Technology

Verizon Has The iPhone. Now Can We Please Put The Phone Wars To Bed?

A demonstration model of the iPhone 4, displayed at the Vodafone Newmarket store on July 30, 2010 in Auckland, New Zealand. i i

hide captionA demonstration model of the iPhone 4, displayed at the Vodafone Newmarket store on July 30, 2010 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Hannah Johnston/Getty Images
A demonstration model of the iPhone 4, displayed at the Vodafone Newmarket store on July 30, 2010 in Auckland, New Zealand.

A demonstration model of the iPhone 4, displayed at the Vodafone Newmarket store on July 30, 2010 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

I think it's my graceless monkey fingers.

My graceless monkey fingers — functional, with opposable thumbs, but not anything one would sculpt from marble or memorialize in verse — are the reason I don't like touch-screen keyboards. They are therefore the reason I wouldn't want an iPhone, and they are therefore the reason why, even though I have Verizon, even though Verizon announced today that it's getting the iPhone, I'll be sticking with my Android phone.

My Android phone is a Droid 2, you see, which is The Official Smartphone Of Graceless Monkey Fingers. It has a slide-out physical keyboard, so that if I am typing a significant amount of text, I can do it with a real keyboard with real buttons that even a monkey could push. Moreover, the only reason I even use the touchscreen keyboard on the Droid as much as I do is that the phone came with Swype, software that lets me type without lifting my finger to type every letter. (You could literally use Swype via knuckle-dragging, come to think of it, which may take my metaphor to places I wish not to go.) The iPhone still doesn't play particularly nicely with Swype, at least not without significant fiddling. But it came preinstalled on my phone, and it helped me feel like I was living in my own Flowers For Algernon of touch-screen texting. Only hopefully, you know, without the tragic regression at the end.

I tell you all this not because my particular phone preferences are relevant to anything, and not to become too confessional on the topic of my fingers, but because, with all due respect to all participants on all sides, the phone wars have got to be the silliest thing on the planet that you can still get people to yell at each other about. And if the Verizon iPhone does nothing else, perhaps it will begin to calm those wars down just a little.

If we're going to stop yelling at each other so much in general, it certainly seems like it wouldn't be a bad idea to begin by not going to rhetorical, insult-hurling war with anyone over things like what phone they prefer. Maybe there can't be peace on earth. But there doesn't need to be so much swearing over which version of Angry Birds you wind up playing in line at the post office. (I am having some issues with level 4-14, by the way. I'll work through it.)

Many of my friends have, and love, and I'm guessing occasionally caress and kiss (hey, I don't pry) their iPhones. I think iPhones are snazzy. They certainly have more apps available for them than my Android phone does — even apps from NPR. They're a little thinner, certainly, partly because they don't have that slide-out keyboard. Just because they said it in the Diff'rent Strokes theme song doesn't mean it isn't true: "What might be right for you might not be right for some."

It's the same thing with the iPad, really. I didn't exactly get why anyone would want one when they came out, and I still certainly don't covet one, especially after getting my hands on the thing and discovering that its dimensions make it seem specially designed to be impossible for me to hold comfortably. (Wait — is that device monkey-finger-proof also? I may be onto something.) But I've seen them. They're pretty. They work as they're meant to. Other people like them. If I had unlimited funds and someone else's hands, I can entirely see the charm.

Here's the thing: To my knowledge, no one is going to line you up and require you to purchase an iPhone if you are happy with the monkey-friendly phone you have now. You can choose to be in bed with whatever companies you like, or you can dislike mobile technology, or you can put a rotary phone on your desk and call yourself Commissioner Gordon. As long as I have what serves me and you have what serves you, I feel no need to explain to you why you would be better off with my phone, and I'll thank you not to explain why I would be better off with your phone. Why? Because these things inevitably devolve into battles about how the brand name on the thing you use to type "I'm down the street — I'll see you in 10 minutes" says something about whether you are an independent free thinker or a tool of The Man.

And this is crazy talk.

There are plenty of decisions in this arena that can be validly questioned and debated. I freely admit that since I was already using Gmail and Google Maps and Google Talk and other Googly things, using an Android phone (which is a Google-powered device) is very convenient for me. Other people would look at that decision and drop their jaws in horror, because for them, that's the equivalent of installing a McDonald's-brand stove in your house that has a special setting for heating up Chicken McNuggets and concluding that you've been well-served. I get it. But if this makes us call each other names, something has gone horribly wrong.

Have an iPhone. Have Verizon. Have AT&T. Have Sprint, or T-Mobile. Stick Post-It notes to your forehead. Nobody is defined by his or her technology affiliations. (At least I hope not, because I used to have an Ogo. Not even a phone! Good only for texting! I was an early adopter of brow-wrinkling futility. I've moved on.)

Maybe with this opportunity as a beginning, we can take baby steps toward calming down across the board. Maybe we can start here, and if one more deal between the companies that have all our money means more phones in more places and more choices for everyone and fewer reasons for AT&T versus Verizon versus HOW CAN YOU TRUST STEVE JOBS and GOOGLE EATS PEOPLE, then that's a step in the right direction.

I, as a Verizon/Android person, hereby extend my graceless monkey fingers in friendship to the iPhone/Apple people. We've all got bigger fish to fry.

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