Monday, June 06, 2011

I bought a smartphone.

There was a lot of angst and resistance, but I finally got a smartphone. Here's the story.

I'm cheap. I didn't want to pay extra for a data plan, especially since I wasn't confident I'd actually use it. I didn't use my regular cell phone very often, and I'm always at a computer, so what use would a smartphone be?

I also didn't want an iPhone. I don't like the way Apple tries to restrict everything and their development strategy for the last few years has become "find more ways for people to give us their money" instead of "make quality products".

I'm not sure what finally broke me. Maybe it was talking to other travelers about their e-readers, or a friend telling me about a useful app she uses. Maybe it was that my contract was up and I was eligible for a subsidized upgrade. Maybe it was Bruce telling me, "I'm surprised you don't have one yet. Of everybody I know, you're the one I'd expect to have a smartphone." In any case, I came back with a keen interest in one of these gadgets.

Several things narrowed the choices for me:

  • I wanted to stay with my current carrier because it's the cheapest carrier that has the coverage, plan, and features we need.
  • I wanted an Android phone because I'm mad at Apple (see above) and because my life is stored on Google's web apps. Everything I'd heard told me that Android was the right choice for me. 
  • I also learned that I wanted at least Android 2.2 (Froyo), not 2.1 (Eclair) because of developments like Flash support and tethering.
Of the phones that fit the bill, there were two real options in my price range (up to $100), so I visited the AT&T store to try them out. There, the customer service rep told me about how the next best thing is coming out that weekend, so I should wait and get that one (for $200). I flatly told him I don't need the latest greatest thing, I just need a phone I can check my email on. Bruce found one phone he liked that was way too expensive (Samsung Rugby II), and didn't find any free ones he liked. I wasn't ready to decide either, so we left.

Over the weekend, I found three prices for the phone I liked (HTC Inspire): $99 at AT&T, $50 at Best Buy, and $30 at Radio Shack. I printed out the Radio Shack page. I also found the phone he liked for $50 at Best Buy, but other stores didn't sell it. I printed that out, too. We headed over to Best Buy, where I asked if they had Bruce's phone. The guy said they did. I said, "Radio Shack has the phone I want for $30, so unless you can match that price, I'm going to go over there and buy it." Dude said, "I can do that."

First Impressions
I got the cheapest ($15) data plan, which is limited to 200 MB/month. That's a tragic thing, but like I said, I'm cheap, and I spend most of my time at home or at the museum anyway, and free wireless is available in both places. So I just turn off the mobile data service unless I really need it. All the background syncing happens at home, and if I'm out and need to find something or get a map, I can do that. I haven't used much data at all yet, and I'm going slow to see how much data I use before I become freer about it.

It's much more useful than I expected. Several apps allow me to be neurotic about lists and keeping track of  things. I can have Google Calendar wake me up in the morning (and I do), and alert me when it's time to change gears and work on something else, or take a break. My task app isn't perfect-- it's a 3rd party app for use with Producteev, whose interface I liked better than Remember the Milk. The third one helps me keep track of what I eat, and I can scan barcodes or enter text to search their database of foods. It also keeps track of my exercise (entered manually) and calculates calories. Another app tracks workouts, entered manually or using the GPS-- it tells me how far I go, at what speed, and how many calories I've burned. Once these things become second nature, it's likely I'll start tracking other things.

It also allows me to not be at my computer all the time. I can work on a printed chapter outside, and not worry that someone's emailed me needing something. This is kinda nice, though I am a little worried about becoming one of those people who are always tethered to their phones.

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