Thursday, September 13, 2012

The new SMART PHONES are here!

NOTE: This is a re-posting from October 2011.  Every year, a new version of a smart phone comes out, and the media acts like it is the second coming of Christ.   America was this way about "the new model cars!" back in the mid-1950's.  However, that sort of collapsed after the Edsel, when everyone realized it was a bunch of crap and hoopla.  So, once again, I dust off this old number, just in time for the latest-and-greatest piece-of-crap time-waster and wallet-lightener.

The new SMART PHONES are out!  OMG!  OMG!

OMG!  Can you believe it?  The newest SMART PHONE is available!  And the lines for it were around the block!  And that famous guy - he was the first one to get one!  I can't WAIT to get mine!

It is SO MUCH BETTER than this POS phone I got last year.  God, I can't believe I waited in line for three days for that piece of junk!  This NEW PHONE will be SO MUCH BETTER, I can't believe it!

It has to be really good, right?  All the media outlets are heaping praise on it - and writing article after article about it!  And it is all over the news.  After all, EVERYONE has a SMART PHONE, right?  I mean, how can you live without one?

And how can you possibly live with LAST YEAR'S MODEL?  OMG!

And this new phone has 8G technology - which is obviously SOoooooo much better than that lame old 7G technology - even though I have no clue that it means.  But, when I am with my friends, I can talk knowingly about it, and look down my nose at my pals with scratched-up "Last year's models".

Yea, the new SMART PHONE XLS is so cool - and obviously better than the LS model from last year.  After all, putting an "X" on something makes it all tech-y and cool.

And it has all these new FEATURES, too, although I can't quite remember what they are.  And they've fixed most of the bugs in the previous version!  Well, most of them, anyway.  You still have to hold it upside-down to make international calls, which is sort of a pain-in-the-ass. 

But like a good lemming, I will get my sleeping bag out of storage and sleep out for a week by the wireless store to make sure I am FIRST IN LINE to get one!

What exactly is the deal with smart phones?  And why are people going ga-ga over them?  Yes, they are a fun toy to play with - so is the empty box it came in.   But they are hardly a game-changer of anything, at least at the present time.

Oh yea, it has GPS.  That's cool.  So is a GPS unit, which you can buy for under $200 and not pay a monthly fee for - and it won't be obsolete in a year.

You can get on the Internet, too.  Yea, that's nice, but what can you see on those tiny screens?

And you can text with it - although anyone who texts has their brains leaking out their ears, quite literally.  Texting is not working, it is not communicating, it is not anything, but masturbating - and it even looks like it, with these folks with their electronic devices in their laps, their hands in constant motion.

What this all means, however, is huge profits for cell phone companies - and huge holes in the pockets of users.  The phones themselves cost hundreds of dollars - but their real cost is hidden by wrapping part of the purchase price into a monthly service contract "starting at only $15 a month!" the website cheerfully announces.  But most users end up spending $60 to $100 a month, if not more.

According to one report, the cost of owning a smart phone is about $2000 a year.  Ouch.

That's not a lot of money, right?  Think again.  As I have noted before in this blog, even if you are making $100,000 a year, your actual "disposable income" might be only 10% of that.  Once you pay your taxes (huge chunk) your mortgage (huge chunk) and then other living expenses, AND fund your retirement accounts (you ARE doing that, right?  Instead of diverting that money to a phone?  RIGHT?) you might have only $10,000 left over to "spend".  And $2000 a year on a phone is, well, 20% of that disposable income.

So yea, it is cool to be able to scan those 2-D bar codes in the paper or on signs and instantly download a web page in tiny fonts on your tiny screen - so you can be marketed to even more.  But is a cool toy worth that much money to you?

And how much of having a smart phone is actually using it, versus just having a trendy accessory to impress people you don't know?

"Rather than worry about what other people think of you, you should worry about what you think of yourself" -- Stephen M. Pollan

And of course, once you pull your eyeballs away from media saturation, you may realize, that, contrary to what the media hypes, not "everyone" has a smart phone - just as not "everyone" leases cars, gets payday loans, or rents-to-own furniture.

While smart phone usage is on the rise, according to the latest A.C. Nielson report, less than half of all Americans use them.  By the end of 2011, it is projected that smart phone penetration will reach about 50%.

This is an interesting statistic, as some folks naturally believe that penetration is at 100% - folks who just text and talk to folks like themselves, or folks who mimic that the fellow in the next cubicle is doing.

But I suspect that a lot of people will delay getting such a phone - if they ever do.  If you can get by with something that is FREE, why bother paying a monthly fee?  Why bother paying for a book, when you can check it out of the library?

For me, having been on the "bleeding edge" of technology over the years, I plan on waiting - a good long time.  Having the "latest and greatest" technology is not only expensive - staggeringly expensive - it is also time-consuming and frustrating, as you end up as the Beta tester for some large corporation.

The appeal of a smart phone is, of course, that you can access the Internet anywhere with it.  But of course, many of us have been doing that via cellular modem and the like, for years.  And nowadays, getting this sort of service is not hard to do, for free, using WiFi.

We recently traveled for two-and-a-half months by camper in Canada.  For the most part, we had no cell service.  But we did have WiFi about every other day (and in some of the most remote places imaginable) and we were able to contact people by phone using landlines and a long distance calling card.   Total cost:  Not a helluva lot.

Would it have been handy to have a smart phone with GPS and Internet Access?  Yes.  But of course, chances are, service in Labrador would not have been all that extensive.  Was it essential to getting around?  Not really.  Would it have been worth $2000 a year?  Not at all.

A cheap laptop and free WiFi service can provide you with Internet Access on the road.  I find that I only need to get online once every few days to balance my checkbook and erase e-mails.  The "need" to be constantly connected is, to say the least, over-stated.  And of course, you can't do real work on a smart phone - at least I can't.  I need a full-sized QWERTY keyboard to work, thank you, not some texting device that creates short messages.

But of course, some folks have an obsessive-compulsive need to be in constant contact - to be continually texting friends all the time - particularly young people.  And the cell phone companies are there to serve this obsessive-compulsive behavior.  Texting is the new smoking, it appears.

And smart phones are the new crack.

---Sent from my new SMART PHONE XLS 8G (tm)