In her Aging With Geekitude series, self-professed “recovering technophobe” Erica Manfred writes about her adventures with technology and shares what she’s learned as she navigates the not-so-scary waters.
I love my smartphone. I use it for everything from reading the NY Times and listening to books, to texting, sending emails, checking Facebook, getting directions and settling arguments by asking Google. I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Yet despite the wonders of smartphone technology, most of my friends still refuse to give up their dumbphones – most of them for the same half-dozen lame excuses.
Here are the top six reasons why my friends refuse to join the 21st century – and my responses.
1. Smartphones Are Too Expensive
My friend says “I’m cutting expenses, and my dumbphone (which has text, calls, camera) is a monthly $45 for up to three months,” my Facebook friend Dawn Goldsmith writes. “Plus I just spent $85 to buy the dumb thing and want to use it long enough for me to think I have my money’s worth.”
My response The whole “too expensive” myth comes from years of us being inundated with ads from companies selling contracts. My Straight Talk plan, and my daughter’s, Cricket, are $45 a month for unlimited talk, text and Internet. You can buy a state-of-the-art smartphone for well under $200. Check out this site for some great buys.
2. Because of smartphones, people don’t talk to eachother anymore
My friend says “If I don’t get a smartphone I don’t have to worry about cellphone addiction, and I don’t have to worry about falling off a pier while staring at my phone like that Australian tourist did.” (If you missed that story, here’s the video.)
My response Listen to Shirley on the Baby Center blog: “I have a smartphone. Got it late last year, after six or seven years with a seriously low-tech Tracfone. Here’s the amazing thing: smartphones can be silenced, turned off, or ignored, just like low-tech phones! When a person is incapable of putting down their smartphone or looking away from it for more than four consecutive seconds, that speaks volumes about the person… not about the phone.”
Personally, I find that it’s much easier to insist that the person you’re with powers down their smartphone if you have a smartphone – that way, you can suggest that both of you turn off your phones. It’s harder to insist that your friend make the sacrifice if you’re not making one. With my daughter, fuggetaboutit. She’s not turning off the phone no matter what I say, so I might as well play with my own phone for something to do while she’s texting her friends.
3. I have no use for it except in an emergency. Everything else can wait.
My friend says “I want my quiet time,” Travel writer Candy Harrington tells me. “I use my Tracfone for emergencies.” She also says that she doesn’t want to be always reachable.
My response A smartphone is much more useful than a dumbphone in emergencies. You can find local tow-truck companies and hospitals, plus state police and other emergency services. And this “always reachable” excuse is a myth. You can turn the phone’s ringer off. Duh! It’s your choice.
I talked my friend Stephanie Golden into buying a smartphone and now she says, “I love being able to find out in real time whether it’s worth waiting for the next bus and which subway lines have delays. I put magazines and books on it and don’t have to carry them around on the subway or a plane. I do crossword puzzles on it, download library books, keep notes, to-do lists and my calendar on it. My scanning app works better than my printer scanner. I Skype with it and take photos. All that is actually more important than the phone function. I got a Galaxy Note with a big screen, so reading is easy.”
4. I’ll never be able to figure out how to use it
My friend says “I hate that they make it so difficult to text or call – it’s overly complicated,” complains colleague Nancy Peske.
My response OK, there is a learning curve with smartphones, but if you take it slow you’ll figure it out. Tina Tessina, who’s in her late 60s, was an early adopter – she wanted her husband to get over his technophobia. “Richard had a dumbphone for a long time. Because he was so technophobic, I decided to get him an iPod Touch at first. He had a young friend show him how to load music and he played games on it. Once he was comfortable with the iPod, he got a new Galaxy S5 when I got one last year, and now he loves it. He needed baby steps.”
Some cell phone companies are giving classes to customers who buy their phones. Here’s one example. Apple will give you one-on-one help with the iPhone for $99.
5. They’re too big to carry around
My friend says “Smartphones are too big for me to comfortably carry around; but if they were small, they’d be even more difficult to read without glasses,” Lynne Bailey kvetches. She should know better – she teaches technology. “My dumbphone fits comfortably into every pocket I own.”
My response This complaint does not hold water. There are lots of small, lightweight smartphones, and you can use accessibility features to make the fonts large or extra-large. For instance, the iPhone 5 is very small, but it’s quite readable even without glasses and is one of the more popular phones ever. I had a Samsung Galaxy 3, which is lightweight and also is reasonably easy to read.
6. I can’t get used to typing with my thumbs
My friend says “I type with both hands and all 10 fingers. Have you ever tried using a spreadsheet on a phone? Awful!” Lynne writes.
My response This was my major complaint about my first smartphone. I could not master thumb typing, and as a long time touch typist, one-finger pecking drove me nuts. That is, until I discovered an app called Swype, which actually makes it fun to type – especially when you’re using the stylus with the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is big enough to display a spreadsheet, by the way. My phone will never take the place of my computer, but it’s not supposed to.
The Bottom Line
As the older people with whom my daughter works tell her, “That thing has the all the answers!”
See more Aging With Geekitude articles.
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.
