This is the End: my phone broke

Part I: Life Without a Phone

My Wednesday started off relatively normal. I woke up at 7AM to get ready for work. I got on the T to go to Newbury St. Got in to work at about 9AM. All was well. At about 11AM I went to go look at my phone for the first time all morning to show some cute pictures of my niece’s 2nd birthday. That’s when my day took a turn for the worse.

My phone was dead. Not the “I forgot to charge my phone last night and used it too much on the T” dead but the “black screen, but home button still working, RIP iPhone” dead. I, a reasonable, relatively well-adjusted college student, immediately panicked. My life had been turned upside down. How was I going to survive without a phone? I sat in work in a daze until my boss told me to just go to the Apple store down the street to get it checked out. Uh, you don’t have to tell me twice.

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Upon arrival at Apple I was put in the queue of walk-in clients and sat at a table for shockingly only 15 minutes. An apple tech, Matt, then arrived to look at my phone. I said it would not turn on, but the home button was still working. I also mentioned that I was attempting to start a manual/hard restart of the phone but because my volume buttons were stuck I was unable to. He said yeah, well, your phone is broken. You’ll need to spend $400 to get a new one since this damage to your volume buttons isn’t covered (which was weird since the damage was a manufacturing defect? I digress.)

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Well, I was pissed. Like, super pissed. So, I stormed out of Apple in a huff (sorry Matt, you were actually a very nice guy) and went back to work. At 3PM I left so I could get to class and then spent the night with no phone, and prepared to not have a phone for potentially 3 days (how long it would take to get me a new phone according to Apple).

Here are the things I learned from not having a phone.

  1. My phone is my life line. I use it for maps, Uber, finding the BC bus, the weather (do I need a coat or a light jacket? This question plagues me in the morning), everything. I felt a wave of panic every single time I tried to do anything, looked down my phone to do it, and have it not turn on. I got Apple’s support line number and went to call it and realized that I couldn’t even call Apple to get a new phone!
  2. I would not wake up if I didn’t have a phone. The alarm clock feature is essential to my life when I have to wake up at 7AM every day for either work or class. It made me realize how many things that smart phones have rendered unnecessary or obsolete. Camera, alarm clock, communication, physical maps. Smart phones have become a one stop shop for everything you could need to do and when that one thing dies, well you’re out of luck.
  3. I do not know anyone’s phone number, except my mom’s. Luckily, I have a mac book which syncs up to my phone and iMessages, or I would have had no contact with my friends/family/human beings. We rely so heavily on our phones for all forms of communication, I forgot what it was like when I was 9 and had to either call my friend’s home landlines or know that we were all going to meet at the tennis courts at 9AM.
  4. It was honestly kind of refreshing to have no phone. While it was weird to not have a direct line of communication with anyone or be able to look up the weather, it was also awesome to be completely disconnected. I read a book and made to do lists and just felt very relaxed. I got to avoid Snapchat and Instagram for an entire day. Amazing.

Part II: No One Knows Anything

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The part two of this story is that exactly 24 hours after this phone disaster my phone randomly turned back on. Just buzzed in my theology class and popped up with like a million app notifications (Snapchat, what’s up). This was especially weird since my guy Matt (again, so nice) had run a bunch of tests on my phone and plugged it in to stuff and had declared it totally dead. RIP. Told me it would never charge or turn on again.

Well I’ve got news for you dude. It did turn back on!! My phone was alive 24 hours after you said it was off to the junk yard. This week I have had actually nightmares about spending 400 dollars to get a phone that I didn’t even need, with a big apple with scruff manically laughing in the background (this made me think of some deeper issues based around my technology dependence, but that’s a discussion for a later date).

I honestly don’t know what this means. It leads me to an overall understanding that technology is complicated and advanced and isn’t as easily understood as we are to believe. Was I a naïve idiot walking into the Apple store and they took advantage of me to make some money? I understand very little about technology. They could tell me my phone was going to explode and had this and that wrong with it and I would have nodded like a puppet and given them my money (I am luckily cheap and refused to accept that I needed to pay for a new phone.) But it also brings up the idea that even the experts can’t predict and understand everything that happens with technology. This might be a reach, but even those who are paid to fix technology aren’t geniuses and cant know about everything that could happen to a phone. There are flaws and missteps and issues with systems.

What do you guys think? Is my phone a miracle? Am I just a tech idiot? let me know!

