A Smartphone a not so Smart Choice?

We began our Saturday at a Dutch oven cook-off, a good, old-fashioned way to enjoy a beautiful fall morning, especially if you enjoy that type of cooking as we do.

We ended the day, about as high tech as we could get, choosing new cell phones.

First, let me say that I hate the fact that we have to update all of our electronics every few years, especially when there may be nothing wrong with them. I think, like most things, it is a complete waste to have to purchase a new phone when the older one still works.

We purchased our first “car phone” (what they were called then), a big, bulky bag phone for about $400 in 1990. I drove a ways to work and we justified the expense knowing I could call Dale if there were an emergency.

For a long time, that’s the only phone we had and we had an inexpensive “emergency plan,” for $10 a month with huge per call fees if we did use it (which I recall doing only once, when my Baby Blazer’s axle broke on the highway).

Our German daughter thought having a phone in the car was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard of. Of course, when we attended her wedding in 2007, like most people today, she was never without her cell phone.

While I finally upgraded, Dale kept that bag phone until they told us the technology to provide it service was no longer available. By then, he was working nights and I insisted he also get a phone, just in case.

Dale and I both had the same model phone that we purchased four years ago when we moved to Our Little House. We had to switch carriers because the old one would not work here and the chip in our old phones wouldn’t work with the new provider.

We chose a model of phone that did nothing but make and receive calls. No cameras. We could text, but it was a cumbersome process. Since Dale didn’t do it at all and I only do it when I cannot reach someone by calling back someone who has texted me, it really was unnecessary.

My, have things changed in four years.

Aesthetically, I really didn’t need a new phone. My old phone is in perfectly good shape, thanks to a great case I had. The only thing wrong with it was that it seemed the battery was beginning to act a little wonky. The people at the store told me I was lucky it lasted as long as it did, cell phone batteries typically don’t last but about two years, they said. When I asked if I could just purchase another battery, the kid looked at me like I had two heads. “No, they don’t make replacement batteries. People just normally upgrade to a new phone.”

As well, people were asking me to text them for business. It seems I’m being dragged into that form of communication, whether I like it or not.

Dale’s phone is a different story. He doesn’t like carrying his in a case and the numbers are almost worn off from carrying it in his pocket. As you can imagine, given he has a pretty dirty job, the phone is filthy and a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t help it when I dropped the phone on the concrete floor of his shop and cracked the window.

Dale still doesn’t use the Internet, has no use for a camera, dislikes texting (why text someone when all you have to do is pick up the phone and call them?) and barely can remember who is on his speed dial.

He upgraded to a relatively low-tech phone (free!) albeit one with a camera and the ability to text if he ever takes it up.

I decided to go for broke and get the latest and greatest but cheapest Android, the Samsung Infuse 4G.

So far, I’ve loaded my address book to it and looked at a couple of things online. A friend of mine posted on my Facebook page that it would soon be running my life.

While I love the Internet, I’ve found recently that I would like more unconnected time, not less. Since our mountain got wi-fi this summer, I’ve already been known to spend too much time online at Our Little House when I’m supposed to be engaged with Dale and the dogs.

I have no desire to look like the masses I see in public, bent over my cell phone while walking down the sidewalk, sitting at dinner with my S.O. or friends or (heaven forbid) while driving.

Will my new phone help me live an even larger life, or actually end up running my life?

Maybe I should have stuck with the type of low-tech gadget Dale chose.

Thoughts on Smart Phones and being connected 24/7? 

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43 Responses

  1. I refuse to get a smartphone because it doesn’t suit my personality. I would become addicted to all the apps and 24-7 internet access. Plus the constant pinging of email would be a major distraction as well. No smartphone for me.

  2. I was a smart phone naysayer too. Now, I must admit, it doesn’t run my life, but I do think it makes it easier. And I’ve even become reliant on texting too–which I never thought would happen. It’s just such an easier way to get ahold of people–esp. my teen.

    • Kerri says:

      I know many people who text because of their teens. I guess if I’m going to learn to communicate with the younger generations, I will have to.

  3. Jane Boursaw says:

    I could definitely use more disconnected time. Then again, I do love my smart phone. It’s a fine balancing act.

