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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Tuesday (6/3/08) 6:53pm - ... wherein Peter ponders telecommunications.

Right now, I have both a cell phone and a landline.  My current cordless phone is going batty.  I was shopping for a new cordless phone, and I speculated for the nth time about just ditching the landline.


My Current Situation:


Expenses:
  Cell phone:  $25/month for 60 minutes, + ~$3/month for my (limited) SMS usage (=twitter)
  Local phone:  $28/month + $5/month for long-distance calls

My total phone usage is about 150 minutes a month, with maybe twenty minutes of that on the cell phone.


Advantages:


I do see some advantages to this setup, oddly enough.

1.  I don't have to carry a cell phone around.  I can leave it in the car (where I can use it in emergencies) and then use the land-line at home.  It's one less thing I have to worry about losing or misplacing, and one less thing I have to fuss with when entering/leaving the house.

2.  Cordless phones (when they're not going batshit) have better sound quality than cell phones.

3.  Inertia, of course.  If I keep this setup, I don't have to do much.


Disadvantages:


1.  Cost.  I'm paying for two lines plus long distance.  Replacing it with a single cell-phone plan whose total monthly bill is significantly less than $60/month would save me some money.

2.  Confusion over multiple phone numbers.  Granted, this one mostly stopped biting me in the ass once I put a "DON'T LEAVE MESSAGES HERE I DON'T CHECK IT" message on my cell phone voice mail... but some (okay, "all") of my friends find that a bit antisocial.

3.  My old brick phone has very few features.


Features that might be useful on a better phone:


1.  Media:  video, audio, text.
2.  GPS or equivalent.
3.  Access to the Internet.
4.  More specifically, access to AIM and email.
5.  A camera.

Granted, most of these features don't fill much of a need in my current lifestyle.  (1) The 'I wish I had access to media' thing only comes up during the rare times I'm stuck waiting in line or something; these days, I address that by stashing a book in my backpack.  (2) I already have a GPS device for my car -- granted, I feel a bit dorky if I take it with me on foot, but it gets the job done.  (4) is mostly the same thing as (1) -- just wishing I had some distraction when I'm waiting to get to the counter at the DMV or something.  And (5) is mitigated by the fact that I usually have a real camera stashed in my backpack.  Like (2), it could be more convenient to have that built into a phone, but there's no pressing need there.

I think (3) is the only one that really matters, because I do occasionally hit situations where I'm just screwed.  I don't have my laptop with me, or I do but there's no free WiFi, and I need to look up some crucial bit of information.  It's a rare thing -- maybe once every month or two -- but it does happen.


Possible Plans of Action:


As far as I can tell, here are my options:
1.  Keep the landline, buy a new cordless phone.  This one is $25.

2.  Ditch the landline.  I'd have to upgrade my cell-phone plan by at least $10, which means I'd save a maximum of $23/month.  If I switched to an iPhone (no way I'd do that until *after* the impending WWDC keynote), I think I'd actually be spending *more* than I am now.


Questions for the F-List:


I'm sure I sound like I'm talking myself out of both dropping the landline and getting a better cell phone.  I imagine that's true to some extent.  But also I'm curious about other people's usage, because people do find their iPhones (for example) very useful.  I must be overlooking something.

What cell-phone features & apps do you wind up finding the most useful?
 

Tags:
Mood: [mood icon] curious · Music: none
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Comments:

[User Picture]
From:fraeuleinchen
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 6:35pm
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I was in a similar position about three years ago, and decided to give up the landline. Mostly I haven't missed it, although I will admit that landline connections are far superior to cell phone reception... whispering and other subtleties of verbal communication are much more difficult (or impossible) on a cell phone. I have a Verizon Wireless cell phone plan with 450 peak minutes/month and unlimited off-peak usage, along with unlimited 'in'network (other VZW customers - all my family and many friends); this costs $40. I never go over my minutes, don't have to worry about long distance, and since I don't IM much, I just pay per SMS for those (mostly family sending a quick picture or note now and then). Many phones available for "free" (within the allowance of $100) by signing a contract every two years have cameras, and I know my current phone has GPS but haven't used it or looked into it at all. I've been very happy with my service and the phones themselves (all have outlasted the two year replacement deal). I don't use at all the ability to use the internet via the phone, but it is available; whether or not you use this will probably affect what phone you would get, as the ones with a QWERTY keypad (also good for IMing if you do a fair amount) would probably have a better interface for browsing the web. There's a per-access fee for that service (I believe VZW calls it Mobile Web), but if you like the option for every month or two, as you say, it might be worth it. I hope this helps, and that you get lots of feedback from others to help you in your decision!
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[User Picture]
From:fraeuleinchen
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 8:39pm
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Uh, needless to say now that your other super-gadget-savvy friends have responded (but I'm saying it anyway): I'm pretty low-tech as cellular service/mobile connectedness goes. And that's a-okay with me; I have the MobileWeb and other such apps actually disabled by VZW of my own volition.
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From:gemini621rn
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 6:43pm
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Wow, I thought my parents were the only ones left with a land line.
Just kidding (my sister has one too) :-). I dropped my land line when I moved in with H. I have to say, I don't really miss it at all. The only thing that is kind of nice about having a land line is I actually remembered phone numbers. This is important in case you need help and you for some reason need to use another phone.

