x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

On the Money: Malfunction challenges zen of life with a smartphone

These days, our lives are incomplete without the smartphone and everything it gives us. But when all that is taken away from you, it takes no more than a split second for the panic to set in.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

It's amazing just how much a part of our lives collapse when our smartphones stop working. How did they insidiously snake their way into our lives to the point where we just can't live without them?

A decade ago, we were pretty smug just to have a mobile phone that gave us calls AND texts on the go. What a breakthrough that was in our mobile lives. Travel back 21 years and we were preening about the place with our latest "high-tech" mobile bricks glued to our ears even though, from a distance, it looked like we had War and Peace stuck to the sides of our heads.

They might have been too large for our flimsy pockets or handbags (which in those days didn't come with that handy little pocket for our mobiles), but it meant we didn't have to find a phone box on the fly, not to mention the coins needed to make a call.

These days, our lives are incomplete without the smartphone and everything it gives us: e-mail access, millions of apps (some useful; most useless), games to wile away our time while we wait in ever-longer queues, the ability to incessantly update our status on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention obsessively checking our stocks or the weather.

But when all that is taken away from you when your smartphone gives up the ghost, it takes no more than a split second for the panic to set in. A few moments later, when you realise the implications of what has just happened, the alarm bells start ringing and you start to hyperventilate.

I guess it's obvious by now: my smartphone recently packed it in.

It takes a while to calm down. Thinking Zen and taking some deep breaths don't help much because you are consumed with the thought that you've got years of contacts that stretch over dozens of countries stored on it, not to mention all of your passwords (cleverly disguised, of course, but stupidly the only place where they were stored) and a whole host of other vital data that keeps your life running on an even keel.

It also doesn't take long to realise that you are an idiot for trusting the smartphone in the first place. Or the maker - in this case BlackBerry, which has been waning in my estimation for a few months now.

My problems with my BlackBerry Curve started last month. A weird crackling sound started interfering with my calls. Then suddenly I'd be cut off. And a white screen of death would appear. It wouldn't restart by switching it off then on again, nor did taking out the battery for a few seconds and doing a soft reboot work. Which meant I was cut off until I could get home and reboot, repair and restore it through my computer.

The more it happened (daily, in my case), the less data BlackBerry's desktop software restored on my Curve. So day by day, I was losing more and more information. First to go were memos, where my banking information, other login life and vital data was stored. Even the average games (anyone for Word Mole?) disappeared, much to my daughter's disappointment.

It got to the point where I started trawling BlackBerry's online community blog, begging all and sundry to help me in the nicest possible way (after all, they are serious CrackBerry fans and one out-of-line complaint would get me nowhere). This was all to no avail.

And so I had to figure out what to do to get my life back on track all by myself, without the help of (gasp) my smartphone.

I already knew I was going to dump the BlackBerry, but I couldn't do that until I'd found out how to get my information and contacts back. In the meantime, I had to make do with a basic mobile phone, the Nokia 1600, which I couldn't remember how to use anymore and spent an inordinate amount of time writing texts because you have to press a button four times just to find one letter.

It took a few weeks, but I finally had a breakthrough last weekend. And no, it didn't come from one of the CrackBerry lovers who live their lives through the online blogging community.

I did it myself in what can only be described as my finest "doh" moment. Every time I rebooted, restored and repaired my BlackBerry on my computer, I left out one crucial step: clicking on the applications button and marking what I needed to reinstall. But there you go; it just proves that when you are in a panic, you can't see the forest for the trees.

I then promptly went out and bought the iPhone 4S. I'm now nearly Dh3,000 out of pocket, but I've got my life back.

And I've taken to handling my vital information the old-fashioned way: writing it all down on paper and storing it in a safe place.

fglover@thenational.ae