Mobile Phones

I have had a mobile phone since the early 1990’s. I was provided the Motorola bag phone when it came out and I think that was ’90 or ’91, but I may be off a year or two there. Before that I was provided with a model that was the size of a cinder block, when you added in the case, battery and antennae. The funny thing was that the early phones were so unreliable we had a pool of the things. That way when one was broken you could use one of the spares. Before long no one had the number they were assigned.

That was forever ago, of course. By the end of the ninety’s everyone had something small they could put in their pocket. Over the last 25 years I have been through all sorts of phones. I have always been an early adopter so I had the first flip phones and then the first pocket sized models. When Palm released the Treo, I had to have one. According to the stories, Steve Jobs invented the smartphone, but that’s nonsense. Palm created the smartphone. Somewhere in a drawer I probably still have the old Treo to prove it.

Since the Droid hit the streets, I have been an Android user and I stopped being an early adopter. I think by the second iteration of the Droid I decided I had gone as far as I needed to go with the smartphone. Having e-mail and text was great. I will use the GPS when I get lost and I do listen to podcast when traveling. The millions of apps are lost on me. Since something like 90% are never downloaded, I am clearly not alone in that. As a practical matter, the mobile phone topped out for me about six or seven years ago.

Anyway, I had to buy a new phone as the old one was starting to become unreliable. I started with the assumption that I would buy another Android model or maybe try an iPhone. The cost of the things got me thinking that maybe it is time to downsize and go back to a basic phone. Spending $700 for a smart phone that mostly sits idle on my desk strikes me as a waste of money so I went looking at other options. Even with the zero interest financing from the carrier, it seemed like a waste.

I decided to break form entirely and buy a Windows phone. I know one person with one and they love it. I was skeptical, but I saw one on-line for $200 at the Microsoft store so I got less skeptical. You have to try new things and new things that can save you $500 are worth trying. If it were a crappy phone, I figured, it would be a $200 lesson. I have learned much more expensive lessons so the risk seemed small. Plus, the phone was unlocked so I could shop plans.

The hardware is actually a Lumia 650, but it is branded Microsoft and loaded with the Windows 10 OS. It turns out to be a great phone and the OS is vastly better than I expected. The interface is better than Apple and Google. I never would have guess that in a million years, but that tile interface is a great idea. It is stupid on a desktop, but it works really well for a phone. I use mine one handed so using larger tiles for the upper left and small ones at the bottom right means I can reach everything with my thumb.

Since I was going rogue, I figured it was time to walk away from Verizon and try the low cost guys that the local drug dealers use. Mobile phones are a vital part of ghetto life so there are all sorts of low cost carriers catering to the poor. The average hopper is not leaving the five block area of his gang’s turf, so quality of service is not an issue. What is important is that you can get a good deal on a burner and the retailer does not ask too many questions.

So, I went with T-Mobile. I do not know if they serve the black community or it was just the miracle of local demographics, but I was the only honky in the phone store. I suspect I was the only person with a job, other than the clerks. But the lack of an income is no longer a hindrance to participating on the modern consumer economy. I saw two gals who I know have not worked a day in their lives buying new phones on whatever payment plan they offer. Maybe they were signing up for Obama phones before he leaves office.

I have a theory that most of the airtime on wireless networks is used by stupid people talking to other stupid people. Watching the sad sacks at the T-Mobile store I could not help but wonder what they talk about to the people on the other end. If their conversations in the store were representative, millions of minutes are consumed with people saying “yeah” and “you feel me” to one another. It is not like they are coordinating meetings between business trips.

Of course, keeping the people down at the bottom busy is an increasingly important issue in a modern society. The bottom is creeping up as the demand for low-skill labor and low-IQ laborers declines. This is a problem that will only get worse over the next decades. Giving them enough money to buy game consoles and mobile phones means they have plenty of toys to fill their day. Consumer electronics are the Soma of the technological age. The iPhone and Xbox are what gives meaning to their lives.

