Phones of Our Lives

Handphone Orgy

“Well, uh I guess I, deep down, am feeling a little confused. I mean, suddenly, you get married, and you’re supposed to be this entirely different guy. I don’t feel different. I mean, take yesterday for example. We were out at the Olive Garden for dinner, which was lovely. And uh, I happen to look over at a certain point during the meal and see a waitress taking an order, and I found myself wondering what color her underpants might be. Her panties. Uh, odds are they are probably basic white, cotton, underpants. But I sort of think well maybe they’re silk panties, maybe it’s a thong. Maybe it’s something really cool that I don’t even know about.”

Frank the Tank


This quote from the Academy-award winning film Old School always tickles me, for its hilarious take on ambivalence and honesty, perfectly delivered by the matchless Will Ferrell.  While I have no doubt I picked the right woman (or rather she picked me) I am undergoing a different dilemma.

For a time, I used to scoff at people who changed mobile phones every year.  I fancied myself above slavery to technology fashion, where folks bought powerful, expensive handsets based on aesthetics and functions they would never fully use.  I’m smarter than that, right?

Then I did a mental calculation, which was humbling;  in the eight years I have been living in Thailand, I have owned a total of seven mobile phones.  Not exactly a self-denying ascetic life.  (Though I know of someone who has lost more than that many phones in one calendar year).

I recently bought a Nokia XpressMusic 5800 for my wife as an early anniversary present, attracted by the touchscreen interface and its large clear display, which can be used to show off pictures and video of our charming brood:

Shameless excuse to show off our three boys.

Shameless excuse to show off our three boys.

So far, it’s a great phone, and Mook loves it.  The display is nice and clear, and the built in speakers pack a surprising audio punch.  In these uncertain times,  you would think that purchasing another expensive phone would be foolhardy.  Yet here I am, serenely pissing into the winds of economic turmoil by contemplating the purchase of yet another phone. 

For weeks I have grappled with the seemingly inevitable, choosing between a Blackberry and an iPhone.   In Blackberry’s favor is the ability to do work via email anywhere. Picture me sitting by a pool, editing a document and calling it an honest day’s work from my Jackberry (that has a nice ring to it).  As for the iPhone, I am seduced by its seamless interface and many seemingly useful applications.  And if I’m the self-proclaimed Jack of All Media, wouldn’t it make sense for me to be using the Jesus Phone?

But I wasn’t completely sold on either.   While the Blackberry seems like it enhances productivity, it feels to me like having MSN Messenger on all the time, with the temptation to chat all day long eroding my daily productivity.  Does this sound unreasonable?  Take note of your Crackberry-toting friends someday at dinner.  While you are playing raconteur about your theories of what really happened to David Carradine, are they sneaking a peek at their precious under the table, thumbs pumping and eyes lowered as if in reverent prayer?   You may feel like snatching it and chucking it out the window, but it is better to wish carpal-tunnel syndrome on their oh-so-rude thumbs.  But can I really fault them if I would be just as susceptible to the dark side of the Berry?

 And what of the iPhone?  To me, there has always been something a little bit fascist about it.  You can’t change the battery when it loses effectiveness.  Typing on the touch screen is a pain in the ass.  You can’t copy-paste or send/receive MMS messages.  And it is really expensive here (24,500 Baht for the 8GB model, though the Blackberry Bold is comparable in price; I am told the Curve can be found for around 16,000 Baht at MBK Center).

But we don’t live in a world where there are only two choices, right?  I have always hated being presented with a “one or the other only” scenario, and in this case there should be a universe of worthy alternatives.  What about the Palm Pre, which is being hyped as a possible iPhone killer?  And Hewlett-Packard makes a smartphone that surely meets my technical requirements, the iPaq Business Messenger.  What about Nokia?  They have some sweet new smartphones (like the super-sweet N97) which has the interface I am used to (plus I can use the same charger).  And Samsung has one called the Jack, how perfect does that sound for me?

In the end, does it really matter?  Recent history suggests I will only use it for about a year before I start this whole merry-phone-round all over again.  In the meantime, I appreciate any suggestions/recommendations/warnings for my next purchase.






Jackphones, A Brief History

2001– Upon moving to Thailand, I purchased a Siemens A36 and signed up for AIS One-2-Call prepaid service.  Pure, unvarnished functionality was the key, and my cousin was puzzled why I didn’t spend a little bit extra for a more flashy phone.   It did the job, and was admirably durable, but ultimately I realized that a vibrating function is a must.

2002– Nokia 8250.   Began an extended love affair with the Finnish giant with this beauty.  The bright blue display light had me at hello, along with its sleek styling.  Here is where I began a slight addiction to mobile games, as beating Opposite (a version of Othello) on Expert setting was one of the small highlights of my life.  Dropped one too many times, it felt like shooting a prized racehorse retiring this one.

