Confessions Of A Once-Smart-Now-Dumbphone Owner

By March 14, 2012

Confession: May 3, 2010 was last day I owned a smartphone – an iPhone 3G.

Fresh out of college, I found myself unemployed and no longer able to afford the $100 monthly bill. The phone was not only my trusty music player, but kept me up-to-date on news and email away from my computer, not to mention keeping me thoroughly entertained with games like Peggle and Bookworm. In return for $150, I sold my iFriend on ebay and settled down with a LG Cosmos.

In an effort to console my unconnected heart, I tried to be impressed with the slider phone’s keyboard for texting, “Hey, buttons are cool too right?”

But it was never the same. The simple functionality, the access to information whenever I needed it. For a while it felt a little like losing a superpower of super intelligence, the ability to answer any question that came up at any time. With my dumb phone in hand, I just felt like a regular guy.

As I text in public, I see glances of pity in the faces of  iPhone-toting strangers. They see me flip out my keyboard and are reminded of their own dependance on their smartphone. I’m often asked how the heck I deal living with my inferior cellphone, so here’s the truth:

iPhone snobs are right. Dumbphones are painful to use. 

We may be too prideful to admit it sometimes, but going from an iPhone, where sending or replying to a text is as fast as tapping the screen a single time, to a phone that buries it three menus deep, is painful to say the least.

I’m lying when I say SNAKE is as cool as Angry Birds.

I can’t properly describe how desperately I yearn for a smartphone, trying to look anywhere that isn’t directly at another person in a crowded car on the train, meanwhile everyone around me taps away at their Androids and iPhones, warm in their comfortable little bubbles of distracting information and entertainment. The jealousy, the desperation to escape from boredom, becomes overwhelming.

I don’t miss being connected, usually.

Not having access to the internet or email at all times is liberating, I can admit to that. At the very least, it’s made my laptop feel a hell of a lot more useful. Selling my smartphone was actually a really nice way to establish a definite separation between the endless stream of information of the internet and the rest of the world. When I step away from my computer, I am truly away from my computer. I don’t have to worry about replying to Twitter updates or checking Facebook posts. My online social world has to wait until I get back, and for the most part I’ve had very little issue with that.

I get lost. A lot. 

While being disconnected DOES make me feel like a freebird come 5PM, the pitfalls of not having access to directions when out and about, or a directory when you need a number on the go, has made me return to my apartment on more than a few occasions to look something up. Now that I live in a larger city (I was living in Madison, WI during my smartphone days, I now live in Chicago), I can only imagine that my terrible sense of direction would benefit infinitely from any kind of GPS map application.

No, I don’t think an having an iPhone is worth $100 a month. 

Of course I have thought about it a time or two.  I have asked myself time & time again, is paying $300 for a new iPhone (with a renewed contract), on top of $1,200 for a year of use, worth it ?

After I’ve become so accustomed to a lesser phone. I have to admit that it’s still not, but with a caveat. Paying for a plan by myself, which is what I was doing before, is simply too much for the luxury. I can’t justify it. Getting on some kind of family plan, though, where the base cost could be lowered a bit, might nudge it into the range of consideration.

Almost two years later, I have not returned to the promised land of streaming video and honey. But I’m not the only one wandering the dumbphone desert, although our numbers are decreasing. Recent numbers released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and Life Project found that nearly half of adults in the US  own smartphones. That number has increased by 11% since May of last year, when only 35% of adults were said to own smartphones.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not yet in the complete minority, but I have to wonder how many of this year’s basic cellphone owners at one time had a smartphone like me. In my opinion, it is a crueler fate to have loved a smartphone, and lost than to have never loved one at all. Maybe one day I’ll find an affordably priced plan that loves me back.

Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.