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Technology Diary — January 17, 2024

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Technology Diary — January 17, 2024

The escape room “Life without a cell phone” is difficult, but I find the exit

My cell phone goes off in the early hours of the morning and then doesn’t turn on again. Or at least just a little bit. It starts, so its basic technology is probably intact. But then it can no longer load my data. I suspect his storage thing is broken. It’s still so young! I only bought it three years ago, in January 2021. Between startup attempts it sometimes displays this ominous message:


I photographed this error message from the defective cell phone with a second cell phone, which will be discussed shortly, and then with a third cell phone, which will be discussed shortly, for reasons that will be discussed in a later post , photographed from the second cell phone.

I don’t want to do the factory data reset suggested in the error message, because first I hope for a long time that the cell phone will recover again, and then I think: After that it might still not work AND my data is deleted, an even worse situation than the current one.

Without a cell phone, not only do I not have a cell phone, I also have no internet. With the help of the rare and sparse Freifunk at the foot of the bed, which has now become Freifunk at the head end, I google fairphone shiftphone, because with this threat I have already successfully revived the cell phone in March 2023.

But this time it doesn’t help. I put a Fairphone in my shopping cart. It’s shockingly expensive, 700 euros, I’ve never had such an expensive cell phone before. On the other hand, my cheap Motorola was more expensive overall because first I had to buy it a second time, then special tools and a replacement display, then another display and then another. The Fairphone also promises repairs without swearing and bloodshed.

However, I would have to live without a cell phone for up to five days if I ordered a replacement right now. While I hesitate, the bit of Freifunk disappears completely. I take the gym bag with the small parts out of the box with the obsolete technology and look for discarded, perhaps still functioning cell phones. Maybe one of them will work a little longer and I can put my SIM card in it and use it to create WiFi.

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I’ll pick three: The Motorola Moto G5 plus (used 2017-2021), the Nexus 5X (used 2016-2017) and the Nexus 4 (used 2013-2014, continued to be used by my mother until 2018). Two no longer turn on, but the Nexus 4, the oldest of the three, can still be turned on.

This cell phone still needs the larger type of SIM cards. From the obsolete technology box I take the bag with the SIM cards, which contains the card size adapters that I got in Switzerland in 2013. I put the SIM card in the adapter and the adapter in the cell phone. But the cell phone can’t turn it into a nice, fast WiFi because it can only do 3G at most, and 3G doesn’t exist anymore. There is only Edge and whatever is current. I could have known this because I had this exact problem with this exact phone in 2018. Well, now I have Edge, which is more than before. I can also use the Nexus to take a photo of the Motorola error message.

The Freifunk WiFi has now recovered to such an extent that I can use it to find out whether you can buy a Fairphone in a store in Berlin. Surprisingly, this is possible, even in many stores. For the first time I see that some stores apparently let Google look into their inventory management systems. In any case, in one of the stores I can see directly on Google Maps whether the cell phone is in stock (no). But then they don’t let Google take a closer look because the store’s website says they have it in stock.

I say in the editorial chat: “Thanks to Freifunk-am-Unterende, I now know where you can really buy a Fairphone in a store in Berlin, and I will be standing in front of the door when the store opens (accompanied by my Edge cell phone, better than nothing) and finally try it out.”

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“When the store opens” doesn’t work, I oversleep, I don’t have an alarm clock anymore. But around midday I get on the bus, buy a ticket by putting my credit card on the reader on the bus and head to the store.

I stand there in line for a while and watch an employee discuss with an old man who has a problem with a stereo system. The discussion seems to revolve around whether the old man has a cell phone, which he first denies and then admits. But it’s not the right cell phone!, he says. The employee looks annoyed and I oscillate between pity for the old man who isn’t helped and pity for the employee who probably really can’t help him because such problems can’t be solved in the store, she would have to move in with the old man and live with him for at least a week.

Then an employee becomes available, I say that I want a Fairphone and so on, a customer account is created, it’s time to pay, I put the credit card on the reader and the payment is rejected. “NAIN” I say because I know exactly what that is, but I didn’t think about it before.

I have set all kinds of low limits in my banking app since the big debit crime of 2021. “If I want to pay something more expensive, I can quickly change that in the app,” was my thought.

I ask the employee to try it in two tranches. The first 350 euros go through, the second ones don’t. He has to cancel the first ones and is in almost as bad a mood as I am. I assure him that I’ll be back in a moment, I just have to go to the ATM. No idea how I set the withdrawal limit, but from what I remember it’s a different limit than the pay-in-store limit. Hopefully the bank won’t get suspicious of these unsuccessful purchase attempts, because if they block my card, I’ll be lost. It’s really lucky that the right amount of money just happens to be in the account anyway, because I wouldn’t be able to move it there now. Not to mention the fact that it’s very lucky that I have this money and can just buy a new cell phone, in principle anyway.

I forget to ask for the nearest ATM. But we are in one of the most important shopping streets in Berlin, and everything here is definitely full of ATMs.

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I finally find a bench a kilometer further. A bench! A really solid bank with lots of ATMs in it! Where real money comes from! Also for me, because by chance I actually set a withdrawal limit with which I now get the missing amount. On the long walk back to the store, I decide not to say anything disrespectful about cash again so soon. The good reliable cash!

The cash is still causing unrest in the store because THE PEN, which should actually be in each of the three cash registers, has disappeared. The strict boss tells the employee that he then has to use THE DEVICE and hands it to him. “For each bill individually,” he says miserably and gets to work. One bill after the other has to be fed into the device and checked, and the device is very finicky; it only accepts the brand new bills after several attempts. Luckily, after a while, THE PEN is found, the cash is checked in a matter of seconds and I am allowed to receive my new cell phone.

I try to put it into operation right outside on a bench in front of the store, but that fails because I forgot the charging cable, the power bank and also the Edge cell phone with the SIM at home. So on the way back on the bus I look again at the failed attempts to start the defective Motorola cell phone. You could probably look out the window or something, but I won’t get started on that one route. I’ll have a cell phone again soon.

(Kathrin Passig)

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