60 thoughts on “Mobile Phones

  1. Pingback: Larwyn's Linx: Hillary Shrieks at Police—Stop Killing Black People; Massacre in Baton Rouge | Untruth

  2. Scanning the comments I see that the commenters are anti-Apple.

    Well I am a happy, satisfied iPhone user. Currently I am paying for three iPhones on a family plan under AT&T’s essentially unlimited text and data plan and have for the past 5+ years been totally satisfied as the hardware and software simply has worked seamlessly. Today, I checked for a software update and it installed the new one without a glitch in minutes. My current model’s iPhone’s display is a so called Retina display which permits me to read iBooks and Kindle formatted books when I otherwise would be spinning my wheels waiting for something such as a Doctor’s appointment. I prefer to read a book or on my iPad but in a pinch the iPhone serves me well. It is not just me but my family has been delighted with Apple’s iPhone since getting our first iPhone the year it was released. Another thing I have enjoyed is using it in my Audi by plugging it into a cable in the glove box and then playing the iPhone using Audi controls. I can listen to podcasts at 1.5 x speed without distortion of the voice. 2x speed is undistorted but too fast for my ear. It sure makes a long drive seem shorter. Last week I drove about 900 miles with beautiful, clear Audi audio listening to multiple podcasts. Out West there is a lot of dead air between major metropolitan areas. Satellite radio is not nearly as nice as the podcasts.

    Dan Kurt

    • @ Dan Kurt – One major advantage of living in the US is the ability to use the same carrier from California to New York. We are still in the stone age in that respect. As soon as one leaves their home country (where the service is provided) and crosses a border, it’s an international call with increased roaming fees for text, calls and data. Fortunately after June next year, roaming charges in the EU will be abolished completely.

      If you come to visit Europe, I recommend you leave your phone at home and buy a pay-as-you-go phone for 20 or 30€. I can’t tell you how many of my American friends have made the mistake of roaming their US phones in Europe; the stories of cell phone/internet roaming charges are legend. If you do bring a device on holiday, I’d recommend just a cheap, no-name tablet and a USA/EU electrical plug for the USB charger. Almost all hotels and B&B’s over here have free WiFi, so you can use Skype or other similar services for free.

      • Amazing that roaming charges are only now being abolished. No wonder people are fed up with the EU bureaucracy if they can’t even get that done after so many years.

        • It’s because they are each sovereign countries with their own communications companies. I think you may have a similar issue if you went to Canada or Mexico. I hate to say it, but it’s one good thing about the EU.

      • My new phone has two SIM slots so I can get a prepaid plan while in Europe next month. T-Mobile tells me they offer free text and data in the EU now so I may not even have to do it.

        • I had a dual-card phone here too, one SIM for Germany one for SIM Switzerland. It became such a hassle managing two accounts, I gave it up after a few months and just went with the Swiss provider. Plus, it was too easy to accidently call on the wrong card. Fair warning. And enjoy your trip!

      • @Karl Horst “…an international call with increased roaming fees for text, calls and data.”

        Thanks for the tip. Exactly ten years ago returning to USA ( Seattle ) from a trip beginning at Ft. Lauderdale and going through the Panama Canal the ship docked at Vancouver, B.C. for the day. I couldn’t wait one day to make the call to my office from Seattle as I had been on vacation for three weeks by that time. I just had to call. So I used the cell phone I had at the time, a Verizon flip phone I believe. The call was less than five minutes to find out everything was fine and smooth running plus saying the trip was great. When the bill came I was charged about $35.00!!! There was no way to fight it. So I payed through gritted teeth.

        Once burned, twice shy. My wife and I have done four cruses since then and I have NEVER made that mistake again.

        Dan Kurt

    • At the risk of starting a mini sh*t storm over saying one prefers Apple to other makers (as I do) but I am always reminded of Steve Jobs’ comment about one of his company’s competitors. “Stolen technology,” he said, and sadly it’s true. Without Apple the R&D departments of other manufacturers would struggle. Sorry, Droid fans, but there we go: you have benefitted from industrial espionage, so enjoy it.

