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Speaker: Why the disaster in Japan made me want an iPhone

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  • Hadyn Green,

    Nice write up Garth. Japan is oddly iPhone light, with other smartphones crowding the market there (though Apple are making serious inroads). But the Japanese love social networks and last year every phone was advertised as "perfect for twitter and facebook", "message your friends", "video chat!" etc etc And not just phones, hand held game consoles too (Nintendo, PSP et al)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    The urgency of the live report the other night, after pulling over to the side of the road, was impressive journalism I thought.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Henry Harrison,

    This report reinforces your experience several times over Garth:
    Apple's Role in Japan during the Tohoku Earthquake

    Wellington • Since May 2008 • 11 posts Report

  • Peter Calder,

    Fine piece, Garth. But I'm not sure about your logic. Should I carry a chainsaw around on the basis that I'll be bloody glad if a tree ever falls and traps my leg? (Warning: this post may be prompted by the iPhone envy of a man who has a $49 Samsung.)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 66 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes,

    a guy with a Leatherman and years of experience

    I think you'll find that those with years of experience would use a Gerber
    Bear Grylls does. I wonder if he got called Bare Girls at school? I wouldn't say that to his face but.
    I also have a Samsung, all be it a $200 one and it links by Bluetooth to my eeepc anywhere Telecom has coverage. Oh, and just to rub it in I use Opera as a browser/server.
    Take that fanbois...
    I have also been known to carry a chainsaw in case of fallen trees.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    Make it an Android and I agree with all you say. I recently upgraded, after years of pooh-poohing at needing anything more than voice and txt. But it now finally is an actual quantum leap, carrying a device that has both GPS and mobile broadband and WIFI around, and some pretty hefty storage and processing power too (my Samsung Galaxy is more powerful than my netbook). The camera is actually good enough now to not ever bother taking my actual camera anywhere casually. It is finally a decent computer in the palm of your hand. You can compose reasonable text on it, or browse the web. You can SkypeOut, or just use various IMs. Or Tweet and Facebook. I might actually bother if I was in a disaster, that is one time when people really do give a fuck about exactly where you are and what's happening.

    As such, it would be a basic thing to have in a disaster, and carrying spare capacity to recharge it is wise, a car-phone charger was the first accessory I purchased, followed by a car-mount. Not just because everyone in Christchurch had their phone die on the first day, but also because I've always had my phone die at awkward times, and for the $20 for a car charger, there's not really any reason to put up with that any more.

    Also, I've been pleasantly surprised about the size issue. They may have a large screen, but they're slim, so they do actually slip into pockets nicely. It's actually less cumbersome than my older and smaller phone, which was fatter so it stuck out more.

    One trap for new players I fell into. Black is a popular choice for a color, right? But consider that it will possibly spend a lot of time on the dashboard of your car. It gets bloody hot already, and I'm sure that contributes to excessive power usage. White might actually be better. Or mount it on your air vent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Make it an Android and I agree with all you say.

    Awesome. I bet Garth that someone would say "get an Android!" in the first half-dozen comments. :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to ,

    I have a portable VHF radio.

    For the boat, right? It's amazing how survival oriented boating is, I've become about 5 times more prepared for natural disaster since December, just by getting one. VHF, flares, smoke signals, fire extinguishers, spare petrol, spare batteries, water bottles, portable gas cookers, spirit cookers, portable long lasting food, UHT milk, first aid kits, grab bags, spare toolkits, throw ropes, 4WD with towbar, learning up about survival in adversity, sources of vital information, better clothing. I'm just mentioning the things useful off the boat.

    That's all predicated on me being at home, which I am 95% of the time. Most people don't have that luxury, and will have their clothes, wallet and phone at best. If their phone is an awesomely powerful device, it could save their life.

    I was wondering how long before they add VHF/CB to these smartphones. Would be very useful any time the network goes down, or out of range.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Awesome. I bet Garth that someone would say "get an Android!" in the first half-dozen comments. :-)

    He was just begging for it.

    Edit: And mine was the 6th comment...made you pack!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Richard CLARK,

    "They’re basically for wankers, aren’t they?"
    Absolutely! I am a wanker who loves technology and have lived on the leading edge since the early 70's with my wanky new company and then my wanky new editing system on a mac back in 1998 and my wanky .com company and my wanky digital full frame camera and, and, and . . . you got it dude, we are just a bunch of wankers, that YOU like to hang out with :) there's an ancient adage, been around for at least 5 years, "if you spot it, you got it"

    Featherston • Since Feb 2009 • 7 posts Report

  • Garth Bray,

    @peter I share your envy. i was carrying a crappy nokia classic that was second hand when Andrew Saville took it to the Beijing Olympics (remember to delete your texts when you hand on a phone is all i'm saying). My crappy dust-filled nokia seems to die at increasingly inconvient times while my cameraman's iPhone2 with a Uk sim kept marching. It was our lifeline.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Dec 2007 • 13 posts Report

  • linger, in reply to ,

    Um. I have a Sony Walkman?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Garth Bray, in reply to Henry Harrison,

    Thanks Henry. Spot on. I was sharing a very short version of my account with a Kiwi who's since left Tokyo for Kyoto for a few days. She actually bought an iPhone _during_ the quake, or just as it was settling. She was in Shinjuku about to start collecting for an appeal her organisation is running for the Christchurch earthquake. She said her first though was to call home but she new phones go out, so she walked into the store while the dust was still settling, handed a wide-eyed clerk her 5 man (50 000 yen) and was Skyping her mum inside 30 minutes. 'Nuff said.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Dec 2007 • 13 posts Report

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I rented an IPhone when I arrived in Japan pre-quake and I'm so glad I had it with me during and after the quake.

