“Y U no have smartphone?”

I don’t own a smartphone. I have no plans to get one either. I don’t own or carry any device that could be deemed to have decent internet (beside some nominal access on my mobile phone). This is odd because I invest so much time online, blogging, twittering, emailing, etc. Surely I’d want to be able to do that anywhere, right?

For the time being, I’ve quietly resisted, even though I know it’s probably inevitable. Okay, so I haven’t been really quiet, because I’ve obnoxiously demanded of others online why they feel the need to have a smartphone and found their answers lacking. But I’ve never come out as being against smartphones and I’m not against them. I am a geek, lover of gadgets, a programmer, big web user… I should be the perfect fit so I wonder if my trolling was more of an attempt to justify my reluctance to find answers.

Over the weekend, I think I answered why I don’t want a smartphone.

At first I thought it was purely a money thing. Previous to the popularity of smartphones, having internet on your mobile device was very expensive. Something you could only afford if your company was paying for it. And, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more aware of the cost of things, not just the upfront price but on-going  costs. Up until last year I was still using a pay-as-you-go phone, because I kept my bills lower than the basic bill-pay contract.

I try to avoid spending big unless I have to. Even when I bought the Wii, which wasn’t really very expensive even at launch, I felt uncomfortable forking that much money over for what is purely an entertainment device. (I have gotten my money’s worth out of it since). So you can imagine my reluctance to buying a smartphone which can cost much more than a Wii.

And then there is the cost of internet itself. When I got my current phone it was set up to pull down a few Internet feeds and display them as news scrolling on the screen. In one day it swallowed all my credit before I realised.

But no, it’s not cost (or at least not cost alone). My mobile-operator cold-called me to sell me a data package that was actually reasonable enough. I don’t want another extra bill per month, but it was low enough that it was soakable if I really wanted to have internet. Also, I have internet access/wifi in work and at home. So I wouldn’t need any extra data-plans at the two locations where I spend most of my time.

And I’ve always said, if I got a smartphone for free and my bills covered, of course I’d be happy to use a smartphone.

Maybe it’s not cost but the value of smartphones. Am I going to truly find one useful or will I find it’s just another expensive gadget to carry around? I feel like a little geek hipster here though, I still use a Palm PDA (“iPhones are so mainstream”). And it comes from before they had WiFi as standard. I remember when I first saw a Palm PDA, maybe 12-13 years ago, maybe more, I’m fuzzy on that. It was only green and black at the time. It had memo feature, calendar, games and ebooks. I thought it was the future.

Being a student at the time I could only afford the cheaper models, not the high end ones, but still my Palm PDA was/is still a great companion tool. However over the years it’s usefulness boiled down to a three specific functions. I use my current PDA as an MP3 player (with a 2 Gig SD card), a USB key and a digital notebook. That’s it.

Before there were app stores, for Palm devices there was the wild west of the internet and I tried a gallzillion different apps and games for my Palm PDA. There were lots of demos, and applications were more expensive than ones you might buy for an modern device. So when I hear about the great number of apps available for devices, I’m not that impressed. I’ll still use such a device for a specific set of uses. That’s not going to change.

Also, my PDA isn’t worth anything any more. This is a good thing. I treat it like muck and it’s still working for me. If it breaks, I’m not going to be crying over it. It served it’s time well.

But that’s also a bullshit reason. Modern smartphones come with a huge amount of extra features. They are slicker, have longer battery lives and interop with stuff I didn’t think possible. They would do more than an MP3 player or USB key. Of course the question is would I use those features.

I remember thinking that no-one would want a mobile phone with a camera. Certainly not me. Now I wouldn’t dream of buying a phone without a camera. They are great for taking photos of moments with the kids, for making notes (taking photos of port numbers or maps, for example), for sharing something visual with my wife or someone else or even on twitter.

While I may not know what smartphones would give me, I’m sure they’d bring something new, something interesting. And there is always those outlier situations where such devices are really useful (and it’s not just pub quizzes). I still wonder how we did things without mobile phones, really how did we?

It’s not that either.

I was at the playground yesterday running around with the kids. Getting sweaty as a lifted them up onto the big tower for the 20th “last time” slide. I had my mobile with me but I barely realised it was there. But in the evening, after the kids in bed, I was watching TV while reading my internet feeds on my laptop. And today I’m back at the monitor, working, engrossed in the bits lighting up the millions of pixels on my screen.

Do you know what it is, why I don’t want a smartphone right now? I want to be disconnected. (Plus a little of all the other reasons, but only a little).

I go to the gym twice a week, using my dumb PDA as an MP3 player, and I tune-out from work. Clear my mind. When I’m with the kids and family, I am with them. No distractions. Occasionally I might tweet something, a photo maybe, via text or MMS, but I don’t see a response from anyone till I’m home. When I’m work, I’m working, when I’m at my laptop, I’m online, interacting, absorbing information, I’m distracted.

My wife got an iPhone from work and now she gets emails at home that “need to be answered now”. While I know how useful and powerful such devices can be, I have to be able to turn off. While it’s only a matter of time (and money) before I end up with a smartphone, I think I enjoy my quiet a little longer. I have that doesn’t make me too much of a freak,

Related Posts: