Yes. That’s twelve years. The only reason I’m with AT&T is because I was originally with Southwestern Bell in 2000. Then SW Bell became Cingular. So I instantly became a Cingular customer. Then Cingular became AT&T Wireless, and here I am — a customer of a communications carrier who (until recently) had monopolized the Apple iPhone market.
And yet I haven’t upgraded yet. Even better — my little workhorse of a prepaid cell phone isn’t even a smartphone.
Briefly — when, last week, I was hunched next to the downstairs women’s restroom during a tornado warning while at work, seeing my fellow co-workers work their Androids and iPhones like crazy, tracking the tornadoes around us — briefly I thought, “Hmmm. Smartphones are nice to have.”
But then the storm passed, I returned home, and that “nice to have” never did turn into “need to have.”
What I mostly see folks — my coworkers, my students, and the folks I see waiting in checkout lines — with smartphones do is check on apps, surf the web, or even entertain themselves with streaming media and interactive games. Occasionally I’ll see professional looking people use the productivity tools — calendar, to-do lists, alerts — but not so much. Mostly it seems to be Facebook, YouTube, and games like Angry Birds and Words with Friends.
Let’s not even start with the photographer types who <3 Instagram.
That is, they’re very much like my brother, who’s always been an early adopter of all things smartphone, tablet, and Apple. So, this past Sunday, when my brother asked if I was going to upgrade my cheap non-smart cell phone with an iPhone or get an iPad, he gave me a look as if I grew a tentacle out of my ear when I said, “No. I don’t need it.”
I sound like an old fart when I say that I don’t want an omnibus device that does everything. I want my cell phone primarily for its original function, as a mobile phone that also texts. Maintaining a healthy battery life is easy when the cell phone is that “dumb” — and I want that battery life fat and healthy just in case the kiddo’s preschool calls or a literary agent tries to talk to me or I have to call 911 (knock on wood).
As for web-surfing, it’s enough of a time-suck for me when I’m at the work desktop or the home laptop that having a little portable Time Sucker in my pocket would be too much an Eve’s apple for me. That’s why my tiny, ultraportable laptop (it’s an older model Sony Vaio — 11.6″ screen with built in DVD-RW and wireless card) has been and still is perfect for my needs. Just portable enough for me to tote around, but not so easily a time-suck since I need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot for it. (Fortunately, more and more public places have ‘em for free — like McDonald’s!)
Of course, the main important feature I desire from any portable, non-phone techy device is this: a keyboard so that I can write, and MS Office and Adobe Acrobat so that I can save those manuscript docs in whatever format agents, publishers, and POD publishers want them to be. Tablets — for all of their cool touch screen yummy goodness — can’t do that, or at least, can’t do that that easily.
Even my brother conceded that the iPad isn’t the right tech tool for a writer on the go. A laptop is.
So that’s why 1) I bought a large LCD monitor to hook up the laptop when at home, 2) increased the RAM by putting in a larger RAM stick, and 3) reclaimed use of the dead-space that was the PCMCIA slot by finding a USB 2.0 PC card that instantly doubles the number of USB ports on my six-year old laptop.
To quote Dr. Frankenstein, “It’s ALIVE!”
However, I’m no Luddite. I’m waffling whether to get a USB 2.0 modem for the laptop, just in those rare instances when wi-fi is unavailable but 3G or 4G cell phone signal is (like in a blackout). But that mandatory $50/month data plan does give me pause: Do I really need this right now? So far, the answer in my head is “Not right now.”
Not right now. But — eventually — I’ll move from the “dumb” cell phone to a smartphone, to budgeting not only talk and text costs but also mobile data plans. But knowing my frugal, bare-bones consumer nature, that smartphone will likely be another prepaid model, with the “pay-as-I-go” costs of my current phone’s talk and text. It’s just budgeting in that monthly data plan is like a sour note in my financial orchestrations. If I want to tether the dang thing to my laptop, I’ll have to go with the “Cadillac” of data plans. KA-CHING!
Perhaps, when the kiddo’s aged out of preschool (when I don’t have to pay nearly $600/month) and starts public school (my local taxes at work!), then I may change my tune.