Why I Don’t Want an iPhone. Wait. Why I Do.

As a person with no life who works at home and also doesn’t have a televison, I spend an inordinate amount of time online. And I have noticed that tops among internet topics is the iPhone. I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t want an iPhone. I know if I got one I’d never figure out how to use it — and it would embarrass me how rarely I’d have occasion to take advantage of its capabilities. No one ever calls me. Like, ever.

On the other hand, I am a complete e-mail freak. I check my email about 4,000 an hour. And I’m definitely keen on owning a phone-camera combo. I’m so techno-Amish that I’m still using the cell phone that ten years ago came free with my service contract. That thing couldn’t take a picture if you strapped it to a Leica.

Now that I think about it, I think my real problem with buying an iPhone (beyond the price, of course) is that I have issues with Apple-chic. Whenever I go into the vast, gleaming Apple store near our home, I feel like I’ve entered some kind of Geek Revenge Zone. It’s so self-consciously hip, it’s trying so hard to be Cooler Than You, that to me it just feels alienatingly vacuous. That whole “Welcome to the Future!” nonsense that corporations do in hopes of generating a “I must catch up!”  response in people drives me crazy. It’s so transparently manipulative, so aggressively nonchalant. And, of course, it invariably fails. “Corporate Execution” and “Look How Cool the Future Is!” go together like “Vote for Me!” and “I’ll never sell out!”

Maybe I’m just getting cranky. I am, after all, turning 50 this month: the classic crank age. I know growing older doesn’t help with the whole “Let’s Buy the Latest Techno-Innovation!” I’m still bitter about having to lose my VHS tapes. And my awesome collection of cassette tapes. And my amazing collection of LP’s. And all my 8-track tapes.

Okay, I never had any 8-track tapes. Even I could see those clunkers were on the short road to obscurity.

I think iPhones are mostly yet another way for people to avoid Actual Thinking. But now that I think about it, what has thinking really ever done for anyone? Besides, maybe, if at any moment, anywhere I am, I could receive an e-mail, listen to a song, surf the web, or snap a photo of something, I would finally have that rich, fulfilling life I’ve been meaning to acquire for … I don’t know … fifty years.

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  • Your wife is going to push your "off button"? I don't know exactly what that means, but try to remember that this is a family blog, pal.

  • As everyone knows, Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% not being distracted by the Internet…

    John, I completely agree with you about the Apple thing. It sure seems like a cult to me. I will admit I was an early-onset geek… I still remember the day I brought home my first 300 baud modem for dialing BBS's back in the 80's. But the "Holier than Thou" attitude of the Apple folks really annoys me… and I used to live within a couple of miles of Cupertino…

    So while I don't want an i-phone, I am a huge fan of kyte.tv and twitter and qik… which allow you to do all sorts of 2.0 things with the cell phone I do have.

  • Hey, John……I'm 79 and thinking of getting one of those gadgets. I think you've scared me off though! If John Shore is technically challenged, my goodness that makes me a nerd. No television either? Do you know who's running for president in your country?

  • Brian: That really IS my writing life–I JUST, of course, stopped writing to read and answer you.

    Clearly, you ARE a geek. I wouldn't know "twitter" and "qik" from Tweety and Sylvester.

    I grew up in Cupertino. One minute is was nothing but orchards and houses. The next I actually couldn't FIND the street I lived on. I'm living proof that sometimes, nothing can be truer than that you can't go home again.

  • Hi, Greta: I DO know who's running for president: a good-looking black guy with a beautiful wife, and a white woman whose husband used to be a big deal executive, or something. Beyond that I'm a little fuzzy on the details.

    79. So what was the big Communications Innovation when you were a kid?


    Just promise me you won't get one of one those blinking Bluetooth Borg thingies to attach to your ear. I used to think there was an epidemic of schizophrenia going on, with increasing numbers of people walking around downtown talking loudly to themselves and gesticulating wildly … until I realized it was just new technology.

  • John and Greta will both be happy to read this story:


    Soon, you won't have to remember where you left anything… as the article points out the only thing it won't remember is where you left your glasses.

