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Toting a Dumb Phone: Joseph Epstein on the wisdom of the dumb phone.
Weekly Standard ^ | 9/2/13 | Joseph Epstein

Posted on 08/25/2013 2:26:44 PM PDT by rhema

Cell phones today in America are of course endemic, if not epidemic. On one of the thoroughfares in the youthful neighborhood in which I live, I can sometimes walk an entire block without passing anyone not on or gazing down at or thumb-pumping his or her cell phone. Everyone has seen three or four people sitting at a restaurant table, each one of them on a cell phone. Or a young couple who should be looking longingly into each other’s eyes looking instead into their cell phones. Just yesterday a homeless man, in front of the Whole Foods in our neighborhood, his cup extended for change in one hand, was talking loudly into the cell phone held in his other hand. Contemporary America might have a homelessness but certainly not a phonelessness problem.

The homeless man’s cell phone was not a smartphone, but a flip phone, rather, I am a touch nervous to confess, like my own. My nervousness derives from my being so out of date as still to be toting around a flip, or what I have taken to calling a dumb, phone. Taking out a flip phone in some circles is tantamount to carrying an ear trumpet—it’s almost quaint.

Only two people have my cell phone number, and weeks go by in which I never use my dumb phone. Still, I don’t often leave the house without it. I carry it around in case some strange emergency should occur in which I would need a phone: I get a flat tire in a distant part of town, I fall and injure myself, I lose my wallet. The one thing I don’t have to worry about is thugs mugging me in order to steal my phone, at least not when they notice it isn’t a smartphone.

I bought my first cell phone roughly 20 years ago. I bought it for my wife, who was traveling frequently between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, where her aged and ill mother was living. The point of having the cell phone was security. If her car broke down on the Indiana Toll Road, she could use the phone to call for help. The car never did break down, but we kept the cell phone, on which I paid a monthly fee of $36, or roughly $400 a year. Then someone told me that I need pay only $25 a quarter if I went into a nearby AT&T shop and “refilled” my phone every three months, at $25 a shot. At $100 a year, I acquired a second dumb phone—one for me, one for my wife. But the bargain isn’t what is at stake.

The truth is that I am wary of having a smartphone. I already feel sufficiently enslaved by computers and digital culture. I can no longer write at more than a few paragraphs’ length except on my computer. (Solzhenitsyn wrote a good portion of his Gulag books in the smallest possible hand on toilet paper.) I must check my email 20 times a day, including first thing in the morning. I do not myself tweet, but I read the tweets of a few friends and also their Facebook pages. I spend roughly 40 minutes early in the day getting my (mostly unsatisfactory) news online. My computer pings and I rush over to learn the Wall Street Journal has discovered another hedge-fund guy guilty of insider trading, or three bombs have gone off in downtown Islamabad, news that could have waited. Digital life, with its promise of keeping one up to the moment, is very jumpy.

So why, then, do I need to carry a computer around with me, for smartphones have of course become portable computers. Do I require Google in my pocket, a permanent aid to memory, so I can check something as important as who pitched the fifth game of the 1945 World Series? Do I really need apps that will give me stock-market quotations, or let me play video games, or provide Baroque string quartets while I am in the bathroom? I have no need for these artificial distractions.

The mind, the rabbis tell us, is a great wanderer. In its wanderings it often comes upon memories of dear but now dead friends, interesting connections between dissimilar notions, random observations, ideas for stories and essays. No app exists to organize the wandering mind, thank goodness.

Early in the twentieth century, Degas was dining at the home of his friend the painter Jean-Louis Forain, a man who prided himself on keeping up with his time and who therefore had one of the early telephones installed in his house in Paris. In the middle of dinner, the phone rang, and Forain leapt from the table to answer it. “Ah,” said Degas, “the telephone. Now I understand. It rings, you jump.”

Think I’ll stay with my dumb phone.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: phone
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1 posted on 08/25/2013 2:26:44 PM PDT by rhema
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To: rhema
Toting a Dumb Phone:

Dumb Phone = 0bama phone?

