How many times have you gotten on an escalator, and thought, “Well, nothing else to do, might as well look at my phone”? It’s like you’re settling in for a cross-country plane trip and you need some in-flight entertainment. Or perhaps it’s just me. When I look at the meter on the phone that tracks screen time, I wince; it’s like getting on a scale after Thanksgiving.
But! That’s about to change. Everyone who cannot resist staring at their thin rectangular auto-hypnotizer can rejoice: Your phone might have gotten faster.
In conjunction with the recent Final Four tournament, Verizon installed a new wireless system in downtown Minneapolis. And AT&T promised us it will do the same by the end of the year, a preview of what everyone eventually will get.
It’s 5G. Before this, we just had pathetic, miserable, slow-as-a-slug-on-sandpaper 4G — which, at the time it was introduced, was supersonic compared with 3G. And let’s not even talk about 2G, which was, we realize now, pathetic.
What can you do with 5G? For one thing, you should walk quicker while looking at your phone because you have to keep up with the new speed.
When you open an app, it’ll be so fast your cheeks will ripple. (If your phone in your back pocket accidentally launches an app, same thing.) News feeds will be so fast that stories already will be forgotten by the time you finish reading them. (There is a movement to get 5G in London so Brexit can happen before 2027.)
Traffic apps will be vastly improved, but if you use the 5G phone while traveling on the freeway, it may be somewhat terrifying because your car will accelerate to 72 miles per hour regardless of conditions. Same thing for the weather apps, which will increase wind speed by 31 percent. In addition, thunder will now follow a half-second after you see lightning, so replace “One Mississippi” with “One St. Croix.”
Of course, your sports-score app will be faster, which will lead to an increased popularity for baseball; games will be done in an hour.
In other words, faster speeds will make your life better, providing you don’t use it as an alarm clock, because your seven hours of sleep will feel like four.
But slow down a second. Faster speeds are nice, sure, but we’re at the point when these incremental boosts aren’t life-changing. When we get 9G and the phone flies into your mouth and uploads all you need to know directly into your cerebral cortex, that will be something.
And technically legal in Minnesota, because it’s hands-free. A bill under consideration by the Legislature would ban phone use that’s not hands-free. That’s not all: The bill would ban “video calls, livestreaming and gaming” while driving. The bill makes no mention of audio livestreaming. How can that be? (Hint: There’s another term for “audio livestreaming.” Radio.)
Anyway, we’re behind the times. California is about to ban even hands-free phone use, which means the police will have to start pulling over drivers for probable cause if they’re muttering to themselves.
But I support the ban on streaming. In fact, while stopping short of California, I do think we should make our law more aggressive. It should be extended to escalator rides, lest you be distracted by “Game of Thrones” as you descend and forget that you have to step off.