Fifteen years ago, "new phone day" meant nothing. And fifteen years from now, well, really, who can guess? So the day that your cell phone contract runs out and you can get a new phone is probably a special and specific thing to right here and right now. Think of all the advertising generated by companies trying to sell you the contract with the promise of a new gadget. Some of that is going to survive, just because there is so much of it, and future generations will use it more than our great works of art to figure out what it was like for middle class Americans at the beginning of the 21st century. Man, these people really loved their phones.
My new phone day came up a couple weeks back. Josh and I both ended up getting Droid Bionics. I even found some neat bionic sounding ringtones. He used the same built-in one that he used before, which I think is boring, but whatever. The Bionic is a 4G, so it has the new technology. I was talked into this by a guy at work, who reminded me that I was going to have this thing for another two years, at which point they would probably have like 10 Gs. The stupid things upsell themselves. The Bionic is not the newest and shiniest, but considering how quickly new models come out, whatever I got was going to be immediately obsolete. So I decided to save a couple bucks by getting slightly older, but still new technology.
Another thing I learned by talking to people who get really excited about looking at phones, even when they are not in the market for a new one: you can get your phone cheaper if you order it through Amazon, and holy crap, that saved me $80. So I pass that along to you. Tell everyone you know.
My mom asked about all the new and crazy things that my phone could do, which is the kind of question that a person with a regular phone asks (regular cell phones are called "feature phones," which is their way of distracting you from the fact that it has fewer, you know, features). My phone does not do much more than my old one. It just does everything faster and better. We have discovered exactly one new feature - FaceTime. You can have your own personal video conference with someone. Josh and I tried this out while standing about three feet away from each other. I remember there used to be such things as video phones (seems like there was a Designing Women episode about it), but they were impractical, because even if you got one, no one else had one. And now we have them and it's no big deal.
Whenever my mom had her most recent new phone day (it sounds like some weird rite of passage, doesn't it?), she considered joining the smartphone crowd. But she frugally decided not to, explaining that she "just doesn't use her phone that much." Maybe it's impossible to explain to the feature phone crowd, but the reason you don't use your phone that much is because you cannot check your email or do crossword puzzles or check your stocks or tune your guitar or look up ANYTHING on Wikipedia or play asynchronous hangman with your best friend in Boise.
These are not really phones anymore. If you ran Skype off your laptop, you would not suddenly start calling it a phone. These are little pocket computers, and one of their features is the ability to make calls. But it also navigates me to yard sales, so you could just as easily call it a GPS. It gives me instant access to email, so I could call it my portable mail device. I play games on it, so I could also say that I just got a new GameBoy. The power of these things is in the programs they run. The "phone" provides a platform for applications to do any old thing you could possibly want, and so it becomes all those things. That's why my new phone doesn't do that much more than my old one. Because my old one already did most everything.
During the Flaming Lips concert, at one point, the guitarist used his phone to call up some sort of synthesizer app, where you use the touchpad to control the tone (whoever you are, there is an app for you). He played that through the microphone for a song. In that moment, his phone became a theremin. While this was happening, Wayne asked, in that sort of dreamy way of his, "Don't y'all love your phones?"
Later, he asked the same thing about the moon, which was bright and vivid that night. I do not equate my phone with the moon, but I do love my phone.