You guys might want to keep an eye out for horsemen. I went and bought a phone today.

I don't like telephones. Part of it is one of the more annoying PTSD-ish symptoms of the anxiety disorder -- when I was growing up, a ringing phone never meant anything good -- but mostly it's just that I don't use them. I have a hard time parsing speech over the phone. I know all the new ones are advertising call quality, music player, multimedia, blah blah blah. Bollocks. Phone calls are still squashed into oblivion by the compression algorithm, still missing a lot of weird frequencies and waveforms, and still are mostly mush to me, particularly when I'm trying to use a cell phone in anywhere other than a quiet room, which is pretty much what they're for. My hearing is fine and always has been; I can hear CRT deflection whine, and it drives me bonkers. It's just the telephone I have trouble with.

The upshot of all that is that last time I went out and exchanged money for a handset, Gorilla Glass hadn't quite been invented yet. All the cool kids were showing off their l33t T9 predictive text skillz. They were totally useless to me until someone invented SMS, and they were still pretty useless until everyone started doing useful things with text messages. I kept one around in case I ever caught on fire and needed to phone emergency services. I used to use it to order pizzas and Chinese food, until I got out here and discovered that someone invented Foodler and Eat24Hours, and it lost even that vestigial function.

I refuse to pay $400 for a very tiny tablet computer whose main function would be to send people short messages explaining that I'll be a few minutes late, because the train has inexplicably stopped dead in the tunnel just short of Harvard again. Up until I went out today, I was using what I think is the world's last remaining dumbphone, a red Samsung clamshell model so old it doesn't even have a camera. It's done surprisingly well, considering what I put portable electronics through, but it's developed a certain reticence in registering button-smashes when it's really humid out. This wouldn't be a problem, except that I live in Boston, Massachusetts, about two-thirds of which was in Boston Harbor until someone had the bright idea to acquire more waterfront property by hiring a bunch of laborers and making it himself. Boston spends an awful lot of time outwitting itself like that, which is probably why I like it here.

I went out with a budget of about a hundred bucks, and three non-negotiable criteria: It had to work on T-Mobile, because I am not screwing around with unlocking things or changing carriers just to get a new handset that I am buying under duress anyway; it had to have a QWERTY keyboard, because seriously fuck touchscreens and AutoCorrect; and it had to be a droidphone, because Google owns my life, less the parts in the possession of the Amazon Kindle Document Service. I would probably have more, but I don't think it's physically possible to get a phone too stupid to get my Gmail anymore, no matter what it is.

(I have nothing in particular against the iPeople, except that Apple tech is hideously expensive, whereas Google generally figures that if I'm not making any money off of their widgets, they might as well not charge me for them either. Google is also a little less frothy about hackers. Apple brings out the bell, book and candle if they find out you've jailbroken one of their iPhones. The Android people will generally give you the instructions for a factory-reset, but otherwise tell you 'you broke it all by yourself, you fix it all by yourself', which I think is fair. They're selling you a phone, not a lifetime of hand-holding.)

I would like a clamshell droidphone, but the only one I know of just came out, isn't available in the US, and is about $500, so no. I'll probably have one ten years from now, when everyone else is texting directly with their brain waves.

What kind of phone did I buy, you ask? Fuck if I know. I just walked into the store, found where they put the T-Mobile droidphones, and pointed at the cheapest one with a slide-out keyboard. The front says Motorola. The thing in the battery compartment that looks most like a model number is 'MB200', so that's probably it, but I don't do phones and it means nothing to me.

It's only a 3G model, which is fine because I refuse to turn on the data plan, at least for now -- I'm on a $15/mo unlimited text plan, and the first data plan is more than three times that. I'm not that desperate to use GTalk while waiting for the bus. The internet-based things work on wifi, so unless someone is so enamored of my art that they want to pay a $50 monthly phone bill in gratitude, it's going to stay a SMS tablet and occasional-email device.

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  1. Ahahaha, buying new phones! I have a droid touchscreen but the touchscreen started doing funny things after I kept it in my bra during a sweaty night out. I'm thinking I might spend £50 to replace the screen as it's half the cost of buying a new handset.

    I'm currently on an old slidey Samsung that does WAP so badly it can't load the internet any more because everything including the google homepage requires more capability than it has. However, it texts! Which is more than the droid smartphone will do now. It also has a 1.3 megapixel camera, so I can take photos of pretties when I'm out and about. I will also allow that T9 texting is less infuriating than the touchscreen/autocorrect.

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    1. This thing claims to have a 5mpx camera, with which I was texting Moggie pictures of the underside of the I-95 overpass at Sullivan Square earlier today. (Yes, on purpose. Moggie is weird.) It cost me 65USD, which is about 40GBP, give or take -- I'm not kidding when I say I zeroed in on the cheapest one they had. Toss in another seven quid for a micro SD card so it would stop alerting me to the fact that I hadn't put one in.

      Given a choice I much prefer a well-designed thumbsmash QWERTY keyboard, which a lot of the droid devices do have; Moggie kept getting htc MyTouch phones on her T-Mobile plan, and they seemed to work reasonably well. The one on this phone seems almost suspiciously sturdy -- the buttons are flexy, as they're supposed to be, but the stubstrate doesn't flex, and since that's where the switches are, that's a good sign. I expect the flex cable will eventually die, because that's what always dies on swivel things, but by them something else will be in my price range.

      I cannot abide touchscreens for any kind of data entry, especially teeny ones. I had my first run-in with them in the form of a Palm IIIc, which went the OCR-handwriting route, and was so good at it that I bought a fold out keyboard for it so I didn't go insane. I loved the idea of a pocket sized device that I could hold my life on well enough to buy a Tungsten e2 when the IIIc aged out, and it did do remarkably well at keeping my calendar and getting me periodicals on AvantGo and all that, but the touchscreen wasn't any good for anything but poking at icons and scroll bars. And it STILL isn't.

      (If anyone has DocumentsToGo from the Android App store, incidentally -- I used to use that on the IIIc. It's been around forever. I was amused by that, it was like unexpectedly running into someone from elementary school in the corner store.)

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