2 posted on 08/25/2013 2:29:48 PM PDT by The Sons of Liberty (For congress, it's not the principle of the thing, it's the money.)
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To: rhema

I’ve carried a cell phone for business reasons for almost 20 years, but I have never owned one that can take pictures, if I could have found batteries I would still be using my first one, I will be getting rid of my cell phone within a few months.


3 posted on 08/25/2013 2:31:17 PM PDT by ansel12 (Obama-[obamacare] "used to be a Republican idea. There’s a governor of Massachusetts who set it up.)
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To: rhema

No need for a smartphone here. PC does all I could want, and on a screen that my eyes can easily see. Don’t like being tricked into a deceptively expensive data plan, either.


4 posted on 08/25/2013 2:31:25 PM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: rhema

And the point of this guys snooty article is?


5 posted on 08/25/2013 2:32:37 PM PDT by Pikachu_Dad (Impeach Sen Quinn)
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To: rhema

I use a cheap Tracfone.


6 posted on 08/25/2013 2:33:00 PM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: The Sons of Liberty

I have a Samsung flip phone. Cheapest one I could find. Does what I need it to do. I’m on 24 hour call. My old, old, old one finally died. Took it out back, and shot it with my Redhawk 44 mag. It felt good!


7 posted on 08/25/2013 2:37:29 PM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ( Ya can't pick up a turd by the clean end!)
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To: rhema; CodeToad; Joe Brower
What happens if the power goes out and the screens all go black?

"The younger GPS generation was lost when their screens went dark. Their brains had been wired from early childhood to be led and directed from point to point by computer-generated voices and pixel arrows. By the time the grid went down most people were incapable of learning to navigate by map and compass, and anyway, almost nobody had them. I was the rare exception, already equipped with a Silva Ranger compass, my Appalachian Trail topo maps, guide books, and my previous summers’ experience hiking the Trail.

"As soon as the power was lost, there were no more computer-generated dropdown menus full of helpful suggestions to the traveler. No Google, no Bing, no search engines at all. The screen addicts couldn’t light a fire with an entire pack of matches: I’d seen them wasting match after match in the rain. The concept of dry kindling wood had escaped their educations entirely. After their matches and butane lighters were used up during the first winter, they froze to death, providing gear, clothing, and eventually the meat from their very bodies to the more ruthless and better prepared. I’d seen their campsites, and I’d seen their bones. I’d worn their boots."

8 posted on 08/25/2013 2:38:43 PM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: rhema
No app exists to organize the wandering mind, thank goodness.

Thank goodness, indeed!

9 posted on 08/25/2013 2:39:36 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: rhema

Being recently retired I am thrilled to be untethered from my cell phone, text messages and my laptop. I carry my semi-dumb cell phone only when my wife says I need to be available or when I am along in the woods cutting firewood.


10 posted on 08/25/2013 2:40:14 PM PDT by Senator_Blutarski
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To: rhema

Your cell phone only own’s you if you let it. I remember David Brinkley doing a commentary at the end of one of his shows. The memorable quote was this:

“When was the last time someone called you, that wanted to do something for you? When I’m busy, I don’t answer the phone!”

I have an iPhone and live by Mr. Brinkley’s example. That way, I always have a handy tool and I control myself.


11 posted on 08/25/2013 2:42:13 PM PDT by FXRP
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To: ansel12
"I’ve carried a cell phone for business reasons for almost 20 years, but I have never owned one that can take pictures."

When I bought my first cell phone eight years ago, I bought a flip phone that could take pictures. After all, I reasoned, I might see a UFO or the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot and, if I had a camera in my phone, I could get a picture. However, after that phone self-destructed in my pocket one day, I got just a plain old flip phone. Turns out that the only thing I was taking a picture of was the inside of my pocket when I would reach in to answer my phone ...

12 posted on 08/25/2013 2:44:12 PM PDT by BlueLancer ("Oh, man, that's a lot of Indians!" [LTC George A. Custer, 1876, near the Little Bighorn Valley])
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To: FXRP
Your cell phone only own’s you if you let it

Now, I know, all word's that end with an 's' require apostrophe's!

13 posted on 08/25/2013 2:44:13 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: cripplecreek

I use a cheap Tracfone

Ditto.

It’s in my car, for EMERGENCIES only.

I buy a Pant-Load of minutes every year for $100.

I now have over 2800 minutes.

