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A love letter to my smartphone

This year my smartphone sweetheart is the Nexus S 4G. This is a story of our love.
Written by Ricardo Bilton, Contributor

The Nexus S 4G.

I remember when we first met. I had just gotten off a bad relationship with my Palm Pre, which was marked by regret, disappointment, and a fair bit of heartbreak. Of all the Android devices I considered, the Nexus S seemed the most logical buy. It was well-designed and pure, enjoyable to hold, and more or less guaranteed to be supported by Google for far longer than most other phones. So I made my move.

There was a Best Buy and a contract, an exchange of $200 and a brief moment of self-doubt. I knew that, no matter what else was happening in my life during the next two years, chances are that I would have with me this same phone. That's not a commitment to take lightly.

It's also tough to maintain. Companies are constantly trying to entice me into being unfaithful, creating new phones with new features and bigger screens on a painfully consistent basis. Samsung did this with the Galaxy Nexus, Apple did it with the iPhone 4S, and Motorola sort of did it with the Droid Razr Maxx. There's always a phone that's more attractive, at least on the surface.

But they can never be my phone. There are lot of phones like my phone, but my phone is special:  My phone is mine. It has small scratches from when I dropped it, and remnants of my fingerprints from when I touched it. A blue Band-Aid covers up its Samsung logo, which is either a metaphor or evidence that I like the color blue. It's full of apps, wallpapers, and ringtones all of my choosing. It's my own handheld universe.

Doing It All, All The Time

My phone serves as an alarm clock, calendar, music player, research assistant, weatherman, ebook reader, and, in general, a constant link to the world. These are tasks just as easily accomplished on my computer, of course -- but with my phone its a bit different.

That's because my phone is almost perpetually attached to me, tucked in my pocket, or, more often, squeezed tightly in my palm. Our relationship isn't really romantic, but it is intimate, at least in the sense that we are rarely ever apart. That's 100% of the reason why I don't like letting others use it. The prying eyes, sweaty palms, and greasy faces of others are things I try to keep it away from. I guess I'm easily made jealous.

Not that it doesn't annoy me at times, of course. Sometimes my phone doesn't send texts, other times I can barely get a 3G signal. They're nitpicks, probably, but they appear often enough to border on annoying.

And then there are the slightly bigger "issues." The Nexus S 4G has no notification LEDs, no HDMI output, and no SD card slot. These are omissions that most reviewers took fault with, but they haven't bothered me too much. It has a web browser that I often use, a phone call feature that I rarely use, and 4G network access that I never use. This is the basic structure of our interaction.

But my favorite feature, above all, is its camera. It's not the most advanced lens around, but the Nexus S's back camera is always there when I need it. I've captured pictures of others' vomit, shots of lewd cupcakes, and, multiple times, images of "LOU REED" scrawled on bathroom walls. None of these pictures would have been taken otherwise, which makes my phone's camera the most indispensable feature it possesses. Portability alone makes it a far more useful camera than the cumbersome DSLR that I own. Is it any surprise why dedicated point-and-shoots are on their way out?

Becoming Indispensable

Before leaving home, I drum my pockets: "Phone, wallet, keys. Keys, wallet...phone." There was a time, not so long ago, when the phone wasn't a part of this pre-departure ritual, but its clearly a central part of it now. Perhaps predictably, even as the newest part of the trio, it's the phone that threatens to replace both of its predecessors. This is a move I'd welcome with open arms, as well as lighter pockets.

At at same time, though, consolidating cash and keys into the already overflowing responsibilities of my phone also makes me a bit nervous. What if I lose it? As I stuff more and more information into the guts of the device, it begins to become a very clear imprint of my personality, desires, and habits. Where I've been, who I've called, what I've bought -- it won't be long until phones start to become direct reflections of the people that use them. That's half neat but also half scary, at least for those of us prone to losing even the most important things we own.

As an experiment, I sometimes don't bring my phone out with me, partially because sometimes we need some time apart but also because it's a strange and vaguely exciting feeling to be out in the world without it. It's a perverse and strange notion that this is what passes for thrill in 2012.

I used to charge my phone via the outlet beside my bed. This made it the last thing I interacted with before bed, and the first thing I saw when waking up. I before long discovered that doing this was delaying my bedtime by almost an hour and was generally pitiful, so I moved the charger to the kitchen. It made me realize then, as it most certain will in the future, that the best way to interact with the device was intermittently. That may not work all that well with people, but it works with technology. And that works for me.

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