Why, in the age of the smartphone, would someone voluntarily go back to a flip phone? I can hear you asking, “You run a Tech Blog, why would you do that!” Well, there are a few reasons why I have done it. I will try to lay out a couple of them here for you. Maybe it will convince you to give it a try, or make you clutch your smartphone that much tighter. Let’s get one thing straight to start with, I am not going all Luddite. This is just one area of my life I have chosen to take a simple approach too.
Can you even buy a flip phone anymore?
Turns out you can, you don’t even need to dig your old Motorola Razr out of the closet. I was able to purchase a brand new Cingular Flip 2 from AT&T. The phone is made by Alcatel and branded as a Cingular phone. Cingular doesn’t really exist as a company anymore, it’s a brand name owned by AT&T. This flip phone features a lot of not so backward features. It operates in full 4G LTE mode, has Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi, and a built-in MP3 player. For a “dumb phone” it’s pretty smart. I can still check my email on the go if I want to. Responding to the email, on the other hand, is a little more difficult. The phone also allows you to listen to over the air FM radio if you have a pair of wired headphones plugged in to act as the antenna. So not so bad and not your grandmother’s jitterbug either.
Since this is a tech site, let’s bring out the phone’s stats:
Size: 4.13in x 2.06in x 0.73in
Color: Dark gray
SD Support: Up to 32GB
Processor: MSM8909 Quad Core CPU 1.1GHz
QVGA (320×240) TFT-TN
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900
UMTS B2/4/5 FDD B2/4/5/7/12 MFBI
HD Voice: Yes
Wifi Specs: 802.11 b/g/n
USB Type: Micro-USB
SIM Type: Nano
Standby Time: 384 hours (16 days)
Talk Time: 8 hours (3G)
Main Megapixels: 2MP
Main Camera Video: 720P @ 30fps
Supported Formats: PCM,MP3,AAC,AAC+,eAAC+
HAC Rating: M4/T4
Headset Jack Size: 3.5mm
Speaker Size (In Watts): 1 x 0.7W
Quick Start Guide
Safety and Warranty Information
*HD Voice is not available in all areas. HD Voice Requirements: To experience HD Voice,both parties on the call must be located in an AT&T HD Voice coverage area and have anAT&T HD Voice-capable device and SIM with HD Voice set up on their account. Incompatible Services or Features: The following services and features are currently incompatible with HD Voice: prepaid service, Smart Limits, Ringback Tones, andOfficeDirect and OfficeReach (for business customers). HD Voice is available at no additional cost; standard voice rates apply and are charged according to your wireless rate plan.
All of this flippy goodness was bought for the low price of $60 US, that’s right $60 bucks. You can’t even get an iPhone’s screen repaired for that. Buy two to have one as a backup for when you accidentally lose one. These phones are not the bricks of old. I have been using this phone for a couple of months and I don’t even notice it in my pocket.
So why did I switch to a flip?
Simple, simplicity. A smartphone is designed to keep you engaged with it. Call it FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), boredom, the need to be doing something with our hands, the fact we have forgotten how to be bored, or whatever, a smartphone keeps it all within reach. Never before in human history has so much information been so easily available. Try and think about the last time you were having a real in-person conversation with someone and one of you didn’t pull out a smartphone to fact check something on Google. Does proving yourself instantly right or wrong bring anything better to the conversation? Probably not.
I personally sit a desk all day with a computer in front of me. A smartphone is an accessory to most of my day. Why would I access the internet on its small screen when I have an awesome 24-inch monitor and a keyboard in front of me. Same thing at home, I have a nice laptop and a tablet. I was finding more and more I was limited by the smartphones smallish screen. My smartphone was pretty awesome, it was no other than last years (2016) Google Pixel.
So it’s not like I had a crappy phone, I had a great one. But I felt myself being more interested in it than what my kids were doing, or other things going on around me. Sure a lot of it was my own self-discipline. I wanted to not have the distraction of a smartphone around. Just turning it off, of removing the apps, etc, wasn’t enough. It’s like when I first tried to quit smoking a long time ago, I would keep a pack hidden in the house, “just in case” and I would always go back to them, maybe a little less. The only way I was able to quit was just to remove them from my environment. Same thing with the smartphone. If I wanted to be better about not using it, I had to get rid of it.