As for features I find useful, Hollis uses google maps on his phone every day. He can check traffic on Mopac and all other major roads and can navigate easily. Also, being able to connect to the internet is useful for a ridiculous number of things from looking up your hairdressers # to tell them you will be late for your appt, to finding the # for a place so you can order take out while you are still in your car. One time Andy navigated us through this winding neighborhood so we could find an alternate route to avoid post-event traffic on the major road.
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From:someconnection
Date:Saturday (6/7/08) 12:04pm
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I will just add that my phone now costs $30 through Cingular (even without any corporate discount).

The iPhone has a larger screen (and accompanying pocket footprint), and some things about it are definitely better than my little phone... but my point is that you don't need to spend $400+ or $500+ on an iPhone to get this functionality.
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From:hangingfire
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 6:50pm
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Bruce says: "Ditch the landline. Give me one compelling reason to have a landline in the year 2008."

I almost never use my phone for actually talking on the phone. I use it to talk to my family, and to call to set up doctor's appointments and such. Bruce uses his even less for talking purposes, because he's gotten his folks to use iChat's Video Chat function.

In fact, my iPhone is really more of an e-mail/text message device; when I'm meeting up with people, for instance, it's rare that I have enough to say that merits an actual phone call when a text message is faster. (Also, knockabout and I occasionally use SMS to compose renga.) And being able to get my e-mail anytime, anywhere is beyond handy.

The Google Maps feature on the iPhone has saved my ass many times; I use the calendar constantly; the iPod functionality basically makes it my travel iPod when I feel like I only need to carry one device and ... okay, I use every feature on it and then some. All the time.

P.S. Bruce may be about to sell his iPhone, once the new one comes out.
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From:hujhax
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 7:03pm
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I use every feature on it and then some. All the time.

Could you perhaps elaborate on that?  Apart from getting traffic information from Google Maps, I'm not seeing any features I've overlooked....
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From:hangingfire
Date:Wednesday (6/4/08) 6:49am
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I meant iPhone features in general. Calendar, notepad, calculator, clock ... okay, I don't use the weather widget much. The usefulness of Google Maps has primarily been in being able to have directions readily available. The recent addition of position-triangulation has also been very useful.

Also, a bunch of websites (Google, Facebook, Twitter, NY Times, CNN, and more) have built iPhone-friendly mobile versions of their sites, which are really nice.
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From:la_directora
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 7:19pm
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I ditched my landline when I got the iPhone, and the only moment I missed it at ALL was the moment when my iPhone had problems at the same time that my internet connection was wonky, making contact with customer service VERY tricky. But that ended quickly, and I haven't had any other issues since.

Of the features you've mentioned, the one I'd suggest relying on the LEAST in a phone is a camera. The camera in the iPhone is pretty good for a cell phone camera, and it's still pretty bad. Cameras in phones are purely about convenience ("Ooo, look at that random celebrity that just sat on the subway across from me! How convenient that the device in my hand has a camera built in!"), not quality.

I'm with hangingfire. I use everything in my iPhone all of the time. Love it, love it, love it. I love have a real web browser on my phone that can connect even when I don't have access to WiFi. And now that I found a quasi replacement for Vindigo, that's even more useful to me. I use text message a LOT (I pay $10 more per month to have enough of those to not go over, which is pretty standard.) I also love having e-mail on my phone.

