Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


There is a light that never goes out

Filed under : Gadgets
On December 21, 2010
At 1:00 am
Comments : 4

So just a few months after crowing about my new phone, I have an even newer phone. But it’s an experiment and it’s a bittersweet one. Like this woman, I really, really wanted to stay with my BlackBerry, but they just couldn’t bring their web experience up to everyone else’s. I found that a lot of the time, if I wasn’t near WiFi, I wouldn’t bother even trying to use apps or check things like Twitter or Facebook, because the screen was just too tiny and the experience too slow and limited. Being in a WiFi environment most of the time (school/home/internship), it felt even more painful when riding the bus or visiting someone, to not be able to have the full experience. But I lived with it because I still loved the BB for so many things.

And I probably would have stayed with the BB, hoping by the time my contract was up that either a new model would have the things I liked from iOS and Android devices or that an iOS or Android device would have the things I liked from RIM. But something else happened in between to tip the scales and that was that everyone in my family chipped in together to get me the one thing I wanted for my birthday/Hannukah: an iPad. So now I had two WiFi devices that would frustrate me to no end to not have service on: an iPod Touch and an iPad. I thought about various solutions. I considered trading in my WiFi iPad for a 3G one so that I could get wireless service on it. But that involved a $100 outlay and an extra $15 a month. I thought about getting a portable hotspot but that was the same thing except a $25 charge per month plus carrying around yet another device.

But some Android phones can act as portable hotspots so that seemed the best solution. Just push a button and have the phone spread its WiFi goodness to all my iOS devices. No extra fee and no extra device. So I bought the cheapest Android phone available, the Comet. It’s kind of adorable for all its cheapness (it costs as much off-contract as your phone probably cost subsidized). I didn’t feel so bad about this splurge because I spent 48 hours baking ten orders of rugelach as a special holiday thing for two of my most delightful previous customers and earned almost exactly as much as the Comet cost. Happy Hannukah, Becca – Love, Becca.

As an aside, every time I type or say or think the word Comet, I remember this little ditty from when I was in Summer camp (sing with me!):
Comet, it makes your mouth turn green
Comet, it tastes like gasoline
Comet, it makes you vomit
So eat some Comet and vomit today!

It turns out, these lyrics are only slightly off the standard. But I digress. I really thought I could use the BlackBerry and Comet interchangeably and just pop the SIM card in and out as needed. That turned out not to be the case, since T-Mo, my carrier, has you listed under one or the other. As yet another aside, I cannot say enough good things about T-Mobile. If they have good coverage in your area, use them, if only just to hear them trip over themselves on the phone to please you. It’s like someone promised them a steak if they could get you to say, “Wow, thanks!” Bottom line, they gave me the cheap Android plan, even though it no longer exists, just because I already had the cheap Blackberry plan which no longer exists. And if I want to switch back to the cheap BB plan which no longer exists, I just have to call back. Steak for everyone!

But here’s the rub. I like the Comet and Android very much, just as I thought I would, but I ache for my BlackBerry. My BlackBerry was a workhorse. It was that guy who gets to the office at 6 and leaves at 9 and you just have to glance over to see him working away at his task. There’s no need to bother him! He’s hammering away. And at the end of the day, right on time, he brings you that report you wanted with no typos and no mistakes. The Comet is like… well, me. It sits around and waits till you really need something and then maybe it has it and maybe it doesn’t and you can never really be sure if it’s right. (This post will not be on my resume, thanks for asking). I mean, why do the work before it’s really needed? And if you don’t have it at that point, maybe no one will notice.

The BlackBerry, as anyone who has been near someone who has one can attest, has a little light on the top. It flashes a slow and steady green when it is connected to WiFi or a mobile signal and then switches to a slow and steady red if you have a message of some kind. The Comet has a light but does nothing if nothing’s happening and then flashes green if you have a message. The trouble is, sometimes nothing’s happening because the Comet is just hanging out and having a smoke. It hasn’t really tried to see if you have any messages. Maybe it lost the connection, but as far as you know, it’s just that no one’s trying to reach you. But maybe they are! And the Comet is like, “hey, you know that one time at band camp and… what? Connection? I don’t even really remember what that is.” Sometimes when you wonder if maybe there is a message despite no light and you unlock the screen, the Comet gets busy, like it knows the boss entered the room. Then it frantically checks for e-mails and Twitter mentions and Facebook comments. Sometimes, it doesn’t even notice the boss is around. “Oh hey, remember that time… anyone got a light?… when Sally and Jimmy had that fight and….”

As Pavlov could tell you, it’s this kind of unpredictability that drives a person mad. But there are some predictable things. If I send myself an e-mail and line up my devices, here’s how it goes: the iPad and Touch will ping, one right after the other, then my computer will chime, then…. nothing. Then I get myself a smoke (well, no, that’s hyperbole) and then the light on the Comet starts to flash. Ugh. Even worse, when the Comet is charging, its light is dedicated to showing you that it’s charging and no indication of a message at all occurs. Now, I can’t be having that. My entire psyche is geared to glancing over and seeing the light flashing, knowing something in my world is constantly scanning the atmosphere for messages, and will soundlessly indicate when I have one. I still find myself looking over all the time at the Comet to watch it blink and of course, it won’t do that. But then, sometimes in the morning after I had packed my BB in my messenger bag, I’d glance over at the spot where it had blinked all night. It’s a reflex.

I have been told that there are apps for Android phones that will accomplish this, but so far, none will work for the Comet’s lame little light. It’s funny, before the last post, which was a bit sentimental, the Comet Conundrum already reminded me of that time. I remember being in a foreign land, literally and figuratively, and before going to sleep in a cold bed, I’d put the BlackBerry on the side of it. That flashing light seemed to hum to me that I was still connected to people who loved me. And that’s the power of our electronic devices. Not the games or the turn by turn navigation, but the connections to people not by our side. I need to know that I can count on my little friend to tell me that it is constantly reaching out to see if anyone is reaching back and to let me know reliably if they have. I need to be able to trust it.

I should also mention that the Comet’s battery runs out in less than my typical 15 hour day, and that’s with just average use. In a normal BlackBerry day, I wouldn’t even lose the first bar on the battery scale unless I left it off the charger all night. So you can add that to the “I can’t really count on this to be there for me” column.

It’s funny, I was going to write about a NY Times article/podcast on the subject of the mobile phone being an extension of the self. But instead, I found that I need one that isn’t like me at all. I need one that completes me. This one seems to just turn my mouth green.

Here is a photo taken by the Comet of the most expensive clock radio ever, my iPad. My co-operating tech teacher can’t believe I do this. But I can’t be the only one or they wouldn’t have this app, would they?

Why did I take this picture? I think it was the excitement over a new phone and the promise of a snowy day, not to mention I’m not really myself since I started having to wake up at 6:15am. I haven’t even turned the light on yet in this picture.

The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out