If You Liked It Then You Shoulda Put a Case on It

Case Mate iPhone case

Case Mate iPhone case (Photo credit: The Style PA)  

My first mobile phone was a Motorola in 1998, it was about the same size and shape as a hot-dog bun but weighed significantly more, it had a single line display and a pull-out aerial that the instructions warned you not to touch in use for reasons that seemed unnecessarily sinister at the time and was so solid that it felt like if you dropped it the surface onto which it fell would suffer more than the phone.

Today though advances in materials and phone technology have given us phones that we cosset and cradle like tiny woodland creatures.  Just a couple of days ago my belt buckle, for reasons only known to it, decided to attack my Xperia which was in my pocket, I heard the metal hit the glass screen.  I winced as I pulled the phone out.  Thankfully it wasn’t damaged, working in the glass industry I should have had a bit more confidence in its direct impact resistance but had it been hit from the side it might have been a different story.

We hear stories of iPhones’ metal bodies scratching and the anodization flaking off, of screens being cracked by light falls onto floors and so on, often very soon after getting the thing.  Product designers for Apple, Samsung, HTC, Sony etc spend months meticulously researching and creating these shiny devices and the first thing people feel the need to do is clamp them inside cases meticulously created in parallel by case designers.  It is a bizarre paradox that people buy something and the appearance of it is part of the decision but then have to hide it away to maintain its integrity.  I put my phone in a fleece-lined sleeve when it’s in my bag or in a pocket sans-keys etc otherwise but I still feel anxious when it’s in my hand, constantly thinking of how much a new screen would be.  This anxiety has also created the new market of gadget insurance.

Fashions don’t help, so many phones are now made with shiny, glossy materials which are not exactly the best at adhering to either your hand or a surface.  At this point I will defer to the commenters of Gizmodo UK:

ollypercival “I CANNOT BELIEVE how slippery the N4 is. I put it down on what I swear is a flat surface and 5 minutes later I hear the clunk of it hitting the floor. I actually got the spirit level out to check I wasn’t going mental.  If it’s on my bedside table and someone calls me, it’s practically in the bathroom before I can catch up with it.”

hyperspacey “My manager warned me to keep an eye on it seeing as it’s like an air-hockey puck with a death wish.”

Ebbysantos “I’ve not got a case for it, I just can’t get used to the things, plus what’s the point of covering such a pretty thing with a utilitarian bit of plastic?  Would be like putting Jennifer Lawrence in a bright yellow waterproof onesie!”

Quite.

Smart Uses for Dumbphones

Nokia 8250

Nokia 8250 (Photo credit: xcode)

Smartphones are everywhere now it seems, especially as they become increasingly intuitive to use, more powerful and as such multi-functional.  However what are now referred to as dumbphones still have uses.  People who just want something for making and receiving phone calls or texts appreciate them, one iPhone user turned his into a dumbphone by removing all the apps except the SMS and dialer and found the experience refreshing – I wonder if he’d have found it as easy to sell the shiny, touchy-feely one and buy a £20 Nokia.

In much of the world though dumbphones are the most used phones, often for reasons of cost – both the hardware and the costs of data which make smartphones unviable.  As an article in Wired said amongst our world population of seven billion there are six billion mobile-phone subscriptions, in Columbia, Egypt and Indonesia the mobile penetration is over 90 percent and it’s more than 100 percent in Brazil, Vietnam and Russia.  The same article is about how marketers are using the ubiquity of basic mobiles to reach new markets.  The cost of mobile minutes in emerging markets are high and as such are a precious commodity, or currency.  The article author, Nathan Eagle’s company Jana provides services whereby mobile users can be rewarded with airtime for trying new products, filling in surveys and looking at adverts.  74 percent of users in Brazil would be happy to receive adverts in return for airtime.  Multinationals are catching on, P&G have launched a campaign and Jana helped Danone doubled sales of yogurt via a similar campaign.  This kind of targeted marketing that we’re used to with our smartphones is now reaching more emerging markets and according to Nathan Eagle using advertising budgets to give emerging markets consumers these airtime bonuses would give them more disposable income.

Also, in Wired’s April 13 edition is a piece about an Indian startup called Innoz and its service SMSGyan which is a search engine without the internet – again perfect for basic mobiles.  Founded by Deepak Ravindran, Mohammed Hisamuddin, Ashwin Nath and Abhinav Sree who dropped out of the Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Engineering in Kerala to persue the project to give more people access to information, and answers.  “Gyan” means “knowledge” in Hindi and the service has partnered with Wikipedia, Bing, Wolfram Alpha and others to enable the system to answer questions sent to their servers by text message.  Costing the equivalent of 1p per query it returns an answer as a text message.  The networks gain revenue, the service’s 120 million active users gain information.  The next step is expansion of the service beyond India, as the ability to gain access to info when you have no data service can be vital just about anywhere.

As Wired’s Jana article pointed out this is the second time basic mobiles have created a communications revolution in emerging markets.  The dumbphone’s not that dumb after all.

Watch The Road

Person using cell phone while driving.

