This morning I helped an elderly couple pick their first ever smartphone. It was a wonderful experience; eye-opening at times.

I have known them for a while, and they have been telling me for a couple of months that they wanted to buy an iPhone. I had asked them to wait until Apple launched their newest phone. My first suggestion would have been the 3GS. With the introduction of the iPhone 4S, Apple has dropped the price of the 3GS to nought. And since the people in question were not very tech-savvy, I figured the 3GS would be an excellent first phone and it required no initial outlay.

However they were Verizon customers already, so the 3GS, which is AT&T-only, was immediately ruled out.

Naturally, my next suggestion was the iPhone 4. Yes, the Verizon store did have a number of Android devices on display. But their son had told them that Android would be very complicated for them. In any case, I am aesthetically and now morally ;-) opposed to Android.

I should have suggested the 4S, but didn’t want to push it for two reasons. Firstly, the iPhone 4 is “similar in many respects” to the iPhone 4S, and is comparatively less expensive. Secondly, the folks in question are Korean and they have a thick accent; I wasn’t sure of how much use Siri would be to them. Oh, also they could get the iPhone 4 right away.

Jane took the demo iPhone 4 in her hands. I explained the home button to her, and how everything was an app. I showed them how to make a call. She wanted to take a picture, and I showed her how the Camera app worked.

Her next question was, “How do I find out where the nearest, hmm, department store is?” Well, we were standing right next door to a Target, but hey!

So I showed her how to do a Google search with Safari, or search for a place using Maps.

I must admit this was a bit of a downer for her. Her reaction was “Oh, this means I must do a lot of typing!”

The iPhone 4S was right there. I told her, “Well, you might want to give this a try.” Her husband stepped in and said, “I am not sure if this will be useful for us. It might not work with our accent.” I was glad he understood my concern.

Jane wanted to give it a try nevertheless. She held the phone close to her face, and said, “Would you please tell me where the nearest department store is?” Her husband smiled, “You don’t need to be so polite to the phone.

But Siri was already at work. “One moment. Let me get your location…

A few seconds later. “I found seven department stores close by. I have arranged them by distance.

I could see that they had made up their mind. I was enjoying this quite a lot. So much that I didn’t mind that Siri had slapped my wrist for underestimating her ability.

Next. “Would you please tell me what is playing at the Ambler Theater?

Siri thought about it, but could not understand fully. Maybe she was overwhelmed by Jane’s politeness!

Another try. “Ambler Theater showtimes.

This was more to Siri’s liking. She pulled up Google search results for the search query.

Next. “Remind me to go to the dentist. Monday morning. 10 o’clock.

Siri: “I have added this item. I will remind you. Is this OK?

Next. “Remind me about Josh’s birthday. November 4.

Siri: “I have made an appointment at 9AM on November 4, 2011. Is this OK?

Jane put the demo phone down, walked up to the counter and said emphatically, “White iPhone 4s. 16GB. When can you deliver it?”

May the 4S be with them!

P.S.: I remember listening to Harold Hambrose a few years ago at a conference on bringing digital innovation to inner cities. At the time, the city of Philadelphia was rolling out free Wi-Fi throughout the city and had expected that this would help people living in poorer neighborhoods to take part in the digital revolution. Harold predicted correctly that this was bound to fail. The free Wi-Fi didn’t work at most times, and when it did, it was poor at best. Harold’s reasoning was that when introducing a product or a service to the uninitiated, if those that it was intended to serve found it lacking, they would never take to it; in fact, it might have the exact negative effect on them, reinforcing their belief that technology is designed to be inaccessible. He aptly compared it to Elaine’s idea of giving muffin stumps to the homeless in The Muffin Tops episode from Seinfeld.

A5 processor. Spanking new 8MP camera. iOS5. All these mean nothing to someone buying a smartphone for the very first time. But being able to talk to your phone asking it to remind you on your grandson’s birthday; you cannot place a value on that. I felt like I was in a MasterCard commercial. Thank you, Siri!

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26 Comments on After Apple-picking

  1. suresh s says:

    apple pickin nice title

  2. VSN says:

    Good one. But……already there are sparks flying all over the place on ” poor battery life “. Suggest do some research on this n update.

  3. Thomson says:

    Hello VK,

    I happened to go through your blog a couple of days back and was impressed. Let me get straight to the point. We have a forum at http://www.chennaichatter.com exclusively for Chennai-ites where we discuss various issues pertaining to Chennai and the nation. I think it would be great if you join us and take part in the debates. It would add a whole new class to the discussions.

    Have a great day!
    Thomson.

  4. vending machines los angeles says:

    I love iPhone 4S.I personally believe that no one can be ahead from this great company.
    Their innovative engineer is extreme.

  5. Hemanth says:

    Love your posts. But why are they too few and far between ? Or is that the reason I love them?

  6. Read your post for the first time. And I loved it.. Please keep on updating with kind of useful post.

  7. Shweta says:

    What are the odds! Yesterday I was assisting an old man with a Samsung touchscreen phone in Bangalore :-) ..in India, “apples” are not that abundant (pun intended). And today I reach your blog out of nowhere – for the first time, and I get to read how you were assisting someone far far away (from my vantage point of course)!

  8. I says:

    How about getting a fucking life? Talking and having sex and the phone is getting old.

  9. I says:

    Sorry typo. Talking and masturbating with a phone, fantasizing a homosexual relationship with Steve fucking Jobs is getting so old. You are a fucking loser.

  10. Anu says:

    Hi , I am from Handygo technologies & we encourage the upcoming Authors by giving them a Platform to Publish their writing . your work seems interesting, Please share your contact detail on anu.sharma@handygo.com

  11. sam says:

    I’ve had my iPhone 5 for just over 4 days now. The experience is great and I’m loving it so far.

  12. GM says:

    Give me one good reason why you stopped blogging ? Continue blogging please..

  13. Dewang vora says:

    i must say wow ..!!!
    The way you have scripted it just reminded me how my mother has done the same but not iPhone there it was a smart phone …
    Good to read your blog ..!!!!

    Am gonna follow you now on. :)

  14. I says:

    Banned sales, shrinking market and margins? Did you kill yourself Apple fucktard?

  15. Tempsens says:

    you has written so many nice blogs continue writing…
    http://www.tempsens.com/rtds.html

  16. Shirisha says:

    Very well Narrated!!! Thanks for sharing such a nice story!!!

  17. radhika says:

    (Check out: A very informative website on personality training – group discussion and interviews! management and banking aspiring youth must check out! http://www.gdpitrainers.com)

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