Help! My Livelihood (phone) is Useless

The past four evenings were a little tough for me. On Halloween night, right as I left work my iPhone 5S inexplicitly stopped working. In the top left hand corner of my phone the usually trusty AT&T logo was swapped out with the word “searching.” It was impossible to make a call. Sending any type of text was out of the question. If I wasn’t in a wifi supported area, I couldn’t do a darn thing on my phone. What was going on?

On my way home from work I did all the little tricks I could think of to get my phone functioning. When I arrived to my apartment and I still had a malfunctioning phone I busted out my laptop and started looking at Apple pages and internet forums for possible answers to resurrecting my device. Nothing worked. Of all nights for my phone to take a nosedive, did it really have to be Halloween? So much for receiving photos of my niece dressed in her costume, tough luck on getting trick-or-treater updates from my mom (I now know they had 259 total children come to their door), and forget about sending out any photos of Sidney and I in our costumes. But the bitterest pill to swallow was not sending out my holiday message. A streak was broken and that hurt.

The next few days sent me on a wild goose chase to fix my phone. No need to list all the places I stopped at and the numerous people I spoke with because the list is long. While everyone tried their absolute best, no one had an answer except that I had a faulty phone. In perhaps the lowest moment, an attempt last night to completely wipe out and restore my device completely backfired when we went to activate my phone it just wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t get past the activation screen, thus making my phone 100% useless in every way, shape, and form.

This morning I was given a loaner phone until Apple sends me a brand new device. After 84 hours of not being able to connect on a social, voice, and text level, it was so nice to be up and running.

The story ends happily! i now have a phone.

The story ends happily! i now have a phone.

I know many of you might consider me a materialistic phone-dependent jerk, but take into consideration what I do. As a guy who works in social media, my iPhone is my livelihood. Think about a chef for a second. If you took away his oven, he could still manage to get the job done and serve food using alternative means but it would severely cripple him. The same goes for me with my iPhone. It depleted a lot of the tools I have at my disposal but because of some creativity and my great intern we made it through.

Of course there is the personal aspect of it as well. Not having the option to communicate with others sucks. The thought of getting in an accident or experiencing an emergency while phoneless also plays with your brain a bit. It was because of this reason combined with not having phone navigation that I made the easy decision not to venture anywhere unnecessary over the last several days.

However, I can now put my professional concerns and personal fears behind me. I presently have a functioning phone and soon I will have a brand new device. I want to thank Samantha Cherry from HTC for providing me with some great help and customer service over the past couple days. My dear friends, please never take your phones for granted, you never know when the power it gives you could be suddenly shut off. Don’t Blink.

The Five Best Built-In Apps

With over a million apps available to download via the App Store a person can download enough material to make his or her iPhone a gold mine of information, constant entertainment, and never ending communication. While my iPhone only goes three pages deep I do admit that I rely pretty heavily on several apps. However, if I didn’t have a job that centers on social media and if someone gave me $50 to delete all of my downloaded applications I could easily make do with the built-in tools that come installed on the iPhone.

Apple doesn’t drop its customers off in the middle of the desert and make them scavenge for resources. Quite the opposite actually. Luckily for us iPhone users we are pretty much set up right from the start when we activate our devices for the first time. Apple includes many valuable built-in apps that really give us all we need. Without ever visiting the App Store an iPhone without any downloaded apps will already make the user more technically advanced than 98% of the world’s population.

As I alluded to in a tweet last week I use several built-in iPhone apps religiously to get me through everyday life. In tonight’s blog post I would like to identify my top five:

1. Camera – The fact that the camera on my iPhone is my #1 most used built-in app probably comes as no surprise. With my obsession with taking photos combined with the high quality photos attainable with an iPhone most people won’t blink an eye when I tell them I have over 2,000 pictures saved on my device. I remember back in the day when a “camera phone” that could capture grainy photos if you managed to hold it completely still was a big deal. What a long ways we have come. Nowadays everyone is a photographer thanks to the powerful cameras on iphones.

Who doesn't like a camera that makes it so easy to take selfies?

Who doesn’t like a camera that makes it so easy to take selfies?

2. Alarm Clock – Thank goodness for the alarm clock feature on all iPhones! Not only is it always dependable and not only can you choose between 30 different tones to wake you up each morning but you can also add like six different alarms at once. The iPhone makes it so you never have an excuse to oversleep again. Did I mention the snooze option is great too? Not only do I use my iPhone alarm clock every single morning but I also use it throughout the day to remind me of certain events or appointments. Although I use the built-in “Night Owl” sound for most of my alarm tones I do every now and then use a song on my phone as my wake-up call (yes, I have been known to utilize Katy Perry’s “I’m Wide Awake” for this purpose).

I wake up at 6 a.m. each morning.

I wake up at 6 a.m. each morning.

