A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Deus ex machina: pious mobile phones

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 30, 2007

Succumbing to the same spring-time phone buying fever that I fell prey to (and victim of a similar yikes-my-phone-no-longer-works incident), a colleague of mine bought a new phone this morning.

H chose the new i-mate, a hugely impressive phone/PDA/wireless handheld that comes with an equally impressive price.


Wow, I thought. I hope that phone comes with some amazing bells and whistles.

To be honest, I was somewhat hoping that the new phone would get up and dance – or at the very least, offer to make tea. What it did instead was equally entertaining.

The first hint should have come from its preferred language. This d*** thing is all in Arabic, H said. We’re in Beirut – why not have English as the default language?

Good point – and one that puzzles me whenever I dial a mobile number only to hear the phone company’s recorded message that the phone is off, or hear “Laddaykum dollarain” – “you have two dollars” (or one, or 24 cents – whatever remains of my pre-paid phone credit).

In Lebanon, where a significant percentage of the population speaks a second and/or third language all the digital mobile phone company messages are in Arabic – and only in Arabic.

In Syria, where a small minority of the population speaks a second and/or third language, all the digital mobile phone company messages are in Arabic and English. What’s more, you as an individual user can choose the language in which you wish to receive messages relating specifically to your account.

Not to mention that calling and sms rates in Syria are a fraction of what they are in Lebanon. Oh, and the internet is better there, too.

Back to H and the new i-mate. A helpful Arabic-speaking IT-inclined soul was pressed into service to change the phone’s language to English.

Well, you can lead a phone to water, but … you can’t make it drink (and certainly not vodka, as I learned).

Fifteen or twenty minutes after the i-mate “learned” English, a sonorous – and loud – rendition of the call to prayer began filling the room.

Yes, indeed. It turns out that the new i-mate is Muslim – and very devout. H’s efforts to stop the adhan were in vain: the i-mate continued with the full adhan before retreating into pious silence.

What is this? H asked. Just because I give my location as Beirut, the phone assumes I’m Muslim?

Ten minutes or so later, we had the answer, as the i-mate came to life once more.

This time, it began reciting from the Qur’an.

What am I going to do with this? H asked.

Mmmmm, I said. Perhaps you could call the shop and ask about exchanging it for the secular version?


4 Responses to “Deus ex machina: pious mobile phones”

  1. SparklePlenty said

    LOL! Cannot stop laughing. Oh, Little Diamond, I think they’re really on to something! The way we all worship at the mobile altar of the divine BlueTooth, its only fitting that the units start behaving as mini-diety. Or at least channeling as such.

  2. cfw said

    hmm, you must have alfa. mtc’s messages are all in english (opposite deal — have to go through elaborate, non intuitive process to get arabic instead) — which actually, i always found a bit peculiar. guess they can’t win, haha 🙂

  3. nooooo actually I am a long-term mtc girl and my messages are ALL in Arabic. weird.

  4. intlxpatr said

    Oh Little Diamond! While visiting Law n Order Man and EnviroGirl, I dropped my throw-down phone in the cat-water-dish and . . . it survived! It continued working! The secret is to buy the $14.95 phone!

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