The coolest device on the planet

After drooling over various websites showcasing this gorgeous toy, I’ve finally broken down and bought a Danger Hiptop. This means that I will, surreally, be paying for two separate mobile-phone accounts — my existing Sprint account and my new Tmobile Danger account. Because I’ve had my Sprint mobile phone number for four years, too many business associates know that number, and I can’t risk giving it up.

But since Sprint doesn’t offer the Hiptop, and since I NEED A HIPTOP BECAUSE THEY ARE SO INSANELY AND PROFOUNDLY COOL, I’m willing to shell out the extra 40 bucks a month. Damn, this thing rocks the house with furious vengeance.

But seriously. All high-tech hype aside, I actually do need one of these devices. I mean, I recently looked at my Sprint mobile bill and realized, wow, I’m already spending more time surfing the web and sending text messages than I do talking. (And I’m using one of the crappiest old phones that works on Sprint — the old Touchpoint!) I’m using a phone that is intended for voice primarily and only secondarily, grudgingly, for data. Yet my own priorities are the precise reverse. The Danger device is much better suited to me: It doesn’t worry too much about being a good phone — the ergonomic design for calling is rather clunky — but it simply rocks as a texting and browsing tool. The Tmobile plan is the same way; only 200 minutes for voice, but unlimited data.

Though I normally loathe “generational” analysis, there’s definitely a generational shift going on here. Younger people regard texting and instant messaging as the primary way to keep in touch with their friends. The phone — parodied for so long in adult culture as “growing out of my daughter’s ear” — is vanishing amongst teenagers. They know that texting and IM is way the hell more efficient and nuanced a technique to keep up with your network. You can juggle a nearly infinite amount of conversations, and since quite often you’re talking about stuff that’s online, IMing an embedded URL is like saying, “hey, check that out!” as you drive along the countryside with someone looking at scenery.

Adults — and particularly biz-weasel guys who try desperately to grok the Net — simply do not understand this. For them, a mobile phone is about voice, voice, voice; they want a plan with about 15,430 talking minutes a month, because that’s how they do business deals and whatnot. Why the hell would I want to get slow, 56K data? they ask. When am I gonna get video highlights of my football game on a fast 3G phone? But everyone else, particularly bloggers, knows damn well that omnipresence is more important than bandwidth. Indeed, there are already some really killer blogs created by Hiptop users, including one where users snap pictures with their Hiptop and then post them on the fly. (One brilliant book on trends like this is Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, which I just read and which also rocks the house with furious vengeance.)

When I stop using my Sprint phone, the only thing I might oddly be nostalgic for is the act of typing messages using that crazy T9 system. I was getting strangely fast, like 15 words a minute.

The only big limitation of the Danger Hiptop is that it doesn’t run telnet — not yet, anyway. I’ve written to them pleading and begging to release it. Anyone out there, I beg you to please also write them and ask for this.

I cannot wait to get this thing in my hands.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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