Some Thoughts on Shoddy Smartphones

Wallet, keys and phone. It seems that nobody can leave their house without shoving the trio of capitalist essence into their pockets. Wallet and keys are the basic proof of income and ownership of property; the status of the phone however, has long exceeded its basic purpose of making a call.

I got my first smartphone as a Christmas gift in 2015. The closest thing to a smartphone I’ve ever possessed before that was an iPod touch- a prize from a film competition. I remember opening the solid red packing box designed by Mark Bloom on Christmas day. Nested snugly inside was the phone, bearing a shiny solid black screen. I switched it on for the first time to witness a fantastic new take on the design of a user-interface. I especially enjoyed the texture of its back casing- the brand called it ‘sand stone’.

In the two and a half years since then, I relied on it to get things done. Navigating to an unknown part of town, paying for groceries, ordering take-out, chiming in on a group chat, calling home to explain why I am late again, taking a selfie on the site of a volunteer project… The thing did it all in the blink of an eye. It’s traveled to 5 countries with me, and holds who-knows-how-many photos and videos. Naturally, I’ve also dropped it countless times, switched out the screen protector twice, and flashed the operating system once. The abuse, coupled with the deliberate aging built-in by every technology brand on this planet hoping to make some case, turned my phone into a different beast altogether.

Today, a quick switching from Spotify to Google Maps would immediately incapacitate the system. A hot day would drain a full battery in minutes. An accidental repetition of a swipe action would crash a randomly selected app. A browse on Instagram for longer than five-minutes would freeze the screen.

I categorize the kind pain caused by using my phone as ‘in the ass’.

But I have no intentions of bidding the pain farewell. Because I believe in its inability to help me navigate a transit at a bustling train station; I believe in its unreliable battery, call connection and data signal; I believe in its reluctance to let me snap a quick photograph; I believe in its quick surrendering when it couldn’t handle a task at hand.

I believe in the overall shoddiness, irresponsibility, unpredictability and slowness; or indeed every possible reason to replace it. That is, until its broken.

A shoddy smartphone reminds me of the importance of patience and forgiveness. In a world dictated by rapid advances and constant consumption, the lack of immediate granting of desires prevents me from being a part of the self-destructive economic model. When I am time and again forced to look up from a screen and rely on old fashioned sign map reading, I learn to acknowledge the importance of independence.

As a kid, I was taught to think twice and again before giving in to a desire of a new Lego kit. My collection of bricks is far from small, but there is not a single piece my father purchased because ‘I wanted it’. When something is no longer perfect, but far from dysfunctional, I must take a stand. I was taught to see virtue in frugality, and a shoddy smartphone keeps me grounded in this reality.

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