  4. Merr says:

    I resisted texting for so long. Finally, and because my kids and many friends text regularly, I got a phone with a keyboard and love it. I had been concerned that I’d get addicted to a Blackberry, or something of the sort, so I did not opt for a smart phone. However, my phone came with Internet, but I found I did not use it, so canceled it! Next time I might get a smart phone or iPhone…perhaps those phones are more internet friendly and I’ll become a little too attached?! Oh well, I have time to think that through!

    • Kerri says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the texting, Merr. I saw an ad for my phone this week and it has doubled in price! I guess I’m glad I got it last weekend.

  5. Sheryl says:

    I resent the fact that these things get outdated so quickly. I haven’t even figured out my smartphone yet and there is already a new model. Despite all it offers, I don’t use 98 percent of what is on the phone. In theory it sounds like fun, but somehow I haven’t warmed to it.

  6. Susan says:

    I love my iPhone but resent the idea that I should be reachable via text, email, and phone 24/7. In fact, call me old school, but I’d prefer that people didn’t text me because I get a limited number of texts per month and because my data plan is already pricey, I don’t want to pay for more.

    Before this phone, I managed to keep my Blackberry for about two and a half years but the battery was on its last legs (you can buy a replacement battery online, but of course the guys at the store would rather get you to upgrade to a new phone).

    • Kerri says:

      I know, Susan. The gal at the store told us we shouldn’t try to even get a data plan because our old contract was so ancient, no one used texting back then, so it is only .10 a text! So, we stuck with that old plan. Still, I hate texting.

  7. Alexandra says:

    I must be one of the last hold-outs. I have refused cell service from the get-go, to my kids’ distress. I waste enough time on Facebook. I find it offensive when I’m with friends and they check e-mails during a conversation. Yesterday I heard on the radio that credit cards will soon be outdated, that you will need to use your cell for that function, too. Uh-oh …

    • Kerri says:

      Makes me wonder when cash will become obsolete! 🙂 That brings me to another subject, the fees BOA thinks they can charge to use their stupid debit cards. I don’t bank with them, but if I did, I would simply go back to cash. WTH!?

  8. NoPotCooking says:

    I gave in and bought one earlier this year. I felt that I needed to understand apps and emerging technology to be able to be a writer who is current. I have had to cite apps in some things I’ve written lately, so I’m glad to have access to them. Like you though, I want less time in front of a screen. I do like Scrabble on my iPhone though!

    • Kerri says:

      And I LOVE Wheel of Fortune on my iPad. I kept myself busy with that on an 8 hour bus ride to Chicago a couple of years ago with my WoF app!

  9. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    I came across this theater review in the NYT that is strangely relevant to this topic. Not meant to be a criticism, nor does it necessarily represent my views. Just that there are more repercussions to buying a smart phone then I ever thought.

    The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/theater/reviews/the-agony-and-the-ecstasy-of-steve-jobs-review.html?WT.mc_id=NYT-E-I-NYT-E-AT-1026-L15

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, Vida, I was aware of this. There are so many other issues in my mind broiling with our whole society, I didn’t bring this one up. Thanks for the link.

  10. Ember says:

    I used an old flip phone cellphone for 6 years and it worked fantastic. It was enough for me to keep in touch with my mother when I went on trips away from home, call an ambulance when I saw a car crash in the middle of nowhere, and call the police when I remotely saw a robbery happening. I recently upgraded to the Moterola Droid when it first came out. I only did so because my boyfriend wanted me to get it. I hated it at first, it was way too much for me. Then I got used to it, and the google maps feature has saved my butt a couple times when I get lost driving (I travel a lot). I have been able to check my email remotely, and because I run a business this has become so much more efficient and it really helps my customer service! I can check for movie times on the fly so if I run into one of my friends we don’t have to call the theatre, we can just look up the movie right there on the phone. I can also take pictures easily, take video, and stay connected with everyone. I really love the way technology is going. There’s a fine line between letting it help your life and letting it ruin your life, you just have to be careful! 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Ember, for your insight. I’ll just have to see how things go with this phone and report back in a couple of months!

