Saturday, August 30, 2008

Piece of China Meets The Bull

I am not a big tech guy when it comes to cell phones. I recall the day I went to the T-Mobile store to inquire about a Blackberry Pearl. I waltzed up to the counter to chat with the "emo-ized" slacker twenty-something to get the big picture. He told me about what it did, how it worked, why I should have it, how you can send text messages and IM with your BFF and on and on. Glassy-eyed, I accepted his corporate style sales-pitch knowing full well that the sale of a Blackberry could help him out with a new exhaust or ridiculous tail fin for his Honda CRX (remember those?). He asked what I used now as if we were from some strange cellular brotherhood comparing notes. Me, being competitive no matter the situation, and perhaps a bit over-confident, pulled out my slider Samsung. It twinkled with a Pong-like pixel graphic that was the wallpaper as I gently placed it on the counter top. At the last moment I pulled a Clint Eastwood-like move and pushed the slider open like it was a scene in a spaghetti-western. I thought for sure emo kid would give a nod (a touché if you will) of approval, but instead he gave that smart-ass grin like "Oh I remember those." Sure enough his reply was "Oh I remember those." Touché indeed, reverse style! It was as if my phone was from the early cell days when you carried a battery pack over your shoulder and the receiver resembled the type you saw in Vietnam footage. In the end I passed on the Pearl and kept the slider.

Fast forward a year later and I decided to make the iPhone plunge. Not the 3G line but the second generation in a 16gb size. Look, let's get one thing straight, I like tech stuff. I have a couple of Mac computers at home and one at my office. In the past I was a PC guy until I was turned on to Mac. Far better, more stable, you get the idea. Needless to say, this marriage between me and the iPhone was bound to happen at some point. I knew it wouldn't be the first generation, I am just not a "Gen 1" type of person, but the odds were pretty good that I would jump at "Gen 2." So I did this past May and while the price was high, I was comfortable with it because it was, well, an iPhone. Take a cool company, make a cool product, make cool ads, have cool design, and we, err, I will eat it up.

Everything worked easily. The setup was a snap, the contract a breeze, the learning curve simple. What is the iPhone? We all know of course, but it turns out it's a wafer-like rectangle heavy on design and sleekness and extremely low on durability. The durability factor plays with your head. Here's a $400 phone with a piece of glass on the face, no ergonomics, slick, shiny, slippery. That plays into your mind when you handle it, especially if you don't wrap a case around it. For the first couple of weeks I handled the naked phone with care. Got used to it. Bonded with the shape. Practiced my hand hold, my grip, the way I dialed, and the way I deposited it back into my pocket. I was an iPhone Ninja moving swiftly from white belt to black with ease.

Soon the $6 rubber case went on and the Ninja continued to master his craft. However, the false sense of security of a rubber case caused Ninja to lax his grip. The deposit to the pocket was beginning to fumble. Things were not unraveling, but the black belt was a bit loose.

A couple weeks later Ninja got a heavy duty case from and immediately snapped it on, in and around the fragile china. Quickly the false sense of security went to volume 10. The Otterbox is an awesome case, and will withstand even the most aggressive of soccer moms. Bang it against the Escalade driver side door and MILF will likely break a nail before the iPhone gets hurt. The case made Ninja sloppy though. My handling became clumsy, I had occasional 6 inch drops on the counter top, and my pocket deposits were ridiculous. I became a lazy Ninja because of the Otterbox.

Otterbox, while bullet proof, is also big. The iPhone widened and became heavier and valuable pocket real estate was reduced significantly. Lint was screaming for more room. After a couple weeks of Otterbox, I free'd the iPhone to breathe and show its sexiness again. My phone came out of the closet! Things went well for 2 weeks until a couple days ago. My lazy Ninja attitude was still present though the tough case was tucked away in a dark corner of a real closet.

The scene goes like this: Ninja reaches in for the iPhone. Grabs it with hand. Pulls the phone out of pocket to show onlooker something slick. The shiny rectangle with a glass front slips out of Ninja's hand. It twirls the most beautiful twirls and twists Ninja has ever seen. Ninja is in shock. The scene is in slow motion. Ninja's reactions are slow, too slow. Before Ninja can blink, iPhone smacks face first on concrete driveway no more than 2 feet below Ninja's pocket (I was wearing cargo shorts for some reason. Very un-Ninja like). Ninja is frozen, iPhone is weeping. Ninja can dance on top of bamboo stalks but can't dive for base-jumping rectangle of glass and slickness.

Ninja's horrified by web-like shattered glass. Ninja thinks design is cool looking but not too cool in real world. Phone is working but Ninja has to read between lines of shattered glass. Ninja shocked that such a phone would burst into tears not far from ground. The sinking $400 feeling sets in and it turns out that to fix this "problem" that seems to occur quite often (search on that thing called the Web for 'broken iPhone glass') it may cost $250. Ninja ponders next move which is undoubtedly encountering another emo at the Apple Store.

- You may be able to drop your phone that isn't an iPhone and things will likely be ok, but if you drop a glass rectangle, things will go sideways. Guaranteed!
- Hey Apple. How about including a case of some sort in the package so Ninjas like me can have a slight sense of security.
- Use something other than glass for gosh sakes.

In the end, this sad Ninja should have had a burly, military like case wrapped around the glass phone. I will keep you posted as to how this all pans out when I visit the "Genius Bar" this Monday.