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Phones as identities

For the past ten or so years, I’ve had an Android phone. My first phone ever was a Sony Xperia Play. It was honestly a sick piece of tech for 2012’s standards — essentially a Sony PSP that was retrofitted to a cellular device, complete with a built-in slidable game controller. Little did I know that it was also going to be my first exposure to the world of cellular operating systems. The Xperia Play ran on Android 4.0. At the time, it was impossible to browse the internet without the phone crashing, and it was difficult to be heard during phone calls because the phone’s fans were so loud. However, the games hooked me. And when I outgrew my Xperia Play, I opted for a Motorola Droid instead of an iPhone 4S, even if the iPhone 4S had a killer app in Siri.

Now it’s 2023, and I find myself with a Samsung Galaxy. Besides providing occasional impromptu tech support help for my parents, I’ve never used an iPhone. And… I’m perfectly fine with that! Android 13.0, the current version, has everything I could possibly need from an operating system. I can text, browse the Internet, use most apps, take nice photos and there’s great Android integration with my PC. But there’s one fatal flaw that makes being an Android user unbearable sometimes — iMessage. Often I exchange numbers with friends, only to hear bewilderment at the fact that my texts are green. I’ve also been told that I am a chronic ruiner of group chats and that I’m the reason that videos are compressed to the quality of a potato. While I revel in those roles, I must admit, I’m really jealous of iMessage games (that pool game looks fun).

In response to comments by my family and friends, I like to make jokes about the superiority of Android phones, and I often speak about my love of Android phones to my friends in jest. I sometimes reflect, however, on the weird role that phones play in our lives. The number of hours I use my phone daily is far too high, but I’d argue phone usage is high for most people. Every year, it seems like a new social media app is created that everyone just needs to try, between TikTok, BeReal, YikYak and others. Like many others, the first thing I do every day after I wake up is check my phone. Similarly, the last thing I do every night before I go to bed is late-night scrolling.

It’s amazing how much smartphones have not only improved in quality since my days with the Sony Xperia but also increased in necessity. Even if I wanted to stop using my phone, the importance it plays in my life is massive. Used in everything from schoolwork to keeping in touch with relatives, our phones have a lot of information about ourselves on them. The fact of the matter is that our phones have been an extension of our identities for a while now. Every phone is different, even if the model is the same. Different apps and different data render each phone an extension of the user. As such, a personality trait that I now unwillingly have adopted is that of a green texter. And now, I pretend as though I exclusively use Android devices not because I’m just used to the ecosystem and I like the UI but because “I like how it’s open source” (even though  I don’t customize the OS anyways). However, despite this self-awareness, when I retire my Samsung Galaxy S20, I still just plan on getting a Google Pixel or something. I could never betray Android like that.

I think that if your first phone was a Sony Xperia Play, there’s a good chance that your current phone would perhaps have Android. If my first phone were an iPhone 3GS, then I’d probably own an iPhone 14 and a Mac (and also simultaneously be down two grand). One thing would remain the same in both those scenarios — our eyes would be glued to our respective screens. And in this scenario, *I* would be the one who would get to play iMessage pool.

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