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STEINBERG: Is that a new battery in your iPhone?

the back of an iPhone 4

Apple apologized for secretly slowing down older iPhones. | AP file photo

Yeah, the Sun-Times pays me a salary, helps with health insurance and provides an office. All of that is nice.

But the really great perk is this: a phone.

Not merely for the money saved, whatever that might be. But for sparing me the constant vigilance and heartache that wrangling a mobile phone seems to require.

Every year my younger boy contrives to break his phone — accident, as he insists, or intentional, as I suspect, who can say? I’m not God.

The mishap requires a descent into the Pepto Bismal pink perdition of the T-Mobile store, a nightmare of waiting and forms, a cross between visiting the ER and buying a house.

The company phone spares me that. It also frees me from the temptation to upgrade. Whenever a pal shows off some useless bell and whistle on his new Apple X — and several have — it’s all I can do not to grin goofily, whip my old phone out of my back pocket and crow, “Yeah, but mine has a feature that yours doesn’t: It’s freeeeee.”

OPINION

The downside to a company phone is a certain peasant resignation when it comes to managing the device. When the gizmo began suggesting I update the software, my head swiveled to our tech guru. Do it?

“Always update the software on your phone,” she said.

So I did. And about five minutes later news broke that iPhone users are suing Apple because the update intentionally slows down their phones, supposedly to compensate for deteriorating batteries. Updating the software wasn’t a gaffe on par with buying a timeshare condo, but it was close.

Was my phone slower? Who could tell? It sure felt slower, now.

Then Apple, in its infinite benevolence, announced it is knocking $50 off the price of a new battery for those shafted by the update. Even when I read a story headlined, “Run, don’t walk, to replace your iPhone battery for $29” I didn’t leap into action. Company phone, remember. I’m not starting to service the thing myself for the same reason I never bring a vacuum downtown to give my office carpet a quick sweep.

Then my wife sent me the same article.

I don’t want to suggest that I am henpecked. But I do try to act upon suggestions my wife makes, because otherwise two months later she’ll demand, “Did you get the galoshes? The puppy biscuits? I told you to get galoshes and puppy biscuits ….” Or whatever she had said.

So I asked our tech services manager: Get a new battery? Yes! she said. Expense it.

This was Friday morning. Online, I found that the nearby Apple store is booked, in essence, forever. But the Apple scheduling site offered a second option: Abt, the Brobdingnagian electronics store slowly spreading across Glenview. Their Genius Bar could give me an appointment . . . at noon Saturday.

I signed up.

Abt should be on those lists of places in Chicago you must go before you die. It’s an electronics store in the same sense that St. Peter’s Basilica is a church. Every electronic device made, with the newest and highest tech featured prominently. I examined a brilliant flatscreen TV that’s half an inch thick, costs $15,000, and is glued on the wall. I plucked a Hershey’s miniature from a jar and nibbled my way through the carnival of commotion to the Apple service center.

The clerk took my phone and told me to return in an hour.

I almost blurted out, “Oh no, not an hour! At Abt! Whatever will I do???”

I wandered into the digital Disney World — Abt, mark my words, is going to be a similar pleasure mecca someday. I enjoyed a free freshly baked cookie and coffee, wondered if I could really replace my busted $10 coffee grinder with a $99 burr grinder, their least-expensive model. Munched a triangle of hot cheese panini, admiring a $52,000 sky blue enamel French stove (which certainly made the grinder seem less of an indulgence). Looked at watches, exercise equipment, washers, dryers, refrigerators, cameras.

An hour passed. I guess I better get the phone, I thought, instead detouring upstairs to shop more. Finally, with a sigh, I went to collect my iPhone. It was ready. Damn.