Saturday, March 16, 2013

In defense of the dumb phone

Until January of this year, I was an avid iPhone user, but then my iPhone 4 died, after becoming terminally ill six months earlier after a water splash accident. Rather than replace it immediately, I decided to experiment with using a "dumb phone" for a while to see how it went. I decided to go for a Samsung Factor (left) on the Boost network, costing a total of $9.99 for the phone, then $10 every 3 months for a pay-as-you-go top-up to keep my account active. I was surprised by how much I liked the phone - it is small, light, and critically importantly the battery will last up to a week without a charge - my iPhone battery was down to near zero at the end of each day. In addition, for use in emergencies the physical dial pad is much more intuitive than trying to find a keypad on a smartphone to dial 911. I have since supplemented my phone with an android Samsung Transform Ultra smartphone that I picked up on clearance, do not have service for, but which works beautifully on any WiFi network. It gives me all the regular smartphone functionality including making calls with Talkatone and a Google Voice number (although I wouldn't rely on this in an emergency). The final piece of the puzzle is a Virgin Mobile Mifi 2000 that I picked up again on clearance for $20, and which gives me a flexible mobile wifi hotspot for $5/day any time I need it on the go.

But the real lesson in all of this is that for less than $50 a year and an initial outlay of $10, you can own a phone that in an emergency situation, or an ongoing power outage, will let you make calls, send texts, and dial 911 cleanly and simply. Even better, get one that works on a different network than your regular phone, to give you some redundancy.

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