Does anyone remember HELP ?

Highway Emergency Locating Plan?

This is what it’s all about.

The Highway Dept, had phones, located at strategic points along the Interstate.

You gotta problem, find that phone...

I don’t need to “chat” with some ‘Other’ imbecile while I wait for my nail polish to dry.

While I am driving...

“Face Palm”...


14 posted on 08/25/2013 2:44:22 PM PDT by Paisan
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To: FXRP
That way, I always have a handy tool and I control myself.


15 posted on 08/25/2013 2:46:00 PM PDT by humblegunner
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To: Travis McGee

DO WANT! When is it out, Matt?


16 posted on 08/25/2013 2:46:34 PM PDT by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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To: rhema
“Ah,” said Degas, “the telephone. Now I understand. It rings, you jump.”

I understand the author's message. Our home telephone has an answering machine, that speaks the caller ID if any. We don't directly pick up the phone, unless it's an ID we recognize. Even then, we often let the caller leave a message and we respond later. 9 times out of 10 a no-ID call will not leave a message, usually an unsolicited spam call. We hate the intrusion into our lives, and won't let the phone control us. Our cellphones are dumb phones that we buy time for as needed, real cheap and anonymous, used sparingly only as needed. It's a tool that we control.

17 posted on 08/25/2013 2:51:37 PM PDT by roadcat
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To: rhema; a fool in paradise

I was laid off, and I blame it (conveniently) on the VP of my department, and on my foolishness to contradict him. He was a gung-ho IT type who tended to believe his own BS, whatever served the VP’s above him interests of the moment. A company man through and through. One time he told us of a business trip and to justify some new policy, I forget what it was, he said that at the local international airport (one of the 6 biggest in the US) there were no more payphones. This happened 6-7 years ago. Next time I flew, I remembered to check. There were payphones. After returning, I reported my discovery to the eager ears in the department kitchenette. The word must have reached him (I theorize, as it fits so well my scenario.)


18 posted on 08/25/2013 2:53:11 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: rhema
I have the cheapest cell phone and the cheapest plan I could find. No minutes included. It's only for emergency use. It's never on. I don't even know my cell phone number.

I gave up my smart phone a few years ago. Watching a movie or doing anything on a 2in screen is dumb. I'm enjoying saving that money much more than I ever enjoyed that spy phone.

19 posted on 08/25/2013 2:53:28 PM PDT by grania
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To: rarestia; Travis McGee

Tomorrow?


20 posted on 08/25/2013 2:53:39 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: FXRP
Your cell phone only own’s you if you let it. I remember David Brinkley doing a commentary at the end of one of his shows. The memorable quote was this: “When was the last time someone called you, that wanted to do something for you? When I’m busy, I don’t answer the phone!”

Younger people have figured this out. They don't call that much. They text. You look at texts when you're not busy and reply.

21 posted on 08/25/2013 2:54:02 PM PDT by PapaBear3625 (You don't notice it's a police state until the police come for you.)
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To: DuncanWaring

Should be on Western Rifle Shooters in the morning, and on FR a bit later.


22 posted on 08/25/2013 2:58:24 PM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: rhema
No app exists to organize the wandering mind, thank goodness.

Excellent line. I have a dumb phone, too.

23 posted on 08/25/2013 2:59:23 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Ask me about the Weiner Wager. Support Free Republic!)
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To: Revolting cat!

I was met with outright hostility in a bar when others learned I don’t have a cellphone (not just on me, PERIOD).

Gooba gabba. One of us. One of us. No wonder Obama is a twice elected president with no public dissent from the masses.


24 posted on 08/25/2013 3:01:10 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: a fool in paradise

I’ve got a dumb flip phone homeless model, the number of which I don’t remember, and when I was asked today to send a brief text message and couldn’t refuse, it took me 25 minutes to figure it out. Pressing 9 for a ‘W’, I was getting an ‘X’. WTF?!


25 posted on 08/25/2013 3:05:21 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: roadcat
That's a good idea, having a phone that speaks the caller ID. I'll have to look into it. If we're watching the TV, the ID flashes briefly on the screen, but we often have to get up to check on a call we're not likely to answer after we've seen the ID (or lack thereof).

