The Home Team: Is bigger always better?
"They're the biggest iPhones ever made," Jimmy Fallon raves. "They're huge." And then, in the ubiquitous iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus ads, featuring Fallon and his buddy Justin Timberlake, Fallon tries to list the specs and functions of the new phones, while Timberlake obsesses about how "huge" they are.
So let me get this straight ...
For the better part of the last century, technology was all about miniaturization. We started with that big mother of a wooden radio -- the Zenith -- that sat atop the dining room credenza. Which became the smaller, portable radio you could carry from room to room. Which became the transistor radio you could sneak under your pillow and listen to the late-night, west coast baseball game. The bulky, stationary Victrola -- the one with the logo of the dog who could hear his master's voice -- became the stereo system with components which became the boom box, the cassette player, the iPod. Cumbersome headphones became ear buds. The idea behind miniaturization, of course, was always convenience and portability. Just a few years ago I could carry my compact little flip phone in the tiny zip compartment in the back of my running shorts.
The new iPhone 6 Plus? I don't know if it would even fit in the big back pocket of my jeans, let alone that little slit in my gym shorts. And Apple's bragging about this? What I'm getting here is a very strong vibe that the millenial geniuses in Silicon Valley, in their never-ending quest for The Next Big Thing, have lost their way. And the humongous iPhone 6 isn't the only reason I think so.
Last weekend, my wife and I were in Atlanta. I was telling my friend, Rich, about something I could really use: a recording device that would provide me with a written transcript of what I'd spoken into it. This would be a big help, I said, when I try to turn my notes from my cross-country road trips into a book. "That's easy," he told me, and then coached me on just what kind of device to buy.
"Voice recognition is improving all the time," he went on. "Haven't you seen people who just talk into their phones when they want to send a text? Amazing."
And I'm thinking, you know what would really be amazing? A device that, instead of using voice recognition to turn your spoken message into a text, would actually allow you to speak to your friend -- and then allow him to answer! You could have an actual conversation!
Oh, wait. They already have that. It's called a telephone.
The reason all this "progress" is on my mind is that some time in the next few days, I'm being forced to get a new smartphone. What happens periodically is that when the members of my family who care about such things -- that would be my wife and our three sons (in other words, everyone but me) -- are due for upgrades, they all surrender their existing phones to Verizon and move up to the very latest device. And I have to move up to whatever's left over. Which is how I was forced to "graduate," kicking and screaming, from my flip phone to the iPhone 4. And now, I've been told, I'll have to switch to my wife's iPhone 5.
Sensing a conspiracy, I went and placed my iPhone 4 right next to her iPhone 5. Damn! Just as I thought! The iPhone 5 is bigger.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer. His "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can keep up with him on his "Beagle Man" blog -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ -- and on Twitter @BeagleManHank. He may be reached at DoubleH50@gmail.com.