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Monday, 22 June 2009

Nobody Rings

My first mobile phone was a sort of family heirloom; I inherited it from my mother when she died six years ago. It had a pay as you go account, still with all of the original money credited to it from when she'd bought it. I'm not surprised, as it was an ungainly model, difficult to navigate through. I kept it with me for emergencies, switched off as the battery discharged at a prodigious rate.

A couple of years later I bought a more up to date model from Nokia. Much easier to use, lightweight, and kept its charge. (In fact I've just turned it on successfully after it's spent the last five months in a drawer.) I still kept it switched off though, using it just for emergencies.

You see, I had never felt the need to be constantly connected with the phone network. I get few enough calls on the landline, so what was the point in handing out my mobile number, and incidentally losing my peace and quiet? That feature of today's technology I was quite happy to miss out on.

But last year I realised that the newer 'smartphones' pack a considerable amount of processing power. For many years I've lived out of a PDA (first a Palm m105, then an HP iPaq), and couldn't do without their built-in calendar and address book, not to mention the task list, calculator, music player, etc. One thing about the set up bothered me: when I did have to make a phone call on the mobile, I had to first look up the phone number on my iPaq, then key it into the phone. But if I had a smartphone, the two would be combined, and I could just dial straight away.

And so, even though I barely used my existing mobile, I began to condition myself to realising I 'needed' a smartphone costing £300 or more.

Fortunately, deciding what model to buy was sufficiently confusing to stop me just leaping in and spending my money. It had to be able to play the music I download on my 'Napster to go' subscription (and try getting a definitive list of devices that can do that, even from Napster!). It had to synchronise with the Mozilla Thunderbird mail client on my PC (same problem). It took months of umming and ahhing before I finally settled on a Nokia N85. It can play my music, and it does sync with my PC, though not without several annoyances (I shall have words to say about the Mobile Master software in a future blog). It can pick up FM radio, download the web, take photos, play games. And it can make phone calls directly from my address book.

I set about telling all my friends my new mobile number, and waited for the calls to come flooding in. And waited, and waited. Turns out my friends have as much need to ring me as I have to ring them.

There have been moments of excitement. Early on a couple of times at work the mobile went off in my pocket (both times making me start), but it was just Orange trying to sell me extra features. And just last night it rang again, but it was a wrong number. "Is that H?" "No." "Are you sure?" "Quite sure?" "So ... you're not H who lives opposite the shop on whatsit street?" There was a time when a display of stupidity like that would have received some choice remarks about the caller's probable IQ range. Sadly, nowadays he'd be able to get my number from his phone's list of dialled numbers, and then maybe one day find out who I was via a Google search, so I just had to reassure him that, yes, I was quite sure of my own name thank you.

Meanwhile I continue to carry my mobile with me at all times. It's fun being connected.