RIP iPhone 5: 2012-2015

The last thing I expected Self Distract to become is a diary. But I just looked up a piece from September 2012 and you could argue that it’s not a Dear Diary entry, but it is. J’queues Apple was about buying an iPhone 5 and it was a proper enough, standalone enough, non-diary-enough entry that a magazine bought it. I remember their buying it paid a bit toward the cost of the iPhone 5.

But there’s the thing: I read the piece and I remember that. I can remember the face of someone I describe in it, I can feel the coldness of the day. I didn’t actually buy the phone that same day, I came back the next I think, chiefly because of the queue. I can see that queue: 1,600 people in a line. Do take a read some time: I think I make some good points about how yes, it is silly to queue for a phone but it’s the good kind of silly and no, it’s not the result of marketing hype. The summary is that maybe, maybe you can get 1,600 people though a marketing effort but you can’t get them twice. They won’t come back if the thing isn’t worth their queuing. This was the fifth time people queued for an iPhone, we’re not that stupid.

Only, the reason I looked this entry up is because yesterday, that iPhone 5 of mine died. If you have even passed me in the street during these last three years, you’ve seen me using that phone. Given the figures from once when I wrote about how often people use their phone and researched my own usage one day, it looks like I probably used my iPhone 5 in some way 233,220 times from its purchase to its death.

That’s 9.6 times per hour. It’s once every 6.25 minutes.

And I’m sure that’s wrong. I’m sure that is far, far too low a figure. My business ran through that iPhone, my life ran through it.

And I think what makes me sad about the iPhone dying is that it represented a particularly key slice of my business and life. Also a little growing up for me: I can see in that old entry that I was no longer automatically updating each time an iPhone came out, I was judging it, assessing the money, I was thinking about it. I was buying, but I was thinking about it more first.

Which all grew to the point where I did not buy an iPhone 6 when they came out even though my two-year phone contract was up. I couldn’t afford it, the price next to what difference it made just wasn’t worth it. Plus for the first time there were serious options in the iPhone: there were two models, each much bigger in your hand than my iPhone 5 and lots of reasons to go either way. I looked into it and I realised I simply wasn’t enjoying looking into it.

So for the first time since I think 1997, certainly the first time since 2007 when the original iPhone came out, I finished my two-year contract and did not go on to another one. It was the most financially astute thing I’ve ever done because I was paying about £42/month for the phone plus (sort of) unlimited 4G. Once the two years were up and because I specifically went in to say oi, why do you think I’m going to carry on paying you for the phone that I’ve now completely paid off, I got a new (sort of) unlimited 4G plan for £18/month.

I felt like a hard-hearted, cold negotiating businessman and it felt rather good. That plan is the least I have ever paid for a phone and there it was, all the data I could use, more talking minutes in the monthly plan than there are actually minutes in the month. Plus it was using my now beloved iPhone 5.

For beloved, do read beloved but also read used. Heavily used. Say excessively: I don’t mind and I wouldn’t disagree.

But heavily used does come with a price. The very day I bought it and the Apple sales man or woman put it in my hand, I dropped it. I dropped it because was so unexpectedly light that you had to adjust to holding it.

I don’t know how many times I’ve dropped it since: I didn’t and I don’t think it was very many, but it did happen. It just didn’t happen recently and yet for the past two months, I’ve been seeing big problems. The front glass presses in where it shouldn’t. The whole phone has taken to randomly restarting – and when it did that, I felt lucky because in a few minutes it would be back. Other times it would just lock up entirely. That was a giant problem when I was driving somewhere I didn’t know. Better that the phone crashed than the car did, but still.

Yesterday morning my iPhone 5 randomly restarted – and never stopped. It stayed on the restarting screen for an hour. It would be more but I had a gig to go to so I drove off to that and got lost without Siri. Checked the yes-still-dead-dammit phone a couple of times during the day, set up a thing for a friend on his iPhone 6 – and held it rather lustily, a working iPhone, imagine that – and worked out how many calls, emails, texts, Facebook messages and tweets I was missing. “I just tweeted you,” said another friend at this event. “MY IPHONE ISN’T WORKING” I replied, calmly.

I drove to the Apple Store after the gig and I bought an iPhone 6.

Reluctantly. There are still reasons to choose one model over the other but for the first time buying the phone wasn’t pleasure, it was entirely business. A business necessity rather than something fun. Striding in to the Apple Store and saying hello to the first person working there. (Her name is Davinia, she was smart and clever and funny and I enjoyed the 40 minutes or so I spent talking with her.)

But for the first time there was no savouring the purchase, there was no pondering which model and which size to get. I need that one in this size and I don’t like white, I’m not keen on gold, I’ll take the Space Grey one, please.

If you think it odd to write one Self Distract about excitedly buying an iPhone 5 and another about reluctantly buying the iPhone 6, I’d pretty much have to agree. Given that this is a eulogy to the 5, you have more of a point. Given that I’m also sounding right miserable about doing it, your point knows no bounds.

But the eulogy is fair, I think. I’m not the man I was in 2012 but I am a man who has been having the creative time of his life since then. That’s not because I bought an iPhone 5, this isn’t a commercial, but work and career and life have become radically more fulfilling over the time I had that phone. Not always paying enough, I am freelance, but creative and fulfilling in spades. Since September 2012 I’ve done 186 public speaking events of various kinds and my iPhone has been at the lot of them.

That 2012 Self Distract entry got bought by Macworld magazine – or iPhone World, I’m blank now, sorry – and in 2015 I am writing for I just delivered my 293rd piece for them since December last year and it was the first that I’d done using an iPhone 6.

I’ve changed and so have iPhones. This 6 is even lighter than the 5 – I did exactly and precisely the same thing when Davinia handed the box to me and I got the phone out, I dropped it because it was so much lighter than my hands expected. It’s also faster than I expected. The screen is rather gorgeous. I had a fun time last night remembering what apps I had on the front screen and getting them back there again plus adding another row.

And when we’re done talking, I’ll be using this iPhone to direct me to my first meeting of the day. I’ll make notes on the way, I may make notes during the meeting. There’s a strong chance I’ll listen to Apple Music en route – that’s another change since the 5, I haven’t put any music on the phone at all this time yet I’ve got 30,000,000 tracks on it.

And there is unfortunately the very greatest of chances that I will set up the damn health and exercise stuff on this bloody machine. It will count how many steps I take, it will count the number of times I go up and down the stairs. It will not notice how much tea I drink or chocolate I eat, though, so there’s that.

I didn’t want to buy the phone now, I at least wanted to wait until I could enjoy choosing one and I particularly didn’t want to buy when we’re at most two months away from the next model, the iPhone 6s. That will be better in some way or other but I will never know because I won’t look. So there.

Yet it is a startlingly fast and fun phone to use. I feel bad about being reluctant to buy it. I feel rather good that this is what will be with me about 10 times an hour from now on. And I’ll tell you that the pleasure of being back with a working phone is tremendous. So tremendous that it isn’t even dented by the sheer bleedin’ volume of emails I’ve got to answer.

Keep me from them, just for a little longer. Can I buy you a coffee?