Tahlequah Daily Press

August 14, 2013

Smartphones cool, except for the teensy-eensy keypads

Managing Editor

NEW YORK — I finally succumbed to pressure that was coming from every nook and cranny imaginable, and bought myself an iPhone.

Some of you might inhale your breath sharply in shock, wondering why I hadn’t taken the plunge earlier. Those who know me best will have a good chuckle. They know I live in one of the few areas in Cherokee County that simply cannot, and will not, get a cell signal. And that’s why I’ve resisted the urge to spend money on a smartphone. When I explain this to “the AT&T people” – that ubiquitous class of folks working for the mammoth corporation – some respond with, “Oh, I doubt that; we’re everywhere!” I counter sagely with, “Look it up on your online map.” They do, and what follows is usually a pregnant pause, and a mumbled comment of something like, “Well, I’ll be darned...”

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with cell phones. My husband has had an Androidish contraption of some sort for several years; the nature of his job may put him anywhere on the NSU campus at any time, and he needs to be accessible.

We got my son his first cell phone in ninth grade, when he began marching with the Tahlequah High School Orange Express under the auspices of Harvey Price (another seemingly ubiquitous character). We reasoned Cole needed a way to call us to come pick him up from practice, contests, ballgames or other events, since he was too young to drive.

Unfortunately, he never bothered to drive until just before he started college at OU, so the calls for pickup continued through THS graduation. He’s had about as many phones as the Orange Express has percussionists during any given marching season. These landed in water, disappeared under the wheels of vehicles, fell apart and simply gave up the ghost for various-and-sundry reasons. I think one was hurled onto the roof of the THS bandroom by some miscreant. His current Android has a cracked screen, which I understand is in vogue.

Until recently, I’ve never thought I needed a cell of my own. Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m either at work or at home, and believe it or not, most of the rest of the time, I’m with my husband – on vacation, swimming in Muskogee, shopping at Reasor’s, or en route to these or other locations.

Those who might need to get in touch knew they could call my husband’s cell. I also did my share of Google searches, texting, calling and other tasks associated with a smartphone, though it always sent my blood pressure through the roof. For one thing, I often can’t hear the person on the other end. My dad keeps assuring me, “You’re going deaf, just like me.” I don’t think that’s it, because I can “hear” on land lines or in person – at least, for now. I think it’s because I get rattled when the phone “jumps towers” during transit, or when the signal is weak.

That’s not the main problem, though, but I can see how it may have driven the younger set to texting rather than talking. The real stick-in-the-craw annoyance about cell phones is those itty-bitty screens and teeny-weeny buttons. I hated my husband’s former Blackberry so much I harbored a secret desire to flush it down a toilet, or better yet, drop it down a portapotty. Only the cost of a replacement staved my hand. His current communication device is a supposedly “rugged” Samsung, but I beg to differ. My son’s phone, which is identical, is the one with the aforementioned cracked screen. Nothing can escape the destructive force of the Cole Man.

But the touch screens on the Samsung are easier to deal with than the Blackberry keys, which are about the size of the average pimple on a teenager’s face. The coolest feature is the predictive text tool. Tap a few keys, and the phone will offer some options, so you rarely have to incur the frustration of typing every character.

Why did I venture into the world of minuscule mobiles? Because the Press is entering the social media fray in a big way, and no self-respecting journalist these days can do without a handheld device. It’s true we’ve been aggressive in Facebook (insert plug: facebook.com/tdpress), but that can be done – is best done – on a desktop computer. Twitter (another plug: @Tahle quahTDP), Instagram and others are designed with smartphones in mind, and anyone who has used either application on both platforms can attest the “phone” version is far more user-friendly.

At first, I was eyeing one of those “Note” phones, because it’s bigger and presumably offers easier use for aging and arthritic fingers. But my husband had other ideas. He quickly became convinced I needed an iPhone, mainly because he has an iPad, and he wants them to “interface.” I admit the idea of Bluetoothing between the two devices is appealing, because the iPad at least has a reasonably-sized keypad.

So long and the short of it is, after heavy pressure from my husband, and encouragement from my boss and a couple of other co-workers who own and love iPhones, I got one

 I also snagged a half-price purple-and-white case that pretty much guarantees neither my husband nor son will be caught dead in public with it. Right before I took the plunge, Pam Moore dropped by the office with a stylus she’d bought for me as some sort of stress therapy for herself, so now, the diminutive keypad isn’t such a problem.

The past week or so, I’ve been working my way through the settings, tweeting and taking some admittedly poor-quality photos, texting and Facebooking, and doing all the things the kids do with their smartphones, only a little slower. And if you were around me, you might hear me utter the occasional colorful word under my breath. If you see any misspelled words on my posts on Facebook or Twitter, they can be blamed on that itty-bitty, eensy-weensy keyboard.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.