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New Year, New Me, and My First Ever Smartphone?

For the past eight years, I’ve been conducting a social experiment with my life by not owning a smartphone. Instead, a trusty Sony Ericsson Jalou flip phone provided all my texting needs, plus the occasional phone call. Tech is a professional and personal passion of mine, but for a variety of reasons (ethics, sustainability, privacy, morbid curiosity), I decided to see how long I could last, as the years went on, without a smartphone of my own.

Then, just before we headed into this New Year, I upgraded my phone – and some (ever-connected obsessives) would say my life – to an iPhone SE, again for a variety of reasons (mounting FOMO, a burning desire to use emojis, a realisation that I might need an Uber one day, the feeling that I’d been the only flip phone user at CES for too many years now). 

Some aspects of owning a smartphone I knew I’d love, some I thought I wouldn’t. But now, with a New Year and a new shiny looking phone in my pocket (complete with data allowance that I’ve nearly completely used up), here’s what I’ve learnt so far, coming to the smartphone party afresh after all this time.

Emojis are as good as I knew they’d be. Confession, I already used iMessage on my iPad so wasn’t totally new to talking in pictures – even I’m not that much of a Luddite – but it still blew my mind when I got an iPhone at the same time as iOS 10 launched with its stickers, gifs and haptic messages. So much fun. No words needed, just balloons . 

iMessages ios10

Smartphones are the ultimate luxury item. However used to your smartphone you are, take a second to think again about the high-end technology that’s in the palm of your hand. Freedom, convenience, connectivity – and all in a beautifully designed object that you touch more than anything (or anyone) else. Smartphones redefined luxury technology, and they’re still doing so – even now, when we all take them utterly for granted.

Apps are over; games are not. I missed the Candy Crush craze. And the Pokemon Go moment. Two Dots, however, I’m still pretty into. And games are still making a lot of money on mobile.

If you feel overwhelmed by tech, you can choose to change that. I was concerned pre-smartphone that I’d get too reliant on it. But so far it proven to be a useful addition to most things, not a replacement. You don’t have to give up your smartphone to get a ‘more healthy’ relationship to technology. I don’t buy into the idea that technology causes all modern ills: it simply amplifies problems that were already lurking (and makes bus journeys more fun).

Google Home

Smartphones are here to stay – but voice assistants are next. Unlike many people who work in tech, I like Siri (Apple’s built-in voice assistant) and use it regularly for simple tasks (alarms, timers, checking the weather). For most people, though, it’s Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant that will become their first voice assistants, with whom they can chat in natural language. And it’s this new interaction – powered by ever-improving artificial intelligence – that will change our lifestyles next. 

All in all, It’s been an interesting little social experiment, me and my new phone. And this year, now you can finally catch me at the CES tech trade show with a phone that lets me post to Instagram, Snapchat and even post my updates to Twitter (well, for as long as the battery life lasts anyway. That’s one key thing I do miss about my flip phone, that and the Matrix references).

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