Taking the Smartphone Plunge

By Karen

Call me old-fashioned, but I think anybody who goes around with a phone stuck upside their head because they’ve lost the ability to function without third-party feedback are the worst kind of stupid.

If you ever eavesdrop (it’s usually hard not to), they’re usually describing their location…

“I’m in Food Lion. At the checkout.”

They never give the full story, which is, “Slowly unloading my groceries with one hand, backing up the line, and ignoring the cashier so I can babble about nothing on my phone.”

I had a sweet little blue Samsung cellphone with a slide-out keyboard — that was never on. It was for when I needed to make a call, not to make myself available to interruption 24/7.

But for just the occasional call, without texting or data, I was paying Verizon $45 a month under a 2-year sentence contract. They said texts were 10 cents each, but every month I’d get a 20-cent charge for some useless text they’d sent me. So apparently, it was 10 cents to receive, and another 10 cents to read.

A few months ago they dangled a Samsung smartphone at me, real cheap. But to take that bait started a NEW 2-year sentence and raised my bill to $80+.

So last week I went to Sears to check out Consumer Cellular. It’s AARP’s preferred cellphone provider and runs on AT&T’s network.

For $150, I bought a Huawei (pronounced Wah-way) 8800 smartphone. It only runs Android 2.2 (aka “Froyo,” for “frozen yogurt”), which isn’t the latest version. But who needs frills when you don’t even know how to use the damn phone?

I have no long-term contract, and 150 voice minutes, 1,000 texts, and 100 MB of data (WAY more than I’ll ever use unless I develop an addiction) is $25 + tax a month. If I need more or less, I can change the plan any time.

The biggest snag I hit was with Google. You need Google email to access apps. When I entered my Google address, it sucked over 600+ email addresses from my AOL business account onto my smartphone, when all I wanted was a short list of personal phone numbers from my old Verizon phone.

(BTW, nothing from a Verizon phone is transferrable to CC because Verizon phones don’t have the interchangeable SIM card other carriers use. Way to put one last screw to your customers, Verizon!)

My Huawei’s relatively primitive capabilities should lessen the learning curve, but I had to call CC twice for help the first day. The reps were rather condescending, with one telling me I should LOVE having hundreds of junk email addresses on my new phone because it’s supposed to be the repository of my LIFE.

This whole endeavor boiled down to 1) Reducing some bills since Anthem hiked my health insurance another $50 a month, 2) Having text/data capability if I ever need/want it, and 3) Breaking out of Verizon’s yoke.

So far, so good with the Huawei, although my first game download (Bingo Blast) was too big for the screen and I couldn’t figure out how to play it. And I couldn’t buy a cute case anywhere (it’s an iPhone and Galaxy world), but I did order one from Amazon.

I don’t feel compelled to use the smartphone any more than my old one, and I don’t keep it on all the time. Why smartphones are an American obsession is still a mystery to me — but now I have one.


11 Responses to Taking the Smartphone Plunge

  1. Imabear says:

    I have been tempted by smart phones but never given in. Like you, I use mine very rarely. I also sit in front a computer at work all day – so I generally don’t need to check my email on my phone, etc. Verizon is the only cell company I’ve ever had and while I know they are expensive, I am still with them. I’ve checked some other companies but run into questionable issues on roaming fees (none if you are on their network/tower – but if you are traveling, how will you know?), poor reception in rural areas (I spend time in rural TN and KY and everyone there tells me Verizon has the best reception out there), poor reception in cites – T-Mobile, for example, is evidently so bad in Nashville that they let people cancel their contracts who move there from other cities, and customer service (theirs has been excellent and they’ve cut me some breaks along the way).

    If I never left Los Angeles, I’d change companies. But I’m afraid of getting zapped with charges when I travel and having poor or no reception when visiting friends and family. I hope you have better luck and keep us updated on how it goes.

  2. yadayada118 says:

    After reading the first four paragraphs of this ditty, I’m convinced that there is a place for you in the Catskills, Karen. Pun intended. Please keep ’em coming! You’ll excuse me now while I make a call from my landline with the rotary dial.

  3. catsworking says:

    Long time, no see, yadayadayada! I think the kitties would love me to take them on a vacation to the Catskills.

