• Rob Spectre
  • 05
  • Jul
  • 07
This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Bender on the iPhone

“4 gig?” she asked. The people around me in that moment might have thought the blinding light coming out of her mouth was the glint of sunshine against her braces. They were wrong. That eye piercing glint was the sweet word of the Lord Jesus announcing that He had returned, and the righteous name of the Christ was iPhone.

“My grandfather always used to wake me up in the morning by saying, ‘Joy in a bottle beats anything in a box,’” I told her.

She replied as she handed over the sweet Son of Mary in its immaculately conceived packaging, “Oh yeah.”

“Yeah. That motherfucker didn’t know shit.”

I got an iPhone on opening weekend. After suffering the endless derision of every geek I know at my spectacular failure of acquiring a Wii, I was certain that the cell phone of the Messiah would be an impossibility. We had stopped into the hippie store just to look at the interface, having already been introduced by my associate Danimal.

“Dude, I didn’t have to wait in line at all,” he told me. “I was just standing by the phone and then set down a big box of them.”

No way in Hell would it be that easy for me, I thought. Units of measurement borrowed from astronomy are required to describe the difference of my karma substracted from his. I had the luck of the Irish on my side true, which isn’t all that fucking lucky when you’re looking for a potato on an island that says its not growing any more potatoes. However, when I sheepishly asked the hippie woman being the hippie counter in this haven of all that which is unjust and wrong, her words the writ of Scripture. And lo, the hour of my iPhoning was nigh, and I rejoiced all over myself.

The next few hours were a whirlwind. So quickly I activated, like a methadone addict in the front row of St. Cecilia’s sucking down the word of God after an eighty hour bender. The righteousness of its interface filled me with a joy I would not have ever known where it merely electronics. This slim, this sexy, this *glorious* device was not merely fine engineering. It was the Eschaton on printed circuit board. You walk to places like the Grand Canyon or the Swiss Alps or Galway Bay and feel that despite all that the work of Man can do, there is a beauty only the finger of the Lord can create. His face we can now multitouch, for it shines at us from behind optical quality glass.

It was not merely the gorgeous integration of disparate – even competitive – software like Google Maps and YouTube with Yahoo Stocks and Weather. It was not only the multi-tab, full featuring browsing of Safari and nearly universally compatible email client. It was not the slim form factor, the ninety million mega pixel camera, or even the Bell Tower ringtone. It was the fact that it made even ordinary software – like that controlling the iPod that we’ve all used for seven years now – assume Heaven’s own glory.

The features of the iPod functionality in the iPhone aren’t remotely new. The album view, playlist view, and management interface are entirely the same one we’ve been using. And until the iPhone we didn’t know how inadequate that was. Much like the ancient Roman introduced to the letters of St. Paul, we’ve gone from obliquely interfacing with God’s Creation through some poorly constructed adapter to swimming neck deep in His pure Elysian lovejam.

There have been phone with colors. There have been phones with music. There have been phones with email and cameras and photos and directions and wifi and web browsers and butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. What seperates those phones and the iPhone is the same thing that seperates Moses and Pat Robertson. The latter claims to know God. The former wonders why you don’t already.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 08
  • Jul
  • 07
This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Bender on the iPhone

The problem that the iPhone solves is the issue of identity. For the past five years, cell phones increasingly have been trying to be anything but a cell phone. Blackberrys the size of hockey pucks get held awkwardly to the heads of pinstriped businessmen in the middle of crowded airports. Hip-hop remoras waltz out of Fubus flipping out Sidekicks to text their homies. Helio, a company peddling prepaid cells to the MySpace set, begs in their marketing to “not call it a cell phone.” These people try to call it “the mobile experience,” as if such thinly veiled lies were impenetrable by an obedient consumer. They try to convince us it’s not shit we’re swallowing by instructing us not to chew.

It is clear from the first phone call that Apple did not set out to create a mobile experience. They didn’t intend to lipgloss a turd and smile while its served. They set out to make a *phone*, and in so doing created a device that made all comers look like the Special Olympics of consumer electronics. It doesn’t try to hide what it is through hinges and levers. It doesn’t have a hidden keyboard that flips out matrix style with the touch of a secret catch. It does not fold or flip or slide or any of the other acrobatic engineering every other cell phone on the planet has tried to somehow secret its intent. It is plainly a thin piece of plastic and glass that a human being can hold up to his/her ear and talk to someone else.

It was little wonder then that Jon smiled the way he did. He grinned like a heroin dealer grins when talking to a 12 year old; the way any businessman smiles when he’s making a customer-for-life. This Apple Genius was smiling while poking away on his MacBook, processing my return. He did a little hippie hunch, far too amused with himself, beaming the confidence of the Apple Store customer service process that is so fucking good it should be declared anti-competitive. Many reviews in popular media have been written about iPhones failing. I bought one of them. However, unlike those unrighteous heathens too deaf to hear the word of the Lord Our God, my valuation of a device is not when things go right, but when things go wrong.

