Outsmarting the smartphone

I just got a new smartphone. It does everything – manages my e-mail, keeps my calendar, gives me driving directions, downloads books, sends messages, does my taxes, walks the dog and cooks breakfast.

So why am I not deliriously happy?

Is it because I’ve been up late the last three nights trying to figure out how to perform this phone’s simplest tasks, such as finding the button that turns it on?

Is it because it is a touch-screen phone, which kind of gives me the willies because I can’t stand fingerprints on shiny surfaces?

Yes and yes. But there’s more.

It appears the phone may be smarter than its owner. There may be no limit to what it can do, but the same cannot be said of the owner.

Now, lest you get the wrong impression, I am no Luddite, no Flintstone. I embrace the changes brought by modern technology. I love my computer and my cable TV and my cell phone. Well, maybe not so much on that last one.

Part of that is because I am a guy, and guys are easily distracted by shiny things that make noise. This explains cars, stereos and shotguns. But there’s more.

I have doomed myself to a lifetime of frustration. The quickening pace of technological advancement also accelerates the pace of obsolescence. As soon as you buy the newest, fastest, most powerful thingamajig, an even newer, faster, more powerful one becomes available.

That’s the problem with trying to keep up with technology: You can’t.

You start to ponder this stuff and inevitably, the questions begin: Do I need 1,000 channels of TV? Do I need to be available to the world 24/7? Do I need a computer to do what I used to do with a typewriter or, before that, a pen and paper?

But about this new phone: It really is a marvel. Not that long ago, it would have required a Univac machine the size of your living room to do all the stuff that now can be done with a gizmo that fits in your hand.

In time, I’m sure I’ll learn to use my phone properly, to exploit its full technological value. I’m sure it will be wonderful. And I’m just as sure as soon as I do, someone will come up with something faster and more powerful. But that’s a problem for another day.

Right now, I’d just like to know how to get the silly thing to make a phone call.