  • Chuck: I'm way ahead of the whole Bluetooth thing. I'm into something called Blue Goof—which, actually, is just me, when I'm depressed, talking to myself. It doesn't have a lot of applications, and isn't very versatile, but I've found it an effective way to keep other people from talking to me.

    Brian: Thanks for link. Will check it out just as soon as I find my freakin' glassessssesess.

  • When I was a kid it was a grammaphone with a big horn on top…. it played disks that would warp and the needles would wear out. Radio's were the thing to have….lots of static but we would all sit around it on Saturday night and listen to the Barn Dance Music of my grandfather's Dance Band. You know…. the 'swing your partner, dosee-doe" kind of music. Ah, those were the days….such innocence . . .! Those radios were a lot clearer at night than they were in the daytime…could never figure that one out.

    When WW2 broke out, the radio was the only source of information for our ears. The newspaper came second….but the news was old by the time we got it. My grandparent's couldn't have dreamed of the technology we have today. They read Buck Rogers in the comics and howled at the science fiction of a man on the moon.

    They had running water, but they did the running . . . to the well with a bucket on the end of a rope, in the yard! And the 'out-house'… that's where the old newspapers landed, cut into squares for you know what!

  • Laura

    I think any store with the pretention to call their customer service the "Genius Bar" needs some help. If they're such genius', why can't they just invent iPods and iPhones that don't break in the first place?

  • John, I hope the Apple folks (the small minority of crazy ones) don't happen to read this. They like to crucify. 🙂

    As an Apple fan, I think you are just getting cranky. It's ok, it'll either make for better writing or possibly allow you to be the source of entertainment for some kids who fear yet are intrigued by you.

    Get a Blackberry. 😉

  • Hjordes

    Greta reminded me of replacing needles in the record player. I'd forgotten about that!

    I'm skipping the iPhone and waiting for a slimmer version of the laptop you can fit into an envelope. But I want my 19" screen laptop to fold to phone size so I can tuck it in my purse.

    *taps finger while waiting impatiently for new technology*

  • Brian if the 'newest invention on the block' can't find my glasses,

    forget it…..I'd pay any price for such a gadget…..I can track my cell phone by calling it from another phone, but those pesky glasses seem to have legs.

  • John –

    If you are fifty, I am Bo Derek! LOL

    Great article! I always feel that way with Apple to. I am always afraid I would have to learn a whole new language and I kinda like the one I know! Makes me feel like I am in control and I got my stuff together!

  • I have a cell phone that I rarely use. My wife got it for me, so she can track me down.

    If I didn't have a wife, I wouldn't have a cell phone.

    As for an iPhone?

    Forget it.

  • Nice column John.

    I wanted an iMac, iPod, iPhone, etc… but iWork

    – sometimes, anyway, when I can avoid distraction by the internet.

  • Jeannie Campbell

    just recently i went into the mac store at this mall in the Bay Area…and you are so right. it's gleaming white and bright in there, and all the employees are wearing the mac version of a name tag – an iPod around their necks. even the "kiddie" section, where i inevitably end, didn't have chairs to sit on, but these round gel balls…cool enough that i thought i wanted to sit on one but my husband stopped me. they definitely give off a vibe of appearing way cooler than everybody else. even those mac/pc commercials. like, pc is a complete dork and mac is footloose and fancy free. but their BOTH dorks in real life! (of course, i'm the pot to their kettle…as i type this on a macbook….)

  • Gene Thomas

    “. . . avoid Actual Thinking.” Isn’t that what you (we) are doing by spending so much time on the www? Like auto checking my email every 20 min.–just to avoid the obvious exaggeration of 4000 x hr. Oh, you said all that, didn’t you?

    I just couldn’t resist the “No comments yet — be the first” invitation. Does it matter if I have anything to say? I suppose not–you didn’t.

    I’d like to stop this, but I don’t have anything else to do! Uh-oh, here comes my wife. She’ll push my off button. I depend on it. Bye.

  • Angela

    "I am, after all, turning 50 this month: the classic crank age"

    Crank Age? Oh spare me!

    Just because you missed out on the joy of 8-tracks!

