Two weeks ago Sunday, my iPhone 3GS slid from my pocket and nuzzled itself amongst the fossilized bubble gum, mottled receipts and other sticky detritus that lays thick between the seats of the 7:20pm MBTA train to Forest Hill on the Orange Line. Doubtless someone is playing with it even now. I didn’t even notice it go, but unlike the last time I lost my iPhone, my initial reaction was not panic or thundering rage, but a serene sense of acceptance: I just don’t need an iPhone anymore. I barely even tried to recover it. This is my new phone, and god help me, I love it.
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I admit it. Feature-wise, the Nokia C-300 is a pretty big step down from any iPhone. With an iPhone, I can check my Twitter, update Facebook, read web pages on the go through Mobile Safari, play games, read e-books and upload photos and video. My new Nokia just sucks at this stuff. It’s Twitter and Facebook functionality is utterly remedial. The web browser looks like the World Wide Web Consortium aborted HTML4 all over itself. The games are clunky Java affairs; photos and videos are stuck locally; reading an e-book on this thing would be a joke.
How can I be so happy about my Nokia phone then when it can’t do any of this stuff? Simple: since the iPad came along, I never do any of that stuff on my iPhone anyway.
It’s a weird thing, but once you get an iPad, using an iPhone just feels hopelessly cramped. All of a sudden, the profoundly rich experience of using iOS and its apps goes from the context of a frame through which you can do anything you want to do to a tiny terminal. Sure, you have access to all the same stuff, but short of two big exceptions — phone and SMS — it’s all done worse than on an iPad with 3G.
Ironically, what that means is that, for me, my iPhone might as well be a dumbphone for all the use I have gotten out of it since the iPad debuted. Unlike my Nokia, though, its a dumbphone that can be nerve racking to carry around. Even an older iPhone is a luxury device… one that can get easily lost, or stolen, or broken. Merely having it in my pocket, I’m constantly fretting about dropping it on the ground and shattering the glass, or accidentally placing my keys in the same pocket and scraping it up. I worry about being mugged for my iPhone, I worry about getting it wet when it rains. And, yes, I worry about it slipping out of my pocket on the 7:20pm Orange Line train to Forest Hills to get lost along the commuter detritus and reclaimed by some random stranger… a worry which does seem to be fairly well founded.
So I love my Nokia C-300. It barely qualifies as a smartphone, and I use it as a dumbphone, but I love its durable plastic construction that holds up to even the worst key gouges or spastic dances across the payment. The QWERTY keypad that makes texting an effortless dream. I love the built-in FM radio that works as a poor man’s Spotify. I totally dig the week-long battery life. There are trade-offs, of course, but I’m totally fine with the 2MP camera, which will do for just about anything in a pinch, and I’m okay with waiting until I get home to share what I capture. Even the lack of an iPod.app doesn’t bother me: I’m more than happy to just drag 8GB of frequently listened to albums to the SD card in case of emergencies.
Best of all, there’s just no psychological baggage. Not only does it cost as little as $90 to replace if I lose or break it, but it can be used on any GSM network nationally or abroad without signing up for an expensive two year contract.
When Steve Jobs took the stage in March of 2010 to announce the first generation iPad, he positioned it as a device that was meant to fill the gap between your laptop and your smartphone. Bizarrely, though, for me, the iPad just made the iPhone obsolete. It is my iPad that I bring out of my bag when I want to access the Internet, watch a movie, send an email, update my Facebook or read an ebook the road.
The iPad is the gadget iOS was made for, and since it arrived, it’s just emphasized the stress and extraordinary financial commitment that is the true cost of being an iPhone owner. And for what? There’s psychological baggage to carrying around an iPhone, and if all you really use is your iPhone’s telephone capabilities, it isn’t worth its own weight in worries. Gimme a cheap, contract free dumbphone any day… as long as you don’t take my iPad away.
Anyone else feel like they don’t really need an iPhone now that they have an iPad? Let us know in the comments.