I’ve 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 90’s everyone had something small they could put in their pocket. Over the last 25 years I’ve been through all sorts of phones. I’ve 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’ve been an Android user and I stopped being an early adopter. I think by the second iteration of the Droid I decided I’d gone as far as I needed to go with the smartphone. Having e-mail and text was great. I’ll 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’m 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 was a crappy phone, I figured, it would be a $200 lesson. I’ve 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’s 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 don’t 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’s 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.