One man’s phone is another woman’s puzzle

Sometime back, a grateful client gifted a lawyer an iPhone 5s, which was the best phone he could think of. She carries her work files on a USB stick, and there’s no easy way to transfer those to an iPhone. She’s not particularly tech savvy, and my advice of USB to PC to Dropbox went right over her head. She ended up passing on the phone to her husband who later dropped it in a bucket of water but that’s a different story. That incident made me curious. If you plan to gift a phone, how do you choose the right one?

I think an analogy of dating may give a clue. After all, most of us will most probably spend more time with our phones than our partners. So we tend to check out the field, find a phone that fits in well with our lives, spend some time on courtship, and only then take it home to meet the family. In a sense, it depends less on what the phone is, and more on we are, what we need, what we don’t need, our likes, our peeves.

Like last evening, I was trying to book a couple of train tickets at short notice. Checked it on an app on my old iPhone 4. Found just two tickets left on the train. I hit the buy button, and started the buy process. It was a bit confusing on the tiny 3.5" screen packed with train numbers, dates, times, ticket costs, ID numbers, credit card numbers. Also the app was running slow on the old phone. Eventually something went wrong, and the app crashed. I panicked wondering if the tickets would sell out, and hurriedly switched to my new big screen, Android. Things became a lot clearer, my luck held, and the transaction went through smoothly.

That incident was quite revealing on what I expect from my phone. A big screen as I use my device not just for reading, but also for working. Updated hardware as I can’t afford to have apps crash on me. A reasonable price so I can write it off after a couple of years, and upgrade to newer technology. Lastly, a decent battery, and ability to connect my USB stick in case I’m travelling and have to shoot photos and videos that require extra storage.

That certainly narrowed things down. And explains why I just got myself a $150 (Android) with a 5" Full HD screen, a battery that lasts a day, connectivity to my USB stick, and loaded with current tech that won’t be outdated for a year or two at least.

But one man’s phone is another’s woman’s puzzle. My wife, for instance, would be lost with my new Android with its constantly changing look (theme) and its nerdy USB access. She’s quite comfy with her iPhone 4, and is not too fond of change. It’s compact, light, handy to carry around, and easy to use. Her use of mobiles is restricted to calls, messaging, emails, and maybe a bit of browsing. She doesn’t use too many apps, and doesn’t bother about such mundane things as app updates. Her comment about the iPhone 6+ was why anyone would want to carry such a huge phone.

Now move back a generation to my wife’s mother. She prefers big numbers for her aging eyes. She really loves the redial button in its familiar corner that she can dial with her eyes closed. Touchscreen phones with their constantly changing dialpad and menus is confusing and very demanding on her eyes. The mobile she will be comfortable is the old Nokia type with an actual physical keyboard. Don’t get me wrong, she is not really tech phobic, and plays her huge music collection on an old iPad. She just doesn’t need tech on her phone. The saying, horses for courses, comes to mind.

Skip two generations forward to her grandson, a college going youngster who is into composing music. The iOS app, ‘Garageband’ is his go to app. The kid’s on a tight budget and iPhones are a stretch. But he got lucky, with a hand me down, iPhone 5S from his Dad (its Touch ID had failed on an unplanned excursion into a bucket full of water).

His school going cousin wants a phone too. What she needs is more a style accessory that can do social, a bit of music and some games. Again latest tech is not so important. A phone for her would have to be slim and svelte with a good selfie camera. Personally customised cases encrusted with gems are her thing.

Her older cousin, on the other hand, is a bit of a nerd. He needs a phone he can fiddle with, customise, share music, and run heavy games. He drools over high end specs, spouting jargon like Octa Core, 4GB RAM, rooting and jailbreaking. The kid managed to collect enough money to get the One Plus One, an Android crammed with tech without being too pricey.

Then there are specialist needs, like my designer friend who’s wants a phone that can replace his DSLR camera. He uses an Apple Mac so an iPhone is familiar country. He’s zeroed in on the iPhone 6S or the 6S+ for its excellent camera. His issue is optical stabilisation only comes on the big screen iPhones, but they aren’t exactly handy. Also, lots of photos mean more space. Higher storage iPhones are far more expensive but he may not have an option as Apple doesn’t make it easy to connect external storage.

And finally there’s the phone junkie who’s nuts about all things phones, like the typical Apple fanboi and his Android counterpart. He’s the exception who buys a phone for what it is, and not what it does. If he can afford it, he will always have the latest phone or couple of phones on him, and will trade them in as soon as the next new phone comes along. Yes, we all know who we are talking about, don’t we?

So if you ever thinking of gifting a phone, ask yourself not what phone they want, but what they want of their phone.