The iPhone: Master of the Universe.

by Jennifer Katz

In February I joined the ranks of iPhone users. It was a blissful beginning to a long-awaited consummation of the most serious case of tech envy I’ve had since the Atari video game console replaced my Texas Instrument computer when I was 10 (yes, now you all know how old I am).

As a devout minimalist – I clean out my closets more often than most people clean out their trashcans – I immediately loved the sleek, streamlined look and functionality of the device.

I warmed slowly to the centralization of all information and activity. I once lost a most-used and relied upon datebook that was also doubling as a wallet. It was devastating both literally – the pain of replacing everything I needed to function – and figuratively – the pain of losing such an integral part of my life. I swore after that episode that I would forever decentralize my life.

I took my iPhone home, unpacked it from its equally sleek packaging (which I have carefully stowed to preserve its pristine condition, and – in a psychological exercise designed to provide the illusion of control – should anything happen to the phone I would have all of the parts it came with. As if the Styrofoam insert that kept it in place as it was shipped to the AT&T store where I bought it will magically protect it from the wear and tear I am going to inflict on it and any ensuing peril that might come its way).

At first I was just enamored. The iPhone accomplished the most special of technological tasks for me: It centralized my email accounts (I have five). I suppose now is when I should admit I am an email junkie (the five accounts might have given that away – but really at least two of them are for my job).

I am exactly the person they write about in blogs or Yahoo articles (Are those real? Sometimes I think Yahoo has programmers who simply write code to create those stories). I am always checking in. I have been asked to stop by friends in mid-story, over meals or watching a movie.

My 9-year-old son knows two things about the morning without having to ask. First comes coffee, then comes email. He doesn’t even roll his eyes anymore when I reach for my phone.

Here’s my favorite thing about my relationship with my iPhone: I loathe answering machines and voicemail.

I actually resent the person who invented the answering machine. I am convinced it was a Jewish mother trying to reach her children. I spent years willfully ignoring and/or deleting messages. I am only slightly better with voicemail messages. I have made peace with them.

Now, however, I feel conflicted about the invention of cell phones in general, and it’s the answering machine’s fault. If it has to exist, then it should suffice for anyone needing anything that does not involve a life or death situation, thus making cell phones unnecessary.

And this brings me to the best part of the iPhone. Everyone who owns an iPhone knows how much it costs to have and hold, to use all those apps and to maintain control of your life from the palm of your hand.

A Facebook friend recently posed a question to Facebook land: “If I can program the DVR, email friends, schedule appointments, check the Web and get directions all from my phone, shouldn’t it be called something else at this point?”

It’s true. I have given up the fight. My iPhone contains my whole life. It houses my email accounts, contact lists, address book, website bookmarks, bank account access, to-do lists, movie and book lists, grocery lists, alarm clock, schedule, calendar, photos, videos, camera, music player, take-out menus, recipes, Facebook and on and on.

At any given moment, I can receive emails, texts, and phone calls simultaneously. It’s horrible when it happens, which is too often. I don’t know about all of you but the frequency with which my phone “rings” has made the silence of no one trying to reach me almost sad.

In the weeks and months of owning the phone, I downloaded apps, organized them into categories, created a separate screen for each category and eased into the technological comfort. And then it set in, the ennui. The inevitable, incessant and somewhat tedious need for the next thing.

I have more than 40 apps on my phone, of which I use less than five regularly. The utilitarian allure of my phone and the enthusiasm with which I enjoy it has far outrun its real-time charm, which makes me wonder if it really is worth it after all.