3. Navigation – This tool is an absolute lifesaver (I have actually devoted a whole blog post to Navigation). If I was in a position where I was traveling all the time the Navigation feature most definitely would have earned the #1 spot on my list. I can’t begin to quantify the countless times I have driven around random cities for the first time with complete confidence because I knew my iPhone navigation would not lead me astray. Even here in Missoula I use it a lot when visiting residences or holes in the wall I have never frequented before. The fact that the tool will always lead you to Point A to Point B no questions asked makes it very valuable in my book.

In case I ever forget how to get home I can always just plug my address in and my phone will work its magic.

In case I ever forget how to get home I can always just plug my address in and my phone will work its magic.

4. Notepad – Dang I use my notepad like crazy. If you opened my phone and opened the feature you would see about ten different notes a mile long each. I jot down passwords, addresses, combinations, measurements, reminders, and even my Christmas list. Although sometimes I will go the route of just sending a text message to myself more often than not I utilize the notepad. Earning extra points from me is the option to e-mail your notes and print them off.

The notepad feature on my iPhone always keeps me on task.

The notepad feature on my iPhone always keeps me on task.

5. Calendar- Lastly, I use my calendar on my iPhone more than any other calendar. Whenever someone presents me with a date way in advance I always use my calendar on my phone to scope it out and see what day it is on. I also love going back several years as well to see when certain dates fell, a very informative and quick way to look at the past. The convenience of also adding notes to certain dates, setting reminders, and writing out schedules also adds to my love of the calendar app.

I can easily trace back to the day I was born!

I can easily trace back to the day I was born!

While all the million other apps out there are a lot of fun I appreciate that Apple hooks us up with the essentials. I would most likely choose the built-in apps over the flashy apps available in the store any day. I am just glad it will never have to come to that. Don’t Blink.

Texting With Emoticons

I will go out on a limb and say that emoticons play a large role in our contemporary text messaging language. Not something reserved strictly to teenage girls anymore, you can find pretty much anyone with a smart phone inserting emoticons into their texting conversations.

My guess is that most of you have seen emoticons before, but not all of you might know the term. At the start, emoticons were just facial expressions made by using colons, semi-colons, parentheses, etc . These days they are full blown mini pieces of clip art that people use to add expression and meaning to their text messages. To access a database that contains hundreds of these pictures, most people simply download an app that sets them up.

Emoticons are used all the time in text messages.

Emoticons are used all the time in text messages.

Remember five years ago when grammar buffs and educators were appalled and scared out of their minds about the prospect of the short hand ways of texting and instant messaging ending up in the academic arena? Well, because of the widespread use and acceptance of emoticons I think seventh grade teachers have even more to worry about than just seeing “IMO” or “BTW” on a report. I think they should start bracing themselves to see images of cats with hearts for eyes, Pac-Man fruit, and praying hands on the next term paper. I really don’t think it is that far off.

But besides the extreme examples of emoticons corrupting the educational system, what can they really offer the millions of people using them for their intended purpose (communicating via text)?

In my opinion, I like them. I think people can actually be really clever with them and make conversations fun. I think they do help add meaning and context to text messages, kind of a visual hash tag if you will. I further think that emoticons show engagement and interest by the texter. When someone takes the time to send a text message that took them six seconds to send because they selected an emoticon as opposed to three seconds to send if they opted not to use one, it shows that there is a level of care and thought.

Yes, I do think there is the tendency for some people to go a little crazy with emoticons. Sometimes it is cool to see people tell stories with a string of 24 different pictures but if that is primarily how they communicate then chances are I don’t text them on a regular basis. I also think care needs to be taken on what emoticons you send someone, as sometimes people interpret them differently. For example, I was texting my friend the other day and she responded with the thumbs up emoticon. To me the thumbs up image came across as sarcastic. Even though I knew I was reading too deep into it and she even assured me that there was no sarcasm intended at all, it became clear to me that emoticons can send mixed signals.

Personally, I am a moderate emoticon user. I throw in an emoticon every now and then to my friends but I don’t by any means rely on them. I am a fan of using the weirdest, funniest looking ones to randomly insert into conversations.

Emoticons will continue to hold prominent spots in texting conversations. The available database will no doubt just get bigger and bigger as time rolls on and companies keep introducing new sets. The opportunities to spice up conversations will continue to grow, something that I think is a great thing. I embrace emoticons for use in the casual text message but I am with all the academics out there…don’t ever think about inserting one into something that you are going to turn in. Don’t Blink.

Losing My Text Messages

I save everything. While not to the degree as someone on “Hoarders”, I am a little bit of a pack rat. Notes, cards, matchbooks, key chains, napkins, church bulletins, invitations, funeral programs, boutonnières, pens, and many more trinkets and documents are all things I have kept around much longer than I probably should. Both at my parents’ house in Spokane and in storage here in Missoula I have boxes and boxes of items that I don’t need but that I just can’t seem to get rid of. Besides physical items, I also hold on to something else that I have a hard time getting rid of….text messages.