  11. Freth says:

    Those old bag-phones had more power, and with a directional antenna, they could talk where nothing else will. That said, landlines became way more expensive than cell. So we moved that number to a cell (pay-as-you-go). Then WalMart came out with that unlimited voice, unlimited text, unlimited data for only $45 a month with no plan commitment. Now Verizon has finally come out with an unlimited plan for $50 a month (and they are dropping WalMart off their towers … there goes the access & reliability). In my business, there are people that won’t respond to a phone call, but they will respond to a text. My wife has no clue how to text. And never responds to them. No camera on our flip phones and we don’t try to do internet on them … ours just aren’t really built for that. However my iPod does have a camera and I’ve used it a lot for reading and internet. We recently got matching Nook Color tablets … the wife basically just reads on hers. I use mine for email, FB, Google+, internet surfing, blogging, reading, and whatever else (much easier to read than the iPod, but no camera). The Kindle is great for reading, except at night. We have no landline, no cable, and split the internet payment with our landlord. I haven’t hooked a wireless keyboard to the Nook yet. Will probably do that after my old eMac (from 2005) dies. Sometimes we spend too much time on the internet. Then again, we are getting older and are just not as energetic … more aches and pains. Reading suits us. Time to go study my scriptures … on the Kindle. :-))

    • Kerri says:

      It really sounds like you have a handle on technology, Freth. I have an iTouch, but didn’t use it for anything but downloading music. When I bought it, they did set my email up for me and told me how I could use it to surf, I just never did. The screen isn’t much smaller than my new SmartPhone and I think it is just way too small to do things like that on.

  12. Alfredo says:

    “Dale still doesn’t use the Internet, has no use for a cam­era” – I use the camera on my phone all the time for, remembering where I parked in a parking garage…I take a photo of the aisle markers. I use it to snap photos of items I might be interested in so I can look them up later online to comparison shop. I have photos of my dog on hand in case he gets lost. I have even used it to photograph recipes I see in magazines while waiting in the doctors office.

    • Kerri says:

      Yeah, Dale is pretty tunnel visioned when it comes to technology. He really doesn’t even want anything to do with the computers at work, although he has to learn those to keep evolving in his job.

  13. mat says:

    When my wife and I moved into our last apartment (before buying the house we live in now)…2003-ish…we decided to only use our cell phones to save money. And for a while there, we felt compelled to always be available for everyone. I think that’s what it is–a desire to be just a reach away at any given time for the people we care about. You have to think back to when you’re a kid and MAYBE your family had an answering machine attached to the 1 phone line. Then, if you were around, people got in touch with you. If not, that was fine too. We all continued to be happy.
    Still, the wife and I got our first smartphones back in July and after the “appmania” period, have settled into relatively surf-free, talk & text normality. I like having free games again. I like Swype. I like the utility that the accellerometers offer (I can use my phone as a compass, a level, etc). I like traffic updates. I like being able to run around, then look up the phone number of a good Chinese restaurant, and swing by for my food. That’s the real brilliance of a smartphone–having a computer at your fingertips to make life a little easier.

    • Kerri says:

      Maybe my worry is that I will want to sit there playing on a game while the world passes me by. I don’t know that I will use the phone to find things as our town is relatively small and I’ve already put the two good restaurant numbers in my contacts! 🙂 However, I can see it being useful if we still lived in the bigger city. I’ll just have to see, after a few months, how it fits into my life.

      • mat says:

        I know what you mean about the games being a distraction…but it beats reading a 5-year-old copy of Us magazine at the dentist, while you wait for your appointment, you know? And while I sat for an extra 1/2-hour waiting for the aenesthetic, it was great to be able to text my wife that things were really taking a long time and that she needed to go pick up our son (seeing as I couldn’t actually talk).
        I don’t use my phone to web surf (the screen needs to be much bigger for that) or any of the social media junk, but I love the fact that I hold Google in the palm of my hand. The other weekend, I got into an argument with someone about who was in what movies…and had IMDB on my phone. Boom, done.
        Smartphones, to me, represent the ability to get whatever information you want at any given time or location (pretty much)…which is amazing. And if I don’t want to answer my phone…I don’t have to.

