Fruit that will last…

Just over two years ago I emerged from an Apple store holding one of the original iPads. I’d never carried home a computer from a shop before, well not one that was already assembled. I’d slowly transported ones piece by piece over several months many times before – my own Trigger’s Brooms on which I would save the galaxy, listen for the Joanna Lumley-like tones of AOL instructing me of mail deliverance, and write the occasional article or two.

This was different though. A new type of computing…one Steve Jobs called ‘magical’…and he was never one to exaggerate. No.

Those early days were filled with laughter and exuberant internet access. People would stop me in coffee shops and ask if it was what they thought it was? Beautiful women looked at me with new found desire, and children danced with joy, laying precious offerings at my feet while proclaiming that they hoped to one day emulate my magnificence.

Look upon me, all you mighty, and despair!

Then the iPad 2 was released and suddenly I was mocked in public for the heft of my device, its ponderous nature, and the aesthetically offensive case in which it travelled. The days of plenty were at an end.

But I knew what I would do.

The insides of computers hold no fear for the likes of I. Many times have my hands delved into the hearts of a machine to resurrect its once deathly corpse to new life. Why should this be any different? All I would require was a screwdriver, some extra RAM, and an anti-static wristband (don’t leave home without it kids). But wait…what’s this? No screws? No clips? No way in at all? Treachery abounds!

It was just the beginning. Soon I noticed that the launch of MacBook Airs, Retina Pros, Ultrabooks, and All-In-One Desktops were making the task of upgrading hardware difficult, if not impossible. The mere idea of a huge tower PC, with all the expandable goodness that it once boasted, would now cause outrage and despair from all who saw it and heard the cacophony of internal fans screaming their obsolescence.

Once we were the masters of our fates…now…we await the inevitable critical failure that our devices will suffer the moment they mature past their manufacturers warranty period. They are no longer computers. Instead we are buying pretty, slim, moderately powerful, suicidal electronics.

How did we let this happen?

In years gone buy we would buy a PC once every six or seven years, and only then because of boredom rather than necessity. The internals would alter over time – a graphics card here, some RAM there – but in essence the cost of a new system could be offset for a long, long time. Now we seem to be paying high prices for machines that just won’t keep up with the near light-speed development of technology. The dark heart of this is that we’ve been subtly trained in these ways for years. We’ve been set up.

The advent of mobile phones brought freedom to the masses. Once we would have to actually know our friends’ telephone numbers, and arrange to meet them ahead of time. Now we could wander about in an amnesiac stupor, planning trysts on the fly. The cost of this emancipation? Signing up for a year long contract, with the incentive of a free, new phone at the end of it. What could possibly go wrong?

You see what they did there? We ran willingly into their arms and embraced the confines of their contractual limitations. Our souls in trade for a Motorola flip phone.

How much for your freedom?

 

With the pattern in place we were systematically tutored that technology was disposable, and our expectations were lowered while our need to upgrade was enhanced. Pavlov rang his one year bell and we duly signed on again. Phase 2 swiftly followed. With the advent of smartphones we needed longer contracts, with higher rates. The experiment was to see who would crack? After only having to last a year before new toys were given to us, we now had to survive double the term. Those last six months became an eternity of anguish. ‘Why is the new iPhone so much better?’ ‘How can Android have advanced so much while I’m stuck back on Froyo?’ became the cry of the slaves upon whose back the pyramids of modern technology were loaded. Then, like men who have just wandered out of an exodus in the desert, we were offered the fresh, cool, water of an upgrade. We would have promised you anything at that point….sure, I’ll take the LG phone.

As the first few years of the new decade advances we enter Phase 3. The computers will cost more, expire sooner, and we shall be complicit in the plan. Tablets are the harbingers of doom…and we are carrying our own carcasses to the abyss with smiles on our faces. We can only await the terror that will be Phase 4…

Still, the new iPhone is pretty cool…and I’m really just waiting for the new MacBook Air…it’s meant to be better than the last one.

…or are you just pleased to see me?

In the early days of the mobile phone you weren’t worried about styling, screen size, data tariffs, or when the must-have app would finally arrive on your platform. No, life was simpler then. All the pioneer mobiler had on their mind was whether they could get through a five minute call without ending up in traction. You see the original phones where big….really big. You know those inflatable, joke ones you’ve seen wacky individuals sporting? Yeah, that big, but made out of lead with black hole linings. You could always tell those fortunate enough to live on the cutting edge of telecommunications as they invariably had one enormous arm, not unlike the genetic disaster that roamed the power plants at the end of Resident Evil.

A man, yesterday.

Then, in the interests of public safety, manufacturers set about reducing the burden that phones put upon their customers and finally normality was restored. Over time we were treated to diminutive models such as the Motorola Razor, and those teeny tiny Nokia ones that were impossible to dial due to the buttons being only an atom wide. Surely it was only a matter of time until they were so small they’d be built into our watches and we could live out our Dick Tracy fantasies?

Can you help me? My normal-sized fingers are just too big.

But no…

Recently a strange reversal has begun to take place. The Apple iPhone bares upon its delicate chassis a 3.5″ screen. It’s compact, neat, and looks like a phone, albeit a slabbish one. Over in the Android camp though we have seen the emergence of colossus’ such as the dangerously named Titan, Nexus, Galaxy S2 (ok that’s not so dangerous, just a bit dull), and the One X (come on, it sounds like something Wolverine would use!), with screens that technically qualify as surfboards. What’s going on? Have we not learned our lessons from the past? Due we want a nation of uni-armsters once more?

Ok, I’ll admit, it’s a bit different this time around. This new breed of phone isn’t built from recently collapsed stars, instead their waif-like frames are composed of baby sighs and fairy wishes. They positively lift you up as you use them then return you gently to the ground as you make your goodbyes. The girth isn’t simply a casket for an enormous battery either. Nowadays the size is there to accommodate gorgeous displays which act as portals to the internet with all its video laden riches. We read books upon the devices, record our adventures in stunning HD, and store more CDs than still seems feasible. Some of them even make telephone calls. It’s astounding!

A women with a phone the size of her face.

So why is it then that I still find it odd that the size is on the increase? We’ve seen tablets of various sizes emerge that would seem more suited to the purposes of viewing. Even laptops are becoming lighter and slimmer. Why do we need our phones to meet them? Is it the convenience? I’m not so sure, even with the larger models on offer I’m not convinced I’d ever want to watch a movie on one, whereas on my iPad it’s a very pleasant experience. Is it for photography? Maybe, but the results are not dependent on the screen size, and we pretty much always download pictures to a PC if we want to keep them. Is it a male need to compensate for some other deficiency? Of course, but that goes for any kind of technology. We’re just big kids after all.

In the end I’m left wondering whether it’s just because we’ve done small and now need to go somewhere else? But I’m all up for being convinced otherwise. Maybe I’m just stuck in the past and need to embrace the cult of the big. Please, teach me your ways…

What do you think is the ideal size for a phone? And how big is too big?