Phone-y Baloney

by Beatrice Hogg

I have to buy a new phone. I don’t want to buy a new phone, but the phone I bought less than two years ago with an attached keyboard is now two pieces of plastic held together by a rubber band. Is that the shelf life of phones these days? I had my flip phone for ten years.

I’m Old School: a phone is an appliance, not a status symbol or an extension of my life. My phone was fine for what I used it for, calling, texting, and checking Facebook or my e-mail. I didn’t need a fancy phone, just a functional one. And now I have to spend money on a new one.

I do not have, or want, a service plan. I’m a pay-as-you-go kind of girl. And I’m brand loyal. I have had the same service provider since 2002. I’m not changing providers until Richard Branson dissolves the company to finance a parasail to Mars. (I don’t even know if Sir Branson still owns the company that I pay $55 to each month.) But my carrier doesn’t have any physical stores. When I go to an appliance store to get my monthly card, they don’t even ask if I want to change carriers. They just look at me sadly, as if I’m a hopeless case.

I am a hopeless case. I’ve always been late to the technology party. My first VCR was a Betamax. The month after I got my PDA, the company stopped making or supporting them. Same thing happened with my first computer. When I pulled out my compact disc player on a plane last week, people looked at me as if I had pulled out a chisel and stone. I’m not interested in what’s new, fast, or hot. Just give me a damn phone that won’t be obsolete by the time I take it out of the box.

I grew up with a heavy, off-white rotary phone that rarely left the nook carved out for it in the kitchen wall, next to the phone book. The phone belonged to the phone company, which fixed it when it broke. I had that phone until I was in my twenties. It was so simple then: you paid a flat service fee, a phone rental fee, and the cost of your long distance calls. The phone didn’t roam or stream. All it did was ring.

I go to my provider’s website to look at new phones. I can get an iPhone 6 for $649, but I don’t want an iPhone 6. I have one for work, and I don’t see what the big deal is. According to the television commercials, an iPhone will make me cooler, but I’m too old to worry about that. The ads also say that zillions of people all over the world prefer iPhones. The last thing I would ever do is follow the crowd, especially when it would cost me more than half of a paycheck. My mother would be proud to know that if everyone jumped off of a cliff, I would head in the other direction.

I could get an identical replacement phone for $30 (I paid $90 for mine two years ago) and pray that it doesn’t break in two years. But I guess that I should upgrade from “3G” to “4G,” even though I’m not even sure what a “G” is.

According to the website, I could get a phone for $100 that only got an average of two stars from 155 reviewers, or one for $80 that got four stars from 184 reviewers. The iPhone 5 got five stars, but l’m not interested, especially for $300. I’m not a typical smartphone user. There are only about five people that I talk on the phone with on a regular basis. I don’t read books or watch movies on my phone; I can barely see the screen. I don’t download music either, which explains the aforementioned CD player.

I want a phone that makes calls, lets me check my e-mail, and maybe takes some decent photos at rock concerts that I can post on my Facebook page — all for less than $100.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to my local appliance store and see if they have the phone I saw for $80 on my provider’s website. Four stars are enough for me. But they aren’t gonna talk me into a contract or into joining the iWorld. And it better last for longer than two years, even if the manufacturer goes out of business. I would rather spend my money on things that I really need, like shoes.

Financial Graffiti is a column about middle age monetary misadventures — with a beat.

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