    It let me tell the folks back home that something big had just happened and that I was ok, via email, Twitter and Facebook.

    then it let me figure out what exactly had just happened, and if I should run for the hills, or not.

    BTW I arrived back in Aotearoa this morning. Disappointed to say goodbye to Japan, but already thinking about a return visit.

    Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report

  • Garth Bray, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Nope definitely a Leatherman in the case of the old guy with the slouch hat I'm picturing.
    I guess the smartphone is a kind of digital Leatherman. Happy to profit from all your experiences and opinions about the benefits and faults of Leatherman/Gerber or Apple/Samsumg/HTC etc.
    @Ben yes i would proabbaly be a sucker an go for black too, so thianks for that tip

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Dec 2007 • 13 posts Report

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I bet Garth that someone would say "get an Android!"

    i have an entry-level android ($370 on parallel import! FTW!), and am thinking of trading up to iPhone.

    driving it is just a little too much of a hassle sometimes.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report

  • Islander,

    I’ve owned/used both Gerbers and Leatherman tools for the last 25 years.
    Have given away all except one of the Gerbers(it's in the grab-bag), and now just carry the Leatherman
    Juice XE6 (in it's custom-belt-pouch) -best Leatherman to date!

    Though their cute little fishing-scissors are excellent too….

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report

  • Graham Dunster,

    "And your ear bumps the screen and before you know it you’re messing up a call. "
    Actually, no, that's the Samsung I just replaced, courtesy of True Rewards, although they can't explain how GST is accounted for in a points/cash redemption.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report

  • izogi,

    I shifted to Melbourne a couple of months back and I've had a flashy Android phone for a few weeks now. My old phone in NZ was a solid $50 Nokia brick on a prepay account. I didn't feel like paying through the roof for a phone when I didn't really care about using it anyway.

    Over here I'm getting my phone through my employer, and the simple fact of having a smartphone with 3GB of pre-paid data each month has already radically changed how I do things from day to day -- I can completely appreciate how people react in a disaster scenario. I spent a lot of time checking for updates from various sources about what was happening back home soon after the Christchurch earthquake, I've so far used Google's annoying-lady-voice nav app a couple of times to figure out how to get somewhere, and at the airport the other day I just sat in the terminal streaming the BBC trying to figure out what was happening in Japan. It still feels nowhere near as solid and reliable as the Nokia brick.

    It's interesting to see the market split. It wasn't until I bought my phone that I've noticed just how specifically popular iPhones seem to be in Melbourne. I can sit on the train and be surrounded by 4 people all tapping away on iPhones or listening to music on iPhones or playing games on iPhones. (I'm tapping away on my Android phone and naturally feel cooler.)

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • Rich Lock,

    Pffft. Leatherman, Gerber. Keep yer johnny-come-lately multitools. Real men* use a Schrade.

    I'm now considering getting a Gerber strapcutter, though. You never know when you'll be hanging upside-down in a sinking crashed helicopter. It could save your life!

    *for which read: multitool hipsters. Oh, it's a fairly obscure multitool, you've probably never heard of it. They don't manufacture it any more, so it's hard to get hold of. But all the true professionals agree it has the best pliers.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report

  • Richard Wain, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And if you do get an Android at least you can turn the internet on and off. Who wants to constantly broadcast your GPS location? Cell phone towers are near enough for comfort.

    Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report

  • JackElder,

    I can't really comment on smartphones, as I'm still quite happy with a very basic Nokia. I'm sure I'll get around to it sooner or later, but at the moment I'm far from convinced that I need all the extra bells & whistles.

    But I would like to note with amusement that all the google ads on the article page were for various substance abuse treatment providers. I'm guessing the word 'addiction' was to blame.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 709 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Che Tibby,

    driving it is just a little too much of a hassle sometimes.

    OK, I'll upgrade to "Get a good Android". As in, the ones that actually are competitors to the iPhone, and half the price.

    But hey, I'll admit iPhones are pretty awesome too. Just wanted to plug my Galaxy 9000.

    The guy in the shop said their screens are supposedly extremely tough, but that he hasn't met anyone with an inclination to test this. I had no inclination, but as chance has it, the other day, I put it to the test.

    I was riding my bike, with my phone in my bag and my bag in my basket and the basket over the handlebars. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I added a coffee to to my hoard, and sipped it as I rode. There was a slight downhill to my local library, which I went down, and remembered/saw too late that there were sharp speed bumps on that. Braking power inhibited by the coffee I was carrying (could only pull one brake), I hit the bump just hard enough to bounce the basket off the handlebars, which spilled the bag on the ground, which spilled the phone out, which slid down the rest of the hill and over another speed bump, screen downwards. I narrowly avoided being flipped off the bike and through the window of the children's section of the library, when the basket went under the pedals. The children inside learned a new swear word, when I suffered the double indignity of minor anal penetration from the seat, and minor squashing of the testes on the frame. Curiously, my subconscious chose "SHITBALLS!".

    But I didn't lose my coffee (despite a huge urge to dash it against the nearest wall), nor was my phone even scratched, except a little bit on the casing. Amazed. And sore, and shamed, and learned. Don't drink and ride or you'll get a poke in the stalk and a shot in the nuts, and that's if you're lucky.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Steve Withers,

    I have an Android phone. It does all that....and more. If you ever found yourself in a disaster, you don't want an iPhone. You'd want a phone you could swap a spare battery into and keep going...and maybe charge the flat battery up from some AA's and some bits of wire while you have the spare in the phone. That's how crims keep their phones charged in the prisons. It's good enough in a disaster....but with an iPhone, you can't even put a spare battery into the thing.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report

  • Steve Withers,

    BTW....I also have a UPS for my PC...and can charge that up from the car with an inverter. If you have a car, you have SOME power....and can at least keep batteries charged on critical items and a small CFL light or two to light up the night.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report

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