Talking Points: It's not so 'smart' to be worrying about giving up your 'dumb' phone
I've got a cell phone -- sorry, mobile device -- made by a well-known manufacturer. I've had it for a couple of years or so. It flips open, has what appears to be a regular phone keypad and easy-to-use instructions: red button for off, green button for answer, and a few others that I kind of know what they do.
I thought, and still think, this is a pretty high-tech piece of equipment. It's got a clock, a calendar and an alarm and a calculator and I'm sure a ton of other functions that would be really cool to use if I bothered to check them out. If you hit the right button, a lady even comes on and asks if you'd like to "voice dial" somebody! She seems pleasant.
But it doesn't slide, it doesn't have "apps" or a giant screen bigger than the first TV I ever bought. It doesn't have GPS, it doesn't find my car, turn on my garage lights or order me a pizza if I push the wrong button. It has a camera but the photos are of such quality that if you wanted to "share" them you'd be better off drawing stick figures and faxing them.
I clean it up now and then, try to not drop it too much and I don't take it along in my pocket when I go swimming, which seems to be the preferred method of acquiring new phones among the 13-25 age demographic.
But it's the holiday season and the pressure is on. Ads flood the airwaves all but ordering me to upgrade to a "smart phone." We all know it's coming. You can barely find "regular" phones anymore. Some sources state that "smart phone" use in the world now represents about 25 percent of the mobile device market. In five years, that total will be about 90 percent.
So while the tide quickly turns against me, I think I'd like to hold out and fight the urge to cave. All the ads are compelling, making you feel like you will soon be on the outside looking in if you don't relent. The folks around me aren't any help. When many of them see my phone, they study it like its an artifact from an archaeological dig, then fix me with a look that says, "This is one step above tin cans and string. How can you be seen in public with this?"
I actually feel guilty. When I send a text I kind of hunch over so people can't see my phone. I keep checking over my shoulder for people. It feels like the days when you were sucking down an illicit smoke behind the high school.
So I started to look into "smart phones" and all it's done so far is make me realize that I'm better equipped for "dumb phone" use. It used to be there were two types of phones: the crappy ones that you got "free" for signing up for a phone plan, or the nicer ones dealers knew you'd come looking for when you got fed up having to stand out in the driveway to get a signal on your free phone. Now, I get dizzy trying to figure out which "smart phone" is best. I looked at one and it reminded me of a control panel of a fighter jet. Another was just a large, blank screen. Forget Facebooking and video sharing and Skype capabilities -- just getting to "on" would be cause for a ticker-tape parade.
Since I don't possess the decision-making skills nor any real desire to make the switch, I'm going to try using my phone until it's figuratively torn from my hand. Some years ago, I had a phone I really liked. One day, a guy from the phone company called to say, "You have to upgrade to a new phone." I said, "No, that's OK, this one is fine." And he said, "No, you have to upgrade. We're no longer supporting that technology and soon the phone won't work."
I stood and looked at what I thought was one of the most marvelous advancements in technology I would ever see, a communications tool so beyond our comprehension just a decade ago that it would've made my dad's 20th century head pop. And that phone was obsolete.
As I stood among all these "smart phones," I realized that phone is not alone.