I don’t want a smartphone anymore. I used to want one. I used to want one really, really badly. But now I don’t. In fact, I’m not even sure why I ever wanted one. I guess I just jumped on the bandwagon because smartphones are the cool thing that everybody talks about these days. And I’m sure they’re perfectly useful for a great number of people. But I have come to the conclusion that I, personally, have no use for a smartphone.
First of all, and probably most importantly, they’re way too freaking expensive. I’ll use a specific example here. Let’s say I decide to load up the AT&T website to pick up a Motorola Atrix 4G. I chose this one because it is arguably one of the best smartphones available right now, although that seems to change on a weekly basis. First of all, the phone itself costs $200. Now, this isn’t a small amount of money, by any means, but it’s not unreasonable either, considering that the Atrix is essentially a rather powerful handheld computer. Unfortunately, this is hardly the only cost involved here.
After deciding on the Atrix and going to check out, I have two choices. If I take the reasonable $200 option, I also have to sign up for a 2-year contract, where I pledge to give AT&T a MINIMUM of $55 a month, every month, for the next 2 years. Just for the privilege of using this phone and getting it for the reasonable rate of $200. What if I decide, after a year, that the Atrix really isn’t for me after all, and I don’t want to use it anymore? Well, I could spend another year paying $55 a month for a device I’m not using. Or I could pay an early termination fee and get out of my contract. Of course, that early termination fee is quite hefty – $325 minus $10 for every month of the contract that is completed. So in this particular scenario, the early termination fee would be a mere $205. Which I suppose is less than continuing to pay for the service for the next 12 months.
But let’s say you don’t want the AT&T service, you just want an Atrix. (More about why you would do this later.) Well, then you don’t get to buy it for a mere $200 anymore. Oh no. Now you have to pay a whopping $550. Now, we’re getting into full PC territory. (As a frame of reference, I paid $600 for the laptop I just bought.) Oh, and by the way, you can’t pay full price for a phone online. Nope, you’ve got to go into a physical store for that. Nothing like making it harder for your customers to spend money.
But even if I was a wealthier person and could actually afford a smartphone, I still wouldn’t want one. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, I live in a poor rural area that barely gets cell coverage. There isn’t much of a reason to spend $55 or more a month when I would barely be able to take advantage of the service I was paying for. Of course, I’m definitely in the minority, at least in this country. The vast majority of people in the U.S. live in a place where they can get decent service from at least one of the major carriers.
That said, even if I lived in place like that, it still wouldn’t be worth it for me to pay such an exorbitant price for smartphone service, because I almost never leave my house. This is the main reason why I will likely never get a smartphone. Smartphones are designed for staying connected while on the go, and if I’m never on the go, then what use do I have for a smartphone? I’m almost always in the range of a Wi-Fi network, and on the rare occasions when I’m not (like when I’m at church, or when I’m grocery shopping, for example) I’m not really in a position where I can or should be checking things on the internet anyway.
So why did I ever want one in the first place? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. One is that smartphones are the cool, neat thing in the world of technology, and have been for some time. There is definitely part of me that wants to be involved with whatever is cool and popular. I suspect this is the case for most people. But of course, that’s a dumb reason to spend $200 up front plus $55 or more a month.
On a less superficial but related level, I’ve always been fascinated with technology, and I like to be able to try out new technology and keep up with the latest trends in technology. Since smartphones are one of the most interesting and exciting areas in technology these days, it makes sense that I would want to have a smartphone so I could have more insight into this field. But, this still doesn’t seem to justify the high cost of entry.
Ultimately, the main reason I wanted a smartphone is that I thought I could figure out how to pay less for a smartphone than I would have to for a laptop. What I really wanted was something portable that had Wi-Fi so I could sit on the couch and do stuff online. Since smartphones are smaller and less capable than laptops, it makes sense (at least in my mind) that smartphones would be cheaper than laptops. This is why I once considered getting a smartphone without a contract. But it really isn’t much more expensive to get a laptop, and laptops are much more versatile anyway.
In the end, I compromised and got an iPod Touch. It’s basically an iPhone without the phone parts and, most importantly, without the hefty monthly fee. And by doing this, I discovered something important. A handheld device, no matter how beautiful or powerful it is, is no replacement for a real computer.
Now I need to figure out how to convince myself that tablets are dumb, too.