  • Larry King

    iSnake oil

    My first IT job was at an elementary school where I was the computer/network guy. Macs made up about half of the computers. When I was hired, I had little exposure to Macs but had heard how wonderful they were, "they never crash…they're so easy to use…blah, blah, etc." All lies. They lock up all the time. I had a Mac and a PC on my desk, both connected to the Internet. Many times the mac (late model) would be unable to display a web page, but the clunky PC would have no problem.

    Did I mention they freeze up all the time? Also the teachers hated the non intuitive OS. Such as, in Bill Gates world, you close out a window by clicking an x in the upper right corner. In S. Jobs world (Mac OS 9.x), there is no such x you select file + close. Just a little harder to be annoying. Just one example, but there are others as well.

    No viruses for Macs is good thing, but don't believe about 95% of all the hype Apple gets.

  • youre right. but oh wait! you don't own a television?

    it's quite funny, because once I get my tax return…a Mac is what I want. It was a mere liking…but has festered into much worse. I could easily see myself buying the mack-daddy of Macs and embracing it in my arms as lovingly as Gollum holds "the ring of power"… but I'm working on this. I think 1) technology IS cool… and that is… okay 2) there shouldn't be a need to "keep up"… but then again, why do you want to fall behind? 3) we all can be elite-ists and badmouth… but Macs (for certain tasks) are far superior than PCs. And plus, there is nothing wrong with having great things (i.e. iPhones)… as long as it doesn't take away from your Life.

  • Greta: Interesting stuff, about the Gramma Phone. That sounds really cutting edge. How’d you learn about that? Do you know who sells them? Sounds very retro-chic. Please let us know where we can buy one!!

    Laura: I KNOW! “Genius Bar”! I went up to the one in our Apple store, and the guy at the counter goes, “May I help you?” And I go, “E=MC squared. I’ll have a scotch neat, please.” And NO ONE LAUGHED!! Genius Bar. I don’t think so.

    Portor: I gotcher Blackberry right here, pal….

    Hjordes: You know what I’m waiting for? I want a computer that can do infinite numbers of calculations at amazing rates in vast numbers at a time, with a memory of unprecedented scope and acccuracy, at speeds that would fry anything out today, and I want it to be so unobtrusive that it actually resides inside of me, like right inside my HEAD, so that … um … wait. Never mind.

    Dominque: I, too, can’t believe I’m 50. I don’t feel a day over about 47. Speaking of Bo Derek, I used to work in a bookstore in the accounting department of which was taped to a wall a copy of a check Bo Derek bounced. And I used to look at that check, and at Bo’s large, hyper-rounded schoolgirl handwriting, and think to myself, “Why am I 28-years-old, and still working in a bookstore for $5.15 an hour?” But the point is that Bo Derek really knew how to put the bounce in “bounced check,” I guess.

    Paul: Your wife got you a cell phone so that she could track you down? Whoa. So it has, like, a homing device on it? And she’s, like, sitting at her radar station at home, staring at one of those round green sonar-scope things, watching the little red indicator signal your every move? How cool is THAT? You’ll have to ditch the phone in a pick-up heading for Mexico, divorce her, and move to Sweden just to be safe, but it’s cool that she cares.

    Sam: “iWork.” Excellent! Too funny. Everyone should start putting “i-” before everything. Like I could say I’m eating my i-oatmeal with my i-spoon, and that I put a little i-butter on it. That be totally funny for about four minutes.

    Jeannie: And the thing is, Apples stuff is so much more freakin’ EXPENSIVE than regular PC stuff. My wife works on a Mac, and everything for her computer is 30% more than it is for mine. It’s like they’ve created this licool kids’ clique–and anyone ELSE who wants to be in the club basically has to pay for the privelidge. Privalige. Privalege. Well, then again, maybe the Apple People know how to spell. Except, you can totally tell they don’t. The tight-waisted, low slung jeans. The perfectly shaggy haircuts. The tight long-sleeve tee beneath the tight Apple tee. The faded red tennis shoes. The spine threatening to collapse in on itself. Genius Bar. I DON’T THINK SO!!!