      *Sits back and awaits the howls of outrage from Pokemon Go players, etc*

      • It’s mostly the opposite. Jobs stole the idea of the mp3 player. He also stole the smartphone concept. Jobs was a great pitch man and designer. It was those two elements that made the iPod a smash hit and later the iPhone. The technology and concepts were already around. Jobs was shred in how to sell them to the public as positional goods.

  3. It’s not necessarily the best product that wins in the marketplace, but the best marketed product that wins. Windows Phone is certainly proof of that….And your last paragraph is pure wisdom.

  4. My pet gripe is that all phone reviews have page after page on screen pixels, camera, apps _even the fdel of the case _ but never how good at making phone calls!

    • I used to see call quality reviews for iphones, when I first looked into them.Looks like has articles on call quality.

  5. In the mid-nineties I had a bag phone complete with a pig-tail antenna on my roof. I thought I looked pretty important going down the road. Since I only had 20 free minutes a month, I sometimes had to fake it when at a stop light next to someone whom I wanted to impress. The nice thing about the bag phones back then were that, unlike Bluetooth receivers or earbuds today, the phones and cords were larger and made it harder for someone not to notice when you were driving (or stopped) beside them.

    Now, everyone has a phone and we have to, again, use our personalities to impress those around us. But only to the extent we tweet, “like” and text. You can’t fight progress.

  6. I do tech support, so I went with an iphone as most of my customers use the same. Since I am very familiar with how Apple does things, I always buy one hardware version behind the current one. I’m on an iphone 5s and gave my husband my pristine iphone 4s. I have been supporting his android phones for some time now. He never really figured out how to do things like add someone to his contacts. Figured it was easier to deal with one OS. And I kept him in Razrs for a long time, including ordering one from China. So glad to be done with them. I would like to ditch the iphones at some point, but just haven’t found another OS that I like as well. I convinced my stepson to use a Windows phone a few years back. He wound up moving to an iphone too. And I miss the Palm OS. Still have three Palms that I can’t part with yet. I don’t use them, but still fire them up sometimes. It was a fun period with lots of innovation. I use my cell in place of a computer most of the time. I typically read the blogs and comment, check email and use GPS. There is a nice knitting app I like and I have access to Evernote and Dropbox.

    I think you miss something about the poor and cell phones. They can’t afford a Mac Air, but they can buy an iphone. It’s a status thing for them. My experience with poor people and phones is that they go through a lot of them and have problems keeping their cell phone bills paid. But they can still text, I guess.

  7. @ thezman – Forgive me for bringing up a previous topic (Basic Income) I posted this comment in there but thought it may be too old for re-comment so I will post it again here if that’s alright.

    I recently learned Alaska has a program called the “Alaska Permanent Fund” which pays Alaskan residents around $2K per year. (1)

    “At least 25 percent of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sales proceeds, federal mineral revenue-sharing payments and bonuses received by the state be placed in a permanent fund, the principal of which may only be used for income-producing investments.” (2)

    Given the billions in profit earned by various corporations from other states across the US, why couldn’t this concept be duplicated to equally distribute benefit to citizens in other states? I would think instead of depending on the traditional tax-based revenue where only working people contribute, it would make sense to use the billions in corporate profits from companies in other states, and create a similar funding schedule for the rest of the US.

    With employment and jobs in decline across the US, it would seem the idea Alaska has implemented isn’t a bad way to go. Certainly taxing the few that work, to pay for those that can’t or won’t, is not a long term solution. Creating a fund from corporate profits, rather than a direct tax on profits, seems to be working for Alaska.


  8. I still use my trusty rugged Samsung “dumb phone”, the phone is certified dust/water resistant and the battery lasts a whole week, it’s essentially UN-destroyable, you can drive over it with a tractor, or use it in rain/snow, it will still work, and I’m not even joking:

    YouTube Samsung E2370 Xcover Crash Test

    Another benefit, there is no EULA, you don’t have to sign your soul over to use it! Meanwhile in the smartphone world, even flashlight apps are spying on you, it’s a security nightmare.

