April 30th, 2011

My smart phone has outsmarted me

I’ve had a smart phone for about a month.

I have no doubt it’s highly intelligent. It can get online in an instant, locate me in time and space much better than I can, and tell me what restaurants are nearby (even what Indian or mideastern restaurants are nearby, if I choose to get particular).

Phoning is the least of what it does. In fact, I doubt I’ve tapped into 1/100th of its nearly boundless potential, and probably never will.

I use one of the ringtones the phone has thoughtfully provided. I haven’t added any apps (I’m not sure I totally understand what an app is). I don’t text. I took a few photos and videos but have yet to figure out how to upload them to my computer. And my fat fingers (they’re not really fat, but they lack the fine motor finesse that the young have perfected through countless hours of practicing almost from birth) seem to stumble around and set off strange commands that cause the phone to go to unknown pages or to perform arcane and unwanted tasks.

It’s not just my fingers that seem to have a mind of their own when interfacing with my brilliant phone. It’s the phone itself that makes decisions on its own. It appears to be a chatty sort—and a morning person—because every now and then it decides to call up an acquaintance of mine and have some fun.

Yesterday a friend emailed me to ask why I’d called her at 6:30 AM. While I slept, my phone had taken matters into its own hands and dialed her up.

And this is not an isolated incident. I once watched as my phone, which had sat untouched on a counter for several hours, spontaneously made a call. I have no explanation for said activity, except perhaps an unseen tremor in the forcefield.

Those of you who are more conversant with these things and how they work—and my guess is that that would include most of you—might be able to shed some light on the subject, before my phone’s harassing ways cause me to lose all the friends I ever had.

37 Responses to “My smart phone has outsmarted me”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    Let’s face it. To really run the smartphone you have to have the powers and gestures of Mandrake the Magician:

    “Educated in the mysterious Collegium Magikos in the Himalayas, Mandrake’s main ability is the power to create any illusion he can think of in a target’s mind, just by “gesturing hypnotically.” He also has some telepathic abilities. Naturally, his illusion-casting powers make him the world’s greatest stage magician, and that is how he earns his living when he’s not busy fighting the forces of evil.”

  2. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sounds like SkyNet has become self-aware.

    I am probably the last person on earth who still has a dumb phone, but it’s good enough for my needs, and I don’t want to take the time or endure the hassle of replacing. Yet.

  3. expat Says:

    My husband recently got an iPhone and has a GPS app. At first, I was worried that he would no longer need me for directions, but I managed to extract him from the recent protests in London by changing bus routes. And today I spotted a parking space a half a block closer to our destination than the one he originally aimed for, so I guess Steve Jobs can’t replace me yet. He’s probably working on it though. I still use landline phones.

  4. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    How easy (or difficult) is it to take a picture with one of those?

    Carpal tunnel has rendered me unable to use a very nice Camera I bought a couple of years ago (Canon SX-10 IS) because I cannot even tell when I have my finger on the shutter button without looking.

    Is a smart phone worth considering for that?

  5. Libby Says:

    Skynet was supposed to become self aware 8:11 PM on 19 April 2011. Maybe it has…We know they track your travels, and I recently read an article about an iPhone bug where people reported that their smart phones were taking pictures by themselves.

    I haven’t upgraded from my dumb phone for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is I fear becoming so dependent on something I could (or will) so easily misplace.

  6. Mr. Frank Says:

    My cell phone is only a phone and I only turn it on to make a call. I have a nice Apple desk top computer with a big screen. In the rare instance when a smart phone would be nice to have, I can usually ask one of my friends or relatives who like to show theirs off.

  7. Bandmeeting Says:

    I have a friend who has an HTC phone from T-Mobil that does a lot of what you describe. He’s also a technophobe who loves to have a reason to complain about anything invented after 1950 so I attribute a lot of it to him.

    I’ve got a Palm Pixi that works really well and absolutely does not have a mind of it’s own. I could sooner fly than pocket dial.

  8. ambisinistral Says:

    I have a smartphone and like it quite a bit. Think if it as a little computer with a phone and camera attached.

    I searched around the web a bit for “smartphone calls by itself” and other people have had that problem. It is either a software or hardware glitch. If I were you I would take the phone back to where I bought it and get them to give me a new one.

    Your phone should have a cable that attaches to you computer and allows you to transfer files. However, I usually just email the phone’s pictures to myself and open them with my desktop PC. You should also be able to upload them directly to a facebook or photobucket account easily.

    The fact fingers will cure themselves with practice.

    An App is just an application or program that does something. For example, you mentioned you had a restaurant located — that’s just a preloaded app.

