It's a Love/Hate Thing

NewsFlash:  Apple introduces the latest version of the IPhone today

When it comes to love/hate relationships, for me, the best examples are in the realm of the devices that connect me to the internet. On the one hand, they are so damned amazing (how old is Vanna White?... less than a minute later I know she's 54 (Yes... 54!), her father was Puerto Rican, she grew up near Myrtle Beach, NC... all with the simple press of a few keys on my laptop while we're eating dinner and waiting for the 6pm news).  But on the other hand, we consumers have to suffer through this period of discovery and "shake-out"... while manufacturers and the market try new things, new form factors, new technologies... some of which just aren't ready for prime time.  We're all trying to figure out what works best and what will someday become the norm. Why do I have to wait 2 full stinkin' minutes for my laptop to boot up? What's with all these updates I have to wait for, it seems, almost every day? We've seen the market "sweet-spot" for PCs evolve from the bid clunky desktop to laptops, and now, to much smaller handheld devices known as tablets and smartphones. They're small, for sure, but they can't get much smaller, can they? Are they too small? Too big?

A couple years ago I had (actually still have... in a storage bin somewhere around here) a big 15" screen "laptop" that was on the outer-limits of portability. I craved something smaller, lighter, and, hopefully, something with a battery life greater than 58 minutes. People I talked to about this said I'd be foolish to give up the big wide bright screen for something smaller; that I'd probably develop carpal tunnel syndrome, spine degeneration, scurvy, and all sorts of other maladies from typing on anything smaller than standard keyboard.

Pshaw, I said. So I bought my current little Acer 1410 and never regretted it... 10.5 inch screen and all. It still takes more than two minutes to boot up but it only weighs a couple pounds and the battery lasts for an honest 6 hours. It's small, but not too small for me.

But here's one I've been struggling with for a long time. Smartphones.  A couple years ago, as I was writing a journal update, I looked around and saw people walking around the campground with bent necks... looking like they've lost the muscle control to hold their heads up, normal like. It also appeared they were looking at something in the palm of their hand... as they aimlessly bounced and caromed off trees, the sides of cars and campers, and each other... like a pin balls. So I approached one of these people, got on my knees, looked upward... trying to make eye contact... to get their attention and find out about this phenomenon. This was my introduction to the smartphone.

Since that time, I've observed an increasing number of these things. It seems almost everyone has one today. But I've resisted. Sure, it'd be great to be able to check the weather while I'm walking around... or read other blogs, or check up on Vanna White, or get my emailed spam and forwards from people I never hear from otherwise. (You know who you are... click here) -- (thanks to Wandrin Lloyd for this link)

I said all that to say this... to finally get to the point of this post. I've been seriously considering getting a smartphone. I'm tired of the snickers and rolling eyes when people see my three year old flip-phone. And the comments: "What's that? The remote control for your awning?"  or "Wow, I haven't seen one of those in years!" or "Does Verizon still support that?"   I feel I'm being nudged, nay pushed and shoved, over to the dark side. 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with two smartphones... one an Apple IPhone, the other a similar Android powered device. Without a doubt, they were both slick little devices. However, after considerable thought and really analyzing how I'd use it... what'd I do with it, I decided to wait -- to NOT get one at this time. Here are the biggest reasons why:

1) Size: As a phone a smartphone is too big and too flat. As an internet device its too small and hard to read... aging eyes really appreciate a little more screen real-estate when perusing the internet. For me, this is a case of the worst of both worlds. My flip-phone is easy to live with, slips in any pocket or nook in the car, and magically opens up, unfolds, to curvaciously fill the space between my ear and my mouth. It's small when it should be and large when it should be.

2) Vulnerability/Durability: I've gotten in the habit of carrying my flip-phone in my pocket... any pocket. I often sit on it. It's dropped on concrete. It's abused and misused. But it still works and has worked for almost three years. Tough little bugger. I look at the exposed screens on smartphones and I cringe, wondering how they'd hold up to what I put a phone through... and how much it'd cost to replace when I break one in half. I'm told there are tough cases that you can put your smartphone into, but they make an already too big device even bigger.

3) Cost:  Hundreds of dollars for the phone, many hundreds more when I break it, and hundreds more every year for something called a data plan. Maybe it's just my price/value ratio that's out'a whack, but I have a hard time justifying the price for the way I'd use it. Price/Value?... a monthly jug of scotch or a data plan?? Hmmm.

4) Complexity:  "Apps"... they've got a million of them. How much time would I spend trying to figure out which apps I need, which would be useful, how they work, what to do when they don't work, and on and on. And that's besides learning the smartphone itself, it's operating system, quirks, hidden features, and all that. I'm not getting any younger and I think using the time I have to take a better shot at really living life instead of figuring out how another dang device works is probably the better option for me.

5) Time: Closely associated the last point about complexity... do I really need a way to be connected every moment? Comon... I'm not a 911 dispatcher or a doctor on call. I don't need to be so immediately connected. Sure, it'd be nice at times... but not necessary.

6) Neck: I'm concerned that a smartphone would hasten the body deformation that naturally occurs as we age. I'm hunched over enough already, worn down by life, and don't need to hasten the process.

Now, if they ever come up with a smartphone that dispenses antacid tablets every time you check your investments... now that'd be useful. I do like technology and won't say I'll never get a smartphone. It's just not the right thing for me at this time.

(emailed to the blog from the old fashioned little Acer laptop)


Joe and Tracey said…
Just like Gov. Chris Christie, you've decided that the time is just not right. Kudos.

Y'know, I've been having angst as well about not having a smart phone. I just didn't know how to put it into words. Just thinking about it hurt my head. But you have very succinctly expressed exactly what I imagine I would have thought if I could have actually thought it through. :)

(I'm pretty sure I'm not smart enough for a smart phone!)

- Joe
Antacid dispenser, now that's an idea that would sell me on a smart phone.

I'm an old timer that agrees with you, there is too much technology to use, let alone benefit from. I like the old K.I.S.S. ideas, all these neat things that electronics can do overload my brain. I want a phone that is just a phone.

The rate society is going, vocal chords are going to evolve away and necks will become permenantly crooked.

Where's a good old rotary phone when you need one? My daughter recently bought a repro of an old fashinoned rotary phone and my grandsons were afraid of it, they thought the cord to the handset was a snake!
Anonymous said…
Hey Thom,

You know how i feel about my smartphone, I love it. It fulfills 90% of my daily tech needs. Looks like no Iphone5 but a Iphone4s. They did drop the price on the Iphone4 8GB to $99 bucks. I am sure you will continue to get along just fine without one but getting one would have changed how you interact with tech for the better IMHO. Tech is an addiction and I fully admit to being addicted.

Unknown said…
Thom, Let's not confuse want with need. My gadgets already include the iPad and the iPod Touch. Apps are already in place. Now I "need" the iPhone to complete the family. On December 13th, I can get a "smart" phone to replace that old phone which can only be used for making phone calls.

Like Gage, I admit to having an addiction.
Anonymous said…
The cost factor is something that I can really agree with you on... I now pay more monthly for TV/internet/phone than I did when I first bought my home. I know that there is such a thing as inflation but I think tech products are one of the major contributors to it.

John and Carol said…
We went to Verizon for a new phone and to ask if they had anything but smart phones. All we want is a phone, not a data plan. How long will that be possible?
Speaking of 10" netbooks, I wish I could find how many DC amps they use, and how that compares to slightly larger laptops.

Older or more powerful laptops are real energy hogs and that matters to a dry camper who runs his computer most of the day.

Slightly Better than Most