Last week a message popped up on my iPhone 5 after I sent out a text. It read: Your SMS mailbox is full. New messages cannot be received until you delete some messages. A little bit irked, I went through my phone and erased some text messages I could live without. This was actually pretty easy. You see, since I had gotten my first iPhone a little under two years ago, I had never erased one single text message. All you who have iPhones know how it is, with the way text messaging is handled on our devices you never really have the need to delete messages. Everything is so organized and messages never seem to build up because all conversations are neatly grouped under the name of the person you are texting with. However, the time had come to start doing some housekeeping.

As I said, I went through and deleted probably around 20 message threads, mostly from numbers that I did not even have a name assigned to. I thought that would more than do the trick…but it didn’t. I quickly realized that I was not getting SMS messages. While I was still able to get iMessages, I was completely shut out from getting texts from people who did not have iPhones. This meant that I couldn’t communicate via text with several of my friends, a person who I was doing some work for, and my parents. Maybe the biggest gut shot of all, I could no longer receive my Twitter SMS updates that I depended on to keep me up to date with the world. Thinking that it was maybe something that would fix itself overnight, I told myself not to worry. Unfortunately, the next day I was not receiving SMS updates either. I turned off my phone and turned it back on about a dozen times. Each time I powered up my phone again and went to the messaging feature the same “Your SMS mailbox is full…” message popped up. Panicked, I decided to delete more messages.

Throughout the day I went through my phone and conducted “rounds of cuts” on my text messages. At this point I was still erasing threads from people that I had no real connection to. I realized I probably should have erased many of them long ago because they were all so insignificant and they really were just taking up space. But after round and round of cuts, by late evening I didn’t have too much “dead wood” left in my inbox anymore yet I was still getting the dreaded message.

The next morning I awoke and turned my phone off and turned it back on again…same message. At this point I started to get frustrated. I had gone over 36 hours without receiving a single SMS text. I had people I needed to communicate with. I called my carrier and explained the whole problem to a support employee. She kind of laughed and told me, “Dear, you need to continue to delete more text messages.” I didn’t really understand. When I first got the “mailbox is full message” I probably had 400 different message threads in my text messaging inbox. I had since decreased that down to under 100 different threads. I mean if my phone was working just fine when I had 399 threads going and the tipping point was 400 threads, shouldn’t I have been just fine after deleting 50 threads? I thought I had already gone extreme by deleting 75% of my inbox. Now she wanted me to delete even more?

Dejected I went through and deleted more messages through a very rigorous process. It was sad, the messages I had remaining in my inbox all meant something to me. Clever texts, meaningful texts, emotional texts, some life changing texts. I didn’t want to delete any of them, but again, I had to communicate with the outside world. With a heavy thumb, I went through and deleted about 95% of my inbox. Could you imagine what was going through my head when after I had decreased my inbox by 95% I was still getting that stupid message?

It was now Friday morning. I had lost SMS capabilities on Tuesday evening and I had also lost many of the text conversations I held dear to my heart. I once again called my carrier to get something figured out. That initial call was the first of many that day. In an agonizing process I was shuffled between reps from my carrier and reps from Apple in trying to solve my problem and get my text messaging capabilities restored. Call after call, different person after different person, possible trouble shooting solution after possible trouble shooting solution. The ultimate low of the whole ordeal came when one guy told me to turn my iMessage command off and then turn it back on to see if it would somehow revive all SMS messaging. I did just that, well the first part anyway. While I was able to turn off the command, I was unable to turn it back on. And just like that, my phone was unable to receive a text message of any form whatsoever.

I went and worked out hard, taking my frustration out on the weights. As workouts always do for me, I felt better at the conclusion of it. I was once again ready to try to restore functionality to my phone.

With my head cleared, I was ironically transferred to someone working for Apple who also seemed to have his head cleared as well. He immediately realized the problem and hit me with the truth: There was a software malfunction on my phone. Although I was deleting messages from my phone, the brains inside it kept throwing up the “mailbox is full” message not realizing that messages were in fact getting deleted. My software on my iPhone was corrupt. The only solution was to completely wipe out my phone and restore it. Bye bye two years worth of apps, data, and memories.

The guy who diagnosed my problem was a complete pro. Although I lost a lot, including my text messages, he was able to salvage my contacts and my 4,000 pictures once we restored my phone. The second I powered up my phone in the new restored version, text messages started to come through…it was a beautiful thing. Much to my chagrin, however, all the messages sent from Tuesday evening through the restoration time on Friday were cut off. I never received one of them to my phone. Who knows what important texts I never received.

It still stings a little thinking about all the text messages I lost. Encouraging ones from my parents, supportive ones from my brother, funny ones from my friends, special ones from my girlfriend, unique ones that only meant something to me from all different kinds of people. Also lost were all the drafts of my holiday messages from the past two years. But what can you do? Sometimes you do need to let go and start fresh. I will never get those texts back but I know that better ones are on the way. Don’t Blink.