Aging With Geekitude: Why I Love my Smartphone

erica-manfred-profileLast week in Aging with Geekitude, Erica introduced us to the cloud and Dropbox – read about it!  This week, she’s set on talking you out of your dumb phone security zone. Why? Read on…


More than any other high tech gadget, smartphones bring out the latent Luddite in my older friends.  They already own computers, read on Kindles and watch movies on Netflix, but they will fiercely cling to their dumb phones until they’re pried out of their cold, dead hands.

“I use my cell for making calls, why do I need it for anything else?” is my friend Sally’s   lame excuse, but she can’t even call me because she’s still carrying my number around in a little paper phone book that she usually forgets at home.

These friends are in denial about the awesomeness of smartphones. They watch me at dinner look up a review as we decide on a movie, or ask Google the definition of a word we have both forgotten, or figure out what supplement works best for osteoarthritis, or find the phone number of a doctor’s office. They sit there acting blasé, as if it’s no big deal, while I’m in awe about what my phone can do. They know smartphones take photos and videos, which has revolutionized law enforcement, pet ownership and grandparenting. What would the police do without citizen cell photos of crime scenes – and Facebook without photos of cute babies and kittens?

My friends must have noticed that their kids text, they do not call. Try texting on a dumb phone. And if you want to have your calendar up to date and available wherever you are, and your contacts synced, your smartphone will do it. In fact I just read that I can actually take a photo of a check and deposit it to my Bank of America account on my smartphone.  Wow!   That’s handy in this weather.

So why the resistance?


Faux Excuse: Money


“Phone contracts are so expensive,” my friends protest. Newsflash: You no longer have to get a contract. You can get a prepaid plan for as little as $45 a month and bring your own phone.

Don’t get suckered into a monthly plan.  You’ll pay more every month and you’ll wind up paying a premium for the “free” or “almost free” phone during the life of the contract.  After I got stuck paying for the rest of the contract on my ex-husband’s phone after our divorce, I swore off contracts forever.

As it happens, the trend is now in the direction of prepaid plans, since T-Mobile started advertising their cheap “bring your own phone” plan.  Now all the major carriers are offering prepaid plans for smartphones (you could always get them for dumb phones). Just buy a Straight Talk sim card at Wal-Mart for the AT&T network and you will get the same service as an AT&T contract customer for $45 a month. Or get a prepaid plan from AT&T or Verizon for $60 per month for unlimited talk text and 2 gigs of data (you won’t need more than that).

Granted, smartphones are not as cheap as dumb phones, but they’re no longer prohibitively expensive.  You can do what I did and buy one on EBay– which is a great way to get a deal on a phone.  Young people are not like us, they want the latest models so they sell last year’s model—often still in great shape–at a steep discount.    (Look for my upcoming column on how to buy on EBay). Or you can buy a new or refurbished model on Amazon, which gives you a lot of buyer protection.

Make sure the phone you buy on EBay or Amazon is already set up for the specific carrier you’re planning to use.  A Verizon phone won’t work with AT&T and vice versa.


Real Excuse: Fear


The real reason for the resistance, I suspect, is technophobia. Carrying around a gadget you have no idea how to use can be a self-esteem killer. But you can overcome that. Buy your own phone and sign up for a prepaid AT&T or Verizon plan, bring the phone to the store and get a salesperson to help you set it up.




There are so many smartphones that it’s almost impossible to compare them so I will simply tell you what I think you should buy and where to get a deal on it.  I do not recommend an iPhone simply because it’s too tiny. I see kids playing games on it and wonder how they see the screen at all. I hear Apple is manufacturing a larger one, but not yet, and when it comes out I guarantee you won’t be able to afford it.

The most affordable senior-friendly phone right now is, hands down, the Samsung Galaxy Note, an Android phone. There have been three versions so far, which means the first one, the Samsung Galaxy Note 1717, has come down substantially in price – but it still has all the bells and whistles anyone (who isn’t a gadget freak) could want.  The Note is larger than standard phones and has a screen that’s much easier to see.  I have an unrequited lust for the latest version, the Galaxy Note 3, which is so fabulous I get choked up thinking about it, but I can’t even get a used one on EBay for less than $500, which means I either pay for another tank of oil in this coldest winter ever, or I heat with my phone.

