I mean, it’s a phone. And what do you use a phone for nowadays? You are never too far away from a laptop; you still hate sending texts by tapping on glass. You are trying to use Twitter less; hell, you are trying to stay off all “apps” because you want to chip away at the tower of books that threatens to overtake your bedside table in height.
And yet, you have many serious complaints about your old phone. Your old phone had terrible battery: it would turn off in the middle of light jogs, it would require a cable in the middle of the day. Your old phone tried very hard to be attentive and responsive, but it always seemed to come up short. Your old phone had a couple chips and scratches that could no longer be chalked up to patina or wabi-sabi. (Your old phone’s camera lacked the ability to capture bokeh, too, which admittedly was less important.)
And so you buy a new phone. It is extremely expensive: this is the thing that proponents of the new phone tacitly agree not to discuss, or to softly paper over by divvying the cost into months or days or hours spent using the phone. (“If you use it three hours a day for two years, it costs two quarters per hour!”, they say, and you wince at being the kind of person to whom such arguments are persuasive.)
Thankfully, then, it feels expensive. The new phone is a treasure: it is a perfectly polished stone. It is equal parts sleekness and density. The new phone knows your face but gets confused when you are wearing sunglasses, which I find extremely endearing.
And, to its credit, the new phone delivers on all of its promises. The battery is so much better; the camera is an absolute marvel. Like a well-designed garden, there are little moments of delight hidden around every corner — the smooth bounce of the app switcher, the little haptic taps as you upload something to Instagram. You can tell the people who made the new phone did a good job by any objective criteria.
But does the phone improve you?
There are distinct ways in which the answer is a dim yes, sure. You find yourself noticeably — albeit only slightly — less anxious now that you don’t have to tether yourself to the old phone’s battery life. You get little thimble-fuls of pleasure whenever you take a nice picture or the phone acts a little more nimbly than you expected.
But the phone is still a consumptive device. It is not making you a more productive worker; the music it pours into your headphones is no more sweet. It does not save you any time during your morning routine; it does not make your Sunday morning jogs any more palatable to your tired calves. (Though the new watch, I hear, may accomplish the latter.)
Still, there are advantages — like Saturday nights when you find yourself at a CHVRCHES concert and you have waited the entire night for them to play Clearest Blue and you resign yourself to it not happening — it wasn’t a single, after all — but then, as you least expect it, as you figure they’ll end with Gun or The Mother We Share, you pick out the first few notes, and suddenly the stage lighting is all sapphire, and you are awash in your favorite song by one of your favorite bands.
And when that happens, it’s nice to have your phone — to fire off a quick few exclamatory texts, to hit Periscope, to take thirty seconds of video. And the video won’t be good exactly — what concert video is? — but it’ll be as good as it can be, and the battery will still be at 80%, and it will feel a little bit like reifying the magic into something more permanent, something that won’t fade once you slink single-file out of the Paramount.
So the phone is good. It’s just a phone, and it won’t fix anything — it won’t make you finish that book of Montaigne essays, it won’t help you squat three plates, and it won’t dispel that little knot of anxiety every Tuesday night where half of you wants to work on the Buttondown redesign and the other half of you wants to go bike out to SoDo for beers with folks and a third, hithertofore indistinct half of you wants to sit at home, light a couple candles, put on In A Silent Way, and re-read some Vonnegut.
But it’s a good phone. (Even with the notch.)
If you’ve spent the past few weeks agonizing about whether or not to get the phone, just get the phone. It’s easier this way for everyone involved.