I get by quite nicely without a smartphone. I carry a simple flip phone, turned off most of the time. I only turn it on periodically to check my messages. The ONLY reason I have a cell phone at all is to contact my wife when either of us are away from home. I have a basic talk & text plan which suits me perfectly.
I don’t need/want a camera. I’m not a picture taker. Never have been. I do my banking, Internet browsing, reading of emails, etc., at home on this thing called a computer. I neither want nor need to be connected 24/7. When I leave my house I leave the Internet behind. If I’m going to meet someone somewhere I’ve never been, I look at a map on my home computer. I plan ahead.
I’m no technophobe. I worked in IT for 35 years. Technology is great when not misused. New technology in the medical field is an example of properly using technology to benefit mankind. Not smartphones. I used Blackberry devices as communication devices for my work in the government. I had a Nokia back in 2000. That same Nokia (which still works) provides me with all I need even in 2019. As mentioned, I currently use a flip phone. I have stockpiled a few to last me for as long as we have 3G service in Canada. 2G service is being shut down at the end of 2020 here.
I did try out a cheap Motorola e2 smartphone but got fed up with it after two days. It now sits in a box on the shelf. The constant notifications for app updates drove me nuts. I tried turning off notifications and disabling as many apps as possible but that is essentially converting the smartphone to a “dumbphone”. So, … what’s the point. I use a flip phone now and for the foreseeable. If there comes the day that I cannot find any more basic feature phones, I just stop using them altogether. I barely have need of one as it it is.
This article sounds like they’re reasons NOT to get a phone. Not what I was looking for
Great article, Erica! i am always searching this type of articles in internet. This is useful for me again thanks for this
I have owned, and paid the monthly basic fee for, a dumb cell phone since about 2000. I got it at the request of an elderly friend who wanted to be able to reach me whenever he needed a ride. He died in 2004. He had called me twice in those four years, and he, at least, was glad that I had the cell phone. When my deceased wife became very ill around 2008-2010, she wanted me to always take the cell phone when I went out. She called me only once. Since I hadn’t used the phone between ~2003 – ~2009, I had forgotten how to answer an incoming call. Two successful incoming calls in the early years and one failed incoming call many years later is not a very good track record. I have a land line that serves me well at home.
You list, and then debunk, 6 reasons people give for not having a smart phone. I am a believer in all 6. And a 7th. I never use my dumb phone. I would probably never use a smart phone. Oh, and an 8th. I have very short, wide fingers, which is one reason that for 17 years I have never tried an out-going call on my cell phone. (My laptop hasn’t moved from its lodgment in its dock on my desk since I got it in 2008. I had my tech guru fix me up with a large screen and a full size keyboard.) Given the tenor of this message, it should not be very surprising that my tech guru has become my best friend (now that my wife has died).
As if the ineptitude alluded to above weren’t enough, I blush to admit to having a masters degree in physics and to being co-publisher of a very successful personal computer magazine from 1978 – 1983.
Well, Erica, you’ve certainly given me lots to think about. I’m using a dumb phone – and you’ve listed many advantages to switching to a Smartphone. I’m going to look into it. Thank you for the excellent article & ideas. Arliine Web site https://seniorplanet.org//www.funtravels.com
I was at the bookstore yesterday. While I don’t believe a manual comes with an iPhone, they are for sale. I question if something that needs a 150 page manual is as simple as it seems. But lots of publishers know some people want books to refer to and they provide them.
Does a smartphone have to always have internet access, or can you have a phone that is a smartphone that doesn’t have internet access? In other words, does the term Smartphone equals one with internet access?
You can text without net access right?
Do you need internet access to use aps?
Yep, once you pay for the “well under $200” (according to the author) device you also need to pay for monthly nternet/Wi Fi service.
I forgot to tell you, I have onstar in my car and use it for vehicle emergencies. It connects in places that i can’t get cell service.
I live in New York City. Where can I locate a dentist I can afford to properly get my dental issues resolved ? I am a retiree. My HMO does not provide enough coverage financially for me to properly get my teeth taken care of. Requests for my dental needs are consistently denied by my HMO with the dentists I have gone to. I prefer not taking out a loan although I know it is an important health care issue. Would not reject a fair payment plan. Can you advise ?
I certainly hope you’ve received a helpful answer before now but, just in case it’s still of interest, you might consider using “CareCredit”, which is speciaized in helping people who need dental work. Read about it at http://www.carecredit.com or call 800-365-8295.
Great article, Erica! I’ve never bought into the argument that dumbphones are better for older adults. Anyone who really wants what they have to offer should start looking into a smartphone as their next device. I use my for directions, ordering food, taking pictures of my kids, and listening to audiobooks.
But I also agree people should learn to turn them off when in company! I’m guilty and am working on this!
Couldn’t agree more: I work part-time at Apple Store, and see a lot of seniors who are petrified by smartphones, until someone patiently (it helps to be their age, LOL) explains the basics. There are so many great apps that really can improve your quality of life that it makes sense to take the plunge. See my preso about what I call “Smart Aging,” which combines devices such as smartphones that can improve your health with smart home devices that can make it easier to manage your home: slidesha.re/1DCtve1