It's true. I'm bored to tears with my iPhone. Thoroughly sick of the thing.
I didn't think this would or even could happen. After all, the iPhone – any smartphone – is an unbelievable object. Sure, it has its flaws, but minor irritations should pale next to the fact that I can talk into a tiny colourful computer. Think back to 1983 or thereabouts. Who would have predicted that a rotary phone and a Commodore PET would get together and fit in your pocket?
In January 2009 I picked up an iPhone 3G on impulse from a kiosk in a mall. It was cold out. The phone was slick and iconic, heavy in my hand and responsive to my touch. Two hundred bucks and a three year contract and it was mine.
At first I loved it. I downloaded all the apps I imagined might revolutionize my life and used them as much as I possibly could, no matter where I was. I became one of those people who routinely placed their phones on the table at restaurants and bars, flicking through emails or tweets or facebook updates as I talked and drank, nodding along with conversations while I poked out idle text messages: “I'm here! Where are you? You driving down Dewdney?” etc. It was an accessory and signpost of my life, as much as the fiber of my jacket or the shank of my shoe.
And now it is January of 2011, almost two years to the day since I first signed that contract. The 3G is so far behind the technological curve that it's nearly slipped beneath the ecliptic of support (I give it another year or so before Apple stops supporting it altogether). The hardware struggles to keep the operating system running, the slim profile now feels embarrassingly bulky, and the multitude of apps, once so fascinating, now seem pointless. I don't want to augment my reality or check bar codes in supermarkets. I have less interest than I thought in snapping photographs of whiteboards or allotting leisure time to the destruction of smug pigs.
The only functions of my phone that really matter are the ones that keep me in touch with the outside world: web browser, email, phone, and the combined punch of twitter and facebook when I'm looking for some random entertainment. Once in a while I'll launch Soundhound to find out what music happens to be playing (unfortunately useless in a bar or any place with lots of ambient noise), or I'll take a photo. But these uses occur largely in the context of communicating with other people. The photo gets uploaded, the song gets tweeted. All the rest is cold, lumpy gravy.
I tell myself I'll do something cool and creative with this or that piece of software. But after a few attempts I get frustrated with the finicky touch screen controls or the repeated crashes. My creative work requires a keyboard for writing or a sizeable monitor for editing video, neither of which, clearly, my iPhone offers. Those pursuits also require blocks of solitude and concentration, both of which dissolve like antacid tablets in the endless stream of notifications and mentions pouring from my phone.
Sometimes communicating with people is over rated. Sometimes I prefer to step off the busy street and sit by myself in a quiet place, one where I have nothing to say to others. And here the iPhone is not merely boring but insidious. I can't have a single thought or experience without a small voice telling me that I should snap an image or share a thought. I have a tool for sharing everything that passes behind or before my eyes, and I pay $60 each month for the ability to do so. If I step away from it, then my relevance in the stream begins to erode. The current moves so quickly that all my familiar points get washed downstream.
This is so much a first world problem that it's practically a spaceman problem. This is like people living on the moon complaining about the texture of their baked moon potatoes and the sophistication of their moon soap operas, when they should be perpetually amazed at the fact of their lunar existence. I live in a world where the worst that things can really happen to me, barring accident and disease, are ennui, heartbreak and reduced buying power.
I should not be bored with a feat of engineering that was science fiction only ten years ago. And yet here I am, slightly resentful of something I should be delighted to own. But that's how possessions work in age of regular obsolescence: they turn you into a bit of a jerk. I know that I'll probably pick up a better phone when my contract expires, and that one day my incredible new phone will bore me to tears.
The secret, obviously, is to understand and accept the limitations of your new device, even as the initial endorphin rush screams through your veins. More importantly, I should stop giving a shit about the endless mobile conversation happening 24/7 among my electronic peers and be content to pop in from time to time without anxiety. Or at least be able to manage my involvement in it – say, only at certain times of day – which feels a bit like I'm negotiating the worst part of my adolescence all over again. Maybe I should get my mother to tell me that my twitter followers are a bad influence? I'll text her about that. From my boring, boring iPhone.