  • Angela: Oh, I see. So it’s all about attitude now, is it? Well, let me tell YOU something, Missy. I did NOT miss out on the 8-track “craze.” I just didn’t like the way 8-track tapes LOOKED. It was like lugging around a tool box. If you hung out with someone who was into them, you couldn’t even get into their CAR without cracking your knees and feet all over the stupid things. And the pictures on them were WAY too easy to peel off just enough to trash the way the outside of the cases looked.

    I was all about albums. The sleek, shining vinyl. The huge photographs and lyric sheets. The coins I’d pile onto my phono arm to keep the thing from jumping. The way they sailed for crazy killer miles when you tossed one across an open field. 8-tracks. If you hurled one of THOSE at someone you’d knock ’em out, sure. But none of their body parts would get silently zipped right off. So I think the choice was obvious.

  • ihate. any. thing. apple.

    With their stupid itechonology and icommercials and itouch and ipod and iphone and… oh, the imac, too. Goodness. Such an egotistical man, Steve Jobs.

    And I’m 18. So it’s not just old people who get cranky, John.

  • Have to get with it you know. I am 70 years age and so far keeping up with it all (I think!) By the way, I downloaded your physog onto my ministry clips. You are still look good.

  • Hi John,

    From what I have read your in your post, you are no different from the Apple Fanboys, you are just the other kind called the Apple- orhaters or Apple stay-awayers or whatever you like.

    Don't be so close to anything new/or from Apple. You seem to have embraced Web 2.0, why not just give a chance to Apple. They do great products, like my MacBook Pro and Mac OS X Leopard. They are not perfect, but way better than what you are probably using as your computer and operating system.

    Give us poor Apple fanboys a chance…


    http://www.unofficialmac.com http://www.pspport.com

  • John,

    See? Now you've gone an' upset Alpay and who knows how many other ipeople? iPeople and people have such a hugh divide as it is. How does that work… you know with one iperson and one person in the same marriage? I'm sure the rest of the world could benefit from your's and your better half's secrets.

  • Washed (#22): Sadly, I was aware of the fact that crank is timeless. I know I've been a Major Dick since at least 1960. But thanks for the pan-generational affirmation. You rock.

    Penlee (#23): I'm afraid you're too techno-advanced for me. What does your …"I downloaded your physog onto my ministry clips" MEAN? What is my "physog"?

    To commenters 24, 25, 26: Yeah, actually, I LIKE Apples. I never actually talked about the Apple products, but only a bit about shopping at an Apple store. Apple products ARE expensive, but I still dig their whole line. I worked in publishing forever, where Macs are ubiquitous, and I liked them just fine. The relative lack of viruses with Macs is a huge positive, and over time I've come to have a lot of resentment over the way Microsoft is forever trying so desperately to basically reach inside my head and co-opt my brain for marketing purposes. I'm about ready to ditch Microsoft and PC Land for the same reason I ditched my TV: I hate being advertised at.

    But no, I've got nothing against Apples. I only have something against paying $2500 dollars for a laptop that, as far as I can tell, doesn't do anything a $1,000 laptop does. But I'd sure BUY that $2500 dollar MacLap if I had the money. But we're trying to save for a house. Money's the bottom line, for me, on the Mac vs. PC "debate." I've got no particular love for Microsoft, that's for dang sure. I have Vista, which I HAD to get on my the Dell laptop I bought a year ago, and it bites like Jaws.

    Wow. That was an obnoxiously long comment on my part. Sorry.

  • Oh, real quick, to Micheal Joyce (#25): You're totally right about the Great Joys of new communications technology. I basically communicate with others for a living, so, believe me, I'm Pro New Communications Gadgets. My problem is that I KNOW I'll never figure out how to use, like, the iPhone. I know it'll come with a manual the size of a novel.

    Then again, so what? It'll be just like all that kind of stuff–just like my computer, actually, where I'll soon enough learn how to do the stuff I WANT to do, and leave the rest.

    Man. My cell phone IS 12 years old. I WOULD take an absurd pleasure in being able to check my emails anywhere. I am a music freak.

    Man. Maybe I should buy an iPhone!!!

  • jbelkin

    okay, you might not need an iphone. The iphone is when you're out on the road and you want full access to everything and unlike other cell phones that promises you an armload of features but doesn't actually work very well, the iphone delivers 99% of what it promises.

