The Goldilocks iPhone

At the beginning of this week, Apple announced 3 new phone models, the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. The ‘8’ models are available for pre-order now, with delivery starting on September 22, while the all-new iPhone X isn’t shipping until the beginning of November (and will start at $1319 CAD before tax or the AppleCare+ warranty).

I love getting new iPhones, and if you have one that’s more than two years old, you’ll probably start to notice new features slowing down the interface just a little bit. But for me, the biggest reason I spent about 5 years as a serial iPhone updater was the camera. Improvements to camera hardware on smartphones have been unbelievable since the first iPhone packed in a blurry 2.0 MP lens in 2007.

When I first upgraded from the 3.5 inch iPhone 4S to the 4 inch iPhone 5 in 2012, the tiny amount of extra screen space was barely even a consideration in my purchase. I liked having a small phone because my iPad was my lap-top (literally) computing device when I was at home, so the iPhone could really shine when I was out and about.

In 2014, Apple took another step up in screen sizes, releasing the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, at 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively. At that time, while I didn’t love that my phone wasn’t going to be nearly as compact, I accepted the tradeoffs, and openly embraced the larger screen of the iPhone 6. However, what I don’t think I ever really forgot was the compactness of the screen width of the original iPhone (which stayed the same from its unveiling in January of 2007 all the way to September of 2014).

The iPhone 6s was the first iPhone release I skipped since the iPhone 3GS, for a combination of reasons (mostly financial). In hindsight, it seems kind of obvious that I wasn’t as much of a fan of the bigger sizes at the time either, but I recall myself repeating consistently that if Apple ever made a new 4 inch phone with modern internals (camera, processor, etc.), that I would be hard pressed to not upgrade to that one.

In the spring of 2016, when the larger iPhone 6 models had been out for almost 18 months, Apple made my dreams come true and released a new 4 inch phone, the iPhone SE. I got the SE and sold my iPhone 6, and immediately I was happier about every aspect of the phone except for the screen size.

When I had the iPhone 6, I was constantly having to deal with little annoyances. The best thing about it was the bigger screen, making looking at it and watching video nicer and easier. Unfortunately, the rounded sides were pleasantly curved, but made the phone a lot harder to grip compared to the chamfered edges of the iPhones 4 and 5.

If you watch a lot of video, or your iPhone is the only handheld computer you own, maybe getting the most screen size is the best way to go, size be damned. But in a world where iPads exist and are getting more and more versatile, for my needs, having a tiny mobile iPhone and a regular sized iPad is the perfect balance.

I’m very excited about the new iPhone X (ten), and I hope I can convince my lovely wife that it’s worth the upgrade, even though it probably isn’t (amazing cameras aside). But I still like to loudly, and with conviction, state for the record that if Apple put out a new 4 inch iPhone with current specs and cameras and functionality, I would spend whatever it took to get it.

Unfortunately, as with everything in computers, miniaturization is hard. Building a 5.8 inch screen phone with everything the iPhone X contains is much, much easier than doing so with a 4 inch phone. The more space you have to work with, the easier phone making is, even if you invented the modern smartphone with a 3.5 inch screen.

The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory – Pop Culture Detective

I’ve taken a video from this channel as a jumping-off point before, I’m back to do it again. Pop Culture Detective just keep bringing up such great points of oddly misogynistic characters and story-lines in popular culture, that I can’t help but pick up exactly what they’re putting down, and examining new TV and movies I watch with a more thoughtful view.

The video embedded here mainly discusses the Big Bang Theory as its example of male characters who are part of the problem in a male-dominated culture that tries to gain power by belittling the women around them (women aren’t the only groups subjected to this kind of treatment in popular culture, or on this show in particular, but let’s save that for a future discussion).

Having gone to grad school with as many or more extremely talented female scientists as I did male ones, I can definitively say that gender should absolutely not be a factor in deciding who can be successful in any particular career path. I was fortunate to not have seen any of this directly in my lab, but working in grant administration now, I see that gender bias is a huge focus of federal science funding, especially as one rises in the ranks of academia.

It’s jokes or insults at the expense of someone that focus on traits that are innate to a person that really get to me the most. Denigrating or belittling someone based on gender, sex, race, sexual orientation, or other traits that either come pre-determined at birth, or are fully determined internally later on in life is an attempt to exert power over someone, and generally nothing more.

There is a big difference between making a joke about somebody based on a stereotype – taunting someone saying “you’re gay” or “be a man” – and making a joke subverting those stereotypes or tropes, even if the joke itself hinges on an inferred call to those stereotypes.

This past weekend, I was watching an episode of Friends subverts expectations about homophobia. The show on the whole, especially in the early years, is actually pretty bad about this, and many jokes in this vein don’t hold up all that well (sorry, Chandler). But, in this episode, Ross and Joey fall asleep on the couch together while watching Die Hard.

When the two wake up, they realize they took a nap together, and both are horrified at the prospect of it ever coming up to the group. However, as the episode goes on, both Ross and Joey realize more and more that the nap they took together was one of the best naps they’d ever had. Even though their friends finding out about this might lead them to be ridiculed, the two good friends are considering planning another (completely non-sexual) nap together.

At the very end of the episode, Joey tells Ross he’ll be taking a nap in his apartment upstairs, implying that he would be taking a nap and that Ross would be welcome to join. Joey leaves, and a few seconds later, Ross surreptitiously follows him. I really love this depiction of intimate male friendship in popular culture, especially in the late nineties/early 2000s, because you just didn’t see it that much.

Both Joey and Ross were willing to potentially be ridiculed for napping together, but they valued the experience so much that they did it anyways (and based on the final scene, both friends seemed to be satisfied by the nap). The fact that the very end of the episode involves Ross and Joey being confronted by the rest of the friends upon waking up tells me the writers weren’t all the way there yet, but Ross’ reaction at the end tells viewers and the rest of the gang that both he and Joey knew what they were doing.

I love that moments in pop culture like this still happen, and it’s refreshing to see more and more shows and movies tackling personal moments and stories from a wide variety of viewpoints. I think there’s hope that one day characters like those on the Big Bang Theory will not be misogynist stereotypes, and that the writers won’t feel like they need to make characters assert dominance over one another to get laughs anymore.