Aceless as a group

I enjoy technology. I try to keep up with new trends and what’s coming out. While I rarely know the minute details, I stay informed about larger ideas, upgrades, or upcoming products.

So, as my cell phone is now approaching 4 years in age, has several broken/scratched/non-functioning parts, and is long-past contract end-date, you’d think I would be moderately prepared for finding a new phone…

Not so.

It’s not that there’s too much out there. It’s not that phones don’t offer the functionality I’d like. In fact, it’s an issue of too much functionality.

You see, I’d like my phone to reflect a simpler time. When a cell phone was a wireless device used for calling people. When it wasn’t a camera/mp3 player/calendar/IM device/video game console/etc. Just a phone. No moving, sliding, flipping, switching, or any other -inging.

I just want a phone. Candy bar style (no -ings). All 10 digits (no qwerty boards). For calling (not taking pictures, sending messages, or any other thing). If I want to do those other things, I’ll use the need-specific technologies that have been designed specifically for them.

The problem is one of jack of all trades. People love that phrase. “I’m a jack of all trades,” they say. Or “This thing is a jack of all trades – it can do it all!”

What they miss is the second bit of that phrase: jack of all trades, ace of none.

It’s like the phrase “United we stand” – uber-patriotic people love to throw that one around. But they fail to mention the second bit: “divided we fall.”

In fact, with both jack of all trades and united we stands, the users who lack the second part tend to be the guiltiest culprits of misses the meaning of the phrases. The united we stands tend to use that as a dividing force – those who agree with them are united and capable of keeping everyone standing; those who disagree make everything crumble. Those jacks of all trades are terrific at being mediocre at lots of little things, but they fail to do one or two big things exceptionally well.

Which brings me back to my phone desires. All these phone options – Blackberries, iPhones, Palms, etc. – with their wide arrays of gadgets just ignore the focus that really matters: making a phone that just works really well for calling.

Sure, the iPhone has great apps and beautiful design. Sure, the Blackberry is a business powerhouse for its security options and managing of information capabilities. Sure, the Palm is good for… well, until the Pre comes out, I’m not sure what… but you get the point.

These phones each have their ups and downs. Pros and cons. Perks and disadvantages.

But NONE of them are singularly capable of receiving excellent signal EVERYWHERE. Which, ultimately, is the reason for having a portable phone.

If I want to take pictures, I use a camera that has more memory, better capabilities, and more options. If I want a calendar, I’ll try different options, select one I like the best (Google calendar right now). If I want a word processor, a place to check the internet, and a way to send messages to people… I’ll use my laptop and a variety of programs, each specially designed to do their purpose better than any of its competitors.

For none of these reasons would I buy a phone.

Which is my problem now. Going to have to replace the current phone, but with all the options out there, I am left with no options. The phones, united in standing up to be many things, ultimately fall, divided amongst competitions that don’t matter… aceless as a group.



davidrsheehan is a contributing writer for Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog. You can also tweet directly with him: davidrsheehan.



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6 responses to “Aceless as a group

  1. You can get a track phone for $20 or so and just put your existing SIM card in it… assuming that your wireless provider uses SIM cards.

    Also, you should be able to upgrade, or should I say, downgrade (or even stay-the-same-grade) to the phone that you currently have. Thanks to mass production, there is probably a huge pile of the very phone you find so endearing in some warehouse.

    I don’t like your side by side comparison of phrases: “Jack of all trades, ace of none” and “United we stand, divided we fall.” They don’t really… share a whole lot of common elements.. except two parts. The aren’t even necessarily… mutually exclusive? I heard “United we stand” way, WAY before I heard “divided we fail.”

    Tangent: I actually hate that phrase because expressions of competing interests is the basis of politics anywhere. Plus the idea that if you and your friends and family AND the people you hate don’t “rally around the flag” then the TERRORISTS WILL WIN is totally retarded. The U.S. military handles that; not you or I. Continue the debate and fight tooth and nail, please. Probably why we ended up in some dumbass war in the first place. “Stand with the President or we fall!” STFU.