Honestly, the only real reason to have a cell phone and a landline is if you live in a household where the landline serves the purpose of keeping the members of the household in touch with one another, like say a family with kids. If you're living alone, I can't see any advantage to it other than random freak power outages. At which point if you haven't thought to keep a traditional plug in phone around you're as screwed as the cell phone users anyway.
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[User Picture]
From:hujhax
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 7:57pm

Thanks!

(Link)
I use everything in my iPhone all of the time.

Like I said to hangingfire, if you can elaborate on other features/apps you use, it might help me out....
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[User Picture]
From:la_directora
Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 8:19pm

Re: Thanks!

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*turning on iPhone to browse the screen*

  • e-mail, which is more fully functioning e-mail reader than most phones have
  • web browser (again, REAL web browser, which as far as I know NO other phones have - does everything but Flash)
  • weather app - let's me quickly check weather forecast in as many cities as I want
  • Google Maps - separate app designed to work quickly on iPhone, though I guess I could go to the Safari browser and do it there.
  • YouTube (designed especially for iPhone)
  • iTunes store (designed especially for iPhone) - though to be fair I don't use this much
  • SMS (text)
  • camera - even though it's not great, I do use it to snap photos
  • photo album - allows me to sync photos over from computer, so not just ones taken on the phone
  • iPod (probably the functionality I use the most, even though I had other iPods before - just love getting to carry only one device)
  • video player on iPod - I didn't have a video iPod, so I love that I can do this now

    There are also special web apps designed for iPhone, though at the moment all of them require internet connectivity to use. I'm REALLY looking forward to the release of apps designed using the iPhone SDK, which is coming this month. They'll be releasing a new "App Store" in iTunes where you can buy apps designed just for the iPhone, without the restriction of having to be connected to the internet while you use them. I can't wait to see what they've come up with.
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    [User Picture]
    From:hujhax
    Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 8:23pm

    Re: Thanks!

    (Link)
    Thanks very much for listing all of that!  Those are great points about the full-fledged Internet functionality, and I'd forgotten about the YouTube app.  I'll be interested to see what they have at the App Store.
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    [User Picture]
    From:la_directora
    Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 8:24pm

    Re: Thanks!

    (Link)
    In case you didn't know, iPhone v2 is due out "any second now", so I'd definitely wait to see what's up with that. Especially since I'm hearing rumors that it might also have a lower price point than v1.
    (Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]
    From:hujhax
    Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 8:25pm

    Re: Thanks!

    (Link)
    *nods*
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    From:wanderlust_atx
    Date:Tuesday (6/3/08) 9:58pm
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    I'm pretty sure Karin and Bruce will never speak to me again, but I guess I'll be the devil's advocate against the iPhone.

    Features I like/use: SMS (much better than on other phones), Calendar (when I remember to update it, which I rarely do), Email, Web (but I've been burned a lot by sites with Flash)

    Features rarely use/ don't like: Camera (I hear it's better than most, but I've never taken a decent picture with it), weather (we live in Texas, pretty much any weather forecast is obsolete within 10 minutes anyway), stock quotes (???), Notes, iPod (already have a device that holds more music and videos), Maps, Photos, Clock (okay, I actually have a major beef with this. When we were in Alaska, the clock would simply not roll over to the AKST and I could not find a way to set it myself.)

    If you aren't much into the gadgetry, avoid the iPhone. You can get cheaper phones that have web browsers and can check email.
    (Reply to this) (Thread)
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    From:hangingfire
    Date:Wednesday (6/4/08) 6:51am
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    All Shellie's points are valid. The camera does sort of suck (although the same can be said for most phonecams). That clock problem is odd, though ... I wonder if it wasn't getting the info it needed from the carrier, or something? Strange.
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    [User Picture]
    From:titus98usn
    Date:Wednesday (6/4/08) 10:48am
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    Just a cell phone would probably work for me for everything, but I also use Vonage.

    My cell phone is a Portland number (my parents don't use cell phones and shouldn't have to pay long distance fees to call me). My Vonage number is an easy to remember 512 number. When someone calls that number it simultaneously rings my normal telephone at home, my work number (my cell reception is very poor at work) and my cell phone. I'm notified by email of any messages left for me at that number.

    I got Vonage several years ago when I still was moving around quite a bit, and mostly for number management. I don't make many phone calls at home, so I'm almost certainly overpaying for everything at this point, but it is a workable and relatively inexpensive option.
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    From:hujhax
    Date:Wednesday (6/4/08) 12:42pm
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    Thanks!  That "enhanced call forwarding" sounds great... how is the voice quality over Vonage?
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