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Communications, interpersonal communications, iPhone, smart phone, privacy,

by Walter Brasch

My son’s best friend bought an iPhone shortly after they were first released in 2007.

Not long after my son’s friend got his Apple iPhone, he got an app—the Atomic fart. It appealed to his—and millions’ of others’—junior high school sense of humor, although by the time they could digitally play a series of farts, they were long past puberty.

The First Fart was a simple recreation. There were several upgrades, each of which added numerous possibilities. The current app has 30 possibilities, including a whoopee cushion fart, a fireworks fart, a drum solo fart, and the “1812 Overture Fart.” It was only less annoying than dogs barking “Jingle Bells” at Christmas time.

For the complete prankster, high-tech programmers have given fun-seekers an app that has a time delay; anyone can secretly place the iPhone near an unsuspecting nebbish, quickly move to the other side of the room, and then wait.

Far Apps has now sold more than 10 million Atomic Farts, most going for 99 cents. The return-on-investment for the iPhone is even better. Within seven years of the phone’s release, Apple would sell more than 250 million units, about one-fourth of all smart phones sold worldwide.

The first iPhones sold for $499–$599. The fifth generation iPhone lists for $600–$650. Production costs—all are made in China by workers paid less than $2 an hour—are about $12–30 a unit, according to business analyst and former Nokia executive Horace Dediu.
Loaded with programs and third-party apps, smart phones aren’t just a phone, but an instant way to send and receive text messages, get email, connect to facebook, Linked-in, Instagram, and dozens of other ways to “communicate” without ever having to look at the other person. It can also tell you where in the world you are, how to get to any part of the world, and even turn on the lights and coffee pot in your home from half a world away. It can’t yet bring you the coffee, however.

Millions of smart phone owners can take pictures or short videos. Those who yawned through their friends’ slide shows of vacation trips can now yawn through hundreds of selfies, photos of bar scene escapades, and their friend’s two-year-old nephew, all stored  stored on a phone.

With smart phones hermetically sealed to their ears and their senses otherwise occupied, millions of people can now walk into doors, walls, and ponds while concentrating on staying in touch.

People with smart phones tend to think of everyone else having instant communication. A business associate of mine was upset when I didn’t immediately return his email. That’s because the email went to my desk computer and not to a smart phone, which I don’t have.
I do have a cell phone. It has an external antenna. When I took it into the Verizon store a few months ago to have it fixed, the 20-something techs gathered around to admire something they considered to be ancient archeology.

I can’t text. I don’t have access to the Internet or Facebook to out find out what some distant acquaintance is having for lunch. I can just make phone calls. (I never leave it “on,” so calling me on the phone is useless.) I get 30 minutes a month and unlimited time on evenings and weekends. I seldom use up the 30 minutes. That’s because I have a phone at home and at work. I don’t need to be babbling incoherently while walking or driving. Nor do I, unlike most Americans who pay more than $100 a month for iPhone service, think I’m not important enough to wait for a never-to-be-received call from the President who needs instant advice on a world situation—or some buddy who texts me, “R U there? Wanna do something?”

A year or so ago, a friend said she admired how productive I was. That happens because I don’t have a smart phone—and no need to check every quarter hour how my paltry stock portfolio is doing, or if Angry Birds are upset with me.

Yes, I don’t have an iPhone. And I don’t have an Atomic Fart. There’s no need for artificial farts in my life.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation into fracking, with emphasis on political, economic, health, and environmental issues throughout the country.]

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