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Smart Phoning

I don't know about you, but when I first heard the expression "smartphone," the image that popped into my mind was that of Maxwell Smart talking into his shoe phone. That corny show was a favorite of mine in my impressionable youth. At that time, some of what we're currently living was still sci-fi ... back when they told us that some day people would be able to see each other as they talked on the phone. Skype anyone? FaceTime anyone? It seems that nowadays, if you can imagine it, someone has already invented it!

I'm not really interested in getting a smartphone and all that goes with it. I mean, which one would I even choose?! Here are just a few of the choices:

Our daughter Nora has a friend who attended a wedding in Guam shortly after getting a smartphone. What she didn't know was that, when the phone was on, it would be updating once a minute for the entire week she was there. She sent about 10 texts and made two 5-minute phone calls, limiting her usage, knowing the rates would be undoubtedly be much higher from there. But still, when she got back home and saw her next bill, she was in total shock. It was for more than $37,000! When she pleaded her case with her service provide and could get nowhere with them, she contacted a local TV station — 7 On Your Side — for help. By putting the spotlight on the craziness of her situation, the folks at channel 7 WSPA were able to get her cell phone service provider to eliminate all those roaming charges from while she was in Guam.

I am not doing this post because I am considering getting a smartphone. Au contraire! (pardon my French....) We are not newbies to cell phones, but we are pretty basic, no-nonsense users — Becka phones, and I phone and text. Yesterday was the end of my contract with Verizon (Becka's is up in late December. At first we shared a cell phone that Becka had most of the time, in case of emergencies. After a while, though, we added a phone for me and eventually dropped our land line, hence two different contract dates. Our old land line number is now the line for our DSL. For our TV we have an antenna in our attic. (Wow! How low tech can you get?!) Our kids all had cell phones before we did, as I recall. Nora and Mark were both single and on Verizon. Megan and Jim were on Sprint, switching to Verizon when their contract was up, so we would all be with the same carrier. When Nora married Topher, she switched to Sprint since he had to have that for his job.

My current quandry is, in the mystical world of possibilities out there, what should we do now that my contract is up? With our daughter Megan and many other family members, who have Verizon, living out of state, we wonder if we should stick with Verizon for those calls that don't count as "minutes." But there are cheaper options out there. We really aren't interested in having a data plan. We are living nicely without it, and I know that if we ever had it, it would be hard to give it up. It's funny how luxuries, once acquired, become "necessities" that are never enough for us insatiable beings.

Do any of you use Straight Talk? For only slightly more than what we're currently paying, we'd have unlimited talk, text, and also data? Or since we already have DSL with ATT, should we switch to ATT and get U-verse with TV, internet, and phone, with their low, introductory rates guaranteed for only 12 months? How much is it after one year? Or should we just keep doing what we're doing with Verizon for cell (seeing if we can get a lower rate), DSL for internet, and our attic antenna for TV? Or are there better options that you use and I haven't mentioned? And if we stick with Verizon, should I go to a non-Verizon store to re-up my contract — I know I could do that at Costco, Best Buy, and other places. Which is best? I really would like to hear from my readers on all this — satisfied and unsatisfied — realizing that I probably won't be able to answer each e-mail or comment.

Becka and I enjoyed two weeks up north seeing family and friends that we don't get to see often. Our travels took us all the way to Cheboygan, MI (near the top of the mitt) where we stayed with friends from here in Greenville who have a summer cottage on a lake. While visiting we saw the elderly couple with whom I boarded one year as a single teacher. On our way there, we stopped at a Tim Hortons in Gaylord, MI, and were surprised to run into three people from BJU! Two are teaching colleagues, and the daughter of one of them was my student both semesters this past year. Megan, Drew, and Maddie came back with us this past weekend. We're enjoying this extra week together and wish Jim could be here too. He'll come to pick them up this weekend so we'll get to see him for a little while again. I meant to get a picture of the three grandkids together the other evening, but I forgot. We'll do it when we're all together later this week. I'll post more pictures next week.

For those who'd like to see pictures now, here are some pictures of the kids individually, thanks to aunt Nora's new iPhone and Facebook.

Drew and uncle Topher playing Wii...



Here are Megan and Maddie, after Nora tried out the image editing feature of her phone.

I'll be back at you next week with more shameless grandpa pictures!


"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination." — Ronald Reagan

=^..^= =^..^=

For people who like peace and quiet: a phoneless cord.

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16 Comments on “Smart Phoning”

  1. #1 Monique
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 8:05 am

    We have an ATT plan that gives unlimited calling to/from other cell lines, only using minutes for calls to land lines, most of which we can manage to limit to nights & weekends. You should definitely check to see what bundling DSL and a family plan would cost. Also, most phone companies will let you go month by month without a contract or penalty unless you go get a new phone that has a contract tied to it. Since you seem happy with your phone, maybe you should consider that–at least until your wife’s contract is up. Then, if you switch providers, you could do it at the same time.