2003- Nokia 6510.  A slight upgrade to this durable, reliable workshouse.  One of the reasons I bought it was for the built-in FM radio function I ended up using only once.  By the end of it’s lifespan it looked like a phone Mad Max would have used, if the apocalyptic future dystopia still had GSM coverage.  He could wile away the hours playing Snake II, Space Impact, and Bumper, though.

2004 Nokia6610i–  My Wizard of Oz moment, as I now was now belatedly introduced to a world of color!  Upon start-up, the vivid display screen hypnotically showed two Caucasian hands clasping as the polyphonic Nokia theme hummed along.  There was even a rudimentary camera, only 352 x 288 pixels, but a harbinger of great things to come.   A great spare phone for when friends and family visited Thailand, this trusty mobile met its end when my dad had it in his shirt pocket and leaned over a bottomless canal, circa early 2007.

2005 Motorola Razr.  The only one I never bought, this one was donated to me by my girlfriend at the time who was using the Dolce & Gabbana limited edition version (and was utterly shocked at the decrepitude of my Nokia).   My first and only flip phone, I had the CTU ringtone from 24 on it.  Being so used to Nokia’s interface, I found Motorola frustrating (when saving phone numbers and texting) so I gave it to my dad, who has been sufficiently warned that this phone does not float either. 

2006 Nokia 8800.  I remember vividly that this phone’s purchase coincided with the 2006 World Cup, when a gambling addict friend needed to raise funds immediately and I got this beauty at a deep discount (retailed for 30,000 Baht, I picked it up for 20,000 Baht).   Had this phone on me for my wedding, and I never got oohs and ahhhs as much as this one, even though the battery life was laughably short.  The only one of my phones that was stolen, I miss it most because of all the text messages I had saved from when I was courting my wife.

2007 Nokia E65.  Upon recommendation from my lovely friend Joi who works for DTAC (she is a goddess of technological gadgets and gizmos) I purchased this model, which boasts wireless internet, 3G capability, microSD card slot, and a 2-MP camera and video recorder.  Despite it’s beat-up exterior, it is still a great phone.


6 Responses to “Phones of Our Lives”

  1. 1 Jate
    June 8, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    I have not had a useful smart phone until the iPhone 3G I have now. It can provide me hours of entertainment. Before I went to visit, I loaded 30 TV episodes and 2 movies. I am slowly loading my entire music collection.

    The web browser Safari is top notch. You can view 95% of websites on it. The stuff that you can’t see are flash apps and non-Apple media. I have been too lazy to walk to my computer and been perfectly content surfing on my iPhone. And it’s also been great for looking up information away from home.

    The touchscreen keyboard lacks tactile feedback, but the auto-correct is good, and I can type messages/short email comfortably. It would pain me to type long notes.

    You can set you mail to be checked at 15 minute intervals so it becomes more like a crackberry.

    Applications might push you over the edge. Many of them are garbage. But some of them are solid gold. Shazam will sample music you want to identify, send it to a server, and tell you the artist, album, and song. Tell Pandora what music you like. It will play it then add similar music to your playlist. I can trade stocks on it. Look up BART mass transit info. Watch youtube.

    • 2 jackprinya
      June 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm

      Thanks…I had a friend who offered to sell a 16GB iPhone for $150. I tried to jump on that immediately, but I think he sold it to someone else.

      That being said, I’m pretty sold on it. I was just wary about being a first adopter when I knew it would have tons of bugs. Do you happen to know of anyone trying to dump their 3G iPhones out there? It’s almost $800 for new ones here.

  2. 3 Sista Soulja
    June 9, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    I have an iPhone too. I love it. You can get an app to send the MMS messaging, or the email is so handy and easy that you can just send the pics via email instead. And I like Pandora and Shazam too. I did subscribe to consumerreports.org, you can check the ratings and stuff, let me know if you want to check it out. I got it since I’m going to be buying appliances and stuff.

    How’d you remember all the models of your cell phones? Looks like you’ve been loving all over some Nokia.

    • 4 jackprinya
      June 23, 2009 at 4:48 pm

      Actually, I went to that GSM website and looked at the pictures. I didn’t remember all of them, especially the Siemens one. But when I saw it, I remembered the jelly soft buttons, funky ring tone, and even the smell of it brand new.

      BTW, love your screen name! That made me smile. 🙂

  3. June 19, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Wonderul blog Jack!! Really enjoying to read more

    • 6 jackprinya
      June 23, 2009 at 4:50 pm

      Thank you so much! I hope I could someday be as prodigious as you, the words just seem to flow out of your tambourine-scented fingertips.

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