Another great  option is the smaller, but still easy to see,  Samsung Galaxy S 3 which has a normal size screen, but the same operating system as the higher end Galaxy Note 2.   You can get one of these for $239 refurbished on Amazon, or less on EBay.   That’s the phone I’m using right now since I traded the Galaxy Note 2  I bought on EBay for my daughter’s  Galaxy S 3 – for reasons that I still regret. When your kids lust after your tech stuff you’re in trouble.

My daughter talked me into making the switch by convincing me I needed a smaller, lighter phone that I can easily carry around in my little neck wallet. I do listen to audio books all day and I do lack sufficient pockets. I would surely lose my phone if it wasn’t securely attached to my body. (I highly recommend those wallets, which are ridiculously cheap and very sturdy.) With my handy pair of earbuds, which are designed at an angle so I can wedge them in next to my hearing aids, I’m wired at all times.

I hope I’ve talked you into joining the 21st century and getting a smartphone.  Feel free to use it to friend me on Facebook and to ask questions in the comments section.  I promise to answer.

Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction.


13 responses to “Aging With Geekitude: Why I Love my Smartphone

  1. Erica, What you label as resistance, others consider freedom of choice. Spare me the psychoanalysis. I can afford a smart phone.
    I don’t want one. Since I hardly ever use my “dumb” cell phone, why would I need to upgrade? I can actually go for weeks
    without using my cell phone. Whether or
    not to buy a smart phone is a matter of
    making choices that fit individual needs.
    I’m not going to run out and buy one,
    just to look up a word in a coffee shop.
    I have a computer at home and in my office, and I have a tablet that I can carry around.
    I live in NYC.. don’t have a car or kids.
    As with any technology, If it fits your needs, great, but don’t bash others who have made choices based upon needs different than yours. Explaining is fine. Judging is not.

  2. Can’t do anything without my BlackBerry. It wakes me up in the morning, stores all my phone numbers, addresses and birthdays, doctor’s appointments, and movie times. I use it to keep in touch on facebook, and BBM my friends and family when it’s dinner time. I set the phone to remind me when a show is coming. Ping! No more little daytimers, and no more looking for a pen to jot something into it with. Nope, I have embraced the technology and so glad I did. Love this article.

  3. Good column, Erica! I switched to an iPhone a few years ago, and I love it. My aging eyes are no deterrent — that’s what reading glasses are for. The backlight and sharp contrast make it easy to read.

    I use my iPhone for phone calls, yes, also keeping track of my calendar on the go, listening to audiobooks, keeping my travel info in one place ( is a favorite app), providing maps for walking in strange cities, finding the closest veggie restaurant, and much more. Oh, and I can carry my music and contacts, check email…

    Without my smart phone, I’d be a whole lot dumber.

      1. Sorry, Erica. But ever since I switched to my iPhone from an Android phone, life has improved greatly. Unlike Android, my emails arrive without delay on my several email addresses. And it is simple and completely intuitive to use. Since it is still relatively new to me, I’m finding that there is so much available, that I’m constantly expanding my horizons.

        I got this on Virgin Mobile, with a $30/month plan (when you set up automatic payments).

      2. Android versus Apple is like the Hatfields and McCoys these days. I agree that Apple’s products are intuitive and that’s a big plus. But Google supports Android so if you have Gmail it works seamlessly and very quickly. I think Samsung’s phones rival the iPhone and lots of reviewers agree. I respect you Apple pickers, but until Apple makes a phone that rivals the Galaxy Note I’m not impressed.

      3. So glad that you get so much satisfaction from your Samsung–Samsingers are clearly a hardy lot. But good luck to anybody who uses Android for multiple and/or non Gmail email addresses. Your gmail will load up as soon as it comes in-but not so for non Gmail such as Verizon or Yahoo. You often have to wait or re sync in order to keep your delays short. Not exactly one of Android’s more impressive features–unlike Apple–which is quick for all emails.

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