I would not want to be without my smartphone, not really, but in lockdown boredom I found myself counting the number of apps on my iPhone, and I am astounded.

There are 47. Of those, I use three daily. I use another half- dozen or so fairly regularly. Another two or three very occasionally. That’s fifteen. The rest either came with the phone or in a misguided belief that I might need them, I bought them. From time to time, I do one of two things. Either I move them about more or less at random, or I think about deleting them. But I never do.

Why do I need two lots of note-taking apps when I use neither of them? In addition, I have something called “reminders”. I don’t use that either. I have an app called Apple TV, but I cannot handle the idea of watching TV on a screen smaller than a butter dish. I have three different map apps, and I have tried using them all, managing to get lost every time, so I have a separate sat nav now, and it takes me both home and away.

I do use stuff like text messages, and even in desperation, e-mails and Whatsapp, but as I never got around the doing the thing with the thumbs in order to type on a phone keyboard, I hate using the phone for that sort of communication. My single-finger tapping on that tiny keyboard sometimes results in the most incomprehensible Trumpish cofeve.

And then we come to predictive text. Now I know that this is available on my laptop computer or a desktop, too, but on the phone, for some reason, it too often predicts words that make Trumpish cofeve seem like the very essence of clear communication. Oddly, my alarm/timer etc., app, which I use to remind me to do things, is much more friendly than other apps when it comes to predicting. Go figure.

There is a wallet, which I have never used and would not know how to or why. An app for shortcuts. To where? Why? How? Another which is called “folder” and contains, for some reason, “podcasts” and “files”. How did they get there? Not me. I promise.

Then I loaded a thing called “shipfinder” because we are lucky enough to live with a grand view of the Atlantic Ocean, and I thought it might be good to know what ships are sailing by, what names, where to, where from and so on. If I could see them. Very few of them come in close enough to identify, because those we can see as distant smudges are headed out at ninety degrees from the coast, so no point in knowing anything about them anyway.

There is an app called “measure”. I have a drawer full of extendable tape measures. What does this do? I have something called “health” which allows me to track my menstrual cycle, and being a male of the species, I don’t expect to have one, nor have I ever had.

The phone is also a phone. A telephone. I can call people and answer when people call me. Now that’s a really good idea. I’ll try to use that.



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Dr John Grierson

Dr John Grierson

Broadcaster, academic, journalist, columnist, humorist. Show- off contrarian. Seriously centrist politics junkie. British Americanophile.