Technically, my phone costs twice as much as my laptop. I don’t think many of us pay the “sticker price” we get quoted at the phone store. That’s probably to make us appreciate the value of these little plastic devices, at least from the perspective of the carrier. “Only $39.95/month to lease,” sounds way more affordable when spread out over 18 or 24 months.
Someone stepped on our son’s phone, which meant we found ourselves back at the phone store. He doesn’t need a new one because he has a “forever” plan that allows him to upgrade for free every so often. Yeah, “free.” Free as in free to remain in digital indentured servitude for the next two years.
The point is that I had several sales associates raising their eyebrows as I held my archaic Samsung Galaxy S8 in my hand while my son had his phone examined by tech support. I mean, seriously, right? How 2017 of me.
I’d been proud to say that I paid it off and now was only being charged for my airtime, which, of course, is not the position the phone companies want you to be in. How could I possibly still be using such an old phone? I mean, dude, [in my best 20-something, manbun, hipster voice] how can you even use that thing anymore?
I won’t lie. For several moments I shook, nervous because I didn’t have an answer to his question. My “old” phone doesn’t have a stylus, and because the battery has worn out, I have to charge it every single day. Can you imagine?
But he had me thinking. Maybe it was time to get a new phone. But doing so would double the monthly payment on my line. If I kept my old phone, I’d save a significant amount of money over a year, but I’d continue to endure eye-rolling from baristas far and wide.
How fast does it need to be? How many features do we need? How old is too old?
At the risk of sounding old myself, my current phone works fine. Yeah, the battery doesn’t hold a charge as long as it used to, but it still does what I need it to do—primarily, ring when someone calls me or to send a text to my wife about picking up a pizza on the way home.
I’m a minimalist. And I’m a digital minimalist. I’ve stripped all the apps from my phone except a handful that keep me entertained at the gym like Netflix, Prime Video, and Podcast Addict. About 15 years ago I ripped every CD I owned to mp3, and now I have those on my phone. I use the Google Calendar widget, a Tabata timer, and Slack for my Molten Universe Media board with my business partner, Zach.
That new iPhone? Not really lighting me up inside.
I see this across the digital landscape, although I’ll admit that the sentiments might be accentuated in my tight circle of friends or among my Gen X brothers and sisters. We didn’t grow up with this shit. When dinner was ready, my dad would stand out on the front step and yell my name until I showed up or he ate the rest of the meal, whichever came first. He didn’t text message me a meatloaf emoticon from the next room over.
Many of my author friends have removed social media apps from their phones or restricted notifications. Some have gone so far as to delete accounts.
I’m not a Luddite. I spent many years in IT and Educational Technology. My entire business runs on a laptop and Wi-Fi. I’m not pining for the good old days of U.S. Postal Service mail and those damn landline cords that would always pigtail into a mess when extended beyond four feet. I don’t want to go back to using paper maps or walking blocks out of my way to find a pay phone.
But, damn. Can we all take a breath? Not just phones, but tablets, gaming consoles, headphones. All of it. How about a short pause?
I now pay almost $300 a month for four phones plus service. As you might have guessed, I share data with my wife and two teenagers who use 95% of it. They can have it.
My gym has Wi-Fi.
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