I grew up with telephones that had handsets with an earpiece that fit comfortably around your ear. True, you had to stay near the phone as you talked, you could not wander around your home, or talk to anyone as you walked down the street. But when you held the handset, you knew where your ear went and where your mouth should be.
Not so with a smartphone. It’s a flat, rectangular object with no obvious location toward which to orient your ear or your mouth. I hate it. It feels like I’m talking to a pack of cards. Earbuds are the perfect solution to my annoyance. The earpieces go directly into my ear, and as an added benefit, my hands are free. I can be preparing dinner, washing dishes, knitting, while still chatting away.
You know your phone can get old. But did you know your earbuds can get old as well? When earbuds get old, they start trying to take over your iPhone. (I didn’t think to ask the young tech at the Apple Store whether this phenomenon is limited to iPhones or also afflicts Samsung’s Galaxy or other smartphones.) When the following started happening to me, I thought it was the phone. Then I thought my phone was haunted.
At first the phone would hang up in the middle of calls. I thought it was a reception problem; maybe some parts of my living room got less of a signal than other parts. Then a blue screen with Voice Control in white letters started popping up at random; sometimes it would appear then disappear, other times it would appear and remain. If it popped up in the middle of a phone call, it would kill the call.
I had disabled Voice Control a few years ago. I have no desire to talk to my phone, only to talk to other humans through my phone. Had the phone turned Voice Control back on? I went into Settings and saw that feature was still turned off — yet the Voice Control screen continued to pop up.
Next, the phone started turning off the audiobook I was listening to as I did my daily walk. (I had the audio version of Obama’s A Promised Land, which I wanted to listen to so I could hear his voice regularly again.) I would press start, hear Obama repeat his last sentence, and the audiobook would stop. This happened repeatedly during a walk a few days ago. Maddening.
Later that day, it got scary. Voice Control popped up on the screen, again, and I shook the phone — that sometimes turned it off. Then the Siri voice came on: “Calling Bob.” On the screen appeared: “Bob FaceTime audio.” Who is Bob?! There’s no one in my contacts named “Bob.” Had someone somehow taken control of my phone?
I called Apple Support immediately. Of course, the phone hung up soon after I got a tech, who had said reassuringly that he was sure no one had taken over my phone. The next tech had no idea what the problem was and made an appointment with my local Apple Store for the next day. One of the first things the tech at the Apple Store asked me? “Do you use earbuds?”
This is apparently a known problem. So if you have an iPhone, and if you use earbuds, if your phone begins to behave as if possessed, go to your Apple Store, but also be prepared to buy a new set of earbuds.
I’m participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day 3 of the 31-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!