, I do have a fairly active presence on the web, I do post to social media sites and I am supposed to be at the forefront of such things. There were a few phones available for around £60 that fitted this bill. Small, cheap Android phones that would be a good entry into the smart phone world. Reviews said that they were OK, a little slow with poor screens and cameras but they would get the job done. Tesco apparently had a waterproof Motrola Defy Mini that looked about right for £59 on Pay as you Go so I decided to get one of them. However when I went into the huge Tesco Store (it was the largest in Europe for a few days) in Yate they had none in stock and said it had been discontinued. Apparently there was nothing available like this anymore and a basic Smart phone was now going to set me back about £80.

I looked on eBay and came across an HTC Desire C which looked good too. This was now a full blown smart phone with all the trimmings. Running a relatively new version of the Android operating system, the ability to run thousands of apps, it had GPS, bluetooth, WiFi and of course cameras. They were selling 2nd hand for around £85 and I very nearly bought one, but at this price I could probably get an old version of Apple’s iPhone instead. Now that appealed to me.

The gadget hound in me had me well an truly in its jaws and now the Apple Fanboy was digging its claws in too. It did of course make sense. All of my other digital gadgets were Apple devices. I would already know how to use it, I already have hundreds of apps that would work on it (some of which are even paid for apps so it might save me some money). My music and videos are all stored in iTunes, I sync my calendars and contacts with iCloud so having an iPhone would, in the words of the late Steve Jobs, mean that everything ‘just works’. What’s more, the iPhone 3GS was selling on eBay for around £85 so it was about the same price as the HTC Desire C that I was thinking of buying anyway. I checked the specs and they were similar so I was now on the hunt for and bidding on Apple iPhone 3GS’s.

The iPhone 3GS is quite old having been released back in 2009. It was of course ahead of most other phones then and is still a very capable phone with a 3MP camera, loads of connectivity options, GPS, accelerometers and even able to run the latest version of iOS (with a few limitations). It has of course since been superseded by first the iPhone 4, then the iPhone 4S and more recently the iPhone 5 – and the next version is due to be released imminently. Modern phones from all manufacturers have of course dated the 3GS and left it behind but it looked like a good ‘budget’ way into the world of Apple iPhone ownership.

My main worry with the 3GS was that the batteries in them would now be quite old. Modern Lithium Ion batteries can only take a set number of full discharges and charges (around 400-500 in fact) so with standard use will really only last a few years. Any iPhone 3GS that I bought would be approaching or past this limit and would be likely to need a new battery soon. This might add to the cost of ownership at some point, although there were also refurbished iPhone 3GS’s on eBay with new batteries selling for around £110. Yes, I know, my basic £9 phone was now going to cost £110, it was going to be all singing all dancing and was going to have an Apple logo on it – now we’re talking.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. The iPhone 4 did look a lot nicer. It has better styling, was newer, has better battery life, has a better 5MP camera and a forward facing camera too. It also has the retina screen, it’s thinner (surely thats a good thing!), has a faster processor, more RAM and whats more Apple are still selling it so it hasn’t been discontinued. This meant that it should last longer, will hopefully be supported for longer and who knows it might even run the next version of the operating system, iOS 7 – although that last point remains to be seen as some of the latest features of iOS 6 only work on the iPhone 4S and 5, not the 4.

The iPhone 4 was selling for twice the price, but was it twice as good? Probably not, but I checked my PayPal account and had more money in there than I expected. Just enough in fact to buy a 2nd hand iPhone 4 and that’s exactly what I did. I don’t have it yet but hopefully it’ll arrive in the next day or two and I’ll be a fully signed up member of the mobile smart phone world.

I might have to set myself some rules though and switch it off now and then. In fact the iPhone has a ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature, maybe I should just turn that on as default and only turn it off when I actually want people to contact me? I don’t want to become an ‘always on’ digitally connected mobile monster, I have to maintain my unsociable grumpy old luddite status somehow! But then, if I do that what’s the point of having it?. We all know what’s going to happen, it’s going to be with me all the time, I’ll be texting, tweeting and facebooking constantly, I’ll be on the phone chatting away as if I actually have friends and who knows before long I might even get invited to a party – it could change my life! I’ll be young again and might even have to start wearing my trousers so that my pants show. OK, now I’m getting carried away. It might be nice to be in contact with people a little more, but I shall try not to be attached to it all the time. We’ll see how it goes.

7 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    Welcome to the iPhone world! I have a 4S. It’s handy for stopping commuting boredom and entertainment for all the queues life brings you. I was skeptical at first but quickly grew very fond of it.

    • Alan says:

      Thanks Emily… Although my commute involves a 2 second walk down the hall and I don’t remember the last time I was in a queue. It’ll look good alongside my iPad, iPod and iMac though! 🙂

      All I need now is some friends so that I can text and call people!


  2. Anna says:

    Can we have a poll to vote on whether you are a grumpy old man or not? I vote grumpy!

  3. mum says:

    Don’t forget to give all your friends your number!

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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