In high school, the Nokia 3210s and 6210s ruled the roost. I myself didn’t get a mobile phone until Grade 11 (2001), when I received the (now rightly revered) Nokia 3310. Six years later, I ‘upgraded’ to a prepaid Motorola RAZR2 as a personal reward for starting a PhD.
The smartphone era was just beginning. However, being a student with no income meant that contracts and monthly plans were out of the question. Nevertheless, I developed a serious case of smartphone envy, especially after the release of the iPhone 3GS.
Flash forward to 2011, and I finally earn enough to afford a monthly smartphone plan. I sign up for an HTC Incredible S (also known as the Vivo), and a $55/mo plan with 1Gb of data.
Things go well, initially. For a person living with dumbphones and featurephones, the first smartphone is a revelation. Suddenly you can do anything. There are apps. There is WiFi. There is true connectivity.
However, it goes without saying that the phone aspect of the smartphone was mostly unused.
I begin to realise that I am without WiFi access for less than 40 minutes a day, and I switch off 3G data. Suddenly my data usage plummets to less than 20Mb a month. The phone is aging, and the lack of post-sale carrier care means that this phone is forever stuck on Android 2.3.3.
Then, six months ago, I purchased a Nexus 7. Despite the convenience of a 4” phone, the screen was always just too small for doing things for long periods, such as reading from the kindle app, web browsing, and games. Now my phone’s only real use is infrequent calling, and the decent camera.
I am essentially paying $55 a month for a featurephone.
There are two things which have always bothered me about smartphones, which won’t be solved any time soon:
Battery life. What use is a phone when it’s dead? Especially when I use it so infrequently, the chances of forgetting to charge it ever 1-2 days is very high. I do not want to work for my phone. Why should I have to set a calendar reminder for charging my phone?
Cost. It has always seemed amazing to me how smartphones were successfully marketed as an everyman device, when the mid-range and flagship phones are cost-prohibitive. I know in Australia, the median earning is $25,000/yr, and it’s no better in the US. Yet somehow a market has been created for 1-2 year upgrade cycles for phones which retail for $500-850 unlocked, and which need call+data plans that usually cost $35-50/mo.
For my personal needs, these two shortcomings just don’t override the benefits of a current smartphone. I am generally all in with technology, but I actually think smartphones have not fully matured as a category, and we’re all paying through the nose for what are essentially provisional devices.
I have ordered the Nokia 515 unlocked from eBay, and I intend to switch over to a $20/mo prepaid deal. I think this is going to serve me well, until they solve the above problems, or until my next featurephone.
N.B. If you’re thinking that the story would be different if I had an iPhone, think again. The only point of difference is OS upgrades, and that’s not enough. I have seen a Retina display, and I still don’t want to sit and read for hours from it. I still don’t want to recharge every 1-2 days. I don’t want everything to sync via iTunes.