For years I’ve felt pretty smug that I didn’t have (or need) a so-called “smart phone.” I confessed that if I weren’t retired, I’d probably actually need one for my work. But having what they call a “burner phone” (on those TV cop shows) was all I needed in order to call my wife from the car if I were running late.

So, for those rare times when having a “mobile” phone was necessary, I had bought, many years ago, a no-contract, per-call phone serviced by Virgin Mobile. Walmart offered that one or a TracFone, and for some reason long forgotten, I went with Virgin Mobile. Whenever I had occasion to call Virgin’s customer service people, it was obvious that I was their oldest customer.

Whether being welcomed by a recorded message or a live rep, there was a “hip hop” attitude that didn’t quite fit my personal demographic. Each time I reached Virgin’s number, I felt old, really old. But also kinda cool. You know, part of what must have been what we called in the 1960s “the in-crowd.” Hip.

Whenever I pulled out that little featureless phone in the company of friends, I felt just a twinge of pity directed my way. All this phone could do was make calls. No camera, no flipping cover, no easy way to text, no ball scores. But I have to say this: people who were on the receiving end of my calls could actually understand everything I had to say. Voice quality was very good, they tell me. Because that’s all the phone had to do: communicate voices back and forth.

But then, after about 12 years, I fell off my bike…and onto the phone. It was in my pocket and came between my body and the pavement. It still worked, but was battered. So my wife took the plunge and gave me a smart phone for Christmas. In keeping with our principles and our budget (not necessarily in that order), Joan shopped around for some time, looking in stores and on line, before making the decision to get an “entry level” phone with an AARP-endorsed carrier. For some reason, they call these “Androids.”

The gift was a total surprise. And we had entered a new age. Granted, this was a modest new age. Knowing that I wasn’t about to trade my “good” cameras for one on a phone, the phone we got has a most basic camera, but serviceable. Google apps were more plentiful than I needed, but there they were. The data plan was very limited, keeping with our needs and budget. (Really, streaming a movie on a tiny screen like that? I’m not that desperate.) For someone who previously had rarely turned his cell phone on, we had all the “minutes” we’d need for calls.

Total cost for the plan was slightly more than what we had paid for the cheap burner.

Three months in, have I somehow been converted to a smart phone junkie? Not really. I hedge because the other night I was sorely tempted to check a ball score while enjoying a jazz concert. But I didn’t. However, when the emcee suggested that we could bolster the audience by sending messages about the concert to friends, I did enjoy posting a 30-second video of the next tune on my Facebook page. That was cool.

I’ve not texted. I’ve made a handful of calls (and my guess that the cheaper the phone, the better the audio quality has proven right according to the recipient of most of my calls: my wife). I admit to checking email and Facebook with my phone, but I suspect that’s going to wear thin. I’m very confident that, given the content I expect to find, there’s little need to let that feature interrupt my already strained ability to pay attention to real life.

So far the most fun part of the phone is the “OK, Google…” app that does voice-activated searches for earth-shaking answers such as, “Name the original members of Three Dog Night.” Self-disciple will be needed here.

I’ve already lost the phone, too, by the way. That old dinosaur cell phone stayed in the sunglasses compartment of my car most of the time. Couldn’t lose it there. The new phone, though, goes with me everywhere, for some reason. Late last week, it fell from my sport jacket pocket during an medical appointment. A half hour later, I went to call my wife and was chagrined to find the phone missing. First thought: call Joan to tell her I’d probably left the phone at the doctor’s. Ahem. One cannot use a phone if the phone isn’t there. It was waiting for me at the receptionist’s desk.

I do acknowledge that the smartphone will come in handy, and that there are some entertaining and addicting features. And that we will have to watch our “data” very carefully. But, I pray (literally) that this gadget doesn’t take over my life the way it has proven to change the lives of so many people around me. I am retired. I don’t need or want to be THAT in touch. Or, that smart.

You might want to check this space in three months, though, and see if I’ve typed a new entry using that teeny keyboard. If I haven’t stepped into a manhole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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