It began on the morning train ride to Frisco. My connectivity to EDGE was blinking on and off. This intermittent connectivity continued throughout the day until finally all I saw in the upper left corner of the phone was No Service. Ever the sysadmin, I blamed the network, presuming that AT&T had misjudged the demands that iPhone users in the Bay Area would be placing on its network. However, after seeing other iPhone users enjoying the eternal bliss of their devices, I knew something must be amiss. It must be the network, I thought. I’ve never had any Apple device fail on me, so I went to the AT&T store to find remediation.

It was 3pm on a Tuesday and the tiny corner shop on Market was bustling. Lines of extremely unhappy consumers had come in to each take their turn at yelling at someone about their cellphone bill. Every other sentence involved some combination of “iPhone” and “out of stock.” The vibe was seething, perhaps even hostile. There was no seating anywhere, suggesting that the presence of customers was only casually tolerated and their stay would be brief indeed.

Quite nearly the antithesis to the experience of buying and activating the iPhone, I held it up to a woman who appeared to carry some authority on the device. Before I could say anything, she declared, “We do not support the iPhone.”

Having navigated the treacherous waters of mobile service providers before, I continued undaunted. “Hello there, my phone appears to not be able to get any service.”

She curtly replied while walking away, “We cannot help you with the iPhone. I have a number you can call.”

I followed, like a man determined, “How can I call when my phone does not work.”

She blinked a couple times while scribbling the number on a scratch pad. “Call this number; they will help you.”

“Thank you so much for your help,” I replied, going into Rob’s patented customer service tone, one honed from a decade of working in IT. “However, I don’t believe I can contact them when my phone has no service,” I said, demonstrating on the device itself.

She retorted, much like a lunch lady on her period, “Use one of the phones over there.”

Compliant, I walked over to one of their demo phones. A robotic tone blamed the iPhone for the twenty minute wait time, far greater than I wished to invest in this issue. Attempting to take advantage of the in store insanity, I walked to another person close to my age and explained the issue. He being far more inspired to help guided me down an hour and a half adventure ending up with destroying and creating a new account, installing a new sim card, and adjusting my plan dramatically in order to wake the iPhone into service. After exhausting my patience and his, he came to the conclusion that the iPhone was defective.

“I’m sorry man,” he said, like the bailiff taking his brother to death row.

“It’s alright,” I assured him. “You did your level best.”

As I walked out of the store, I knew my only recourse was to return to that place I hated. The place from which all the hippie power in this nation is concentrated. I had to go back to the Apple Store.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 12
  • Jul
  • 07
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Bender on the iPhone

A Mac hater is just too light a turn of phrase to descrbe my lifelong loathing for Apple computer. I was less their enemy and more their nemesis; I didn’t develop a dislike, I was born with it. There is a difference, I think, between preference and identity. Easy, proprietary, and incompatible, all the things that drove me to my first Linux PC were what drove me away from the former Apple Computer. Even that they were filthy with goddamn, dirty hippies was a tangental concern. I loathed their very *approach*. They called it “holistic,” combining software designed for very specific and proprietary hardware. They said they looked at the whole “experience.” I said that the Holocaust was an “experience.” The Armenian genocide was an “experience.” That in anything in this world when one guy is in control of the whole thing it can’t ever be good. To me, every Mac represented the tyranny of evil men and the shadows they cast were long as Alaskan days and inky black as Alaskan nights.

A little piece of who I was died when I walked in, the broken iPhone weeping in my pocket. I can’t detail a long drawn out story with the iPhone once I went to the Apple Store though. I can’t describe a convulted series of obstacles in order to render satisfaction vis a vis spending $600 on a busted cell phone. I didn’t even have to wait in a fucking line.

I showed up. I showed them the iPhone. They saw it was broken. And then, even though it was a full half hour after they were supposed to be closed, they told me to have a seat, have a Coke, and hang tight for a few minutes while they got me *another fucking one*. The customer experience of replacing an iPhone was as pure as child birth, twice as beautiful, and not even a little bit painful. I was only kicking myself for going to AT&T first.

So when Jon – the hippie that replaced my iPhone – smiled at me, I knew it wasn’t the joy of helping a man in need that caused him to grin the way he did. It was because he knew that I knew that every customer experience I’ve had from hamburgers to hotels to hockey games was completely and totally inferior to his. He knew the lies I had told myself to remain chaste in the face of temptation. And he knew in that moment that my lust for Apple would never once be satiated for so long as I live. He was a heroin dealer in the clothes of a hippie, and these rocks were half price to get you twice as high.

Ever since my iPhone has been a frightening crucial component of my everyday life. Setting up appointments in the calendar no longer a hokey fumbling with a stylus, but a casual flip that only those immediately near me in the meeting can notice. A mere three weeks into working in downtown San Francisco and I’ve navigated the better part of downtown without ever going home with aching feet. And, as opposed to every Windows Mobile or Palm or Blackberry based device I’ve ever used, I can answer the phone when my ma calls every goddamned time.

It’s not just that its the best phone on the planet right now. It’s the best phone that has ever or perhaps will ever exist. Journalists, bloggers, analysts, and pundits in the Post, Times, and Journal can talk about the hype or the battery or the phone plan or whatever the fuck they want. To me it is the mewling of the damned merrily cludging like blind retards through the hell of their electronic lives. In its very first try, Apple made a phone that gets every phone call anyone makes to my number.

They made a phone that fucking works. I’m just as unhappy as you are about it.