Thursday, February 05, 2009

Curmudgeon unplugged

The full-page ad in the newspaper promises to help me get the most out of my weekend, "one app at a time."

I'm talking about the iPhone, of course. for which 15,000 applications are now available, for free or for very little money. According to Apple, there have been 500 million downloads. No wonder Apple and AT&T are taking out full-page ads.

With Yelp you have instant reviews of the best places to eat, drink, shop and more. gives you access to ratings for 530,000 wines. Tipulator takes the guesswork out of restaurant tipping. Pandora lets you create a custom soundtrack for your weekend. Loopt provides an interactive map that shows you where your friends are and what they are up to. Classics puts a collection of literary classics -- Robinson Crusoe and Paradise Lost, for example -- on your tiny screen. RunKeeper uses the phone's GPS to track your run, ride, hike or walk, showing your route on a map and keeping track of time and distance. Yoga Stretch offers your personal yoga instructor. iFart Mobile gives your phone flatulence capability (I kid you not).

Now, I'm not knocking any of this. We own some Apple stock, and every time someone's iPhone farts I'm potentially making money (Apple takes 30 percent of paid-application sales). But is this really what life is about? Work all week in front of a computer screen, then spend the weekend glued to a screen you can hold in the palm of your hand? Is it really impossible to entertain ourselves without an iPhone?

Call me old fashioned, but my idea of a nice weekend is a long snuggle with my sweetie on Saturday morning, a walk on the beach with nothing in my ear, a romantic dinner (dancing in the kitchen, chopping veggies, plonk wine), a Bach cantata singing through the house on Sunday morning, and -- oh, yes, one app -- the print edition of the New York Sunday Times. And my friends? I don't know where they are or what they're up to. I hope they're having a good time.