    You're standing in from of Walgreen's and wondering where the nearest Italian restaurant is – type in Italian restaurant and the city you want to search – in :30 seconds, you have a listing with pins on a google. click on one. If they have a website, tap again on the link – if only a phone, tap on the phone and you can call them. Directions? Just tap the directions button and a map appears based on its FREE GPS-like feature.

    SAme with stocks, weather, camera, photo, etc … not only does it sync with your computer (mac or PC), it BACKS EVERYTHING UP!

    Photos or the web, use your fingers to expand the screen!

    Rent movies or add your own movies. Email on the go – you're standing in front of Michaels' waiting on the wife, check your email.

    As for Apple pricing – yes, their $1,500 is worth so much more than a Vista laptop in VALUE plus less depreciation. Look up a two year Mac on ebay and look at a 2 year old PC and you can see the used prices says it all. You will find a 2-year old used mac seling for only a few hundred less whiile good luck giving away a 2-year old PC.

    You also save $100 a year – you do NOT need any virus or spyware apps. The machine needs no intial cleaning of crapware and in any case, it's probably been about 5 years since it last crashed. Apps will freeze infrequently but you can quit out with one keystroke combo and the other apps are all fine. You also get ilife (worth thousands if you want to edit videos and/or make music).

    (itunes is of course free and iphoto is like pcasa)

    There's nothing wrong with advertising when it's the truth. Adsvertising is only annoying when it tries to imply that if you drink this beer, you will be surrounded women in bikini's (like they would drink watered down beer 🙂 )

    What's even more amazing. If you live near an Apple store, they will actually help you to reolve problems – no trying to claim it's the OS or the other side claiming it's the hardware. You have a place to go to to ask questions – no matter how small or just lug in your computer and they will not only look at it FOR FREE but try to resolve it for FREE. They also have free classes and you can play with machines for as long as you want – no questions asked, no hard sell.

    AND it even runs Vista if you want it to – so buy a mini, just plug in yiour current keyboard and monitor – you have a machine that runs OSX, Vista, Linux & Unix.

    Though it might satisfy your speeds needs so upgrade to an iMac.

  • Holy cow! That IS one mighty strong case for Apple and an iPhone. Dang, dude. I think you just changed my mind. Who can argue with any of what you've just said???

  • John, turning 50, cranky, an ancient cell phone, no tv… man I feel akin to ya. Oh! but you forgot the receeding hairline, aching body parts, and dweebie kids who look to young to be our of the house let alone work in in dweebie high tech heaven.

  • eh…apple's okay. I use windows at work and my mac at home and school. I'd say that things go more smoothly on a mac but i'm not even sure if that's true. It may be because I use a mac significantly more than I use Windows.

    Call me superficial…but the thing I like most about using a mac is the design. The actual computer/product and how stuff looks in the programs and stuff you're using. As far as functionality? I'm equally functional on a mac or pc. I guess I'm just that good.

  • to #27, Ric,

    I am not upset. What I am just saying is there is nothing wrong with being hip. It is just the same as being not hip. However Macs have nothing to do with being hip. It is just a product and nobody should be staying away from them just because they market their product that way.

    Go Apple 😛



  • Glad to hear that Alpay. Mac – Win – Whatev. I've been running BSD lately because, well… its ahhh… FREE. Sort of the opposite end of the spectrum. My wife says, "But no one else in the house will know how to use it." … I don't understand her point.

  • Ric: TOTALLY FUNNY!! (What's BSD? Sounds … well, kind of porny, actually. I would imagine.)

  • Berkley Standard Distribution (BSD) from many, many years ago. … a flavor of Unix. I acquired FreeBSD from http://www.freebsd.org/ and installed in on an old P3 just for fun. I run a web and ftp server on it and it runs without a hitch for weeks on end without reboot or lockup. There are other cult flavors like Ubuntu which I may try on yet another p3 box. I’m a geek, just ask my kids.

    My pastor is a little concerned for me since the mascot for FreeBSD is a little red demon but I think he’s cute (not my pastor, the demon). Besides Gates and Jobs are not exactly fooling anyone with their smiles and good deeds.