OPINION - Why I never use my phone openly in Soho now


I have a new evening routine — cup of tea, head to bed, then count how many of my friends have posted on Instagram to say they have had their iPhones stolen in London that day.

To say every Londoner is having a sense of humour failure with the knife-wielding, e-bike brigade by now is an epic understatement.

Consistently one acquaintance (often more) has been bamboozled by the moped mafia, or just a good old-fashioned pickpocket, and is left asking people not to try WhatsApping them. It’s then back to Currys: tap and repeat.

I’m all for a total ban on mopeds, motorcycles and e-bikes in the city, full stop

Some have had multiple phones stolen this year already. The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show a 34 per cent rise in knife-point robberies in London last year, including those carried out on two wheels. Other statistics presented by the Met Commissioner to the London Policing Board show nine in 10 muggings go unsolved. For this reason, I wouldn’t dare use my phone in Soho, or central London carte blanche, now. If I really must, cue the double-handed grip plus nervous twitch, looking for incoming threats over both shoulders. Enough, already.

It’s embarrassing for us as a city. One New York actor I have followed on Instagram for years arrived here last month. In hours he too was posting: “I didn’t know you couldn’t use your phone in London without someone snatching it straight out of your hand.” I’d like to think London was far safer than New York. Hmm. A new purge on “weapon-wielding muggers using e-bikes and mopeds to rob Londoners of their mobiles” was called for today (better late than never, I suppose).

There has been talk of Apple introducing a “kill switch” on iPhones, in effect designing out any desire to get your hands on them.

Do all that — however, if these boys (yes, it’s always men) are going to keep using their toys irresponsibly, I’m all for a total ban on mopeds, motorcycles and e-bikes in the city, full stop. Apologies to anyone who is desperate to sit on two wheels, but the rest of us can’t bear sitting for hours in Apple.

One entrepreneurial pair of thieves stole 72 phones from early morning commuters in six weeks, another lone ranger stole 24 in a day.

Now, my phone is on its last legs. But I can’t justify spending £600-plus on a new one until I see this model inevitably disappear with a bloke in a balaclava down Old Compton Street.

I have no doubt, I won’t have to wait too long for my next upgrade.

Joe Bromley is the Evening Standard’s junior fashion editor