An early adapter I am not. I buy technology that has been thoroughly vetted by the market. Often it’s a generation old, I get it at a discount and it’s still the best thing I’ve ever owned. So it was that I acquired a $70 iPhone 4 in the spring of 2011.
The phone liberated me photographically. Carrying a large camera everywhere had been a kind of Catch-22. When I found it too cumbersome and left it home, I would inevitably see something that demanded a picture I couldn’t take. And when I carried it in anticipation of a great shot, its awkward weight would constantly prompt me to look for pictures.
Instead of going about my day and stumbling into opportunities organically, I felt like I was always “in photohead,” looking for the next great shot. It was exhausting. With the iPhone, I always had a camera when I needed it, but could carry it, forgotten, beside my wallet the rest of the day.
Normally I buy last year’s technology and use it until it dies. But this iPhone would not give up the ghost. I dropped it on concrete floors. I pulled it out in sandstorms. Once I used a hairpin to pry a small mountain of pocket lint out of the dock connector. But the little metal wafer would not break.
With jealousy I watched my saavy friends take large, sharp images in dim light. They spoke instructions to their phones while driving. They unlocked their phones with a digital fingerprint. They even uploaded data in 4G.
Finally this spring, a full five years later, I decided enough was enough. My battery died quickly, my lens was scratched and more and more apps were no longer compatible.
Today I am the proud owner of an iPhone 6. Yes, still a generation behind, and once again the best thing I’ve ever owned. I’m excited to return to respectable society, but I do kind of miss making those grainy, wobbly night shots of seedy Philadelphia scenes.
I think I'll keep the old phone around for a while.