  4. I’m not sure who “yadayada118” is, but the above comment about the “Catskills” is from suzanne.schaefer@hotmail.com.

  5. adele says:

    I was perfectly happy with my Mortorla Razor Phone , which didn’t even have a pullout keyboard, but after many years (like 6) ecauthe screen decayed. That and the fact that US Cellular (my former carrier) was leaving the Chicago area, led me to Verizon and a new but older model iPhone (which I got for a deep discount; I can’t talk to Siri, but who cares?) I’ll be going to iPhone school at the Apple Store, because now that I’ve got the damn thing, I might as well learn all it can do. So far, it’s come in handy for looking up a train schedule for my cousin, when he misplaced his paper schedule. I tried following Anthony Bourdain’s live tweeting for Parts Unknown on Sunday, with the result that I missed parts of the actual show — won’t do that again, and I’ve downloaded a GPS, which I can’t make work. I always take my phone with me when I’m out, but I never feel compelled to talk on it (same as with my old phone) unless I need to call someone about arrival time or something. I’ve taken a few good pictures of the cats. But am I happier because of this new connectivity? Not so far.

    BTW, my cats have always wanted to go to CATalina Island as well as SasCATchewan.

  6. leannenalani says:

    I’m a sensible Smartphone user – In other words, I love my phone but I don’t use it in public places like standing in line unloading groceries – That’s terrible. I do, however, use it for reading when I’m bored waiting a freaking half-hour in the pharmacy line.

    Congrats on coming over to the dark side. 🙂

  7. annie pelfrey says:

    Karen, love it! i for one choose not to have a cell phone…

  8. Zappa's Mom says:


  9. Bacardi1 says:

    I’ve been a Consumer Cellular customer since they first started. LOVE them. But I’ll go you all one better as far as “simple”. I just have a basic “candy bar style” Nokia phone that CC supplied me for FREE. No flip-open, no bells & whistles – JUST A PHONE. I don’t need texting, don’t need “apps”, don’t need internet access 24/7, etc., etc. (In fact, I even had CC turn off the texting capability (I can have it reinstalled at any time for free), because I kept accidentally engaging it & knew I would never use it.) I use the phone for 2 things – outside emergencies (like a car breakdown) & long-distance calls. That’s it. I couldn’t be happier (nor could my wallet).

  10. catsworking says:

    Bacardi, I’m so glad to hear your endorsement of CC. For MANY years, I had a black candy-bar phone (AT&T) that I called “the brick” because it was bulky and heavy, and I had a prepaid plan for voice only with AT&T that cost me $100 a YEAR. But then they screwed up my account beyond recognition and I walked away from $300 in rolled-over minutes and switched to Verizon, whom I feel has been screwing me royally since Day One.

    I’m also very pleased to hear that you all aren’t married to your phones. I find the whole “talking on the phone in public” thing so annoying, there’s going to come a day when I slap a phone out of someone’s hand and scream at them. I feel it coming.

    I also try to never use the phone in public, or while driving. And I NEVER text, but I like being able to if I need to, since that’s some people’s preferred method of contact (the socially-stunted morons).

    Leannenalani, I could see myself using it for reading, if it’s not going to totally exhaust my data limit. I’ve yet to wrap my head around how that all works. For example, if I tap in to my home Wi-Fi, does it count against my data? (I’m thinking no, but I’m not sure.) If I know I’m going to be stuck somewhere (like the doctor’s office), I bring my iPad to read. But the phone would be more convenient.

    I think my cute case is coming today from Amazon, so I am typing this sitting by my mailbox. 😉 I’ve secretly suffered from “cute case envy” for a long time.

    As confusing as it all is, I am getting a little kick out of having a more up-to-date phone. Especially since I drive a 13-year-old car (that’s still perfectly fine and running great!).

  11. Bacardi1 says:

    Consumer Cellular is THE BEST, as far as I’m concerned. Their customer service is beyond reproach, they have a number of different plans, & their prices are extremely reasonable.

    I particularly enjoy their feature where they send me an e-mail letting me know if I’m getting close to the end of my allowed minutes for the month, thus preventing me from getting a “surprise” higher bill. It’s also easy as a couple of clicks on their website to change plans at the drop of a hat – higher or lower – without any sort of penalty.

    Terrific company all round.

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