  9. When I taught the ‘students’ in my classes were — despite ‘dire’ warnings on notices on the walls (which were never enforced) that they should not use the phone in class — essential for not learning anything. They all used them, openly. I used to hear conversations along the lines of “waddya wanna do tonight?” The reply would be along the lines of “Dunno, waddya wanna do?” And so it would go on without resolution. I broke the teacher rules once by grabbing a ‘student’s’ phone off one lad and typed in a reply to a text message which was the usual, “waddya wanna do?” I typed in: “Have your babies.”

    I was not sacked and the kids had the decency to laugh.

    I once asked one non-learner why she had their mobile phone out on the desk all the time and she said “in case of emergency.” This was hilarious because in all the time I taught there was one call, to the college reception desk, that could we tell Kayleigh that her doctor’s appointment that evening would be fifteen minutes later. Kayleigh wasn’t phoned direct, but that was the sort of dire emergency all the kids were waiting for.

    Mind you my wife, who teaches, used to see ‘students’ with two or three phones lined up in front of them. Some of her kids pretended one was for doing drug deals. Unlikely, but fantasy is strong with the young.

    When mobile phones first came out in the UK I noticed a lot of men carrying them in holsters on their belt as if they were guns. Yes, it was signalling as in ‘lookit me, I gotta phone’ but it was — in gun-free UK — a bit of wishful thinking.

  10. If you think you’re the odd man out with a windows phone, try being one of us Blackberry bitter clingers. It’s secure enough to keep out the bulk of the hacks that befall apple and android. Seems to be a bot more resistant the NSA shenanigans if you can believe some of what Snowden released. Probably not getting anything close to bullet proof unless you want to get a phone with an unlocked bootloader and load a version of Cyanogen and know how to verify the source code. Plus, I like having a “real” keyboard.

  11. I read that in my part of the world, the average person has something like 1.3 close friends. Many have zero. But for some reason, every driver or commuter is excitedly yelling into their phone. To whom I wonder. I message my “close friends” and only call they are running late. Mobile phones have made us lazier since we can just call someone 5 minutes before meeting time and tell them we will be 30 minutes late.

  12. “…millions of minutes are consumed with people saying “yeah” and “you feel me”
    Bear in mind, this is true of the eternal welfare payment plan, as well as the US$800
    “smart” phone in the hands of “Real Kardasian Housewives of Dr. Phil’s Alma Mater”

    • The first time I heard a pager go off I knew that we would never be alone again. I, personally, am glad I grew up absent cell phones, pagers, and 24 hour a day tv.
      Spend some time on you tube and you will see what else they do with cell phone cameras. Makes you wonder what space aliens must think of the life forms on this planet. Just type in something like subway fights.
      My grandson has control of the tech side of my life so I have a big screen iPhone . Big deal. I miss my silly little flip phone.

  13. I only got a smartphone relatively recently; I never really needed anything above a flip phone. Honestly I probably still don’t but some of the smartphone options are nice to have – email, easier texting (flip phone texting is a pain), music, and especially ebooks. I also wanted to have the voice recording and camera options too. Otherwise most apps are just a waste of time (I probably get the most use out of the Weather Channel app than anything else out there.) I went with a Iphone 6 mainly because all my music is tied to Itunes. The moment Android makes it plug and play easy for loading music out of Itunes, I’ll probably switch.

    • There’s a free desktop app called iSync that let’s you sync a Droid to iTunes. It’s one of those deals where the free version does the basics and the $20 version let’s you do advanced stuff. I used the free version for years to sync the Android to iTunes. As soon as you plug in your phone, the application fires up and asks if you want to sync your phone.

      That’s the one drawback at this point with the Windows Phone. There’s no easy way to sync iTunes playlists and podcasts. But, I have no spent a lot of time on it either.

    • Try MusicBee (free) and import your iTunes library! It’s a great library manager. I use Android and like it just fine.

