Isabella’s Cellphone Biography

These days, I would say I have a cell phone because it feels like a necessity. 

I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (not the exploding one!) which is a replacement for an iPhone 5 I had during undergrad.  The iPhone was lost on a family trip during December. After returning from B.C. to Seattle and then to DC, I lived without any phone for a month. The experience was stressful at times (if I needed to go to a place I’d never been before or if I had to meet someone outside of the house, there was no “safety net” for directions or if a friend was running late) but also very peaceful since there were fewer distractions (both my own phone use and the frequency of interaction created in phone contact). During this experience, I did come to recognize the phone as a certain level of necessity.  Without one, I felt removed from society and very embarrassed when I had to explain I didn’t have a phone (yet) to my new bosses. 

In returning to the cellular world, I went through many intermediary steps: I used someone’s deactivated iPhone 4 so that I could certain functions (like maps, certain messaging apps) when I had wifi, then I got a burner phone by Microsoft at the Columbia Heights Target, which I paid for month by month until getting a new phone (I still have it as an emergency backup device). Finally, I reactivated my original cell phone number on a new Samsung device at the Adams Morgan AT&T store. I’m lucky enough to still be on the family plan with AT&T which I have been on for my whole cellular life. 

My first phone was a Samsung brick that I got when I was around 12 with the nominal purpose of keeping in touch with parents (this was at a time when none of my peers had their own phones, so I couldn’t text any friends). In junior high, I was gifted a Razor flip phone one birthday and used it for several years as well.  Afterwards, I got a cell phone (I can’t remember the manufacturer) with a slide-out keyboard under the screen (the kind of phone designed to be held horizontally instead of vertically). Then I got my first smart phone: my first year in university, I briefly had a blackberry (because they were cool in my cohort). As everyone I knew shifted more and more reliably to Apple brand smartphones, I did as well. I had an iPhone 4 and upgraded to an iPhone 5 (the device lost during my family trip).

I have always tried to carry my phone on my body (pants pockets when possible, but often in a backpack while cycling to campus). I also have a long history of customizing phones. Naturally, I use photos that I like (not usually from my personal life but often from nature or other people’s art) as the wallpaper and lock screen (my current phone actually has “themes” which include wallpaper and lock screen art, as well as thematic icons for the apps). I also usually use a case, since I am relatively clumsy and I don’t want a shattered screen. In junior high, I even made my own “case” by covering the phone in duct tape (though mostly for the visual effect not phone safety) but I only purchase a phone case for devices whose surface area is mostly a screen. 

My most used apps tend to be communicative, but I also use service based apps (whether is is Google Drive or Uber). Arguably, my most used app may in fact be Google Calendar. Among communicative apps, Snapchat, GroupMe (my gaming group has a thread we use), WhatsApp (for international friends), and FB Messanger are most used. Recently, I downloaded an audio recording app which can export large sound files. This has been very helpful during our research interviews!

I would say I am most anxious about losing my phone (more so than breaking it) but whether this has to do with a concern over my information or with a sense of existential loss, I couldn’t say.