To smartphone or not to smartphone?

My cell phone is on its last legs.  I have to insert the phone very carefully into the charger now, or else it won’t charge up.  For the nine (or so) years I’ve used a cell phone I haven’t upgraded as soon as my provider would allow me to.

I did feel a little bit of urgency to upgrade to some kind of smartphone (either an iPhone or an Android) when I heard that my carrier soon was going to do away with unlimited data packages.  Had I ordered yesterday, I still could have gotten an unlimited data package for $30 per month.  Now, I’m only offered capped data packages (although these packages by themselves are cheaper than $30/month).  Many of the cooler phones require some kind of data package.

After thinking things through, and bouncing ideas off my wife, I decided that I wouldn’t get a phone (smartphone or otherwise) that required a data plan.  I’ll probably get one that makes texting easier, but that’s it.  The capped plans weren’t the real reasons:

  • A smartphone would be an expensive toy that I couldn’t use all the time. My place of work doesn’t allow camera phones, so there goes about a third of my time that I can’t even use the thing.  But let’s say I forget about this, since this will be true of almost any phone I get.  There’s the purchase of the phone ($99 and up) plus the data package (at least $15/month) plus the cost of any apps I decide to get.  It’s immensely expensive.
  • I can live without one now, but if I get one, I won’t be able to live without it. I managed to get by for a long time — almost until I was married — without a cell phone.  The only times it would have been useful to have one prior to that, I just waited until an officer stopped by to help me call a tow truck.  It was only after I got married that I got one (on the insistence of my wife, mostly for safety reasons).  But now, I really do need the stupid thing; because I’ve gone for such a long time with it, I’d find it very hard to give it up voluntarily.  I’m confident the same thing would happen if I got a smartphone.  I’d come to rely on it, and then it’s all downhill from there.
  • The real cost of a smartphone lies in the time spent fiddling with it. I will admit, I’d love to have a smartphone.  It would be really cool.  It would be so cool, I’d spend a whole lot of time playing with it.  The time I’d spend with it would encroach on other things, and I doubt that I could recover the time lost playing with the phone in increased productivity.  I can see myself, frankly, downloading a bunch of games.  Basically, the phone would be a giant time sink.  There are far more profitable things to do with my time.

That’s my smartphone story, and for now, I’m sticking to it.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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  1. says

    You are going through the same pains I am! If I get an iPhone, I *know* I can’t live without it. If I continue as things are today, the savings are substantial. I think we have a severe case iPhone envy! :)

  2. rzrshrp says

    All true. I used to be anti-smartphone until I finally was able to afford the stupidly overpriced data packages. It’s own of those “needs” that doesn’t become a need until you have one. I was fine not having the whole internet at my fingertips, but now that I have one, I don’t think that I’d go back unless there was a financial emergency. Eventually, it does become less of a time sink as the novelty wears off and it becomes more of just a way to fill in empty time such as in the waiting room or in a line; times where you can’t do anything productive outside of a phone call anyway.

  3. says

    I am not trying to bring you over to the darkside, but have you looked at Sprint? The Wife and I both have Sprint (both with Android Phones) and our combined bill is 119 a month with a boat load of mins, and unlimited text and data.

    It may not be the phone, it may be your carrier that you need to decide on!

  4. says

    Evan: Good point … however it would be costly for us to switch carriers even if we weren’t in contract. The people we talk to most can’t get cell coverage with any other carriers besides our current one.

  5. says

    I’m a smart phone owner and I gotta tell you I don’t think I’d do it again. Of course they’ve got me because of the contract but I won’t be getting another and I’ve thought of trying to get rid of the one I’ve got.

    You hit the nail on the head that it’s not just the money for the extra data plan and such, it’s about the time I spend fiddling with the thing for really no reason.

    It’s addictive and hard to break once you start… I’d advise sticking with the good ol phone not the computer in your pocket.

  6. says

    thats foolish if your not in a contract its the easiest thing to switch you even can now keep your phone number and its a major carrier which means coverage everywhere
    and for the record sprint doesnt charge extra for data its included in the price and there are some great phones for free
    the only thing thats missing is the iphone

  7. says

    ace: Perhaps, but again, we chose our carrier based on who we call the most (my wife talks to her mother a lot on the phone, and they don’t have much choice where they live).

  8. Daleman says

    I love the access to information that a smartphone provides. If you want to know something or there’s a discussion you can quickly get facts. It also allows me to catch up on news, stocks, and e-mail quickly when I have a few free minutes.

    I do play games but there are a lot of free ones and I’ve spent less than $10 on software for it in the last year.

    Oh, and don’t forget directions, restaurant reviews, or tourist tips while on travel. Great return on value for me there.

    Overall I am pro smartphone. I’ve found the value greatly outweighs the cost though I’m also at a point in my life where that cost isn’t a large percentage of my salary.

  9. says

    I just told my husband today that I wanted the iPhone4 and he just laughed at me and said “yea right.” I would love a smartphone but like you know that I would waste so much time with it. Plus being a stay at home mom, I really don’t need some fancy phone because I have my laptop at home and a normal cell basically just for emergencies when I go out. But, there is still that voice in my head that says, “you need an iPhone now!” LOL

  10. David says

    I used to have a blackberry and recently got an Android phone about 6 months ago. After 3 months of enjoying using the smartphone I began to realize several things.

    First, while I enjoyed instantaneous access to everything at all times, I didn’t always enjoy being at the beck and call of my email, facebook and twitter. In other words, the smartphone has become my master, instead of me it’s master.

    Second, having a smartphone, there is always something going wrong or something to fiddle with and it doesn’t really work that well as a phone.

    There are other things, but essentially it has become a big time sink and money sink. So, I came up with an ingenious solution.

    I’m giving the phone to my son, who is going to pay for the data plan and then I’m buying a dumbphone on ebay to be mine. I am actually buying the identical model to my work cell. It’s heavy duty and can take a beating. I hope to have it for years.

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