My wife and I got our first smartphones in 2010. The original DROID by Motorola had just been released. Verizon was offering it for free with a two year contract that included unlimited data. We researched the phone and were excited ours. As soon as I got mine, I used it to navigate to work with Google maps, where my wife met me to pick up hers. It was sweet. We were smartphone owners.
In the coming days, I was pleased with the ability to use my phone from virtually anything from checking email to typing a text rather than “thumbing” it out on a number pad, to streaming live video, to watching YouTube and Netflix, to listening to my music library, and more. Cloud services like Dropbox and Box let me access my files anywhere via the 3G connection, so I could often substitute my phone for a computer in a pinch.
Then, two years later, I got the DROID RAZR MAXX. I missed the physical QWERTY keyboard and the lack of a removable battery of the DROID 1, but I got a lot of use out of the device, due to its faster processor, 4GLTE capability, and special features, both with its physical and software . especially due to the micro-HDMI port (watch videos on a TV!) and its ability to interface with the Lapdock and HD station accessories (which effectually turned it into a little mini computer, with a physical keyboard connected).
Unlimited data was great. We were glad when we got to stay with the unlimited plan during subsequent changes to Verizon’s plans, in which all data was limited. (We regularly went over what would have been the maximum limit on their new plans!)
Nice devices… improving features… incredible functionality…. no need to have a dumb phone anymore, right?
Problems with Smartphones
Despite all the good things about smartphones, there was one big negative: the bill. Sometimes our cell phone bill was more than our electric bill (mainly in mild months). That’s just not right.
There was also the issue of figuring out redundancy and necessity. Did we really need to have access to the Internet via Wifi and 3G/4G? True, we couldn’t easily or economically take Wifi on the road with us. The only way to access certain services while traveling was to have service on a smartphone. But that brought up another issue: did we really need anytime access to those services? And was there another way to get any services that were useful (like navigation)?
Smartphones also lend themselves easily to distractions. It was way too easy to check email when I should have been focusing on a conversation. It’s also a temptation on the road, and we all know that any distracted driving isn’t safe, wise, or loving toward your neighbor.
When we added it up we decided it wasn’t worth $720 a year to have the convenience of a smartphone, even though we were forfeiting the option of ever having unlimited data on Verizon again. If the only thing we really needed in a pinch was navigation, it would be more economical to buy a stand-alone GPS device and have dumb phones.
A Good Dumbphone
When we switched from SunCom to Verizon in 2008, we both got the Motorola W755 multimedia flip phone – in “his and hers” – black and purple colors. We enjoyed this phone. It had a camera with a camcorder option (it even let you pause when recording video, so you could make a decent multi-scene video clip, like this one I recorded). It let us put MP3 music files on a microSD card. It let us text pictures and videos. (We could also access the Internet on it via MobileWeb, but I don’t recommend it… slow, ugly formatting, and uses a lot of data.)
Well, we still had this phone around. We even had a charger for an extra battery to swap out in a pinch. To see if they would still work, I emailed the Verizon customer service rep I knew. Yes, those phones still work with Verizon. The day after our billing cycle ended, we pulled the plug on the smartphones.
Working Around the Limitations of a Dumbphone
A dumbphone… is still a dumbphone though, even if it has a few cool features. Texting is a pain. We don’t get group messages. No good Internet solution with it. But we have found some things that don’t make us miss the smartphones too much. Next Friday, Lord willing, I will share the helpful work arounds and alternatives that have made the switch work for us.