diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 07, 2021

I finally got round to buying a new phone. I should probably have done it earlier.

I usually wait until my phone's on its last legs before replacing it. My last started flickering alarmingly, the one before that developed an erupting battery and the one before that was unsmart long after its time. I kept that particular Sony Ericsson for over five years, and I kept my latest for over five years too. I am very much afflicted with technological inertia.

To give you some idea how old my most recent phone was, I bought it in the week Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader. Simpler times. After two years it needed a new battery so I got that replaced and took some tips from the guy in the shop on how to prolong it. Try not to recharge it until it's really low, he said, so I did that and battery two lasted rather longer.

But by this time last year it had started to degrade, losing charge more rapidly and occasionally plummeting in power for no readily apparent reason. I started operating in Low Power Mode as my daily default, just in case. But it was still good enough that I managed to get all the way to Cornwall and back, and took 300 photos, without a recharge. False optimism.

In the week that lockdown started an overnight charge failed and my phone wouldn't turn back on no matter how many cables I plugged in or buttons I pressed. I spent five agonising hours convinced it was never going to revive, furious that battery failure had happened at precisely the wrong moment, until ohthankgod it somehow magically woke up again.

The issue wasn't so much the phone as the charger connection, which over the course of four and a half years had become increasingly worn. It meant that plugging in the cable didn't always work first time, I had to jiggle it a bit until the charging symbol lit up. And if the power hit ever zero this charade didn't always work, because I couldn't tell if the cable was connected and the phone had started recharging... or not.

In normal times I would have popped to a shop for repairs, an upgrade or a new phone, but shops were no longer open so that wasn't an option. You might have had a new phone delivered at this point, but I decided to continue with a suboptimal device. I can string this out, I thought, and did.

I spent the subsequent nine months trying very hard to ensure my phone never turned itself off in case it never turned itself back on. This mitigation generally worked fine, and I was able to continue to use my phone on a day to day basis, but all the time the battery was fading away a little quicker.

The turning point was Christmas Day when I went for a walk into central London hoping to take some unique photos, but having taken a handful my previously full battery suddenly claimed to be at 27%. I had a proper camera with me but that failed too, again a battery issue, so I knew my days of technological inertia were numbered.

I did my research. I sought advice. I seriously considered all sorts of repurchasing options that later proved to be either suboptimal or entirely unnecessary. This is why I normally like to go to shops to buy things rather than sitting here and guessing incorrectly. But I got there in the end.

On Monday I finally worked out that I didn't need to wait days for a phone to be delivered because John Lewis were still offering Click and Collect a mile away. I took the plunge and forked out, anticipating a pick-up time the next day... then a few hours later the Prime Minister popped up and announced Lockdown Three. Damn, I thought, I timed that appallingly.

But it was fine, because under the latest rules it seems Click and Collect remains a perfectly permissible service. I received an email earlier than expected inviting me to pick up my purchase, so trooped over to Westfield and located a lowly table placed outside the store's back door. The member of staff struggled to read my barcode with her gizmo because the display on my ageing phone wasn't bright enough, but a minute later I was walking away with its replacement. Hurrah.

Back in 2015 I'd got somebody else to do the entire changeover for me, but this time I managed it all by myself. The magic of bluetooth helped out, plus the cosy friendliness of modern gadgets, plus advice on the internet when things didn't quite go as expected. Small victories, but this is what happens when you don't do this kind of thing very often.

Contrary to normal technological progress my new phone is exactly the same size as the old one. That's potentially useful because the case from the old one still fits... although the hole where the camera goes is in a slightly different place so damn, I'm going to need a new case soon. I already have that new-phone paranoia that comes from holding a slippery unprotected slab of unblemished metal.

I'm now trying to readjust to having a phone that works the way it's supposed to. The battery survives happily for more than one day. I can listen to audio or take a photo without fear it might conk out. I don't have to repeatedly jiggle my USB cable before it connects, it just works. I've been putting up with a diminished product for so long that normality has been a pleasant shock.

But it's still a learning curve. Lots of settings aren't quite what they used to be, or more likely weren't previously featured, so I've spent a lot of time turning options off. No I do not want my phone to take a snatch of video every single time I take a photo. No I do not want to send Memoji Stickers, thanks. I'm still at the stage of wondering what I've missed.

It's been good to lose the fear that my phone might ultimately brick itself, which I now realise has been niggling away since March last year. A lot of crucial functions like banking or making a purchase assume you have a functioning phone and will lock you out if you're unable to use it. I'd hate to have missed out on a future vaccination because my local surgery wrongly assumed I could read the one-off text they sent.

So I wish my new phone a long and healthy life. The last one surprisingly cost £10 more but endured for an impressive 1937 days so turned out to be a bit of a bargain. How quickly a former luxury becomes a future essential.

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