$ell Phones

One of the most irritating things to me is cell phone commercials. They really treat us like morons. So condescending.

Maybe it’s just me. I just refuse to be a slave to them. I remember back in the 80’s telling my wife “If I were cheating on you, do you know how you could tell? I’d have a cell phone!” It was a joke we laughed about at the time. But it was really true. I had no need to get an expensive electronic device to do what I could just as easily do from my home phone.

Well, times changed and prices dropped and I eventually did get a cell phone – without cheating on my wife, I might add. We now both have had cell phones – a family plan – for many years.

I sometimes wonder why, though.

Sure, it’s good to have in case of an emergency, I suppose. The convenience factor is more realistic and compelling, though. Cell phones have become ubiquitous and now outnumber wired landlines in the US. Even kids often have their own, to the dismay of teachers all over. So, wouldn’t something so universal and commonplace be cheap now? Shouldn’t competition have pared prices to the minimum by now?

It sure doesn’t seem so. My two, very minimal phones cost over $75 a month, more than my home phone, and we hardly ever use them. But they have us convinced that we need them. Maybe we do, when is the last time you saw a pay phone? They are all but extinct.

My cell phone is a couple years old. I’ll need a new battery sometime. It lasts a day or so between charges. Long enough to last until I get a call and then die while I’m talking. It used to last almost a week. Of course, if I was one of those people who constantly talk on it, it would be less.

I could buy a new battery, or I could get a whole new phone. My plan provider has a “New after Two” program where I could get a new “free” phone. Of course, it’s not really free. I pay for it as I go, every month. In theory, since I’ve fulfilled my two-year contract for my present phone, they could give me a reduced rate plan now, but they don’t…

And the plans. How many minutes do you need? How do I know? I don’t plan my phone calls. I do know, historically, on average, I could use a plan for maybe 30 minutes a month and have time left over. But they don’t have one that small! So I have more than I will ever need and for my purposes, might as well be unlimited. Rollover minutes? I laugh at the whole idea. If I could roll over minutes since I first got my phone, I’d have enough to last ten more years by now… I’ve never run short.

And the phones. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the latest fancy do-everything phone? Do I have iPhone envy? Not really. I don’t need internet on my phone. I have a laptop if I want that. It would be nice to have a phone that would connect my laptop to the internet anywhere, but to get that, it costs too much. I also have a camera, a good one, that makes the ones built into cell phones look sad. But it’s hard to even buy a cell phone without one in it.

My present phone has a cheesy camera in it. If I take a picture, can I hook it up to my computer and get the photo out of it? No, you have to send the picture to a service, paying data rates while you do it. Then download it from a website. They charge $.50 a picture to do that as well. Guess how often I do that?

I can send text messages too. What a waste. I’ve gotten maybe 4 that I wanted to get in the years I have had the phone. The only way I know to send one means typing in the phone number as a sort of email address. If I have to do that, I might as well call and talk. Oh, it can send to a regular email address too. I did that a couple times and the person I sent it to hit reply. The headers from their email client more than filled up the capacity of the little phone email system. Useless.

I even have to laugh at the new Verizon commercials about the “Dead Zones.” Who cares? If you can’t drive a mile without cell coverage, you’re a wimp. Besides, it must be true, because I rarely have anyplace I can’t get a signal. I did find a place driving through the wilds of Orleans County the other day where I looked up at my rear-view mirror and noticed a red light. I didn’t know what it meant and I don’t have the On-Star service anyway, but it’s really just a cell phone built into your vehicle. When it changed to green in a few minutes, I realized it was a no-signal indicator. But no one asked me if I wasn’t “from around these parts.”

I wish I could get a simple cell phone that sounded good, too. Everyone I’ve had, with the exception of the original, analog one, sounds tinny and starts to garble when the signal gets weak. Oh, you don’t lose signal, you just wish you did.

I wish for a display I can see, too. I don’t need one of those giant, Geriatric phones, but I wish the display didn’t wash out in bright sun.

I think Bluetooth would be nice too. A wireless earpiece would be nice, I suppose, especially if I actually talked on it while driving. In an ideal world, your cell phone would stay in your pocket and just connect to your vehicle when you drove, giving you hands-free use through the radio and integrating with your GPS system at the same time. No need for On-Star. Your phone would work with the vehicle in an emergency. And set it down near you laptop and it would act as a data modem too. Someday, they’ll stop charging $75 a month for any useful data plan… (In my dreams!)

Every once in a while I look at what’s available. Or I see a new, cool phone on TV and look it up on the web. Usually, I just get as far as the price tag, or else the “not yet available” clause, then go back to reality and decide I don’t need what they’ve sold me already.

Posted in Rants, Tech Stuff

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