TGIF: Getting a new cell phone, it seems, could be a hang-up

Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

We’ve come a long way since Henry Ford said his customers could have any color vehicle they wanted, as long as it was black.

And until the latter half of the last century, you didn’t see much variety in telephones either. They were boxy, boring, and attached to the wall with a cord.

A lot has changed. The choices customers enjoy are endless.

I remember vividly the day in 2007 when I reluctantly ventured into a phone store to find a replacement for my Nokia 3310, which I had used since 2001. I received notice that my carrier was no longer going to “support” analog phones, and I was required to upgrade to a new digital model.

I know. Who keeps cell phones for six long years? This was, however, back in the day when all we asked of our cell phones was to make and receive calls. I didn’t know it could text until someone sent me a message — by mistake.

I loved that phone. I would get one just like it today if I could, although I would be giving up 95 percent of the features that modern “smart” phones offer. Small as a couple packages of gum, the device fit easily into any pocket. Plug in some earbuds, and I was ready to go.

At the phone store, I looked at basic, less expensive phones that fit the mold of my Nokia. I was almost ready to make my selection when the salesman asked, “Would you like to see the new Apple iPhone?” Our newspaper had been using Apple computers to write stories and design pages for several years, so why not? What harm is there to looking?

Two minutes into the demonstration, I was sold. I called my wife to see if she wanted one as well. She was a slightly harder sell than I was, but she finally came around.

Did Steve Jobs have any idea how drastically he was changing society when he introduced the iPhone? An example of how cell phones have affected even the criminal justice system just played out on the nightly news in recent weeks.

Legal observers at the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin said the video shot by a young bystander while George Floyd was being restrained proved key to the prosecution. Chauvin’s attorneys have asked for a new trial, but the role the video played looms large. Those images probably wouldn’t have existed 20 years ago, but today, everybody walks around with a video camera.

In 2021, we have many brands of smart devices other than iPhones from which to choose. However, they all perform the same amazing functions in addition to simply making and taking calls. They keep notes and grocery lists. They store contact information, including addresses and emails as well as phone numbers. They help schedule your appointments and deliver reminders. They tell time, in multiple time zones. They contain a calculator for simple math. They send and receive e-mail. They fetch information (news, entertainment, stock quotes, weather) from the internet. They allow you to play games. They show television programs and movies. They send and receive text messages. They take photos and videos, and edit them. They connect to other equipment for medical, security, financial, and any number of other purposes.

Within a few years after their introduction, smart phones were so completely assimilated into our lives that it became almost impossible to function without one. And — oh horrors! — if we should ever lose our phones, we’d have to go back to square one and recreate all of its contents. Unless, of course, you’ve backed it up to the “cloud.”

I wrote earlier I was forced to give up my small Nokia cell phone after using it for “only” six years. I’m again assessing my options because my current iPhone — which still works perfectly — is now entering its eighth year. That’s quite ancient in technology years.

The young man at the phone store, who likely was not yet in grade school when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, told me that even if my old phone works, I will soon find that things like “apps” will quit working properly. A new phone will prevent that, and wouldn’t you know, they had a sale in progress.

Maybe I was an “early adopter” when it came to the first iPhone, but I’ve been dragging my feet since. This antique I carry on my belt is only the second iPhone I’ve had in 14 years.

What a dilemma. Maybe I should phone a friend.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at