It is the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, and I still don't have one. Indeed, since my ancient iPod broke I don't possess any Apple product. No, I have a Samsung Galaxy phone at least two generations behind the latest model, which does all the things I need a phone to do, which is not very much. I can make phone calls, and even receive them if I notice that it is ringing, which is not very often since I keep it on silent. It organizes my texts, albeit very confusingly when more than one person is involved in a conversation. The maps work which is useful on a small scale for finding where a particular street is or on a large scale to check for traffic jams. I wouldn't try and plan a journey by it because the screen is so small that by the time I could see both ends of the journey all the road numbers would have disappeared. The internet works, albeit quite slowly, in case I desperately want to look something up while I'm out. I can play Sudoku or read the Guardian if I'm bored, and the Guardian send me news alerts in case I could not wait until I got home to learn that Rupert Murdoch's Sky takeover bid had been referred to the competition authorities. Oh, and I have the Wittr app so that I can see where other followers of the BBC's flagship film review programme are to an accuracy of anything up to several kilometers, while advertising my own presence to fellow devotees but not in a way that any of them could actually find me. And that's about it. The battery lasts all day with a margin to spare.
Other people do much, much more with their phones, though not the Systems Administrator who does even less. Every day brings fresh reports of how we are all glued to our smartphones, addicted, made stupid by them. The eleven year old daughter of somebody interviewed on the Today programme watched films on hers. Speaking as somebody who likes film, I can't fathom why if a film is worth two hours of my life to watch I would want to do so on a screen the size of a large matchbox, but what do I know? I am not eleven.
When I saw some of my former colleagues for lunch recently somebody posed the question, how late at night does it become rude to text somebody? I was flummoxed. Surely you could text at any time you wanted to, as long as you didn't expect an immediate reply? Apparently this is not how phones work. Somebody had rudely texted him at eleven at night and woken him up, and worse still woken his wife up, just as they were dropping off to sleep. I was mystified. Why had he taken his phone to bed with him if he didn't want to hear it? Mine lived in the kitchen between the toaster and the ice cream machine most of the time, where the cats couldn't knock it on the floor, and I checked it occasionally for messages when passing. But he used his phone as an alarm clock, he explained patiently. I was still mystified. Why not get an alarm clock? I have one in my digital bedside radio, though reception for Classic FM is not very good.
Another colleague chimed in that she thought it was OK to text up to ten at night, but always carried her phone in case her daughter needed her. I was still mystified. Her daughter is twenty, or possibly twenty-one, and in perfect health so far as I know. If she were waiting for exam results, or going through boyfriend troubles, or taking part in a trans Saharan motor race then a steadying maternal hand on the tiller might be required, but all the time?
When I met my coterie of beekeeping friends for coffee a little while back nobody got their mobile phone out at any point. Everybody except me had children and grandchildren, and one had a husband with a heart condition and runs her own business, while another is moving house, so I'm sure they could all have thought of reasons why they needed to check their phones constantly if they'd wanted to. Really, constant mobile use or not comes down to attitude of mind. If people keep their phones out on the table and check them every two minutes that isn't the fault of the phone, any more than poison pen letters are the fault of letter writing.