How I ditched the smart phone

I’m officially a former Blackberry user. I fell in love with the devices while covering the Olympics, where USA TODAY would set us all up so we could communicate from everywhere. Snapping pictures and Tweeting from Beijing was a new and wonderful experience.

My older cell phones had their charms. But without a keyboard, texting was virtually impossible. The tiny screens weren’t good for the “mobile Web.” And so I was thrilled to get a Blackberry — emailing, Tweeting and using Facebook any time I was otherwise idled.

But my Blackberry also had annoying habit of freezing at inopportune times. It was a decent email device but a terrible phone. And obviously, the iPhone and Android phones had overtaken my old semi-reliable companion.

Then Verizon introduced its “Share” plans. Unlimited talk and text! And data plans that were … ridiculously expensive!

The idea is to capitalize on the masses’ demand for smart phones and tablets, apparently so we can go out into the woods and watch silly videos on YouTube or something like that. They’re not even making a pretense of productivity any more. If you can’t share your kids’ origami project in 2.3 seconds over a 4G network … well … you’re just lame.

Hi. I’m lame.

I noticed that the “basic phone” today is not the same keyboard-less wonder I had in 2004. Today’s “basic phones” have touch screens. Wide screens. Slide-out keyboards.

So when Verizon called and told me I could get a discounted “basic phone” and a reasonable data plan, I made the call. Blackberry out. Brightside (Samsung) in.

So far, it’s a little disappointing. The ad copy made it seem that I could do everything I was doing with the Blackberry — email, Twitter, Facebook and occasionally GPS. Sort of.

The GPS is the real aggravation. Like the old days, Verizon offers voice navigation — for a fee. If you’re thinking you’ll just get around that by using Google Maps, think again. Go to Google Maps through the ever-clumsy Opera Mini browser, and you’re prompted to download an app. Then the phone won’t support a download.

And that little hitch prevents me from doing a lot with Twitter and Facebook as well. The app market for non-smart phones has basically died. I was able to get more apps back in the old days — even had a playable EA Tiger Woods golf game. Today, I can’t even find Freecell.

The upside: You can still do a lot through texting, and now that I have unlimited texts, that’s a viable way to keep up with Twitter if I’m not at a laptop.

But the bottom line is this: What do I really need? I need email and phone. These days, I need more texting as well. I can reach a lot of sources that way. Parents can contact me if their kids are running late for soccer.

The biggest difference between my new phone and my 2004 phone: I can easily text and keep up with email. Easily. It runs Gmail with no hitches at all.

I don’t need games. I don’t need Facebook. I only occasionally need Twitter. I never go on long hikes and stop to watch Hulu. And so I really can’t justify the expense of a smart phone.

Now if someone wants to get me a Kindle Fire for Christmas …

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2 Responses to How I ditched the smart phone

  1. Smart phones are fairly cheap these days. You can get a decent one for free with an upgrade. So why abandon one completely? You don’t have to use all the features. It makes sense if you’re trying to simplify your life. It has crossed my mind a few times before.

  2. bdure says:

    And then $20 more per month, even for the cheapest data plan.

    I’m also thinking of getting one of the new Kindles at some point.

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