    Most apps are useless little triffles, but some folks like to play with them.

    I have several apps for reading newspapers — I read the news on my phone all the time, and of course check my email.

  9. ambisinistral Says:

    Should be fat fingers, although fact fingers sound pretty impressive.

  10. Gringo Says:

    Which is why I stick to a landline phone. Troglodytes have their advantage.

  11. Oldflyer Says:

    Ha! I use Tracfone. I did recently sign up for the $9.95 monthly plan instead of buying by the minute, which was costing me about $7.00/mo. Afraid I would forget to reload as I get older. Love Tracfone.

    I shudder to think what my girls and their families spend on various levels of super phones with unlimited everything. I know that my twin grandchildren who used to be a delight to be around are now totally immersed in their texting, or whatever. In fairness they are now 14, so I suppose if it were not one thing, it would be another.

    Taking pictures with your cell. Practice with it before you miss a great opportunity. One daughter in the LA area is in a situation where she occasionally comes into contact with the glitteratti. A few years ago, at a charity dinner she had a chance to take a picture of Robin Williams with her husband. Used her brand new picture taking cell phone, and could not work it. Williams gave her hell–playfully–for being dumb enough to try to take a picture with a phone. Now, her whole life seems to be processed through her blackberry, and her husband is certain to have the latest gimmick on the market.

  12. james Says:

    Remember when we were young and laughed at the old people, we thought were “so set in their ways”.

  13. jon baker Says:

    Perhaps somewhere in your phones memory you should place a list of why you do not like the current Administration. Let the file sit. Then wait and see how long it takes for skynet to send it to one of your liberal friends…..

  14. Oldflyer Says:

    Oh Paul. I had carpal tunnel repaired arthoscopically about 10 years ago. Smartest thing I ever did. The dumbest thing was waiting so long to have it done. I had a great surgeon, one I knew, and he did caution that you need someone who does it routinely–and successfully. Apparently some pick it up over a weekend and away they go. BTW he and I compared scars because his was done conventionally. He had a major scar and you had to know it was there to even find mine.

  15. jon baker Says:

    for the record, my cell can do text, but not pictures or email. People try to send me pics on text and the phone provides a web address- a very long address, that you have to type into another computer to see the pics….

  16. LAG Says:

    I’m sorry.

    There’s a place I know between Lake City and Silverton, Colorado, where it is impossible to receive a cell phone signal.

    I plan to return there soon.

  17. Les Says:

    Most likely voice activated call. I had to disable that feature on my phone.

  18. nolanimrod Says:

    Paul -

    I just got an Android phone which has a feature you can set so you just tap the touch screen anywhere to take the picture and it’s not hard to hit since it is the entire area of the phone, about 4 1/2 x 2 1/2.

  19. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    Oldflyer: Thanks for the info, but my economic situation makes that absolutely impossible.

    nolanimrod: I’m cheap as Hell, out of necessity, but it looks like I should check out that Android. Thanks.
    (BTW – Nice blog)

  20. Michael Adams Says:

    Paul in Houston,

    Neo has my e-mail, and my permission to send it to you. There are resources out there, especially in Houston, to get your carpal tunnel repaired, whatever your own personal pecuniary position.

    As for being a Luddite, I even messed up a comment here, on another thread, which I did not discover, because I did not have time to check until a couple of days later. It obliterated the title I was trying to cite, and colored all the remainder of the script. Aieee! Altogether unintelligible.

    The missing title, BTW, was “Early Writings,” by Karl Marx.

  21. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    My wife and I use Blackberries. (Blackberrys?)

    I’m old-fashioned enough that I prefer a real keyboard with real buttons… but I do enjoy surfing the Web (yes, and reading NeoNeoCon) during idle moments. The camera has come in handy too — it’s not the best, but I do have it with me at all times, which makes it infinitely better than the camera I left at home.

    I also enjoy assigning random snatches of music as ring tones. My eldest is nuts for Dr. Horrible (if you don’t know, don’t ask — trust me!), so when she calls me I hear the “Bad Horse” theme. I have a different one for my wife, a tune from our wedding that makes me smile. (So I’m already smiling when I pick up the phone.) She uses the same feature to warn her when her parents are calling.

    I won’t say that I’d be lost without it. But I currently use it as a phone, a camera, an alarm clock, a calendar and address book, a portable Web browser, a GPS, and several other things. On a whim, I downloaded an application (that’s “app” to you, Neo) that summarizes the latest info from weather.com; I like that a lot.