  2. #2 Karen M.
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 8:52 am

    What a messy morass we’re in w/ all of the techie items. I’m not talking about the murky waters of contracts, high bills, or gazillion phone choices. Us older adults see the big picture. (I hope.) It is young adults that are not. They are living in the fantasy world of texting, IMing, and facebooking–all which keeps their minds numbed to the realities of life. Real communication does not take place. Real thinking about our country does not take place. Real action about talking to the lost sinner does not take place. When a nation/people becomes enamored with endless play, it sinks, it rots, it dies. I’m not being negative at all. I’m concerned that we wake up to the fact that our lives here on earth are short, short. Let’s get busy for Christ. : – )

  3. #3 Doodie Hutchison
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 9:16 am

    My husband and I are not “normal” cell phone users–we still rely on our land line for most of our communication. I have a pay-as-you-go cell phone (I spend about $7 a month–20 cents a minute); hubby has a plan with unlimited texts and 300 minutes/month for $35/month–both of our plans are through Virgin Mobile (no contracts!). We’ve not had a bit of trouble with our provider, and I’ve been with them for over six years.

  4. #4 Vikki
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I loved Get Smart as a kid!

    Dave and I too are behind the times as owners of non-smart phones. It would be fun, but we just can’t justify the additional fees it would cost for both of us to switch. Maybe when one of our phones eventually dies we’ll have to switch because I don’t think you can hardly get a plan anymore without the data package. But for now, our phones are just dumb.

  5. #5 Donna
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I loved when we got texting – both of us, since my husband can never keep my teaching schedule straight. Texts are much less intrusive in class! We have Sprint unlimited which is great for not having to count minutes (and my husband’s work pays for his, which is great!)

  6. #6 Joy
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 9:59 am

    No suggestions, but would be very interested to hear what you decide and why – we’re at sort of a crossroads as well – just doing a monthy thing for now until we can figure out what will serve us best for the best price!

    Never heard of straight talk before – wonder what the final bill is – are there a lot of fees like phone companies always charge?

  7. #7 Taleia
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I use Straight Talk – love it! I pay $30/month for 1000 minutes, 10000 texts, and something like 350 MG of data (on a non-smart phone, though they have smart phones available, too). They have a $45 unlimited everything plan, as well. I’ve never run out, never had any issues, and intend to use them for a long, long time. Coverage is great, too!

  8. #8 Stephen S.
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    My wife and I still use a land line for most of our phone needs. Like Doodie, we have a cell phone with Virgin Mobile that costs us under $7 / month. I hear about people who pay $30+ per month for their cell phone and wish more of them knew about these super-low-priced options.

  9. #9 Eileen
    on Jul 11th, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    When we lived in Greenville, we had a nice cheap landline and used pay-as-you-go/prepaid Tracfones for cell phones if needed, we even went without internet for about a year. When my husband got a different job up north, it seemed that he needed a smartphone, so we got him an iPhone and me a regular cell phone through Verizon. After having this arrangement for a year, and adding internet at home b/c we don’t have good cell coverage in our apartment(!), we have decided not to renew our Verizon contract next year. The smartphone is fun and often convenient, but not necessary, and very expensive. Our primary concern is expense. Also, with Skype and other video chat avenues, I rarely use my cell phone. We use Google voice to make calls when we’re home. We’ll have to look into options when our contract is up next year. I’m curious to see what you decide on. 🙂

  10. #10 Dustin B.
    on Jul 12th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I’ve recently been checking out T-Mobile’s SIM-card only “value” plans. If I understand it correctly, you can select the “two” lines option, meaning that two phones are on one package. In my case, we’re thinking of doing the 1000 minute + Unlimited Text (no data) plan, which would be $60 for two phones.

    As for phones, I’m thinking about going with Google Nexus for us:


    …for reasons as explained here:


    Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding the T-Mobile “value” package.


  11. #11 Rhonda
    on Jul 12th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    We have so many college age kids that we actually have two accounts with ATT…my husband cringes every month when the bills come. I have a man in town that helps us know just the best way to figure out what we should bundle, etc. … it is so confusing. He says Straight Talk is the way to go, but try to tell that to my 6 teenagers. I haven’t had a contract on my phone for more than 2 years. I buy an unlocked phone on ebay and Att lets me just pay per month with no contract. All my phone upgrades go to my teenagers!

  12. #12 Ruth
    on Jul 12th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Comment for Karen M.
    I am of the older generation 45 plus and at times agree with you that the communication technology seems to be non communication. But I have to say I have taken my thoughts to the next step and decided to reach this younger generation through their communication mode anyway and so I post verses on FB and through texts end up getting private messages from those seeking deeper answers to life.
    We use Verizon and have packaged but it is expensive compared to some of the others who have posted. I do like that texts do not interrupt class like a call and that my family can get ahold of me that way as some are older and have health issues so I want to be in the loop. We have managed to avoid the smart phone by getting one that has some of the smart options but only if you want to pay for the data plan so we don’t pay for the data plan unless we need it. eg I used Vz navigator for summer vacation for $5 for 5 days since I didn’t have 200 for a tom tom or garmin and rarely need it for getting around town. we have house phone 2 cell phones and internet all in one package. I agree with the comment above that you could stick with the phone you have and the plan till your wife’s is up then combine what you do from there.

