How Smart Should My Phone Be?

Do I need a Smart Phone, or will I only be embarrassed when the gadget turns out to be smarter than I am?

I resisted getting a cell phone for years, back in the day when people still thought of them as “car phones.” Back then, my car was very nearly the only place where I could get away from the phone. There were rare occasions when it might have been handy to have a phone in my purse, but I didn’t give it much thought.

When I started commuting to work, thirty miles each way, in 2003, I thought about it more seriously, and after I had car trouble on the Gulf Freeway one evening in early 2005, I gave in and bought a TracFone, a simple little device that could make calls and not much else. I rarely used it. In fact I rarely turned it on, and I didn’t give the number to anyone but Jo Anne, the friend I work with.

old phone 2A couple of years later, TracFone sent me an upgrade. Apparently there was some change in the — heck, I don’t know what changed, but I needed a different type of phone, and they sent me one. Every year I pay a minimal amount, about $100, for service, and they give me more minutes, of which I use very few.

Two years ago I upgraded on my own to a much nicer TracFone model. One might even call it a moderately intelligent phone. It has a larger screen, with colors and icons. I can leave it on and it only rarely makes calls on its own. It supposedly can access the Internet and my email, but I have yet to figure out how. The instructions it came with are utterly worthless, and those available on line not notably better. But I can make and receive calls and text messages, although I rarely do. I have more than 6000 minutes on my account. If I have to call AAA for help, I can. As far as phone service goes, what more do I need?

But I’m being tempted by Apps, and all those things people do with their phones these days. My phone has a calendar, and notes, and probably a lot of other not very useful built-in functions, but not enough memory to download Apps. It has a camera, but no way to get the pictures off the phone, at least not that I can find. (I have an actual camera for that.) I don’t want to send pictures of my lunch to Twitter anyway. I don’t want to read books on my phone (my Kindle is small enough!), but sometimes it might be handy to hop on the Internet and look something up, or read my email when I’m away from home and computer.

I have many friends, most of them younger than I am, who seem to carry their whole lives on their phones, even some who never take the Bluetooth gadget out of their ear (apparently because any incoming phone call would be more important than the live human beings in the same room). I don’t want that.

On the other hand, tonight I got an email from my car insurance company offering an App that might be genuinely useful. It wasn’t the first time I’ve wondered if I’m really missing something. I’m frequently surrounded by people my age and older who seem to find their smart phones genuinely useful.

Smart phone? IPad? Kindle Fire? I don’t know what the heck I need. No, I know I don’t actually need any of them. I’m trying to decide what I want. Maybe I should make up my mind before I’m the last person alive without a “mobile device.” Maybe I just have a growing case of gadget envy.

What works for you? Advice and suggestions welcome!

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deborah Hughes
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 23:24:06

    I am totally happy with my non-Suri-talking iPhone 4. I find myself googling random information about actresses, directors, and reviews when I watch old movies on Turner Classic Movies. I play Words With Friends (and strangers) in my spare time. I don’t have that many apps on my phone but I could if I wanted. It’s not a fancy phone but it’s easy to use, has a great camera , and suits me fine. And I bought it online through Apple pretty cheap because it was an old model. I think it cost me $79.00.

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  2. MishaBurnett
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 07:08:46

    My cell phone makes calls, and it sends texts. That’s it. I got it a Target for about 15$ and I pay 25$ a month for the service.

    However, I also have my Kindle Fire HD, and use that for internet, apps, and such. The screen is big, nearly the size of a small laptop, and I have a bluetooth keyboard for it.

    On the other hand, my roommate has a new Galaxy phone which does nearly everything, including becoming it’s own mobile wifi hotspot.

    We have different needs. I have to have a phone with me all the time for work, and I often work in situations where a phone could get broken easily–so it makes sense for me to have two devices. My roommate travels for pleasure a lot, so she wants one device that does everything and is easy to carry,

    If you generally have a tablet or laptop close by, I’d say go with a cheap and simple phone. If you want to have the internet access and apps without using a second device, go with a smart phone.

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    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 06, 2014 @ 11:38:35

      Thanks, Misha. I’ve been tempted to upgrade my 3G keyboard Kindle to a Fire, but right now I don’t have wifi at home, and I’d have to look into that. Technology is wonderful, but darn, there are so many choices!

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      • MishaBurnett
        Jul 06, 2014 @ 11:43:44

        You don’t have WiFi at home? Is that even possible?

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      • Kay Hudson
        Jul 06, 2014 @ 14:29:17

        When I set the current computer up several years ago I didn’t have any need for wifi, so I just got a standard DSL modem from Verizon. It probably won’t be difficult to replace it with a wireless router, but I haven’t checked on that yet.

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  3. Cheryl Bolen
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 10:39:42

    I absolutely love the term “moderately intelligent” phone!

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  4. JF Owen
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 22:51:36

    Lest you think that you are the lone holdout in the race to technology, I will tell you proudly that my phone is also only moderately intelligent. My reason for that is very simple…I’m too cheap to pay for a data plan.

    My phone has an actual physical QWERTY keyboard, which makes it perfect for texting, a function that I use often. So, I do spring for unlimited messaging. That and making actual calls is all I really need from a phone

    Other than not having a smart phone, I’m actually cutting edge on nearly everything else. Between my wife and I, we have three tablets, a Nook, three laptops and a kick butt desktop that I use for CAD and CGI work. The problem isn’t that I don’t like tech, I just don’t like paying $100 a month so that I can check facebook while I’m walking down the street.

    Why don’t you try getting a nice 7″ tablet with WiFi? Unless you’re moving in a vehicle, it’s hard to be more than a few minutes away from a hotspot. Adding WiFi to your DSL modem is a very simple task. You can load both a Kindle app and a Nook app on the tablet and between the two you’ll be covered for virtually any ebook format.

    I have a Toshiba 10″ tablet that I mostly use at home and a 7″ Samsung TAB 3 that I carry around because it’s so light. The Samsung actually has 4G capability, but I don’t use it. I picked it up on eBay for about $90. The bonus was that the 4G model has 16 Gigs instead of 8.

    If the day comes that the phone carriers become more sensible about the cost of data plans, I’ll take the plunge. Until then, I’m content to be the old curmudgeon in the corner pecking away on his not so smart phone and asking people where the nearest hotspot is. :)

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    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 06, 2014 @ 23:19:42

      Hey, Jerry. I haven’t even priced data plans–all the ads seem to be for groups sharing bandwidth, and I’m just me. At the moment I’m leaning toward upgrading my modem to a wireless router and getting a tablet, but obviously if I’ve waited this long, there’s no hurry. I’m perfectly happy without a phone in my ear.

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