So I did it.
It felt like a betrayal.
Very mucky. And it cost a lot (when I am used to getting it “free”).
Absolutely fed up with O2‘s hopeless upgrade options, I decided to buy a new phone. Apparently I have been eligible for an upgrade since 2006. That simply isn’t so, as I have had two phones since then, but neither appear to be registered on their system. No matter how many times I tell them, each call to their perky, perfectly-mannered team (“FFS, yes, you can call me Ben!”) is like a bizarrely personal production of Groundhog Day for phone geeks.
So, having read completely contrary accounts as to whether O2 intend to offer the phone I wanted, and thinking I might try speaking Esperanto to the customer services team next time to see if I can be any more comprehensible, I took the plunge and ordered online from Nokia. My N900 arrived promptly and, after a couple of days playing with it, I can safely say it is the most fascinating and powerful little gadget I’ve ever had.
To be clear: I am in love. Not the girly sort of romantic love that geekdom is infamously inept at. This is hardcore, soul-shaking gizmo love. Processing passion. Firmware rapture.
Of course, some people don’t get phones (I need to be careful here as the über geeks will remind me the N900 is not a mobile phone but an internet tablet with mobile telephony added). So I thought I would try a car analogy – with a view to winding up iPhone users. I should warn that this enterprise comes with health warnings: I don’t drive.
I think most ordinary folk are happy enough to own a phone that makes calls and that can send the occasional text message. They are after something simple and basic and functional. They are not interested in hacking it to pieces (we are talking coding, programming and general fiddling here rather than kindling axes) and are content for it to simply work.
That is: WORK.
This sort of phone is so common – because it is such a good ordinary workhorse – that it is practically invisible. To my mind this is the Ford Fiesta of phones: the Nokia N1100. If they were insects they would be Water Bears (that’s tardigrades to all you biologists) – prolific, unnoticed and utterly survivable. Thousands of aunties and grandparents the world over keep them neatly packed in their boxes for “emergencies”. Others, who have long since upgraded, have their N1100s languishing in a drawer – but only in stasis, ready to be reanimated the moment that flash capacitive screen decides it has been subject to one sticky finger too many.
The Flash Git
For some, the priorities are different. Being cool is a very serious consideration, particularly if “cool” can be dressed up as “useful“.
I can’t help it but every time I think of the iPhone I get this image of 1985, getting the bus to the Romford ABC to see Rocky IV and pimped out Ford Escorts (believe me – it is as bad as it sounds). All the cool kids have one – boy do you know they have one. And all the rest of us loser kids should want one (I did my 80s casual clothes shopping at Liberal Party jumble sales on a Saturday morning so no iPhone for guessing which category I fall into).
I don’t know if it is the contrarian in me, but for that reason alone I’ve held out against the entreaties of the Esperanto speakers of O2 and the various friends and colleagues who have evangelised about their iPhones and resisted the temptation to join the iHerd. XR3i, spoilers, alloy wheels, Ghia, Cabriolet… The iPhone has it all and in spades and just as the 80s cool kids used to congregate in gangs to check out the latest in Escort bling, so now iPhone users entertain their mates with their iFart and iSteam apps.
And yes – it is cool.
And no – I can’t pull it off.
(I also admit to a modicum of nervousness at this particular analogy as there is probably an equation that relates the number of iPhone-owning friends and relatives I have to my Escort-loving girlfriend in order to produce an accurate indication of the likely diminution of my social circle.)
The Power Geek Enthusiast
So this is where the self-styled l33t haxx0r ends up.
It’s not simple or bling that counts here.
To qualify for the ultra special category of Power Geek Enthusiast, you need raw horsepower, complexity and a love of Saturday mornings drowning in invective, epithets and machine love as you tinker under the bonnet. For me, the N900 is the Ford Capri of mobile phones (and yes – for me it is still easiest to call it a mobile phone). Why have a 1.6L when you can pack a 3.0 V6? The N900 is the sort of gadget those of us who fantasize about being secret agents have dreamed of – a phone and pocket computer combined, which we can use to save the world. Let’s face it. You wouldn’t have caught Bodie and Doyle driving Escorts – they were Capri men through and through (if you don’t believe me, you can check out their carpool here). If The Professionals were reinvented for the 21st Century you can bet your ass they’d be carrying N900s – not iPhones!
Read this piece from one Capri lover. Feel the passion? It could never be an iPhone.
Actually, sod saving the world. The N900 is for all those of us who believe that one day we might just take over the world – and need a super-techno gadget to help us do so…
And just in case any of you think you still want to chance an iPhone, just take a look at this clip below… Go on… I tell you – all the uncool kids are laughing now!