    I don’t even agree with the “Jack of all trades, ace of none” phrase itself. I know some people who can do alot of different things and do them very, very well.

    Can you be the “renaissance man” of yesteryear? No. The sciences have become altogether too complicated and intense that you could spend your whole lifetime just contemplating quantum mechanics and still not understand it, let alone truly understand philosophy and electrical engineering and a host of other subjects. Leonardo DaVinci(?) had it easy; there simply wasn’t very much knowledge about anything available. Today you can seek out all sorts of knowledge though. Say, be an awesome neurosurgeon and still tie your shoes.

    To be completely honest with you, my new cell-phone with all its fancy shit is wayyy better than my track phone that I had for the past year. The only advantage I saw in the “low-grade” phones is that they seem to be sturdier and have longer battery lives. With my newest phone, however, I get excellent reception, almost 4 day battery life, + all the stupid junk I don’t need (mp3s, 3G network, 3.2 megapixel camera w/flash, what3ver); I’m just gonna try to not drop it on the floor. Or soft pillow.

    In short, my “Jack of All Trades” aces your “4 of half-assedness”.

  2. davidrsheehan


    Current phone is crap. I’ve kept it for nearly 4 years out of spite because it broke on the 94th day (warranty covered 90 days), and they were going to charge me a shit ton to fix a minor issue. So, I refused to buy a new phone for a long time. Issue now is my phone is not being reliable with calls… so, I guess phone company wins.

    My comparison of the two phrases was not to say that they say the same thing or that their linked in any way. My point was their misapplication and misuse by people. It’s like pick-and-choose plagiarism – it’s ok to use the part of the phrase that benefits you, but by removing the second part, you fundamentally alter what the phrase originally meant.

    For example, “United we stand, divided we fall” is a caution, saying that there is strength in unity. This is a positive force when applied to bringing together diverse groups, and applies nicely to most countries – where large groups of people can form political governing bodies for the betterment of all.

    So too with “Jack of all trades, ace of none.” The phrase actually means that when you attempt to do many things, you fail at doing any one thing better than everyone else. It doesn’t pass judgement on those who attempt either route, it simply implies that dividing one’s time removes the ability to hyper-specialize and excel above all at one thing.

    So, the phrases are different and mean different things. However, both are used piece-meal for means that are contrary to the original phrase.

    When someone applies for a job and says they’re a “jack of all trades,” they mean it as a positive thing, saying “I can do many things.” What it fails to admit is that, in so doing, they fail to excel at a specific role (which, sometimes, is a good thing, other times, not so much).

    When some uber-patriot claims “United we stand” as a rallying point to their narrowly-focused political goals, they too are altering the intent of the original phrase (dare I say bastardizing it?). In stead of noting the strength of bringing many together to achieve, it outcasts the “others” who aren’t united – just like you point out in your comment.

    So, again, I did not aim to conflate the two phrases, but rather to make the mutual-misuse point. I just tied them both to my bitching about my phone.

    Hope this clears up the confusion, but I didn’t get a ton of sleep last night, so maybe I misread what you were saying.

    • jakefunc

      Well, it doesnt’ seem to fit. I agree with the idea that a “Jack of all trades” could be an “ace of none”, but it could also very well be superb at, many, many things.

      • davidrsheehan


        I think I used “tend” because there exceptions to nearly every thing. Including this.

  3. davidrsheehan

    Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention – that my point is exactly made by what you said: you heard “united we stand” long before you heard the full phrase. It’s just this sort of problem that the misuse of a good quote can cause.

  4. KevinKMJr

    Okay as far as the cell phone is concerned, I agree with you. I do like a flip phone more so than the candybar phone, but thats because I would dial China in my pocket or some stupid thing. Gimme a phone that places and recieves calls and i’m good.

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