  13. #13 Karen M.
    on Jul 13th, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Ruth, I agree that facebook and texting can be put to good use. I, too, have posted Bible verses and positive items on my facebook page. I guess what I’m concerned about is the umbilical cord young people (older people too) seem to have to their mobile device. I’ve seen them texting during the preaching service and get up, leave a service because they just “must” take that call. None of them have a job where they are on call 24-7. On July 4th we brought along a young single guy from our church to an outdoor patriotic concert. On the way home, he talked and talked and talked to someone on the phone while we felt “forced” to be quiet. Yes, we could’ve talked, but didn’t. I’ve spent a day out shopping with two friends my age from Illinois who came up, stayed over just so we could spend time together. Both ladies spent 3/4 of the time on the phone with who knows who. It’s this rudeness I’m against. I do have a Tracphone, but use it for “emergencies.” The other point is that so much time is occupied with mobile devices that people don’t look up and see the white field of harvest around them–souls who are dying without Christ. I’ve watched this change over the past five years or more. Well, those are my thoughts for what they’re worth. Thanks for listening, Ruth.

  14. #14 Vikki
    on Jul 13th, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Talking about people who yap on the phone for a long time when they’re with others. We’ve gone out to eat only to have someone at the next table sit on her phone through pretty much her whole while she was there – including eating – leaving the two people she was with to just sit there and watch. Plus she was talking so loud we could hear everything she said. I so wanted to go up to her and ask her to please tone it down because I really wasn’t interested in learning that she needed to stop by the store on the way home to pick up some TP.

    The only thing worse than Insistent talking is loudness. My sister and I were sitting in a waiting area and this woman got on her phone and was talking really, really loud. Penny and I started to talk about how some people talk way too loud on their cell phones and how annoying it was when this person sitting behind us suddenly joined in on our conversation and agreed that people tend to talk way to loud and it really was so inconsiderate, etc., etc. It was the same person who had triggered our conversation in the first place! She was totally clueless that she happened to be one of the loudest we’ve ever hear.

    I listened to a news report about an upscale restaurant that was putting in phone booth, not for pay phone, but for a place for people to retreat to when they got phone calls so they didn’t have to disturb everyone around them while they talked. This reporter was going around asking people their opinion on these booths. Pretty much every person over 40 were in favor of it, but just about every person 30 or under thought it was a dumb idea because they could hear just fine talking on the phone at the table and didn’t need a quieter place. They missed the point of the phone booths entirely. Their views were self-centered and not from the point of view of others around them. It’s an interesting society we’ve developed into.

  15. #15 Rob
    on Jul 13th, 2012 at 10:22 am

    @Karen M. and Ruth – I found it interesting that you are having your discussion with each other on one of the “newer” forms of (non?)-communication — blog commenting. 🙂 I think you are both seeing the situation correctly. Many younger people today are basically addicted to electronic communication. They really do have a desire to communicate, but it is in a different form from what we older folks were used to. It can be a not-so-smart-phoning. Or as pointed out by Karen M. and Vikki, it’s what I call “dumb-to-society phoning.” I have adopted Ruth’s approach in trying to meet the kids where they are. I email back and forth with my students fairly freely and text some of them. Many have friended me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter. As a result, lots of them frequent my blog and read things I put here— who knows, maybe even these comments! :-0 If I see two students I know who are together on campus and yet both talking to someone else on cell phones, I “cash in” on knowing them and say something like, “Why are you two talking to each other on your cell phones?” They smile and hopefully get the idea behind what I’m saying. I can’t win them or encourage positive change by being off-putting.

    @my other readers/commenters – Thanks for all your insights, both in comments and by private e-mails. Becka and I switched yesterday to Straight Talk and told Verizon’s higher rates goodbye. I’ll write more on this change in next week’s blog post. I’ve heard about providers I didn’t know existed and looked into the ones suggested before deciding on Straight Talk.

  16. #16 Karen M.
    on Jul 13th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Yes, Rob, Ruth and I are commenting back and forth on one of the newer forms of communication. I really do enjoy facebook and email. Don’t use the cell phone all that much. But the point that is being missed is that the mobile devices consume people, not matter what age. Young people in particular use all of the devices around. I don’t have problem with new technology. The passionate point I’m trying to make is that, these devices keep them in a state of busy-ness. They cannot take the time to go out and tell someone about Christ. That someone who needs to be saved. I know…I know… they can use the mobile device or computer to witness, but I know that they don’t. I am in contact with many young people through church and through teaching English and writing. We have a visitation time at my church. Only one young person comes out to help. Well, I guess you know by now that my passion is to see people saved from their sin and a very real place that no one really wants to go to when the trump sounds. Time is short.