Trouble with Your iPhone? Take a Class
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
JAMES HATTORI, host:
And I'm James Hattori.
The iPhone is still the buzz gadget of summer. People bought more than a quarter million of them in the first day they went on sale. The pricey little gizmos have all sorts of built-in features but there's one thing the phone does not come packaged with, a user's manual, as NPR's Alex Cohen found out.
ALEX COHEN: When I opened the little black box my iPhone came in and didn't find a user's guide, I figured, eh, no problem. After all, I'd seen those TV ads where the disembodied hand watched a movie and then looked up a local seafood restaurant.
(Soundbite of iPhone commercial)
Unidentified Man #1: So say you're watching "Pirates of the Caribbean." Hmm, did somebody say calamari?
COHEN: It looked so easy. But when I tried to pull off a similar maneuver, no luck. It took me a good 10 minutes just to figure out how to make a phone call.
Mr. DAMON BROWN (Author, "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the iPhone"): I think a lot of people who have seen that commercial assume that they'll be able to just glide from movie to Google Maps to searching for their favorite restaurant to calling them up for a reservation. It is very intuitive. It is very smooth. But it's also a very complex system.
COHEN: That's tech writer Damon Brown, who made me feel a little bit less like an idiot until I found out the title of his new book.
Mr. BROWN: "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the iPhone."
COHEN: Yeah. Thanks, Damon. Thanks a lot. But at least I'm not the only idiot who doesn't know how to use her phone.
Unidentified Man #2: Okay. We're starting with this morning's iPhone getting started.
COHEN: Across the country, Apple offers free basic iPhone classes at its stores.
Unidentified Man #1: If you tap the phone icon, you go into the phone application.
COHEN: Real estate agent Georgia Nichols(ph) said the class gave her the chance to learn about all sorts of features she hadn't discovered yet.
Ms. GEORGIA NICHOLS (Real Estate Agent): Powering off the phone. I had no idea you could even do that. Power it off all the way.
COHEN: And she adds this class was much easier to follow than a printed instruction manual.
Ms. NICHOLS: This is a lot better. It's, you know, interactive. I can see - I can do it on my phone.
COHEN: Apple also provides visual tutorials online.
Unidentified Man #3: On the left side of the iPhone, you'll find a volume up and down button and the silent ringer switch.
COHEN: As a way to market the product, Apple released these videos before the iPhone even came out.
Mr. ADAM LISTIGOR(ph) (Mac User): Nobody was actually using the thing but they felt like they have been. A friend of mine commented that he had nostalgia for a device that he'd never even used before.
COHEN: Twenty-nine-year-old self-described Mac nerd Adam Listigor says the old-school ways of learning about technology are long gone.
Mr. LISTIGOR: It seems completely natural that the way to learn about things is sort of tribal. You go to your elders, the people who know more about it, and they share their infinite wisdom.
COHEN: Listigor says tribal elders he recently met on an iPhone message board turned him on to a streaming music site called Seeqpod. A few days later, he saw a guy on the bus with his iPhone.
Mr. LISTIGOR: So a guy was using his iPhone and I said, do you know about Seeqpod? You know, nerd cred. And he said no. And he went to it right away from the bus and he goes, thanks man. You know, hey, you're welcome. We're in the iPhone club. We're cool now, like we never used to be. That's what it's about. We all feel cool now.
COHEN: David Pogue writes about technology for the New York Times and is a regular on NPR's MORNING EDITION. He says many of today's gadgets come without instructions.
Mr. DAVID POGUE (Technology Columnist, New York Times): Once that product is done, they want to ship it and start making money. They can't wait for the additional few weeks while a manual is proofread and fact-checked and finalized and printed and bound.
COHEN: Convenient for the tech companies and for David Pogue, who's written 65 unofficial user's manuals.
Mr. POGUE: I will cop to this. I blatantly exploit this trend of eliminating manuals.
COHEN: Now, before you start thinking that just maybe the tech companies and writers are in cahoots, getting sucker consumers to buy instructions that once came for free, David Pogue says keep this in mind. If you purchase an unofficial guide, you're much more likely to get the straight dope about your product.
Mr. POGUE: The person who buys the thing is getting a much better manual. I don't just mean mine. I mean any computer book is going to be more objective than what this company would produce themselves.
COHEN: And for those of us who don't want to shell out another 20 bucks for a book after spending $500 on a phone, Pogue was kind enough to note that Apple provides a 124-page iPhone manual online for free.
Alex Cohen, NPR News.
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