The phones in my household are pretty dumb, too: they make calls and take passable pictures. Because our friends sometimes text us, we added 300 texts a month for $5 to our inexpensive plan. I think we maybe use 20 in a "busy" month.

I suspect most people don't reach the end of their lives thinking, "If I'd only watched more TV and spent more time on my computer and smartphone. . . "

26 posted on 08/25/2013 3:08:27 PM PDT by rhema ("Break the conventions; keep the commandments." -- G. K. Chesterton)
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To: rhema; GeronL; Slings and Arrows; Revolting cat!

Jonathan Richman - You can have a cell phone that’s okay but not me
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w2V9O-pCBQ

When I’m on the beach
I’m on the beach
No you can’t call me there
And when I’m on a walk
I’m on a walk
No you can’t call me there
And when it’s breakfast time
It’s breakfast time
What more can I say?


27 posted on 08/25/2013 3:10:09 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: rarestia
Tomorrow it'll be on Western Rifle Shooters and here on FR.


28 posted on 08/25/2013 3:11:20 PM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: Revolting cat!

A city nearby has added curbside parking stickers. $8 a day or something like $25 a year. You HAVE to pay by cellphone. WTF?

And these Democrats think that it is “too big a burden” to require photo IDs to vote?


29 posted on 08/25/2013 3:12:44 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: rhema
Taking out a flip phone in some circles is tantamount to carrying an ear trumpet—it’s almost quaint.

How did he know eartrumpet has a flip phone?

30 posted on 08/25/2013 3:20:53 PM PDT by eartrumpet
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To: Travis McGee

I was once able to start a fire after several days rain using only matches, paper and the dry insides of some logs I’d split.

I could probably do it again with a little practice.

Need to learn to do it with flint/steel (or the modern equivalent thereof), though.


31 posted on 08/25/2013 3:25:22 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: eartrumpet

Lucky guess?


32 posted on 08/25/2013 3:26:41 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: FXRP

About 12 years ago I got a cell phone for work. The boss stopped by the worksite one day and asked me why I never answered my phone. I told him the only reason I had that phone was so I could ignore his calls as much as he ignored mine.


33 posted on 08/25/2013 3:27:40 PM PDT by bigheadfred (INFIDEL)
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To: eartrumpet

34 posted on 08/25/2013 3:27:46 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: cripplecreek

Me too.


35 posted on 08/25/2013 3:29:29 PM PDT by TurkeyLurkey
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To: a fool in paradise

Thanks to the cellphones you can no longer write country (and otherwise) songs about having/not having a dime to call your sweetheart/no longer sweetheart from the honky tonk where you’re drinking yourself to death! Thanks Al Gore (He invented cellphones, didn’t he?)!


36 posted on 08/25/2013 3:50:15 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: Revolting cat!

“Here’s a quarter - call someone who cares!”

I felt old when that was a hit, because a phone call used to be a dime!


37 posted on 08/25/2013 3:58:22 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Ask me about the Weiner Wager. Support Free Republic!)
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To: DuncanWaring

Good old Atomic Rooster. I wish I still had all my old vinyl.


38 posted on 08/25/2013 4:04:24 PM PDT by ken in texas (The Obama motto: If the weather's nice let's play golf.)
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To: rhema

My co-workers spend a bunch of their time staring into smart-phone screens. They show me the funny jokes, etc, that are “mom-appropriate.” But I wonder how much we as a society are missing and leaving un-done because we are wastimg time with cell phones.

And a lesser extent, computers ... how long have I been on here?


39 posted on 08/25/2013 4:22:44 PM PDT by Cloverfarm (This too shall pass ...)
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To: rhema

You don’t really need air conditioning or or a car either but they sure are handy.


40 posted on 08/25/2013 4:33:48 PM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: roadcat

I take it you have not heard that there is now software out there that is being used to spoof “Caller-ID”. It works, too bloody well, and is simple to acquire and implement. And no, I am not interested in providing a link. You will simply have to trust when I tell you that it does work.


41 posted on 08/25/2013 5:24:51 PM PDT by Utilizer (Bacon A'kbar! - In world today are only peaceful people, and the mooslimbs trying to kill them-)
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To: Pikachu_Dad
And the point of this guys snooty article is?

