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Geek Desperately Seeking Stupid Phones

Can you suggest a good flip phone? One of those joints that fit easily into my pocket and can run a week on one charge. You know what I’m talking about. I’m going to be frank: I’m over the concept of having a computer in my paints. Who told you we wanted to be able to use Microsoft Word on our four-inch touchscreen? I sure as hell didn’t, though, to be real, I was with the program for a while.

Here in San Francisco, me and my closest tech bud were in line for the first iPhone (we were in line around the 200s), for the first iPad (#10 and #11), and for the iPad 2 (30s, or thereabouts). The iPad popularized a whole category, tablets, but the iPhone paved the way for the iPad with its versatility, power, and, of course, apps. Around three years in, however, I started to get tired of the jack-of-all-trades phone. In fact, the iPad probably helped eliminate my need: I now have a mobile computer with the iPad, so why do I need a mobile computer phone? I have an iPod Touch, too, for all my apps and mobile gaming. So I nervously hopped off AT&T to another, better coverage carrier and ran with some new devices. And, as a regular to the Consumer Electronics Show and a tech reviewer for PC World, AARP, CBS and others, I probably have seen more devices than the average consumer.

And guess what? I’m still not satisfied. I’m about ready to toss out my latest phone and dig out my 2004 Motorola V188 flip. For real.

As a writer and regular traveler, it goes back to what I want I need from my phone:

  • Lightweight
  • Reliable phone calls
  • Transferrable phone/email contacts
  • Basic email, mostly to read
  • Maps, because I always get lost

Foursquare? I’m over it. Yelp? I’m comfortable asking around. Hi-res camera? I already have five camera devices. Really, I’m always in awe when that one commercial comes on where it shows Avatar or Spider-man playing on your handheld phone. I’d rather watch movies on my human TV at home or on a still-reasonable tablet, not on your hobbit-sized devices. I love that we have the power to have “cinema” and other stuff in our hands, but phone manufacturers are absolutely convinced that every consumer wants a million things in their device.  It’s just not true, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s disappointed that simple phones with today’s technology aren’t available. New tech is supposed to give us choices, not just iPhone clones.

And when you think about it, jack-of-all-trades is a safe, but odd design choice. The luddite consumer will either not purchase the phone because it seems too advanced or, if the manufacturer is lucky, purchase the phone because he or she might want the features later. The tech-savvy consumer will be impressed by the options or, in my case, realize that he or she has 20 other mobile devices that do the exact same thing. There is the idea of carrying one device instead of multiple, but, at least for me, I’m OK with carrying two as necessary and carrying one smaller device when possible.

Unfortunately many, like myself, need to be part of a bigger ecosystem to be completely functional. For instance, most phones outside of the Apple, Google, or comparable systems will require typing in contacts manually. I have to tell you, seeing my thousands of contacts automatically sync (wirelessly!) to my new phone always blows my mind. To me, going back to a manual contact system is equal to digital suicide.

I’m still making a change, though. I think the last straw for me was explaining my slow, overcomplicated phone problems to a sweet, but passionate Android advocate. “Just jailbreak it,” she said. I then heard something about adding the latest software, which isn’t available for my model, and I think we talked about virus protection. Let’s marinate on that for a minute: Virus protection for my phone.

Screw it: I’m using my AARP connections to get a Jitterbug.

Photo courtesy of Jitterbug


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Damon Brown

Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...


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