People are increasingly amazed and sometimes aghast that I do not carry a cell phone and do not own a smartphone. “Gary, you’re such a massive geek, how do you not have a pocket computer welded to you at all times?” Well, let me tell you a tale of technology and pragmatism when living where I do and working where I do.
I live in a small city which is about 100 miles from the nearest slightly-larger city, and hundreds of miles from a real metropolis. I’m trying to pay down long-term debt and build up some savings so that we can leave this city when an opportunity arises. To that end, I’m not going to spend money on a piece of cool technology that I can’t use to its full potential. If I’m not traveling (which I’m not), the use for the smartphone would be to use it around town, at work, at home – essentially all the time. I used to carry a PDA, sixteen years ago. I know how useful it is to have a brain extension with you at all times. It’s less useful if you can’t use it most of the day.
And the reason I can’t use it leads to the place I work. I cannot take portable electronic devices with cameras, microphones, cellular radios, or most other things that are more advanced than a CD player into my work place. The option most people who do own smartphones take is to leave their expensive pocket computer in the car while they are in the building. This links with “where I live” to become a bad idea. It’s hot here in the summer, and summer is about 8 months long some years. If it’s 115 degrees outside, how hot is the interior of your car? How does that affect the ability of your phone to operate or be held by a normal human hand, or not explode? I’m not gonna risk it, just so I can use the phone in my car and my home, while still not using it at work because I’d get fired if I tried.
So, car use is out, work use is out. That leaves home use. Sure, I have had a tablet for years, first the Xoom, then a Shield, Nexus 9, and now a Kindle Fire. I’d use a better tablet if someone would make one that wasn’t over $1000. Clearly, I could replace a tablet with a phone. But, a tablet has an 8″ or larger screen, and I’m not 20 so bigger is better in some cases. And, the tablet doesn’t need a monthly fee to keep working. Meanwhile, I also have a gaming PC. This is a not-insignificant expense, and I’d much rather prioritize replacing that box every five years than a less-powerful phone every two. I also have a home phone. I have a phone in my office. I am not hard to get in contact with, and I do not feel any need to be contactable at a moment’s notice 24/7.
To summarize, I do not own a smartphone because the only place I’d use it is at home or when traveling. I have better toys to use at home, and my wife has a smartphone that we use when traveling. In the massively unlikely event I need to travel alone, I do maintain a Tracfone. It stays in the car, and costs me about $100 per year to keep it from expiring. I think it has 1500 minutes right now, because I literally never talk to anyone.