According to the online dictionary I use, smartphone is one word, lowercased. My version of Microsoft Word doesn’t know this; it puts a red squiggly line underneath the now-common term for a telephone that lets us do dozens of things besides talk. As of last week, I’m the proud owner of a smartphone. Actually, the one I bought is called a phablet, a combination phone and tablet.
I’d been thinking about upgrading my old cell, which was already a year past the end of its contract and embarrassingly out of date, but I’d put it off. I hardly ever used the phone, and it rarely rang. When it did, I was either startled or oblivious. Once when my brother and I were driving through Atlanta, the phone was plugged in to recharge in the car. It was resting on a molded tray between the seats when I heard a brrrrrr-ing sound I couldn’t identify. “What’s that?” I asked, looking around in surprise. “It sounds like a tornado warning.” Another time, in a restaurant, I was sure it was someone passing gas.
The most annoying thing about my old cell phone was the phone number. It had obviously belonged to a criminal, or at least a slippery character, before it was assigned to me. Every day I received at least one urgent call from someone needing to get in touch with a certain Dale S. without delay. Sometimes it was a recorded message and sometimes a live person, but it was urgent, guaranteed. Dale got more calls than I did, so naturally I began to resent the ringing of my phone. I should have had my number changed, but instead I tried to correct the situation one desperate authority figure at a time, a losing battle.
It wasn’t Dale’s popularity that made me cave in. It was the possibility of doing retail business on my phone using a little technological wonder called the Square (to learn more, check out www.squareup.com). The Square is a free device that plugs into the headphone jack of a smartphone and allows the user to process credit and debit cards. I don’t have mine yet, but I’ve seen it in use and have already installed the app on my phone. With my Dracula book already in circulation and Mr. Joe coming out in a few months, I didn’t want to be limited to taking cash or checks when selling books.
My new smartphone is a wonder. No one’s called me yet, but I think I’m going to love it once I learn the features. The second thing I bought, after the phone, was a book to tell me how to use it: Samsung Galaxy Note for Dummies. I’m working my way through the chapters. For some of us, smartphones are intuitive the way computers were intuitive: over time, lots of time.