Person using cell phone while driving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you’re sat in a comfy seat, warm and dry, listening to a great album, singing along, thinking about dinner, or perhaps chatting to your friend, spouse or chinese takeaway it’s easy to forget you’re in over a tonne of metal travelling at speed.

When you’re learning you’re always paying attention to the road, checking your mirrors and being aware of the dangers around you.  Someone might walk into the road, some idiot might pull out in front of you (no particular brand owners mentioned, but you know who they are).  When you’ve passed your test though you might not be quite so vigilant.

Modern cars have only made the problem worse.  Even though California recently allowed texting and emailing via voice only whilst driving research has again shown that distracted driving is still dangerous.  Talking to someone places far higher mental demands on drivers, reducing their concentration on the really important task – staying between the white lines and not hitting anything.  A few years ago David Strayer and colleagues from the University of Utah compared mobile phone users to drunks in a driving simulator.  The talkie drivers showed significant impairment and slower braking reaction, roughly similar to participants who registered a .08 percent blood-alcohol content.

In tests of texters handheld typers naturally took their eyes off the road for longer periods than normal but even those using a handsfree to dictate to the phone took their eyes off the road for long periods too.  When you’re trying to concentrate on what you want to say you’re brain will focus on that rather than the outside world so your eyes will wander.  A counter-argument that drivers talk to passengers all the time is counter-countered by the facts that the conversation is often about the traffic, other drivers and so on and also that many accidents are caused when the driver is having an absorbing discussion or blazing row with the passenger alongside them and/or the kids in the back.  It is why so many accidents involve a car full of friends, loud music, and often but not exclusively young, inexperienced drivers.

Car makers haven’t helped though.  I like a car where I can alter the temperature, open a window, change the track or the volume on the MP3 player or switch on the hazard lights by reaching out to a familiar location and flicking a switch.  While it still takes some attention away from the road at least you’re still watching the road, using muscle-memory to find the control, knowing by tactile feedback if it’s set right, and then a very quick glance can confirm this.  Many cars though have just about everything set by some kind of menu, operated by a joystick so you have to watch a screen in order to set the aircon and so on.  On a recent Ferrari tested on Top Gear you even had the choice of seeing either the speedometer or satnav display – that shouldn’t have been even considered.

Voice control has been around for a while but generally only for basics like phone dialing and satnav but some manufacturers are now starting to consider advanced controls, for example the eye-tracking and Kinect-like gesture controls as seen in Hyundai’s recent HCD14 Genesis concept.

Driverless cars promise much but still have a long way to go and the technology that has made its way into cars so far such as automatic braking could easily encourage drivers to pay less attention to the road, lulled into a false sense of security that the car will save them from an accident.

I know personally that you can easily even be distracted while driving by feeling anxious or upset about something – the realisation that you’ve driven a mile down a road but can’t remember doing it is a sign of this distraction and is disturbing – but we need to remember the importance of making sure that tonne of metal doesn’t hit anything and the less things that get in the way of that the better.

Mobile Etiquette – Retail Staff Are Real People Too

Interior Market Decor | Market Decor Design | ...

Interior Market Decor | Market Decor Design | Interior Co-Op Signage | Co-Op Check stand | Grocery Checkout Area | North Coast Co-Op (Photo credit: I-5 Design & Manufacture)

There is a habit going round at the moment that I find particularly rude, as do many others, especially people who work in shops, bars and restaurants.  I don’t know whether it’s more noticeable now because more people have mobiles or because people are becoming more ignorant but the habit is of talking on your mobile while being served and either expecting the assistant/waiter/waitress to wait or just ignoring them like they’re insignificant and not worthy of your full attention.

It happens to me regularly, a customer comes in and I’m entering their order and their phone rings “hold on, be with you in a sec” they say – but to me, not to the person phoning them.  If it really is someone they can’t call back and they explain this and apologise then that’s fine, I’ll wait, go and do something else or make a cup of tea; often there is actually time to make and drink the tea before they’re back with you.  But when they just carry on talking while gesturing at you, waving a credit card and then taking their invoice and leaving while still talking on the phone it makes you feel like you don’t matter.

I was in the supermarket a few months back and the man in the queue ahead of me did this, he didn’t say one word to the assistant on the till, not “hello”, not “thank you” just talking on his phone and as I could hear the conversation clearly, as could half the store and probably people sat in the car park beneath the store, I could tell it wasn’t that important a call.  When he’d gone I said to the assistant “I hate it when people do that”, she let out a sigh and visibly relaxed saying “me too, it really annoys me” clearly relieved that someone understood how she was feeling.

Gizmodo UK recently published a piece about posters created by cartoonist Ted Slampyak highlighting other no-nos to remember, like keeping the volume down, using appropriate ringtones and not avoiding difficult conversations by texting – which is a whole other issue by itself.  One commenter who worked in a restaurant told how he had taken revenge on such an ignorant diner by firstly not going over to take the order until the man put his phone down and then pulling his own phone out and having a fake conversation while taking the order.

Now please excuse me, I have a text.

[Gizmodo UK]