Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Cell Phone Delemna

Cell phones.  Specifically smart phones.  I love to hate them.  They give you an amazing freedom, being able to access virtually anything wherever you are.

But they also cost a lot.  We are currently spending like $130 a month on our two smart phones with unlimited data, texting, and talk.  Since we don't have a land line anymore, we want an "unlimited talk" type of plan so we don't have to worry about going over our minutes, which is part of that price tag, but unlimited data is a big part of it too.  And I'm not convinced that I am properly using my share of that $130 anymore.  Having all those apps on my phone has kind of lost it's excitement for me.  I mostly use my phone to read blogs on the Google reader app while I'm nursing.  But I could just as easily grab the iPad.  I don't need to check email when I'm out and about as much as I used to.  I use the Chase app to deposit checks, since that saves me a trip to the bank.  Oh, and the directions, I do use that often. But I also have a Garmen in the drawer collecting dust that I could use with a very minimal amount of hassle.

Not to mention that my cell phone seems to have a direct app to defect ratio - the more apps and widgets I have, the more error messages and lock ups I get.  The most frustrating part is that I am quite often not able to use the damn thing for it's most important purpose:  to CALL people!  The latest thing issue is that about 80% of the time that I try to answer the phone, I hang up on the person instead.  I've set it back to the factory settings about a half dozen times, and I am no longer downloading fun/unnecessary apps or using widgets at all just so it doesn't get hosed up.

Our contract with Sprint is up this spring, and Matt has been scouring around, looking at all the plans out there.  We are pretty decided on going back to phones that are just phones, not a smart phone that can also do your laundry (wait, is there an app for that?).  Revol Wireless has a family plan that allows you to have unlimited nationwide talk and texts, voice mail, and "media mail" (which I'm assuming is sending pictures?) for $35 a person.  We could then add my mom for another $25.  They also will "flash" your existing phone so you can use it on their network, so we may be able to use some older phones if we want to.  I'm thinking of getting a new one though, since they are only $30.  I'm sure I will continue to text quite a bit and I think it might be nice to have a QWERTY keyboard.  There's also no contract with them, so it seems like a pretty low-risk thing to try out.  

This has also led me to think back to that pre-smart phone era and the little tricks that we used with texting to get information.  My old favorite was texting Google to get phone numbers and addresses of businesses and restaurant near you.  But now that I'm looking, you can do so many things through SMS that I had no idea too, including:
  • SMS Search - This is what I used to use a little, but there are lots more commands that you can use.  You can look up movie times, weather, etc.  For example, I sent the text message "weather 43214" to 46645 and got back a message with the current temp, wind, humidity, and the ranges of temperatures expected for today and the next two days.
  • Google Calendar - After you go online to set it up, you can text GVENT things like "DAY" and it will send you a text with all of your scheduled events for the day.
  • Blogger - You can text a message to your blog and it will add it as a new post.
All of these things definitely make a plain old texting cell phone much more interesting.  So we'll see if we actually suck it up and give up our fancy phones.

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