The same as the first 40 snooty posters on this thread.

42 posted on 08/25/2013 5:52:15 PM PDT by Balding_Eagle (When America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: cripplecreek
I use a cheap Tracfone.

Dittos here, I'm retired, that all the phone I need.

Most of the time it rests in my car's center console.

Regards,
GtG

PS I'm living in a tri-level house with foil backed insulation, aluminum siding and screened windows. Turns out it's an irregular shaped Faraday's cage. I have trouble getting reception indoors and I had to instal signal boosters to get my wireless LAN to work.

G

43 posted on 08/25/2013 5:52:44 PM PDT by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: rhema

I loved my little LG dumb phone, it was so easy to use and I could take pix and send them via text, I could really do a lot with it. But I couldn’t get email, so I finally had to get a smart phone.


44 posted on 08/25/2013 5:59:23 PM PDT by jocon307
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To: cripplecreek
I use a cheap Tracfone.

As do I and Mrs. OldPossum. Our phones are never turned on until needed and by that we mean an emergency such as the car breaking down on the road.

45 posted on 08/25/2013 6:03:22 PM PDT by OldPossum
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To: rhema

I have a dumb (flip) phone and I love it. I am thinking about getting another one and putting it away for the day my current phone dies or I lose it. My flip phone does everything I want a phone to do.


46 posted on 08/25/2013 6:07:50 PM PDT by Ditter
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To: rhema
Here we go again, another one of those crotchety curmudgeon "back-in-my-day-things-were-simpler" threads.

Another Luddite rant against those danged new-fangled contraptions that confuse and confound our old-man brains, pickled by decades of watching David Brinkley give the evening news while sitting in our recliners in our wife-beater t-shirts with a cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon brought to us by our cringing doormat of a wife.

By the way, what would Archie Bunker think if the Meathead sauntered into his living room toting an iPhone 5 with Facebook and Twitter apps? That would make for an interesting 21 minutes (after commercials) of television back in 1972.

47 posted on 08/25/2013 6:19:34 PM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: rhema
Being a contrary sort, I instinctively rebel against all these "apes" that are hawked everywhere, and the assumption that goes with it.

Gee, what sort of troglodyte would not own one of these wonders and stay "connected" 24/7? I have the cheapest phone I could get for emergencies. The thing can take pictures, but there is no way to send them anywhere as far as I can tell.

I have to say, the twits frantically texting or whatever it is, while ignoring their date/companion do give me great laughs. As if I need yet another reason to have contempt for gen-x/y/z - whatever.

48 posted on 08/25/2013 6:32:55 PM PDT by doorgunner69
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To: Ditter

My wife and I have two tracphones that we’re able to maintain with minutes for $18/month, with me purchasing additional minutes once or perhaps twice a year. Probably under $300 for the whole year for two phones.

I absolutely cringe when I dig into plans for smart phones. Minumum two year contract, 79 -90 per month. EACH. OUCH. Close to $2,000 for us? Versus $300? Easy peasy choice. I’m amazed how all these broke people are so addicted to their smart phones they cannot leave them home. One guy I work with left his at home and was almost all the way to work and turned around to go home and get it. He was 40 or so minutes late for work.

That being said, every year we look into smart phones because I’m always having to call home to have my wife look up the weather for me, simple internet things like that. So we’re looking at the Walmart family whatever plan with NO contracts, and about $40/month per phone. I’m thinking if they can do it, all the other carriers COULD do it, but refuse. This would be half price, so about $1,000 per year for two phones. Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. Still a lot of money.

Our home phone is all internet now, so we’ve saved enough for one of these Walmart plan phones, and we don’t have cable so I actually COULD afford them... The tightwad in me wins often, and I hate being tied to any contract.


49 posted on 08/25/2013 6:37:03 PM PDT by Big Giant Head
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To: Travis McGee

“What happens if the power goes out and the screens all go black?”

There would be millions of people putting down their mobile idiot boxes, looking at the person they are with and asking, “Who are you?”


50 posted on 08/25/2013 6:37:07 PM PDT by CodeToad (Liberals are bloodsucking ticks. We need to light the matchstick to burn them off. -786 +969)
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