2009/08/18

A Phone By Any Other Cover

K recently bought a new cell phone. It's waterproof, just in case she needs to call for help from an overturned sailboat. (So much for having confidence in Bluesette's skipper!)

I don't own a cell phone, which makes me a very rare Panda bear in Japan. I had one for many years before I came to Japan, but now I find them more of a nuisance than a convenience. I don't need one, anymore than I need a TV or a car, thank you very much.

The R&D for cell phones obviously does not go into making phone calls better or easier or less costly, but rather into developing new income streams for service providers - video, internet, music, mapping, games, porn, market news, television, weather, taking pictures, ad nauseam. All of which come at a premium, of course.

This has worked against what one might hope that these little techno-baubles would do - bring people together; you know, "reach out and touch someone", make children more safe. Au contraire mon frere. (That's little double entendre joke for the Japan audience since "Au" is one of the major cell phone service providers here.)

Everywhere one goes people are living their lives on line and on their cell phones - not talking on them, but playing games, surfing the net, and so on - anything to avoid having to look or (gasp!) say anything to another actual human being. Even kids on bicycles are engrossed with their phone when they should be watching the road and traffic around them.

Now there is another level - layer if you will - of expense to these devices, but it is one of which I highly approve (since I don't have to pay for it). It is custom iPhone covers done in Japanese lacquerware designs, including a sprinkling of gold dust on them. Wow. I'd love to have one if anyone is looking for gift ideas. No phone, just the cover. And at about $1,000 each they are such a modest "investment"...

Photo from an article in the LA Times online edition: The Ultimate iPhone case

"Each case -- which takes nearly a month to produce -- comes with a soft pouch and a booklet that puts the design in a historic context".

I wonder how they will someday describe cell phone culture itself in a "historic context"?

3 comments:

ladybug said...

Those are very beautiful, but seeing the daily "abuse" my phone (well, it's lost, but I'm getting a new one presently) gets, I wouldn't get anything that requires any kind of maintenance for it!

Thanks for sharing an interesting & curious cultural artifact!

Don Snabulus said...

I once thought that humans would exterminate themselves through war, famine, etc. I now believe it will be through accidents while texting in cars, texting while walking in traffic, texting while walking off cliffs, etc.

HappySurfer said...

Lacquerware is fascinating and beautiful. Lacquered trinket boxes are popular here though they cost a lot more than in Vietnam which is where most of them come from.