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In Defense of Smart Phones

April 28th, 2011 at 02:08 pm

A conversation in the forum got me feeling somewhat defensive of my iPhone. I used to think they were a huge extravagance, and I suppose when they first came out and the price was sky high, they were. I think has time has passed, though, the price has dropped dramatically but many people still have the image of them being hundreds of dollars. So when you see someone who may not have a lot of money sporting a smart phone, you might think they are blowing money that could be going to better things.

Assuming you already have a cell phone plan with AT&T, you can get an iPhone for $49 and the cheapest data plan for $15/month. That's hardly a wild purchase for most people, even folks with relatively modest incomes. $180/year for the service isn't likely to make or break anyone's budget.

So why get a smart phone anyway? Here's the list I posted on the discussion thread:

My phone is:
A telephone with free long distance
A computer with full Internet access
A camera for still photos
A video camera
A video game player
A tv and movie viewer
A radio
An mp3 player
A calculator (regular or scientific)
An educational device
A GPS unit

I think that used intelligently, a smart phone could actually eliminate the need for various other devices, thus saving money overall. We don't need GPS in the car - we have our phones. We don't need a video camera - we've got our phones. We don't need iPods - they are built into our phones. You get the idea.

Certainly, if someone is truly struggling, a smart phone remains a luxury item, but if someone is doing basically okay, having or not having a smart phone isn't going to be the deciding factor in whether or not they are making it financially.

11 Responses to “In Defense of Smart Phones”

  1. MonkeyMama Says:

    Agreed. I am sure we will get smart phones, eventually. I expect it to be replace many electronic items that we use (thus saving money in the long run).

    As I said in that thread, there are certain things that just are the *symbol* of bad spending, in our society, whether that's right or not. Usually stuff that most people buy just because everyone else has it, or because they are susceptible to marketing.

  2. mskills Says:

    I think it is easy to stigmatize whatever it trendy. So many people have phones with data plans nowadays, though, that I'm sure the focus will be placed on some other gadget in the near future.

    Realistically, most people spend more on eating out or cable per month than on their cell phone plan. Unlike those expenses, however, the iPhone is right there shouting "I'm a big spender!" True or not, its mere presence is enough to spark discussion over whether or not its owner can actually afford it.

    For the record, I'd love to have an iPhone someday. While I'm thankful for my TracFone's low cost, its feature set is definitely lacking in comparison.

  3. MonkeyMama Says:

    P.S. I have had people judge my own purchase decisions, often, though they would spend twice as much on a home, or 4 times as much on a car, without a blink.

    I've often thought, "You have got to be KIDDING me!" Yes, I made a $500 or a $1000 purchase, but since I don't have a car payment, or a GIGANTIC mortgage, then I think it will be okay. I think I can afford it. Wink

  4. LuckyRobin Says:

    I'm lucky in that my free phone does all of those things or could do if we paid for a more expensive package. Once we are done paying off our credit card we are thinking about getting fancier phones. Probably not an iphone, because I don't think it does Verizon, which is the only plan that includes service to the Arctic Circle, but one of those other ones.

  5. disneysteve Says:

    LuckyRobin, Verizon added the iPhone a few months ago. It is not exclusive to AT&T anymore.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I personally spend more than $15/month. I got my iPhone while they still offered the unlimited data plan. That is $30/month. When the iPhone 4 came out, they dropped the unlimited plan. Now there is a $15 plan and a $25 plan with set data usage (and a fee schedule for overages). They grandfathered in those who wanted to keep their unlimited plans. We'll see how long that lasts.

  6. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    As a tutor, I really don't know what I would do without my iPhone. I have used it in SO many ways when working with various kids. With one kid two different times he had to watch a television show from different time periods. Thanks to Netflix and my phone, we were able to do this (since he of course waited til the last minute.) When helping a student understand different biology concepts I found videos on youtube which explained it better than I could. My second grade boy who struggled with fluency and spelling is now doing quite well - partly due to several different phonics and fluency apps. My numerous Korean students have benefited from my the Korean language translator/dictionary app and the English to Korean translator app - which also makes it possible for me to switch my keyboard from English to Korean.

    Then of course there are the times where we need the cliff notes for a book - just look it up on the net. Or, when we're doing vocab and need to make up a sentence -- just look it up. And SO much more! Thanks to the 3g capability, I am able to use it with students where it would not be possible to have a Wi Fi connection. It also eliminates having to carry a bunch of different reference books. A few weeks ago one of my students had an assignment where she had to look up some verses in the Bible. There were no Bibles available ... but I had one on my phone. I even was able to find the verses for her in Korean so she could understand them better.

    Like I said ... I really don't know how I'd do tutoring without it.

  7. baselle Says:

    I think I would defend any electronic item that is well used and can save you some money. What I wouldn't defend is an item not used, used to humiliate, or so flaky that you seem to buy a new one multiple times per year. Me - I finally got a cellphone a couple of years ago. Maybe in a decade or so, a smartphone.

  8. LuckyRobin Says:

    Oh, that's good to know.

  9. dmontngrey Says:

    I just couldn't commit myself to sign up for a smart phone with Verizon. I was afraid it was just a gimmick and I'd get sick of it. I opted for the LG Rumor Touch through Virgin Mobile, just to see if I liked having the internet in my pocket. I ended up liking it just enough to upgrade my Verizon plan a couple months later when they had an offer that would cost the same as my VM plan. Now I have a *real* smart phone on a much more stable network and I don't know what I ever did without it! Yeah, it costs a bit to have the plan, but well worth it in my life. It does everything I ever hoped it would and then some. It has been much more than I could ever expect. Hey, it's not for everyone - but it works for ME! Big Grin

  10. Jerry Says:

    I can't believe you got grandfathered in on your unlimited plan, that has to lead to some major savings! Although, yeah, we will see how long they keep that going. I am looking forward to getting an iPhone (student... can't afford it right now) but I am making due with a iTouch. In residency it will be a necessity, I think. Do they offer AppleCare insurance on iPhones, or not?
    Jerry

  11. disneysteve Says:

    Jerry, I think they do offer an insurance plan. I've heard, however, that the insurance doesn't cover you if the screen cracks, which seems to be the most common damage. you can buy a replacement screen on ebay for about $15 though and do it yourself.

    There are a ton of medical apps. I use Medscape and MPR all the time. You can also get Epocrates and lots of others. I wish I would have had an iPhone when I was an intern and resident. Would have been a whole lot better than carrying pockets full of books and guides and a calculator.

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