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Opinion >  Column

Front Porch: Pettit answers smartphone challenge

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally gotten a smartphone and am learning how to drive it.

I’ve written here about my fondness for my old flip phone and its tenacious and stubborn hold on me, mostly, I think, because all I’m interested in is having a mobile phone. But, alas, time has moved on, even for me, and I have let it let go of me. I am now the timid owner of an iPhone 7. Yikes.

Buying the thing was more complicated than expected. Did I want an iPhone or an android? Which iPhone did I want? What color? Which case? Screen protector? Again, yikes. But these were the easy hurdles to overcome. I came to the retail store of my cellphone provider, as I had been advised, with assorted passwords and codes in hand so help could be given inputting some of the features I would want.

Upon purchase I was given an in-person tutorial, which was very nice, though it felt like drinking from a fire hose. I have seen so many friends groping with and coping with their own smartphones, vainly searching for photos, trying to do a thing (whatever that thing might be) and screwing it up somehow, going to take a photo and somehow taking six of the same shot and so many other misfires. I now understand how this happens.

I’m not sure that anyone of a certain age should be issued one of these devices and turned loose without proper and repeated instruction. I mean, we have to study and take a test to get our first driver’s license, right? Driving one of these gizmos can be just as hazardous, though not quite as lethal, without clear understanding of the power and intricacies involved.

Except, of course, if one is 12 years old, when iPhones and all things digital are second nature, intuitive and cause for mockery toward anyone not so enabled – namely, in this case, people like me.

So the in-store hand-holding and instruction took place and off I went. There is a nice little help app available on the smartphone, but it seems several of the things I needed help with weren’t included there. Like how do you shut the monster down for the night?

I tried several things. Nope. Finally I went to my desktop computer and Googled “turning off iPhone,” and I got the answer. But there are so many things to choose, like how hard do I want to tap the “on” button, with three choices given. C’mon people, this is a phone, don’t make it so hard.

With some struggle, and, admittedly, a bit of swearing, I managed to take a photo and send it to my son. I have managed texting, something my dearly departed flip phone was not equipped to handle, and this is facilitating communication with my sons – a definite plus. I can now also check email and Facebook on the darn thing – all things which I do rarely, but I can if I want to.

The feature I thought would be extraneous but has turned out to be quite helpful is the map function, which is surprisingly easy. I keyed in an address where we were going at Priest Lake and, voila, a step-by-step map appeared. Nice.

The biggest hassle is setting up the contacts list. When my previous phone was new, the contacts list could just be transferred right over from my even older flip phone. Not so now. I am inputting by hand all the phone numbers, and I’m not having any fun doing so.

I have a bit of a right-hand impairment, and so I really can’t do that lightning-fast two-thumbs-only keyboarding I see everywhere. I need to hold the phone in my right hand and “type” with my left index finger. Hopefully I’ll get faster at this, but right now, working on this contact list is ever so slow. And annoying.

I make a list (with pen and paper) of things I’m having trouble with, and every few days or so I return to the store and ask questions. And I always get answers. They are kind and patient with me.

I will take the class that is offered at the official Apple Store soon, but I want to go into it with some knowledge and experience, otherwise it will be more of that fire hose drinking experience again. I’m sure I’ll settle in and get comfortable with the new technology. I’ve got to come to grips with my curmudgeonly resistance some time, after all.

And who knows, I may actually make a phone call with my new phone one of these days.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at

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