Addiction, thy name is smartphone


I’m not going pretend that this was a good week. This was a bad week. But I will spare you all of the details and just tell you about the tragic, tragic pain that you all will be able to relate with.

Last Thursday was the worst day of my life in Korea. There were many, many reasons for this, but it all culminated in one horrid moment.

After what was a very awful moment in my office, I needed to get to my English classroom very quickly. I gathered my school issued laptop and bag, and snatched up my iPhone to get out of the office as soon as humanly possible. As I shuffled out of the room quickly (so nobody would realize just how stressed out I was), I was flipping through my phone, opening up Facebook and other apps I normally read over when I need to see my friends. I didn’t pay attention. I wasn’t thinking.

My foot caught on the door frame. My arms were caught up with my computer, and I couldn’t react.

Science happened. Inertia took place. My iPhone slipped out of my hand, and flipped over onto the one side that was flipped open. It hit the stone tiled floor of my school hallways with a sharp smack, enough to make even my students stop what they were doing to look.

We all knew what just happened.


I was in 3rd year university when I finally caved to the idea of an mp3 player. ALL my music on one little device? I couldn’t even imagine listening to music that much. It was the first generation iPod Video that caught my attention. If I was spending that much money, I wanted to be able to watch videos too. It needed to be better than a CD player.

Life changed after that, but I didn’t really realize it, because it was such a slow development.

Things REALLY changed when I moved to Japan. I was SO excited to get to Japan, because the stories of the phones were legendary. Keitai culture. Emails, the internet, everything seemed to be on your phone. The iPhone hadn’t been developed, but my Japanese flip phone was beyond the technology of anything I’d ever seen. The camera on it is STILL better than the camera on many other phones I see being sold now. I didn’t pay for all of the internet features, but it was the emails and the mobile versions of websites that I started to be unable to live without. When I moved home, the thought of not having a phone email account was terrifying. Genuinely terrifying. I never really spoke on the phone, but I used it to keep in contact with people constantly. It was never for games. It was never for mindless time wasting. But I always needed my translator, or my train guide, or my emails. Living in Japan, these sites became my support, and helped me more than I could imagine.

Finally moving home, I took the only phone where I could get pay as you go phone service and yet unlimited internet. I knew nobody would call me, but I still needed access to the mobile gmail site to contact friends in Japan. I still needed to feel… connected. Especially when I was so far from my “home” in Japan. The phone wasn’t enough though. I wanted a smart phone, but couldn’t commit to a contract.

I bought the iPod Touch and set wifi up in my house, and felt the wonderful feeling of keitai culture once again back in Canada. When I moved to Korea, my iPod came with me, and became my saving grace. Korea is the most wired place on earth, so I was able to subscribe to a wifi program and my iPod touch was like an iPhone for quite a while. I depended on the translator, the maps, the calendar… All the little applications that we don’t realize that change our life.

When you live in a country where you’re not a native speaker, life can be… difficult. I can’t imagine living in Japan or Korea without my keitai or my iPod touch or eventually my iPhone. The constant connection to the “outside” world. English in my hand. A translator 24 hours a day. Maps, guides, walkthroughs and information about things you may never have understood. Things you would have if you were born there.


Not actually my phone. But the break was near identical.

Not actually my phone. But the break was near identical.

The only reason I didn’t scream out curses when I flipped over my phone and saw the completely shattered glass was because my 3rd year students were there, watching me with horror. A smashed smart phone is like watching your own child be horribly killed (If you don’t have kids. I suppose. It felt like it.) I was biting my lip to stop myself from screaming out profanities until I could taste it, and dashed off before my boys would see me sobbing.

Immediately, I ran off to my classroom, dusting the glass off my phone as I called my phone company. I had set up insurance on my phone out of fear of this happening. Speaking to the woman on the english line, she directed me to the Olleh Plaza (which is headquarters!) and told me I could get my phone sent off for repairs and it would be mostly covered and take a few days. The thought of sending my phone off somewhere was terrifying.

“Can I just… exchange it? Somewhere? Please?”

Apparently not. But I was promised a replacement phone for the time being and they’d do it quickly.

So I ran to the Olleh headquarters right after work and got in line. And this is when the trouble began.

It turned out that the girl on the phone had been wrong. About everything. Olleh Plaza did NOT have a service desk. And even then, there was a specific one for Apple. When I showed them the text with the address, they were stunned. I was given an address for an Apple repair shop, and told I had an hour to get there. So I cabbed to the shop in a frantic run. Got to the repair shop, and she had been wrong, again. They would not give me a replacement phone. Apparently, that was back at Olleh Plaza. Which at this time was closed. So I was stuck this store, being asked if I had an alternative number I could be reached at when I dropped off my phone. Nobody on the phone seemed to understand that getting just one smartphone contract as a foreigner in Korea was difficult. To have an ALTERNATIVE number was almost insulting. I could go on and on about how bad the customer service was with Olleh, but… I have someone else to complain about.

