So what, you might be thinking. Everybody does that. Maybe so, but for me, it's an agonizing decision.
I have a cell phone already. So does my wife, Linda. Indeed, we're on a shared plan, one of those that gives you so many minutes a month between you. It doesn't include any texts, instant messaging, data or whatever other things are setting smartphones jingling these days.
We have dumb phones, that kind that you flip open to use. No touch screens festooned with colorful, cute icons. No Internet access. Even though our phones are just a few years old, we're stuck somewhere in the Jurassic age of modern communications.
I've been thinking of upgrading to a smartphone with a data plan, unlimited calling and unlimited texts. There's a certain appeal to being able to buy a pack of gum by simply waving my phone at a clerk, or scanning one of those QR codes so I can go to a web site where someone can try to sell me something. I could even check in on social media so everyone knows where I am (or am not).
But, mother of pearl, those babies aren't cheap! We're an "Apple family" so it only makes sense that we go with iPhones (you know, so everything works together). A couple of iPhones will run us $800 or so, a data plan with our current carrier would run $120-140 a month, so our annual expense (including all those phantom fees) over the two-year plan requirement would be about $2,000. That's a lot for a fixed-income couple of senior citizens who rarely exceed 60 minutes of phone time a month between them.
To keep expenses down, we could switch carriers, abandon our "Apple plan" or sign up for one of those barely there senior plans (probably the most sensible option). I'm really wrestling with this.
Linda and I are not just old fuddy duddies afraid of emerging technologies. Indeed, we have a track record of being early adopters. We first subscribed to cable in California in 1971, years before it was available in Iowa. We bought our first VCR in 1977 when blank tapes cost $20 apiece. When Texas Instruments launched its TI 99/4A computer in 1981, we bought one and learned to edit and back up files on a cassette recorder.
But I will admit that the more recent pace of technological change has proven bewildering to me, especially with mobile devices. I'm writing this on a desktop computer fully realizing that most people today do their "writing" on their cell phones. I don't see this as a good thing.
Indeed, every time I consider buying a new piece of equipment or replacing something I have, I ask myself the question: Do I really need this?
As one who grew up in an era of four-digit phone numbers, party lines, stick-shift transmissions, neighborhood grocery stores and free broadcast television, the answer is usually no.
That leads to another question: Do they still make flip phones?
Larry Lehmer is a retired newspaper reporter and editor who thinks that change is only good when it makes things better. His current endeavor is to finish a book he's been working on about the Philadelphia years of American Bandstand. If you have anything to share, shoot Larry an e-mail here. If you want to comment about this post, do so in the comments section. If you're curious about Larry's other blogs (there are four in all), check out the links in the header of this blog.