2G or Not 2G: A Love Story with Technical Difficulties

06/27/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I am a sentimental person. My husband is not. Which explains why I have saved every single text conversation we have had on our iPhones since buying them as a matched set over 2 ½ years ago. And, similarly, explains why, in short, he has not. I would never dream of pressing that "Clear Conversation" button. I could almost develop OCD about not pressing it by accident. On the contrary, I am a savorer, a re-reader, perhaps what some might even call... a hoarder.

Call me what you like, but those little bubble repartees of my neon green to his snowy white document, like nowhere else, the story of our lives. I'm not just talking about the "salmon tnite?" "k" exchanges, but the tender talking each other down from the perceived ledges of our pressure-filled existence, occasionally some steamier stuff, and, most preciously, those naked apologies--the kind that can only be brought out by the perfect union of limited space and poor typing skills.

Love means never having to say you're sorry? I don't think so. Nothing says love like the one liner--"I was a total jerk this mrning"--if you think you can find honesty like that in a rambling email, you are sorely mistaken. Too many places to hide. This parsimonious electronic vehicle--the text message-- has kept our marriage humming along better than any weekend in the Bahamas ever could.

But I digress.

It is precisely because my husband callously (though he claims it was unintentional) erased our shared digital diary, that when our 17 year old daughter recently lost her 6th cell phone, we decided to have my husband (and not me--I didn't want to risk even the possibility of losing one single byte of text) upgrade to a 3G iPhone and give his perfectly functioning 2G iPhone to her. Thrifty, environmentally responsible, and done in a flash on our home computer, or so we were promised by the nice people at the cell phone store. All good.

Not so fast...

Not fast at all.

In fact, after spending over three hours on the computer trying to set up the old 2G iPhone with the new 3G SIM card (because they conveniently don't stock 2G SIM cards anymore), we had gotten nowhere. The screen was unforgiving; once we got past that initial promising iTunes welcome, it wouldn't budge. The stated excuse: "This operation requires more time."

We may not be techno-geeks, well actually there is no question--we are not, but as good consumers, we were smart enough to know the first rule of not being a geek: you should never be alone while staring at a frozen screen for three hours.

We called for help.

Our first call was to the cell phone company--the one that cannot really remain nameless because they forfeited that right when they signed on for the monopoly on iPhone contracts. We also had two conversations with experts from Apple Tech support.

The messages from AT & T and from Apple about the feasibility of a 3G-2G switch were equally emphatic and crystal clear. The only problem was they completely contradicted each other.

The message from cell phone company--in fact from, count them, four, different representatives from three different locations of that cell phone company: a resounding and insistent, "Yes!" There is absolutely no problem putting a 3G card in a 2G phone." The message from the other side--two conversations with Apple, one Genius Bar, one Apple Care: an enthusiastic but emphatic, "No, and, let me tell you why this is so cool," in that tone that defines the Apple brand.

Now if I were Randy Cohen, the New York Times Ethicist, I would have likely consulted an expert before submitting this to print. But I'm not, so I didn't. The proof, however, is in the miserable teenager, and her miserable boyfriend. No texting for days and they started to look a bit peaked. Three new 3G SIM cards later--the 2G phone still didn't work, the activation, apparently just a bit sensitive, still needed more time.

I am a psychologist. I am all about being patient with process. I spend my days understanding that people need more time. Machines, not so much. They don't have breakthroughs; epiphanies, last time I checked, are beyond the ken of binary code.

So while these big companies duke it out over 3G-2G compatibility or lack thereof, for innocent or sinister reasons, our daughter was left without a cell phone. In fact, so indignant were certain employees at the cell phone store that we could do the maneuver of switching the cards in the iPhones, that they actually declined to sell us another (non-iPhone) phone. As much fun as it was playing monkey in the middle of two technology giants, our patience was wearing thin. We went back to the store with crazed looks in our eyes and demanded that they take our money and give us a new phone.

One problem solved. One problem left to go.

In this age of planned obsolescence, the advent of 4G technology will render the 2G/3G debate moot. Technology--with its focus on wider coverage and speedier connections--marches on. As for me, my internal network is wired to preserve those connections that develop slowly and run deep. So, unless I find out how to safely archive the treasure trove of bubble-sized missives which ping on arrival, I will remain resolute, the dinosaur clutching tightly to my 2G iPhone, waiting until I know for sure that my marriage--the text version of it that is--can be saved.