Fast forward 24 hours. I finally had my phone being sent off. Olleh lied (again) about how long it would be. 4 days suddenly was 7, and the phone I was given was so old, I didn’t actually know how to answer it. The subway map was out of date by a year or three. No translator. No maps. Nothing. In the simple act of getting home, I realized exactly how much my phone dictated my life in Korea.

  • I needed help at a shop. I couldn’t remember the word for an item I needed. Reached for my phone…. Oh.
  • I had to transfer money for a bill I was sent. I can’t use the website, only the ATMs or my phone… Oh.
  • I thought I would use my Happy Point Card to treat myself to some ice cream because I have a lot of points racked up on my phone… Oh.
  • Google Maps kept giving me a bus route. I knew the train would be faster, if only I could get to my subway app on my phone… Oh.
  • My bus pass is tucked in my phone holder. So every time I’d scan through for the bus or train I’d be like… Oh.
  • My bank card is ALSO in my phone holder… Oh.

This was all within three hours. By the time I was heading home from a school event, I hopped right on the subway (SOB) to get to the only store I knew with iPods.

I needed an iPod Touch. I needed to be connected again. And this is where my TRUE rage began.


I had actually been eyeing the iPad Mini for a while. I need something to write on, but the iPad is a little large. The day my iPhone broke, I walked into the Frisbee store and looked at the iPads. The salesman was surprisingly awesome and told me that the price was low because it was the old one, Korea did not have the new one, gave me one of those knowing looks to say “You know exactly who and why is to blame for this” and told me that the new iPad would be coming in eventually. The upgrades were enough to make someone regret buying the cheapest one, so I really appreciated him talking me out of it. It felt very serendipitous.

The day I gave up my phone, I was going mental. I didn’t care. I needed something. I saw they had the new iPod touch in, which was fine. I needed something to get me through the next week. And sure enough, they had the iPod Touch on display.

“I’d like this please. In pink. The 32gb one please.” (I asked in Korean.)
“Oh, we don’t actually have these.”

Not only did they NOT have the iPad. They didn’t have ANY of the new iPod Touch in. Going through the full withdrawls of smartphone addiction, I held back snapping completely, telling them they simply couldn’t keep an item on display WITH A PRICE TAG OUT and then NOT HAVE ANY OF THEM.

So I thought I would try another Frisbee store in Gangnam today. They HAD to have them in stock, right?

Wrong. Another store, another iPod touch on display with nothing available on sale. I was LIVID. 24 hours without any kind of device. Stuck in Gangnam. Late to a concert I would eventually have to cancel on. Traffic was so congested, an I had no way of finding an alternative route. I saw one last Frisbee across the street, and headed into the store to see if maybe this other store would have SOMETHING.

Finally, they had a fluent English speaker. He explained to me that “something” was stopping all of the stores from getting the stock. They were available on the Apple site. But none of the major Korean stores could sell them.

Can you think of a company that would go to any length to stop the sales of any and all Apple products? Especially a Korean company?

I hate chaebols (the Korean super-conglomerates) a LOT. I don’t believe in that system of economy, and I think it makes things impossible for anyone who truly has any smarts about them to do well. For anyone who has any TRUE business sense, they shouldn’t be staying in Korea because the chaebol system will never let them succeed. Ever. But, I don’t care enough to think about it much because it doesn’t affect my life.

However. When Samsung decides to get the iPhone banned in Korea up until about three years ago, and then does everything in their power to stop Apple products from being sold in Korea… No. You are crossing a line.

Samsung. You do not get to decide what I use and don’t use. Never. You can make all the shitty phones you want. You can have all the idols you want selling all your electronics. However, I will never ever support a company that refuses to let me make my own mind. I have never judged a person for using a Samsung phone before, because I assumed it was just a matter of opinion now. However, because Samsung will not give me that same respect? I will never. EVER. Intentionally use a Samsung labelled item again. (And don’t get on me about if they’re manufacturing something that’s inside the item I’m using. I mean, I’m not buying something with the logo on it. Especially if I’m given the option to buy from another brand.)



Earlier this evening though, a friend gave me a light to the end of this dark and evil tunnel. Offering up an older iPod touch, I’ll be able to borrow that until my phone is fixed.

“That’s an addiction,” I can hear the naysayers now. “That’s not a good sign.”

And yes. I’ll agree. I definitely have a smartphone addiction. However, I never said I was playing video games. I was using it so I could function in a country where I don’t speak the language. I know people before me were able to get by without. However, I wouldn’t do it now.

Yes, I have a smartphone addiction. I’m not ashamed.

But take my phone away, and I might actually punch you in the throat. SAMSUNG.