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!”