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10 comments

  1. Great post! I had a phone partially brick on me right before I had to take a train home from BC to my New Jersey home and let me tell you, it certainly reminds you just how crucial the smartphone is in daily life; and to your point, probably too much so. My phone had some bizarre issue where both the home and unlock button were broken, but the phone itself was not, so I could get it on by plugging it into a charger in order to get the touchscreen activated, where I could then plug in my password. I’ve rarely felt as dumb as I did on that train ride, desperately plugging my phone in and out of the charger (connected thru my laptop) in a desperate effort to revive it. Predictably, the phone broke completely a few days later. I will admit, I felt a bit embarrassed how weird I felt knowing that I wouldn’t have full use of my phone, worried that I was missing something important. I definitely think I would benefit from a break from my phone; maybe I’ll do it by choice on my next trip.

  2. From my personal experience that I believe that technology has certainly brought complexity, troubles to our world, but also I think they also bring along the solutions. I remembered once during my high-school, I broke the screen on my iPhone till the extent that nothing is showing. Sent it to an apple store, or repair shop would cost me hundreds of dollar, which was a fortune for a high-school student. So I choose a tougher but also easier route. I YouTubed “How to replace your iPhone screen,” then ordered a replaced screen on Amazon for 20$ and tools for 5$, then fixed the things myself. I think technology definitely brings new knowledge that is in nature complex to understand, but it also offers us more transparent information to learn new things. You could find out “how to” on the Internet, and if Apple took an advantage of you, you could raise your voice online, impairing Apple’s reputation so to ensure that Apple does not just simply take an advantage of you. I don’t think anyone is a Tech-idiot.

  3. I think you bring up a lot of interesting points that @tarakane36 brought up when she gave up social media for a week earlier in the semester. Even though Tara still had access to and used her phone to help her with her everyday activities, the one thing that you brought up that I think we can all relate to is how much information we have stored in our phone that we never have any need to memorize, whether it be phone numbers, email addresses, reminders, appointments, etc. All we ever do is type someone’s name in the address bar and their name pops up and we can immediately send them a message. Like you, I only have a few numbers memorized because they were the ones I used to dial on a landline as a kid.

    This gets me to my main takeaway from this post: emerging technologies has created an environment in which we don’t need to know every detail. Easily storing all of our information on our phones frees up our memory of digits and addresses and allows us to concentrate on more abstract ideas and memories. This, however, doesn’t come with consequences as Grace realized this past week. But I think that we can all agree that the practicality of our phones has allowed us to try and clear up our constantly cluttered minds.

  4. I’m glad that your phone is working now, Grace! Honestly, iPhones are great, but sometimes they go a little nuts. I’m sure everyone has his/her own story of breaking an iPhone, going to an Apple store, and getting a new phone with an absurd cost. This, in fact, also happened to my macbook pro, where there were constant flickers on my screen when I turned on the Windows portion of the computer. The technicians did not know why it was happening, neither did many users on Google. Now, however, it happens very rarely, and I don’t know why it does or doesn’t at times.

    My point is that no one fully understands technology, as there are many bugs and unexpected errors that occur in a device. It could have resulted from our unique way of using the phone, or the phone was damaged from an unexpected source that we may not be aware of. Just like healthcare, there are diseases/illness that are not yet to be known to humankind. Same may go with technology, where each user has different patterns of usage and expose their device to different environments. In fact, this is where I hope the use of AI can be useful, where they may be able to detect what the issue is with a device without the need for technicians to go through it and give a wrong diagnose. This would not only save the training time and labor cost that firms have to incur, if the technology becomes affordable enough for the companies to replace technicians. Without a physical defect, it is very hard for the technicians to tell most cases, and all they do is plugging the phone into the testing program, which they do not even perform themselves. I wish AI can be used for these cases to empower customer experience.

  5. Grace, although I am a strong proponent on unplugging and looking up from the screen of our phone the difficulty of not having a phone at all is undeniable and honestly impossible. I loved that you brought up simple points of difficulty like setting an alarm clock for the day. Our phones have taken the place of so many household appliances, it would be impossible for me to live without my phone. (I haven’t owned an alarm clock or an address book since middle school). While it may have been slightly nice to not have a gravitational pull towards your phone at all hours, I can imagine the struggle outweighed the benefits. I’m happy to hear your phone turned back on!

