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On buying my first smartphone

I blame the snow. It was 5.30am and very cold and dark. I hadn't had the first coffee of the day and was feeling it. I pitched up at Kemble railway station to find all the trains had been cancelled. I drove over to Swindon in horrible conditions and luckily there was a train running to London. When I got to London I managed to get completely lost - I exited Moorgate tube station by the "wrong" exit and had no idea where I was. The guy I asked for directions whipped out his smartphone, checked Google maps, and soon had me heading in the right direction. That night in the hotel the Internet crapped out while I was in the middle of checking email.

Enough was enough...

I've put off buying a smartphone for a very long time. That's funny because I actually worked on smartphone software before smartphones even existed. We were indeed writing software for a type of phone that did not even exist in research labs. This was late 90s. MS-DOS wasn't yet extinct back then. The iPhone was still more than ten years away. So I'm not a Luddite.

Back in the 90s there were Nokia dumb phones around but I just didn't want one. Then one night the MG broke down again and I had to walk about 3 miles to call the AA, and then walk back again. The AA didn't turn up. Eventually I got the car going - there was a little float valve in the carb that had come loose. There I was on the side of the A3, gone ten at night, clutching a small lamp and cursing mechanical systems.

Enough was enough...

It was 2001 and I bought one of the new-fangled Nokia 3310s. I still have the same mobile number I got back then. By complete chance it was a very easy number to remember, so I stuck with it. I remember the shop assistant saying to me at the time, oh that's a nice one to remember. She was right.

Sometime in 2003 I then bought a Nokia 3510i, which was more or less the same as a 3510 but had a colour display and rubbery buttons. It was a cool little phone and I used it for many years.

Then in 2007 the iPhone came out. A good friend bought one soon after and no longer wanted her Nokia 6300. I grabbed it. A nice freebie. I used that for ten years. Then they brought out the new Nokia 3310 in 2017 and I got a bright yellow one as a present from the same friend.

And then that terrible day with snow and no trains and wandering in the city with no clue as to where I was, not to mention the bad Internet...

I ended up splashing out on a reconditioned iPhone 7. One of the first apps I put on was Trainline. Then I made sure I had Maps. Gmail, Slack, Oyster card, Starbucks soon followed. Notes also has a very useful, but little known, document scanner, great for capturing receipts, and I can convert to PDF and save on iCloud, ready for uploading to the expense system.

I like iMessage too - at least it's a really nice way to communicate with other people on iPhones for free. However, I had issues with sending photos to people who don't have iPhones. I put Viber on to fix this problem.

I got a couple of chess programs on there too. Stockfish is wonderful. I got the Lichess app too - mainly for the "puzzle of the day".

FlightRadar24, one of my favourite websites, is now on the phone as an app. It's just one of the most awesome things ever.

The smartphone also puts the Internet in my pocket. 4G turns out the to pretty good. I can even tether my Kindle Fire to the iPhone for Internet access while out and about.

So with all this smartphone goodness why didn't I buy a smartphone before?

Two reasons: security, cost.

Security is still probably my biggest concern. Your phone knows a lot about you - including your location, your voice, your contacts, and of course your phone number. If you do social media they gather more data on you. You do need to be aware of how much personal data you are putting out there.

Cost turns out to be less of an issue these days. Well I was not going to fork out £1,100 for an iPhone X. I got the reconditioned iPhone 7 for £399 from GiffGaff. It's 128K and it looks like brand new although it was classed as "Very Good". There's not so much as a scratch on it. With a £10 a month Goody Bag from GiffGaff I have virtually unlimited communications - unlimited SMS, unlimited voice, and 3GB data. I will probably save far more than £10 a month on my land-line phone bill - I was still using that to call landlines and mobiles. Now I just use the iPhone - more or less for free.

All in all I am really pleased to be a smartphone owner - security issues aside. I should probably have taken the plunge years ago...