After holding out for many years, I got my first smartphone last month. The decision to make the switch was one I didn’t take lightly, but the plan I was on ended and I had to get a new phone. Up in till the switch I was still using my very first ever and only cell phone, a no name Samsung flip phone which I had gotten back in 2008. Prior to that I had no phone, but in 08′ I started going to college and working part time on an ambulance, and after a brief stint with a land line it became apparent that I needed to get a cell. So I joined my uncle’s family cell phone plan and got a flip phone that was tough as nails and lasted me 8 years. The thing is still working, though now it’s turned off and put to rest in the bottom of my sock dower.
The old flip phone was costing me 15$ a month with unlimited texting because it’s really important to have unlimited texting on a flip phone (joking). But here’s the deal, my new smartphone COST LESS THAN THE OLD FLIP PHONE! Yes, you heard me right, last months bill for the smartphone was 12.77$ beating my old plan by a solid 2 bucks a month. I have a theory as to why this is. My smartphone bill is low because I used almost no data, except when on wifi. But smartphone plans are made to make money off of data usage, calling and texting is not where they make their money. Dumb phone plans like my old one can only make money off of calling and texting, so they really charge you for it. Of course, there is always the potential that I might decide to stream a movie with data on my smartphone and then it’s not so cheap anymore. But for someone like myself who has never had a smartphone before and doesn’t even know how to watch a movie on a phone, that’s hardly an issue. I turned all the apps data usage off under settings, with the exception of Google maps, and have not found any hardship in not using data. I even got an Instagram account with the new phone, but I wait to upload photos till there is wifi, so I use almost no data on it.
This is not a sales pitch, but the new smartphone is through Republic Wireless. There are lots of cheap cell phone companies out there these days, like Cricket and Virgin Mobile to name a few. What I like about Republic is that it uses Wifi to make calls when it can, which reduces tower usage, and regardless of how much data you put on your plan, they will give you a statement credit if you don’t use it. Forget about “rolling over your data”, Republic will give you money back if you don’t use your data. This is cool mainly because it provides a real incentive to NOT use data, and thus save money. The Republic app will actually show you how much your data is worth and how much going to get back if you don’t use it.
The plan I signed up for:
Unlimited voice and text 10$
1G of data 15$
Total bill of 26.79
After the first month, where I used only about 60MB of data:
Refund from unused data (14.39$)
Voice and text 10$
Data used 1$
Total bill of12.77$
I did have to buy my phone from Republic, which was 130$ (the Moto E). If the new phone lasts 3 years, and you average the cost out that’s an additional 3.60$ per month, in which case it is costing a little more than the old flip phone. But having a modern phone that I can look up maps on, text with all the letters of the alphabet, and take pictures with is worth the extra two bucks a month. Either way, it’s darn cheap by most people’s standards, and saving money on recurring monthly expenses is perhaps the best way to work toward financial independence.
Looking back at the last 8 years of having a flip phone, it’s hard not to feel that I’ve sold out to the smartphone. I had my flip phone out last month and a women I didn’t know came up and took a picture of me using it, like it was some kind of exotic find. I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks from co-workers and others for not having a smartphone, that is if they actually look up from their screens to show their disbelief. The cost was a major concern in making the switch to the little face sucking screens of doom. But a big part of my reluctance to make the shift to this “modern technology” was my distaste for the way smartphones have changed society. The lack of interaction with one’s physical environment that comes from staring only at the screen in hand is so depressing. It doesn’t matter where you are, people are staring at their phones, only looking up to prevent collisions into physical obstacles, as they absent-mindedly browse the social media.
I made a promise to myself that I would not let smartphone addiction take over after getting the new phone. Ways I’m making sure this doesn’t happen are keeping Facebook off the phone, disabling data for apps like Instagram, and generally trying to keep that mentality that a smartphone is a tool, not a toy, and making sure I use it as such.
So far I have not become a smartphone zombie. The biggest change is that I send whole text messages, instead of single words like “Ok” “Yes” or “No”, those were most of my correspondence with T9 texting. I’m glad I made the switch to smartphone, though I may have lost some of my Hipster mystique by doing so, Ha.