  6. Grace that sounds like a nightmare, I don’t know what I would do without my phone on me at all times. I agree with you that it has become my lifeline when it comes to every day tasks and activities. I need to check the weather? I look at my phone instead of stepping outside. I need to catch the BC bus? I wait until I have to sprint to catch it instead of going right then and waiting. I am all for unplugging from my phone, but to some extent. People do not need to constantly be texting or surfing the internet or whatever people are doing now. But at the same time I think society has changed enough where it has been made difficult to go completely phone-less. My roommate actually has broken two phones and his Mac this year (believe me I’m baffled as to how he managed to do that too) and he has struggled without it. How has had no way of contacting people that he is not with, which has made his life miserable. That being said, unplugging is great until it becomes an actual issue for you.

  7. My first thought goes to conspiracy theory. I have often heard of supposed ‘forced expiration dates’ for phones that essentially makes them break after you’ve had it for a designated amount of time.
    I was always skeptical of that idea, but am more prone to believing after hearing that you took it to the Apple store and still couldn’t get it to work.

    @tarakane36 I’m surprised you ever owned a physical address book, but you were probably a more organized middle schooler than I was.

    @jobabes121 I actually think this is something AI would not solve – or at least not purely software. Computer inspections such as the one that monitors a car (and will lead to a “Check Engine” light if something is wrong) are entirely dependent upon the reliability of the sensors providing them data. Redundant sensors can be included to counter this error, but no amount of coding will do the trick on its own. Just as with any system, bad data in – regardless of the magnitude – will lead to a bad model. Perhaps if there was a robotic system with a lot of fancy sensors working with AI, you could do a deep analysis to discover the true issue with the phone. However, the expense of such a machine would likely not be worth the cost.

  8. I think that most of the comments above mentioned my thoughts but I would leave a few here anyways.

    I totally agree that my alarm is set on my phone but I do in fact own an alarm clock for days that I think I might accidentally set my phone alarm and snooze it by accident. More importantly, I realized that my calendar on my phone is not backed up anywhere. Because I don’t have the ecosystem of Apple Products, if my phone dies I am absolutely screwed (probably should fix that). I don’t own a Mac laptop or an iPad to be able to contact people. Without Facebook, I would be communication-less.

    This begs the question, with our increased reliability on smart devices, do they need to be connected in case the hardware does malfunction? Should we be using google apps on apple devices? Is purely the data backup important, or are our lives so importantly dependent upon these devices that the few days without them could mean serious setbacks and responsibility issues. Imagine if I had my kids schedules in there and my phone breaks, I wouldn’t be able to get them where they needed to be because God only knows that they wouldn’t remember their schedule.

  9. I think this post is great because its something that almost everyone deals with (and I think you handled it better than most of us do!) My phone broke my first day in Europe over the summer, and my roommate left his phone in a cab the same day. All the sudden, we were in Berlin without phones for the next week. Our airline tickets were on there, Uber, everything you mentioned above. I think what’s funny is that when our phones break, we think the world is going to end, and then it doesn’t. Although technology has changed rapidly, it hasn’t really phased out the old ways of life in the past ten years. You can still call a cab, you can still print a boarding pass, and there are maps all over cities that can help you get you to where you need to go.
    My brother’s phone broke last week and he got aggressively mad about it, and I kind of laughed (which definitely did not make him less mad) at the realization that we get angry about technology that we didn’t even know was possible 5 to 10 years ago.
    I’m definitely a cynic when it comes to smartphones. I always tell myself that when this one breaks, I’m going back to a flip phone. Right now, I think I would have relatively little issue doing so, but I wonder what the world will look like, say, 25 years from now. As an example, we may absolutely have to call Ubers if there are no more cabs (or human drivers!), and then all of the sudden that little brick in our pocket is truly a lifeline. Great post, again!

  10. It was impressive to read about your harrowing experiences without a phone! I’m glad everything worked out in end though. As someone who likes to know how things work and be able to fix issues himself, I think we live in a world that makes it increasingly difficult to understand technological components very easily. With physical/mechanical problems, it wasn’t too difficult to diagnose and address the issue with a manual. But how do you know for sure that something as intricate as a smartphone is bricked? Yes, you can run diagnostic software, but do you really know for sure? I’m hesitant to say that technicians don’t know how to resolve problems, but certain issues seem to elicit a shrug and something along the lines of “I guess it works now.”

    While it was great that your phone came alive in the end, why did it so convincingly break down in the first place? I don’t think it’s possible to become versed in every possible situation that arises from problems caused by our increasingly-advanced society. I think we can expect to see more, similar incidents like this arise as the IoT initiative spreads, and traditionally “dumb” appliances become “smart”.

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