        • Kerri says:

          I know what you mean about the small screen. The woman even told me I could trade my Kindle in if I wanted to put the books on my phone. Hardly. The reason for the Kindle in the first place was so these tired eyes can see larger print on a larger screen! That phone screen is way to small for reading an entire book.

          • mat says:

            We downloaded the Nook app for our phones–and the typeface is sufficiently large…but it would take FOREVER to read a book on my phone.
            I believe that at some point, phones will replace notebooks and tablets, but the screen is going to have to be substantially larger–about the size of a piece of paper. I suspect that it will be done with a projector and a folding screen (like a Japanese fan) on an armature, but I’ve never been a futurist, so who knows?

  14. Heather L. says:

    I have found the smart phone (only mine is really stupid) a handy tool to contact people when I need to. And the people I need to contact each have their preferred method of communication. If I need to know something quickly, texting my grandson works, while calling my kids works for them. I got mine so I could travel and receive e-mail on it and my clients wouldn’t have to know I wasn’t home. For that it works.

  15. Olivia says:

    I have my husband’s old cell phone because he upgraded to a Blackberry. The battery in my old phone was dying as well and, as you said, no replacement.The amusing thing is that, altho DH LOVES technology – or at least the idea of it – he is, and probably always will be, a total Luddite. He just uses it to make phone calls. He has no idea how to use any of the other features.

    My kids all have Blackberries as well and, as Kathleen said, the most reliable way to contact any of them is by text or email. Since I can’t “BBM” them, I email them and they usually get right back to me.

    Frankly, I prefer text or email. I HATE, HATE, HATE talking on the phone – always have. Dunno why. Face to face is fine but I really hate that phone.

    It’s becoming fashionable nowadays to “unplug” but truthfully, I love being plugged in to my laptop. I enjoy email, blogging, I write a newspaper column, write papers, etc., for the course I am taking, browse newspaper articles online, read my favourite blogs (!!), use “thesaurus” for my writing and often translate online, keep in touch with friends and family far away, complete with pictures, look up recipes, get bills online, renew subscriptions . . . and on and on and on.

    That said, I probably won’t bother with a fancy cellphone, unless they stop making the old phone which will probably happen, but I AM planning on getting an iPad 2 so I don’t have to travel with my laptop which usually constitutes my carry-on luggage. With “required writing”, I can’t leave it behind.

    I can see with my kids that technology is not going to go away in my lifetime so I embrace it so they won’t consider me more of a dinosaur than they already do. In fact, with the imminent birth of my first grandchild, I plan to download Skype which, in my crankiness, I so far have refused to do.

    • Kerri says:

      Congratulations on your first grandchild, Olivia! Our Steffi has been bugging me to download Skype as well for almost a year now. I guess I better had do it before Sophia starts school! Not sure it will work here as our Internet is still pretty slow, but I can give it a try. It’s funny because I told Dale in front of the very young sales girl that we had better upgrade phones or we run the risk of looking “old,” as the younger ones were already viewing our phones as something from the stone ages. I thought of getting an iPad for when I travel, but I believe the apps will allow me to do anything on my phone I would have had done with that, and it’s even smaller.

  16. not a fan of being connected 24/7! (with exception of when my husband is out of town, then, I don’t want to miss his call/email. I had to laugh about your bag phone. We both have LG EnV (I believe they’re called) cell phones. We purchased them 3 1/2 years ago. They’ve proven to be perfect for our needs, durable. This past year, I’ve noticed when I’m on the internet, it just doesn’t want to do certain functions. There’s features on the phone that I can no longer use. Unfortunately, it’s becoming obselete.. yet, I don’t cry. Why? Because my husband is out of his contract and I will also be out of mine within a few months.. then, we can switch over to pay as you go phones.

    • Kerri says:

      That sounds like a plan, Laura. Maybe something we should have looked into. Besides the waste of not using a perfectly good phone anymore, I hate they have us locked back into a contract for another 2 years!

