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Being a Phone Guy in a Smartphone World

By: on January 28, 2013 in Annoyed, Rant

As forward and pushing boundaries as I can be with my little laptops of doom and in my job, I am quite the opposite when it comes to my cellular phone usage. I like my phone to be … wait for it … a phone. I do not do e-mail on it. I hate texting. I don’t surf the ‘net with a phone. I have a computer for things like that and e-mail. I need my cellular phone to be a good phone. Period. That means good signal strength and has to have a great speakerphone (I hate bluetooth headsets with a passion, too). A cel phone is essential for me since I’m on the road so much.

Go ahead, call me a luddite. I take a lot of lighthearted ribbing from many – and have for years. I don’t mind. A friend and colleague said this to me recently: “You need to be flash frozen like Han Solo and given to the Smithsonian to memorialize the last geek without a smartphone.” Before anyone chimes in with comments like, “You’ve never used a smartphone! You don’t know what you’re missing”, I have used, own, or owned quite a few. I’ve played with various versions of the iPhone since they’re so ubiquitous and many friends and colleagues have them. I have used data on some of these devices, so I did see if I would like it. I didn’t. Here’s my list of devices over the past few years:

People who know me or work with me know how to get in touch with me, so that really isn’t an issue. I’m not hard to find and electronically, e-mail has always been the easiest and preferred method. If I’m around, I respond. I can keep odd hours as most have realized. It’s really that simple. If it’s an emergency, you probably have my cel number or can get it. I have never felt the need to be connected 24×7. I think it leads to better life balance. There has to be a separation from work life and your personal life. I know too many people who constantly are fidgeting with their phones or checking e-mail long after work when they’re supposed to be out and relaxing. I am a big fan of boundaries when you can have them. Most of my hobbies are low tech. When I play bass, it’s just a bass and cord into an amp. I don’t use any kind of effects. I prefer vintage equipment for the most part. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way … like dedicated devices (such as a CD/SACD player for listening to discs).

I remember going to London for the first time in 1999 (and quite a lot since). I remember seeing people texting all of the time and thinking that would never take off in the US. I was wrong. When I went to Japan in 2004 for the first time, people were always looking at their phones (1-seg TV and whatever else they do on phones is popular there). Maybe I’m odd, but I prefer talking to people for real in many situations. I have noticed over the years a lack of manners and civility since smartphones have taken over the world. People walking around staring at screens, not paying attention yet it’s your fault if they run into you. I’ve seen parents ignore kids at Disneyland (and that’s an expensive day for a family of 5). I see people at dinner – couples or families – ignoring their companion and staring at screens. I went to a movie with my Dad and four friends (I assume they were – they were sitting next to each other in the row in front of us) were all madly swiping and tapping away but not talking to each other. Why bother going out anywhere and with each other if your form of social is staring at a screen? It makes no sense to me.

For the record, I do like my Android-based Sony Walkmans, and the Tablet S is one of the best universal remotes I’ve ever used. I also like using the Tablet S as a portable sheet music device for rehearsals and gigs. The X1 was a well built phone and nice to look at, that’s for sure. That’s mainly why I bought it. It was my first real encounter with a touch screen. I went back to a regular phone soon thereafter.

Another thing I hate is the disturbing trend towards bigger phones that really started with the Galaxy Note. I bought that device mainly to use as a possible presentation whiteboard device. It didn’t work out for me that way, so here it sits in my unused tech pile. I never thought the phablet as they are now referred to would take off. How wrong I was! Heck, HTC is now making a phone-like remote to control your phablet. How ridiculous. Apparently Sony is working on a 6.44″ screen phablet. Oy vey. Where is the skinny jeans crowd going to put that? This is one of the reasons I bought the Xperia Ray – it’s one of the smallest smartphones made and I doubt we’ll see the likes of it again. It’s as close to a candybar featurephone as you’ll get now. I have basically been using it for the past year as my phone but it frustrates me as a phone. Like the X1, it has shown me that I yearn to have a numeric keypad – not a facsimile on a screen. I got the Tipo Dual before going to Australia last  year since I wanted a dual SIM phone. Australia has the same 3G bands as AT&T in the USA, so it made sense. It’s a small device (which I like), but the touchscreen is worse than that on the Ray.

I’ve been doing research on new feature phones, and much to my dismay, there are very few featurephones made today. Most are clamshell (blech). The last real candybar phone made and that I’d probably consider is the Nokia Asha 300, but my two previous experiences with Nokia did not have happy endings (the Nokia 6500 slide and the 8800 were horribly failed experiments) so I probably won’t go there. For the most part, I’ve always had good luck with Sony Ericsson (now just Sony) phones. The T637, W600, K850i (the first 3G phone I ever owned), C510a, Xperia Pureness, and Cedar all served me well over the years. The T637 is one of my favorite phones of all time along with the W600. I only got the K850i just to get 3G. The C510a got passed to a friend (and it died recently). The Xperia Pureness was form over function unfortunately, and Cedar died a premature death. It won’t even charge. One thing I need for any phone I ever use is all (or most of) the relevant world bands to have connectivity. That’s both the beauty and curse of GSM-based phones, especially if you go to places like Japan which are different from Europe, Australia, and North America.

This weekend, I made the decision to revive and bring back into service my old K850i and stop using the Ray. I had enough of fiddling with it despite liking its overall size and form factor. The K850i is all set up now/again, so it’ll be interesting to see how it fares again with daily use. It definitely shows its battle scars, but it still works nearly 6 years later. That says a lot. The only downside is that it comes from a time when charger ends were proprietary so no universal USB charging for all of my devices. I do have a WM-Port to USB adapter for my Android Walkmans, ironically enough.

The thing I am probably looking forward to is outside of talking a lot (which sadly doesn’t happen since most people don’t use cel phones to talk), I will be able to go lengthy amounts of time without having to charge the K850i. The screens and power consumption of most smartphones forces us to have power at the ready, like that stupid Duracell Powermat commercial with Jay-Z.

Don’t worry, Ben happily uses a smartphone (currently the HTC 8X I believe) to its fullest extent, so my ways don’t permeate all of SQLHA.


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