These are just my reasons, if you are feeling the nagging that you need to do something about your smartphone use, or just want to have a good backup phone, the flip is the way to go.
What have I noticed?
Since I switched to the flip I find that I text people less. Since it’s hard. I never embraced T9 back when it was new, I was always the multi-button pusher. I got pretty quick at it, and was kind of amazed how fast the muscle memory came back. So now I call people. It’s interesting how many people don’t like taking phone calls anymore.
I miss maps. I have a horrible sense of direction (pull my man card now) and I used a smartphone and Google Maps as a crutch. The only time I have found it would have been really helpful was when my older daughter came out to visit me in Washington DC. We were wandering around seeing the sights, but we needed to find a Metro station. I “knew” one was nearby, but not sure where exactly. We had to *gasp* look at the many maps posted around the National Mall to figure out where to go. We also double checked by asking someone. Crisis averted.
I am more focused at work mostly in meetings, I usually only need small pieces of the overall meeting I am attending. So it was easy to just pull out the smartphone and find something to distract myself till my part came up. Now I am finding that being more present in the whole meeting has made me more productive since I am gathering more the contexted of the information I am collecting.
I also really notice other people on their phones. Resturants are the biggest one, whole families sitting around staring at their phones and not talking to each other, or their conversations revolve around showing each other things they have found on their phones. I am as guilty of this as anyone else. I just don’t want a part of that right now. My little kids tell great stories if I just really listen.
Will I ever go back to a Smartphone?
I won’t say I never will, the convenience of a smartphone does tend, to me, to outweigh the drawbacks. Our culture is becoming more smartphone-centric, which is good and bad at the same time. Since all the things that people use their phones for, don’t work once the power goes out. Smartphones are great when they are working and have a good connection to the internet, not so much when they don’t. It’s always a good idea to have a “back-up” communication system.
For now, I am enjoying the mental clarity that comes from not being constantly distracted. Is it for everyone? I don’t know, it works for me, but I am not everyone. If you think you might be too involved with your smartphone, try turning it off, go to a flip phone for a couple of weeks, or months. See how you feel. Also, the lower data plans tend to be much cheaper. As of this writing (late-2017), it looks like the unlimited plans are coming back, so it might not matter.
What do you think about giving up your smartphone? Something you think you might try, or will they pry your iPhone from your cold dead hands?
If you find it hard to use something, chances are you won’t use it. That has been the focus of this blog from the start 6 months ago. I like making things easier for people to understand the new tech coming out and making the best use of the stuff you have. One thing that seems to always get people fired up online, is “Are you a Mac or PC?” My answer to that question is becoming, “Why does it matter”
I am sure you might remember the Mac vs PC commercials from a while back. Where they presented PCs as being stuffy, business like machines and Mac’s as hip and cool. While this persona is still around today, I think it is time to start getting beyond that.
How you interact with your computer used to really come down to a personal preference, or at least what you were familiar with. This is why Apple pushed so hard to get its computers into the education market. If they could flood the market with computers that kids got used to using, maybe they would continue to use them when they got to be old enough to buy their own. Problem was, Mom and Dad used a Windows machine at work, and they are cheaper overall, so more than likely there was a PC at the house also.
While Apple did manage to convert some, I don’t think they had the whole level penetration into the market they had hoped for. Several years ago Apple made the switch to Intel based processors, instead of their own in-house cores. This opened a whole new world to the Mac. It could now run the programs that people wanted, namely Microsoft Office. This helped homogenize the market even more.
So what are my choices now? (in no particular order)
This is still my current favorite. The ability to get great performance out of low-cost hardware is great. This, in my opinion, is still the best way to get a laptop that can do almost anything you could want, and not worry about any of the stuff you don’t. As long as you don’t need an application that is specific to an OS, then you are good to go here. You probably handle 99% of your computing tasks inside the browser already anyways, so why not use a computer that is built for that. The old arguments about they only work online, is not true, and really, how many times are you somewhere using your computer that you don’t have internet access?
ChromeOS, I think, does the best at just getting out of your way and just letting you get to work or play and do what you want. You really can’t go wrong with one of these machines. There are some great new Chromebooks coming out from the major manufacturers soon. This is an exciting time for Chrome.
