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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dumb-phone.

(DISCLOSURE: I was a Sprint customer for 10 years and was quite satisfied with their service. My kids, however, had all started their cell-phone accounts as an extension of my ex's account...which was Verizon. After a few years, my primary daytime phone calls were to my adult children, and the necessary usage plan to avoid overages was killing me. When I switched so that I was using same carrier that my kids were using, I cut my cell phone bill by 50%.)

My cell-phone contract is up. That's right, I can finally get a smart-phone, and get it dirt-cheap. Because I am the account holder, I qualify for an additional $50 off the 2-yr contract price of any new phone. In addition, my carrier happens to be Verizon, who is currently offering a $100 Verizon gift-card if you send in your old, regular cell phone. This essentially means that I can get a 32 gig iPhone for $150. I can also get a Droid for the same price. THAT is enticing.

My quandary is not whether to get an iPhone or a Droid. My quandary is how smart do I want to be, and how badly do I want Big Brother to be able to track me? These might seem like oddly simple questions, but they're actually quite deep and should be asked (and answered) by everyone.

Firstly, to smart-phone, or not to smart-phone? Well, there's the issue of an additional $30/mo commitment to my phone bill for the required data-plan. If I have an iPhone (or a Droid, I've been told), I can use the phone for a mobile hot-spot connecting up to 5 other devices to the internet...for a monthly fee, of course, raising my bill by another $20 a month. I could connect my smart-phone to my desktop computer with a connection wire, accessing the internet through my phone's data-plan. No carrier will support this, but I'm told that it can be done. Sounds pretty ingenious. So, what's the problem?

We live in an electronic world; there's just no getting around it. I love the features of a smart-phone. I love that with a smartphone you can access the internet from pretty much anywhere. But do I really need to be quite that connected? I remember the first time that I sat in a room and noticed that there were three different people having three different conversations on three different phones. It is as if the world shifted on its axis with the invention of cell phones.

The world's shifted on its axis again with the development of smart-phones, and not in always good ways. It used to be that people were having different conversations on different phones at the same time...but at least they were having conversations. Now they're on their phones, but not talking to anyone. Any time you have an event with a large audience and you take a photo of that audience, you're going to find at least one person in that photo who is not looking at the stage and not engaging with other audience members, but is looking at their phone. They might be checking email, updating their facebook status, or 'tweeting'. They may even be looking up critical information. The fact remains, however, that they are not fully-engaged with who or what is immediately around them.

I am a technology-provider's best dream. I am a person of habit who likes tech-y gadgets and has a slightly addictive personality. If I were to buy a smart-phone, I can not assure that I would not be on it non-stop. If and when I'm confident that I would run the phone, and not the reverse, then I will give serious consideration to getting a smart-phone. But in the mean time I will stick to my regular old low-tech flip-phone, because smart-phones do not make us smarter. Smart-phones make us dumber by encouraging us not to listen, not to pay attention, not to be in the moment of what's going on around us.

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