  14. ZMan, good coverage of a topic that to me, represents “technology run amok.”

    Two of the worst examples of this are 1. the jerks who walk around with their faces glued to their mobile screen never bothering to look up and out, acknowledge anyone, and who think “you” are supposed to watch out for them; and 2. being in a restaurant and noticing a couple on a date, or a family together but no one is paying the least bit of attention to anyone else because they are all enthralled and captivated by their mobile phones.

    People don’t realize they are supposed to be the “masters” of their tools and not vice versa. Pathetic.

  15. One of the things I find problematic is the design of these new phones and the backward trend in battery charge provided. Used to be you could charge a phone and have decent talk and stand-by power available. And this improved for a while. But then in the move to make the devices smaller and lighter, the trade-off was made to go with smaller batteries which sacrificed the available charge and now instead of being able to go 2-3 days between charges, you find yourself having to pull in every single day or you find yourself in a “lo batt” situation.

    Usually this kind of situation spurs improved battery development but in smart phones, I just don’t see that happening. But I am over the “having to have the latest and greatest” stuff and am looking to simplify by going back to a flip phone, if I can find one.

    • @ LetsPlay – I’m still using a Motorola Razr V3i. You can still get them on Amazon. Unlike Smartphones and iPhones, they don’t break and shatter that easily if/when you drop them. All the basics with good visual contrast, even with my old eyes.

    • The frustrating part is I could open my old phone and replace the battery. So I always brought a charged spare when I traveled. Now the phone are sealed and I can’t replace the battery.

  16. Glad to see somebody else has my phone philosophy. I buy trailing edge tech and refuse to spend much money and a payment plan is simply out of the question. I like my HTC One (paid $1 for it with a Sprint Account) but might go back to a Windows phone when it stops working (not when I’m “eligible” for an upgrade).

    I had an early Windows phone a decade or so ago and loved it. Unfortunately I couldn’t sync to my work email and had to return to Blackberry one last time.

  17. Have heard the same from a few Windows phone users. Just so trapped in the Apple tar pits that extrication is probably impossible for the near term. And yes, nothing like watching folks in the Costco line juggling two iPhones, an EBT card, and a roll of cash to pay for all the stuff that doesn’t qualify for food stamps… Poor today seems defined has being one iPhone generation behind. In my Grandmother’s day it was having one dress for school, one for home and going barefoot when not in school to save your good pair of shoes.

    • My cellphones have all been hand-me-downs. My favorite was a sleek little silver clamshell Samsung that was just a telephone – at least insofar as I was concerned. The most amusing was a tattered orange Samsung slipcase that I loved to pull out of an evening bag at a fancy party.

      • Had one of those years ago. Was my favorite, tough as nails, metal case, long battery life, easily slipped in pocket.

  18. We had a meeting today that was perfect for this topic. One of your younger engineers was looking out the window and holding up his Smartphone. I thought he was having reception problems. Turns out he caught a Pokemon outside our building.

    I can’t wait for the corporate memo on this one.

    • It’s funny about mobile phones. When they first started rolling out, they were a status symbol. You were a somebody if you had one. Take your bag phone into a pub and the women noticed. Today, the rich and powerful have someone who handles their mobile phone for them. In Washington, you can tell someone’s status, in part, by whether they have a phone in their ear. Congressional aides have an overstuffed briefcase or even a backpack and a phone in their ear. Industry lobbyists will have a thin briefcase and bluetooth. Big shot lobbyists have people with phones and briefcases, while they walk around unencumbered.

      • Ditto CEOs of corporations. Empty handed. Or a very slim leather portfolio for an important meeting. And often someone else carries even that. The lackeys carry the briefcases and the phones.

        Most tycoons of industry are not interested in using computer technology. And doing their own communicating. They are the visionaries.

      • Well I must be at the tippity top. No phone, no briefcase, no people. There’s also no power, no discretionary income, no playthings…. Just me.

    • My daughter said the other day she needed a new phone, so we took her buy one. I heard her asking the salesman about apps. Turns out she most needed the new phone for playing Pokemon Go. Still, she has got out a lot more with it and nearly walked the dog’s legs off searching for Turdo or whatever the Pokemon characters are called.