The big daddy of them all. No OS has more market share or widespread use than Windows. Due to the early ability to be run on almost any computer (other than a Mac) made it easy for businesses to buy it and for computer makers to field it with their new machines. There may have been some collusion between the manufacturers and Microsoft in the early days, but was Dell or HP really going to ship a computer with MacOS on it? No, not really.
Chances are you already use a Windows machine somewhere in your life, it’s almost hard not to. It brings an ease of use and lots of support to help with any problems you might have. There is a giant community out there using Windows, so chances are if you have an issue, someone else does also.
Windows is probably a little harder for the newcomer to just have a computer that gets out of the way. Mac and Chrome, since they control the hardware, have fewer issues getting running out of the box. Windows is the closest to a One-Size Fits most type of approach to computing.
Apple has always positioned itself as the alternative to Windows, the problem is cost. Mac Computers and Laptops are always more expensive than their Windows-based counterparts when you compare specs. Since Apple controls the hardware and the software they can dictate and focus on software development. This makes the Apple MacOS environment much more robust. Since they can focus on creating an Operating System for a narrow band of devices. This helps to eliminate the bugs that can creep into more diverse OS’s.
I will say the overall build quality of Apple devices is greater than most Windows machines I have used. But as far as the actual OS goes, I think there are still some quirks that take some getting used to. I wrote about transitioning from Windows to Mac a couple of weeks ago. It’s getting a little easier for me, but I still find a couple of frustrations when interacting with the OS.
So long as I stay in the browser, life is great, I get to use what in essence is a $1700 Chromebook. Almost everything I need to do, work or otherwise, can be handled in the browser. So in the browser (Chrome) is where I choose to stay.
For someone who is not as tech comfortable as I am, the MacOS can be a lot different than what they are used to. I would only recommend the MacOS to a beginning computer user if they have never really used a computer before. I would still steer a new user to Chrome before I sent them to the Apple Store. It’s not that the OS is hard to use, it just changes your interaction vs. Windows. If grandma, let’s say, is only slightly comfortable with a couple of tasks in Windows, I would not dump them into Mac, cold. There is a learning curve there that might be a little more than some can overcome.
It’s not that the OS is hard to use, it just changes your interaction vs. Windows. If grandma, let’s say, is only slightly comfortable with a couple of tasks in Windows, I would not dump them into Mac, cold. There is a learning curve there that might be a little more than some can overcome.
Linux really is, in a way, the best of all three. There are so many versions of the Linux OS, called distros, that you can find the one that suits your needs. While you can’t walk into a store and buy a Linux computer, it is easy to add Linux to an existing computer. It also can breathe some life into an older computer, should you choose to go that route.
Linux really allows someone to have as much or as little interaction with the operating system as possible. Should you want to tweak all the settings and optimize all the settings then Linux will let you. If you just want to browse the web and check email, yep that works also. There are a lot of resources out there that can point you towards what might be your favorite distro. If someone you care about has an older computer that maybe isn’t running so well anymore, a Linux distro might be the way to get them back up and running without too much of a learning curve.
5. Andriod (Bonus)
No longer just relegated to the phone, Android is starting to come into its own as a full-fledged OS. While you won’t find it running a whole computer, yet. It can be used as your primary computing device. In fact, you probably already do with your phone or tablet. With the inclusion of a keyboard and a pointing device it is easy to use a larger screen tablet as a full blown computer. Again, if you do everything in the browser, then the OS is really irrelevant.
Android is coming to and is already available on a wide range of Chromebooks. It really brings together the best of both of these outstanding operating systems. All your favorite apps from your phone, now available on your computer. I do recommend getting a touchscreen Chromebook to really get the best experience out of it.
How you want to interact with your computer is really up to you. There is no longer any huge differences between how the different OS’s go about making your computer usable. Well, on the surface anyways. If you are like me and work in the browser, then what OS you use doesn’t matter. And as we move more and more towards SaaS (Software as a Service) the choice in OS becomes even more of a matter of taste, less a matter of what works.
I always look for a laptop/desktop that just lets me work. I am not going under the hood to tweak all the settings and change things around. Not that I can’t do that, I just don’t have a need. The browser brings me everything I need so if I run Chrome on a Mac or a “PC” it really doesn’t matter.
So the next time you are looking for a computer, spend less time looking at which OS you want and little more on how you can more easily make the computer work for you.