I have a cell phone. Actually, I’ve had several cell phones. It’s a love-hate relationship.

First of all, it’s something I only marginally need. I got along fine without one for probably 45 years. I still go out and forget to carry it with me, even though it’s not even the size of a pack of cigarettes. I go forever without getting a call on mine and when I do it’s 50-50% that it’s a wrong number.

My first cell phone was about the size of the cordless handsets I have in the house. It worked pretty well and I carried it around in a leather case with a belt clip. It did only one thing – made phone calls. Battery life was acceptable, but not great: it was analog.

After I had it for over three years, I decided to get my wife her own. They said you could add a line for $19 a month and that was within the budget. I went to the store and looked at the phones. They talked me into replacing my phone at the same time, since I could get two free under some ‘special’ promotion.

So I got a nice new phone that was smaller than the one I had for my wife. It was perfect for putting in a purse. I got a small flip phone, because I don’t carry a purse. How I got turned around into getting myself the cooler phone when I wanted to get one for my wife, only the Verizon salesperson knows.

But they were still pretty simple phones. Yes, they now had a color screen and they could send text messages and play some silly games on the screen the size of a postage stamp, but they were just phones to me.

After a while, I lost my phone. I think it fell out of my pocket in a parking lot and it never turned up. So I had to go get a new one. My two years was up by then, so I was eligible for another ‘free’ phone. I looked for another phone similar to what I had. I liked the flip open style because they’re as small as a pager (remember those?) and I could carry it all the time. (My theory was, I get so few calls, those I do get must be really important and I didn’t want to miss them. )

Of course, there were no plain phones. They all had at a minimum, a camera built-in. I had a good digital camera, why would I want a cheesy 640×480 resolution camera in my phone? But every phone had one. I guess I don’t need to use it. They had another promotion to get two phones, so my wife’s phone got replaced at the same time. (We’d hang on to the old one. If another got lost, it would be the backup.)

So I have this fancy phone with a camera built-in. Other stuff too. Text messaging. Email. Web-browsing. Games. Ring tones. Sheesh.

So let’s try some of these things…

Camera: Takes pictures. You can use them as backgrounds for the screen. OK. You can send them to someone else. (Some charges may apply.) You can send them to a special webpage where you can see them later. (A charge per picture, plus airtime charges.) But wait? How do I just get them into my computer? Can’t I plug in a USB cable and download them, like a camera?

I checked around for the USB cable. I could (and did) buy one, but they only allowed managing your phone numbers. No way to get the pictures out with this phone. I found out that the same phone, sold to other cell carriers could do it. So Verizon had it disabled. Sure, upload them to our web site for 25-cents a pop!

Oh, and after I took about a dozen pictures with no way to get rid of them, except delete, the thing was full. Hey, I sometimes take several hundred photos at a time. This is useless.

Games: You can play some video games on the screen. I could get one or two free ones to try out. Any more cost $. I tried one, but found it frustrating. The screen was too small and the keypad on the phone too flakey to really use. Sorry, I’ll stick to the PC for what little gaming I do.

Text Messaging: I never got the hang of this. Did you ever see something on TV where they say “Send a text message of 8 to 59595 to vote for ….” I don’t get it. I don’t see whether I need to be using a phone by the same company, or quite how to get it started. How would I send a text message to a friend? Of course, I’m sure there is a charge for all this. I’m probably better off without it.

E-Mail: Probably works the same as a text message. I paid $1.95 or something like that per month for the privilege of sending and receiving email. The tiny screen and entering text on a phone were big downsides. But maybe in a pinch it might be worth it, especially when you can’t get to a computer.

Then I used it. I sent an email to a friend. They replied. The headers and signature lines, and the copy of my message in the forward were so much, I lost the reply in the mess. Scrolling through screen after tiny screen of this gobbledy-gook was more frustrating than being without communication. (Solution – use the thing as a phone like it was intended and ask they what they sent!) So I canceled that ‘feature’ and save $1.95 a month.

Ring-tones: My phone has a bunch of selectable ring-tones you can pick from. I don’t know off hand whether they are MP3 or MIDI, but with a speaker the size of a dime, they sound about the same anyway.

All the ones in the phone are pretty lame. I set a few up for different people so they would have a unique ring when they call me. But I can never remember who is what ring. Actually, if it rings with a different ring than the default, I don’t recognize it and start looking around to see who’s phone is ringing!

Now, if I could upload certain files that have some meaning to me, it might help. Can you do that? No, not without some hacking or other black magic. You can buy them, but here we go again, nickle and dimeing me while I’m paying by the month already for a phone I hardly get a call on. Who really pays $2.99 for a ringtone anyway? Only people with more money than brains.

What I want in a cell phone and hope someday that competition will bring it, is just good phone service. I want a phone that it would never occur to you to say “can you hear me now.” I want one that you can understand what the person is saying, not sound like they’re underwater. And I want one that you don’t care what network the person you are calling is on, or what time of day it is or how long you’ve talked. You don”t think of those things on a landline phone. Why should you on a cell phone?