  19. Ever watch a detective/crime movie from the pre-cell phone era? Does it blow you away how they have no instant communication devise, often must stop and use a pay phone (usually in the rain) and yet somehow the crime gets solved in the end? Amazing anything ever got done, civilization managed to survive and prosper BC (before cell).

    Personally I think we are devolving. Anyone ever consider mindless evolution could peak and then go backward?

    • I’m always amazed that at whatever house or office Perry Mason, Ellery Queen or Columbo happen to go to investigate a case, there’s a moment when the phone rings, the proprietor picks it up and says, “Hello? Oh… it’s for YOU.” A lack of cellphones never held THOSE guys back!

      • And then there’s the wide swing of the pendulum to the other side where the ‘team’ is assembled by calling them on their cells wherever they are – African jungle, deep sea diving, scaling a mountain in the wilderness. Phone rings, “Yeah?” “I’ll be there.” Always miraculous cell service in the alternate reality. Not to mention DNA results in fifteen minutes. But fiction is allowed all manner of latitude. What disturbs me is knowing that the younger generation is losing the ability to tell the difference and the lines are now blurred between virtual and real. Feels more and more like the Matrix which I refer to as life imitating art.

        Being real means I don’t belong here anymore.

  20. I keep forgetting the role of games in the narcotization of us all. My drug of choice is news and commentary. Does that make me a tweaker?

    I keep contrasting the kids of all ages searching for VR Pokemon with the thugs shooting up the hood. Sheepdogs will continue to be in high demand.

  21. Last paragraph – you said a mouthful. That idea deserves its own post, or even its own series of posts.

  22. I guess I am just an old codger. I recommend books to young folks and give them as gifts. I try to encourage them to bury their young skulls in a good book rather than dumb games that only develop their thumbs. I describe the places you can go, the things you can do, all in your mind, the fun of learning about new things in a vicarious manner from people you don’t know but can know. Anyway, I love books and try to pass that along.

    As for a mobile, I only use it for text, talk and music (with earbuds). No internet. That can keep til I get home.

  23. Distributing money to the poor to let them buy stuff like this is at least not as corrosive as going the Venezuela route and forcing the prices down below the cost of manufacture to what they could afford otherwise.

    The one smartphone I have owned was a work issued Windows 2002 candybar with a screen the size of a postage stamp — I was developing mobile apps before they were cool — but when that died, I got myself a basic calls+texts Nokia which is still going strong after 10 years. I’m not enough of an internet addict to need it in my pocket all the time.

  24. I am always amazed when I am in Italy, Spain or southern France, at the number of Africans wandering around with SmartPhones. And these are not tourists, these are the guys selling knock-off Gucci bags and sunglasses. I can only guess they call each other to warn when the police are heading their direction.

    • Look at the mobs pouring in over the Mediterranean. They often have mobile phones. In America, the typical poor person has a flat screen, game console, mobile phone, is fat and has a steady supply of recreational drugs.

      They ain’t making poor people like they used to.

        • I got the Lumia 650.

          Coming from Android, I had no trouble figuring out where things were. The phone is very light and so far no problems to report. For the money, it is a helluva bargain.

          • I’ve got the even cheaper Lumia 640, and just boosted the SD card as it was getting a little cramped. We won’t be playing Pokemon Go, but that’s a feature.

      • When I was working my way through college in the mod-70’s working in south central LA making just above minimum wage for the phone company I was Liberal and poor as all my money was going to college and eating and my room. I saw welfare people constantly with better cars, electronics, appliances, furniture, and other things I did not have. I was paying taxes out of my low income for and became conservative. This is not new.

  25. I tried T-mobile, they offer a great data only plan for tablets, but they have no service in the boonies where my folks are. I had to drop them.

  26. T mobile offers a $30/month plan with unlimited data and text and one hundred minutes of voice a month. You can’t get it in stores though, online only. We’ve been happy with it.

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