  17. Becky says:

    Let me explain our extend family Christmas last year… all (ages 8-55) were in the same room texting each other… I was so mad…. really??? I am not a connected person excpet on FB and the web for a few things.. I have no home phone just a small cell phone… and half the time I don’t know where I left it or don’t care until it rings and then I no longer freak out if I don’t get to it on time.. I don’t allow any cell phones on in my car cause I think if I take the time to have you join me for a ride .. I want you connected to that moment in time.. NO phone on at holiday gatherings.. No phones on at dinners out… I think you get my maddess.. Auntie Becky has been known to take their cells away and not return them until I was ready to drop them off.. or they left.. I also think its kinda creepy that the people who use their cell phones 24-7 are always looking down at the crotches.. and all you can see is the future bald spots.. I like being connected to the nature and my passions.. FYI my phone doesn’t even take pictures or wipe my hinney for me..

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, my word, Becky, you had me LOLing at your comment! I, too, think it is a little creepy that everyone is looking at their crotch and texting ALL OF THE TIME. My, in the same room and texting each other? One of these days we will not even have to ever talk to anyone!

  18. The texting feature is useful for me when communicating with my daughters, since the younger generation seems to prefer it to an actual phone call. I am most apt to get a quick response from them if I text, rather than leave a voice mail. I also realized long ago that they don’t listen to the messages I leave on voice mail. They see that I called and call me back but don’t have any idea why it is that I called in the first place because they don’t listen to the message! With a text, I know that they’ll see my message and will have an idea why I’m trying to get in touch with them.

    Another advantage to texting is that it doesn’t require the same level of reception from a cell tower that a phone call does. I can get a text to go through from anywhere in our house, but not a regular phone call. And it’s very handy when you want to just send a brief message but don’t actually need to speak with someone. As in, “my flight just got in. See you in an hour!”

    I think that social networking, cell phones and all of the “connectivity” available these days is a good thing, but too much of any good thing can be bad. It’s very easy for something that started out as just a way to stay in touch with family and friends, get news updates and generally stay informed and up to date, to become a compulsive habit. Like any other activity or pleasurable pastime, it has to be managed and the user has to be responsible for recognizing when it’s becoming a compulsive habit rather than just an occasional, fun distraction.

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, many of my friends who have kids know how to text already because this seems to be the only way they can communicate with them. I guess one advantage of having our girls on two different continents is that we have to rely on the actual phone or Skype. I see it for short messages, but my sister in law told me she had to replace her phone yesterday as she wore it out texting!

  19. Teleia says:

    As a 36 year old, let me take up in defense of texting. Mostly because I teased a friend of mine just last week for joining us all in the 21st century, too. 🙂

    Texting is the perfect medium if what you want to tell someone is really just a quick comment or question but you don’t necessarily need a quick response. You could call, but then you have to wait to leave a message and they have to call voicemail.

    That said, I’m a big advocate of unplugging. I recently dropped cable and internet at home. I do all my internet browsing at work. I pay bills online during lunch and my smart phone is great for finding directions, movie times, the type of apple I need, etc. But I am unplugged the majority of the time, and I like it that way. When my phone rings too much, it starts to stress me out. I mean, I have things to do!

    • Kerri says:

      There are the days when I wish I could rip the satellite out of the house! 🙂 Dale doesn’t do the Internet, but the television is on 24/7 when he is home. I told him the other night I would put down my laptop if he turned off the television. Needless to say, neither happened. 🙂

  20. V Schoenwald says:

    I deep-sixed my cell phone this summer. It was a cheap 1 cent phone that came with a plan. It talked and sounded 100% better than D’s Blackberry which is the the worst phone I have ever seen.
    I hate being connected. I have internet but because I pay bills online for my parents, handle their utility bills and check on things online, but I do not sit on the computer and surf unless I am looking for something like garden things or a kitchen item, which I do shop online as where I live, I cannot find my kitchen items for canning or dehydrating here at all.
    I unplug on the weekends also and do not turn on the computer unless we are having bad weather and I need to look at snow/storms coming in.
    This is mainly what is wrong with people anymore, too much plug in time with the world. Too much connection.
    I totally unplug from the world and close my doors.

    • Kerri says:

      While we’re typically too busy for me to be connected on the weekends, I do find myself checking the LL page on Facebook and my emails at night. Because our previous Internet was wired into the office, instead of wireless, I rarely did this before. I sent my first text, a test to my sister in law last night. She congratulated me for finally meeting her in the 21st century. I still don’t see the point of texting. I like hearing someone’s voice when we’re having a conversation.