I hate to admit how dependent on technology I’ve become, but there’s no denying it after an issue with my cellphone last week turned my world topsy-turvy.
I’ve relied on this gadget in my back pocket for quite some time now. It’s hard not to need it — I’m a father of five leading a newsroom of eight, plus a dozen or so freelancers, while also working with a magazine team. I have alarms set just to remind me it’s time to pick the kids up for school and from school. I get notifiers a half-hour before team meetings so I can prepare. Google Assistant literally is my assistant.
My cellphone has become a rolodex of more than 300 contacts. It’s also my personal and work calendars, my notepad, my camera, my laptop’s internet hotspot, my TV and my gaming console. It’s my website editor, my bank’s mobile teller, and I use it to pay for groceries and goods in stores where Google Pay is accepted.
So when it underwent an update last Saturday that caused a glitch in services, I found myself scrambling from one appointment to the next and being woefully underprepared for each.
It might not have been so bad if the first representative for my service provider was able to do what the last one did because I would have avoided the factory reset that deleted all my information and apps. But that’s not how troubleshooting over the phone works, is it?
I first noticed the issue Tuesday when I received eight text messages all at once. Some of them dated back to Sunday, and I quickly learned that while others were receiving the texts I was sending, I wasn’t receiving the texts they were sending me. Initially, I thought it was a network issue that AT&T would work out, but by Thursday, the problem spread to include incoming calls. I could call out, but there was no luck receiving calls. So I called AT&T.
The representative was friendly and patient as we went down a checklist of things I could do on my end: Did I restart my phone? Yes. Had I tried a different text messaging app? Yes. Did I delete and reinstall the text messaging app I was using? Yes. Did I clear the cache? Yes.
The rep said she would reset my phone’s connection to the network. “I’m going to send you a text message to see if that worked. Let me know when you get it,” she said.
Three minutes later, “Sir, did you receive the message?”
“I’m going to elevate this to a higher level of troubleshooting. Let me give you a ticket number.”
After jotting down the longest number I’ve ever written, she told me someone from technical support would call me within 24 to 48 hours. Then she was gone before I could remind her of one very important thing: I wasn’t receiving phone calls, either.
I decided to reach out to my phone’s manufacturer, OnePlus. Through online chat, we determined my phone was missing a setting that may be preventing it from fully using AT&T’s service. The rep gave me a link to download the update file to flash the phone, but alas, that too did not work. The setting was still missing. So I backed up every file I could to Google Drive and did the thing, a factory reset.
It didn’t work.
Back on the phone with AT&T, I explained the two-day’s worth of conversations and actions to a new rep who determined the reason my phone didn’t have the setting was because AT&T didn’t offer it for my plan. She asked me to hold on while she tried something. For 10 minutes, the only thing I heard was the clacking of her keyboard. Then, voila! Incoming texts and phone calls. From everyone. Except my wife.
We never did figure that one out.
Luckily, my wife and I have been longtime users of the text messaging app Signal, which uses end-to-end encryption to secure communications. It uses the phone’s SMS text messaging service and its internet data to send texts and make phone calls. Basically, it provided us a secondary route to communicate even though the main line is shut down.
Of course, I spent the next half-day downloading all my apps, signing into them, logging back into work accounts, setting ringtones to contacts and resetting alarms. I only hope I didn’t forget something because God knows I can’t remember anything that’s not already in my cellphone.