    And, of course, it can play Sudoku. (Unfortunately I’m a kakuro fan.)

    Daniel in Brookline

    (Yes, I’m a computer programmer; why do you ask?)

  22. Beverly Says:

    I feel ya.

    My brother-in-law’s smartphone butt-dialed me just a week ago.

  23. SteveH Says:

    I want a camera app that makes any fish i catch look 30% bigger. But come to think of it, i liked it better when i could just lie about it.

  24. CZ Says:

    My Nikon takes much better photos and I can change lenses. It does not allow me to make phone calls.

    My free phone that only makes phone calls works just fine and I pay a minimum fee.

    Texting? Youth is wasted on the young.

  25. CZ Says:

    SteveH – Here’s a tip, learn photoshop. I can make a 2lb. bass appear to be 10lbs. : )

  26. Dennis Says:

    I like my iPhone. I have all kinds of apps which allow me to access information on the go. I picked up a rather inexpensive GPS program that works quite well and gets me to any place I need to go. I use a number of medical apps that keep track of blood pressure, blood sugar readings, medical appointments, drug interactions, et al, and schedules.
    A number of useful apps that contain a large number of mathematical formulas, both business and scientific, metronome, mouthpiece comparator and chromatic tuners, access to music I have stored on the web, access to AAA while on the road, levels and measures, alarm clocks, KINDLE and iBooks, access to stock quotes, dictionary, First Aid information and a few games. I got an app for my wife that has a lot of the information to aid in her quilting. The uses for a smart phone are only limited by one’s imagination. As I say I like my iPhone. It is a wonderful tool and a great safety device if used correctly.

  27. Foxfier Says:

    Well, we’re on a plan with my parents and a sister (long story, but very inexpensive!) so we all have phones that can take pictures and send them, as well as text and make calls. There are web features built in, but we don’t use them.

    We weren’t even going to have the text and pictures, but my sister used them a lot, so we all chipped in for it… my parents now do about 500 a month, including “look at this pretty flower!” pictures and a lot of “just finished dangerous job X, heading to dangerous job Y.”
    That way, if one of them is over due, someone knows where they were. (They even use it if they’re headed up fishing– two local friends and at least one of us “kids” are told.)

    This Easter, image texting let Kit wish her grandparents on the far side of the country “Happy Easter!” in her lovely dress.

    It’s pretty dang nice, even if we don’t have any interest in a smart phone. ^.^ (Being gaming junkies, I think a tiny screen and mobile processing speeds would drive Elf and I insane!)

  28. Ymarsakar Says:

    I’m the same, I don’t use more than 10% of the capabilities. ALthough the inbuilt flash light and what not is useful.

    Although the control mechanism isn’t good enough to use it to stun people in the dark with, in a tactical role.

  29. david maj Says:

    I’ve just stumble upon you, neo-neocon. You are a fantastic writer.

  30. david maj Says:

    stumbled. (sorry).

  31. Otiose.... Says:

    I have a 3GS iPhone.

    Someone in my address book called me a few days ago saying they were returning my call, but I hadn’t called them.

    I just let it go as unexplained, but now I wonder now if it’s not a bug in the software.

  32. Wry Mouth Says:

    When the phone starts whispering over a background of white noise and static, and the chairs in the kitchen start piling themselves up spontaneously, I say its time to cut your losses.

  33. raincityjazz Says:

    I guess I’m the resident geek here. I have an android and do lots of things with it. It doesn’t pocket dial or manufacture unwanted pictures, and it does serve as a GPS, camera, alarm, email device, web browser and filofax.

    There’s also some really charming programs for kids that have kept my grandchildren quiet at crucial moments, and for that alone I’d think a lot of people might love to have one. Oh, and I don’t have any trouble with the buttons even with stiff fat old fingers. I have a Droid X, which is huge and easy to hold.

    It’s especially great for settling arguments, people borrow it from me on the street to look things up.

  34. Dennis Says:

    That is one of the reasons I have an app tha is the Constitution. Always fun to pull it out and demonstrate what the Constitution actually has in it.

  35. Mark Says:

    Smart phone user here too. Not too happy though. It hasn’t up and called anyone yet.

  36. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist's Society Says:

    … Neo-anderthal?



  37. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    Michael Adams Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Paul in Houston,

    Neo has my e-mail, and my permission to send it to you. There are resources out there, especially in Houston, to get your carpal tunnel repaired, whatever your own personal pecuniary position.


    You can email me directly; my email address is on my blog (If you doubt I’m shameless enough to indulge in self-promotion, you don’t know me :-))

    But, I’ll ask her anyways.


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