COLUMN: May 31, 2012

IF I were Prime Minister – and every day I see more and more compelling evidence that I should be – I would put two laws on the statute book.

The first law would be that the chief executives of mobile phone manufacturers should be locked in a room – with good reception – with their own power-drained phones, their chargers left in a jumbled pile in the corner of the room next to a socket, and told they will only be released if they call a particular number.

The best outcome of this would be that all mobile phone manufacturers finally come to understand that every mobile phone should have the same charger.

The second best outcome would be some sort of Hunger Games arrangement, only with middle-aged men instead of teenagers. I would expect Nokia’s chief to make the early running, before Apple’s boss just ate everybody up and found his own charger lead solely because it is white.

But it really is very silly indeed that mobile phones do not have a universal charger. Can you imagine what it would be like if all appliances had differently shaped plugs, requiring differently shaped sockets? If you cannot, I will tell you that I have. And it would be horrible.

People would be wandering around with toasters, rare toast (i.e bread) wanly sticking out of their slots, weeping with the need for toast, and waving plugs impotently. “Does anybody have a socket for a Morphy Richards Toast Manipulator X-11?” they would cry.

Then a kind woman would say: “Yes! I have a socket for a Morphy Richards Toast Manipulator.” And the man with no toast would rush to the woman’s socket, to find that it was only suitable for the Toast Manipulator X-8. And he would go toastless.

You might think that I paint a needlessly apocalyptic scene, but this is precisely what happens every day with mobile phones, often to myself.

The second law would be that people who design battery gauges for mobile phones be forever disqualified from employment as designers of aircraft fuel gauges.

Even the most batty, Tea Partying, red tape-shredding, libertarian, right-wing nutcase would have to accept the case that we ought to prevent aeroplanes from falling out of the sky. Although even now I expect there is a think tank somewhere working on a paper entitled Set Gravity Free.

I think it is giving children mixed messages if we tell them that they should not lie, and then allow them to have mobile phones with battery gauges.

If the battery gauges were accurate, then I could cope with my twice-weekly inability to remember my phone charger, for I would be able to ration my use, eking it out until my phone can be reunited with its power source. I am fine with rationing. Rationing won us a world war. Also, rationing is the only reason there are any biscuits in the house.

But my phone goes from full green bar, to slightly less full green bar, to half green bar, to half amber bar, to red, to “For Goodness’ Sake, Plug Me In Or I Will Die, You Monster.” My favourite part of this process is the moment where the half green turns into half amber.

It is the point at which my phone decides that the glass is half-empty rather than half-full. It reminds me of that beautiful line from Cole Porter’s Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, “How strange the change from major to minor.”

This would all be fine if the length of time between full and half, and half and empty were the same. But they are not, and I am frequently left bereft of mobile phone coverage as a result.

I have much more to say on this subject, but the battery on my laptop is about to die. It was three-quarters full a minute ago. I bet David Cameron doesn’t have this problem.

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