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A Cell Phone for Luddites

Here’s a cell phone for your luddite friends. It has only one feature. It makes/takes phone calls. There’s no display, nothing. Dial, Pickup or Hangup.

While I’m on this topic I’m on the side of the more gadgets the better. I use nearly every feature on my phone. It keeps my schedule since it’s always on me. I read Slashdot, BBC News, and Wired news while I’m on the train. I email friends to make and verify plans. I reserve tickets for the movies. I check out club events. I keep a Japanese learning list on it. I keep measurements on for things I need like a bed spread or a bookshelf. Yes, I could put those on paper but I always have my cell phone, I don’t always care papers. I use the camera not only to take silly pictures but also to take notes. For example my friend was looking at beds the other day. Instead of writing down all the details for each bed he just held up the info sheet attached to an bed he was interested in and took a picture with his cell phone. Instantly he had prices for all the sizes of that bed as well as it’s sizes. Having a gadgets on your phone is a good thing. :-) (y)

  • bionicroach

    Just out of curiousity Gregg, what kind of phone are you using these days?

    I’m one of those .0000000003% of people left who still doesn’t have a cell phone — I’ve actually had amusing arguments with you in the past over whether or not people who *don’t* have cell phones are just as annoying as people who are obnoxious with their cell phones — but you’ll be happy to hear that I am getting ever closer to breaking down and finally buying one.

    This is probably a moronic question and I know I should be investigating the wireless companies rather than bugging you, but I was just wondering if you happened to know which phones/services (if any) will work in both the USA and Japan. (I seriously haven’t even started pricing out plans or anything yet) The reason I’m wondering is because I am going to be visiting a friend who is living in Ojika in March and if I buy a phone between now and then, it would sure be cool if it would work over there as well (even though the Japanese will surely point at me and mock whatever pitiful American market phone I have). I really am clueless on the subject, though, so I have no idea if that kind of service even exists (and if it does, I’m guessing it’s probably outrageously expensive). Any wisdom you can impart would be much appreciated…

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman
    pre-paid

    My current phone is the Casio A5403CA.

    I would suggest get whatever phone you want for where you live now and if you really want one while you are in Japan get a pre-paid one at any 7/11 or Sankus convienence store.  Otherwise, to be honest I don’t know which phones from over there work here but I’m pretty sure roaming charges are HUGE so it will end up being just as expensive as getting a pre-paid phone.  Plus, your friends in Japan will not be able to call you on your phone from over their because they will have to dial an outside of Japan number.

  • bionicroach

    Thanks for the input. The pre-paid route definitely sounds like the best (and safest) option if I need a phone while I’m in Japan, but the main reason I’m curious about whether or not a US phone would work over there would be so that I could make/receive calls to/from home, not necessarily so that friends in Japan could call me (I only know a couple of people there). I’m guessing you’re right that roaming charges would be insane — it’s probably only a good option for business travelers who can bury the charges in their corporate expense accounts. (i.e. Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation) I guess my friends are going to have to be happy with the occasional email or calling card call.

    I think it’s going to take me forever to decide on a phone as it is, without even worrying about international compatability…Among all the phones I’ve looked at so far, it seems like there are lots of very good ones, but none that really stand out as the obvious best all-around. Another factor that makes the decision tough is that the two most important aspects of a phone to me personally are call quality and battery life — the two things that you won’t really be able to evaluate until you get some solid real-world use! (I’m skeptical of review sites like cNet, they’re helpful but they are often quite biased) Oh well…I guess I’m just going to have to suck it up and accept the fact that just like any other gadget, the model I *really* want will come out 3 months after I settle on something else!! :-P

  • kongorilla
    Go Phoneless?

    Gregg, do you think you could get through an average week without carrying a phone? Is it like an addiction? Would you crave it? Would it be irritating that you didn’t have it, or just inconvenient? Would it be like a phantom limb, and you would keep reaching for it? Would it be embarrassing to not have one?

    I’m not being snotty, I’m just curious. It’s fascinating to me how quickly the cell revolution happend. Within 10 years we went from almost no one having one, to a majority of people feeling it’s a necessity.

    Personally, I’m not anti-cell, just anti-social. I wouldn’t mind having a cell for emergencies, and maybe once a month I could use a phone to say “I’m gonna be late” or something. In the latter case, it’s usually fairly easy to find a pay phone, which seems easier/cheaper than 1. buying a cell 2. paying for monthly service 3. which may not work in some locales 4. keeping the phone charged, etc. Of course, if I’m out and about, someone can’t call me to say they’re going to be late, but as an anti-social homebody, this is rarely a problem.

    I understand that once you get a cell, your mind-set changes, because calling is so easy. So, for example, you call from the grocery store to ask which cut of meat you should buy for dinner. Once you have that convenience you seem to forget how to live without it. It becomes reflex.

    Are there still pay phones in Japan, or is it expected that everyone has a cell?

  • kongorilla
    Forgot

    I forgot the most burdensome aspects of cells: 5. having to carry it around all the time 6. not losing it.

    For my loner lifestyle, pay phones are still the way to go.

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman

    I could do without the phone no problem.  Just like I could do without a fridge, a sink, a shower (yes, there are apts in Japan with no shower, you have to use a public one), a car (been doing that for 4 years, hate it but..), a bed (futon, 4 years), a desk (computer has been on a 1ft high table for 4 years, might be ruining my back), a land phone (I could write letters or visit directly) There’s a zillion things I could do without if I had to.

    A pay phone is not easy, at least not in So Cal.  I remember when me and my college friends went house hunting to rent a house.  It was a nightmare of calling a zillion places a day or two before we left, trying to schedule them all including finding them on the map to see that we would be in the area at the same time as some other apointment.  If we saw a new place while out our only real option was to write down the phone number and call some other day.  Kind of sucky when it was a 90 minute drive back to where we were living.  Finding a pay phone was never easy down south.  Sure you’d find one usually within 10 minutes but you might have to go several lights and drive through several stripmalls until you found one with a phone.

    With a cell that has become, get the listing, drive around, call the place, wait 10 mins for the guy to show up, view it.  If he can’t show up soon make appointment for later the same day.

    Japan has pay phones although they are dropping in number, mostly because they are not used much.  Same in SoCal.

    If I didn’t have a fridge I’d either have to buy only food that didn’t spoil OR I’d have to go to the supermarket every day to buy those things I want (milk, meat) that normally need refridgeration.  Why put myself through the inconvience if I don’t have to?

    Would I live that way if I had to?  Of course?  Would it suck?  You bet! I’ve gone over this before but without a phone I’d rarely connect with my friends.  It comes into sharp focus how convenient a cell phone is when someone visits from out of town without one.  We have to make specific plans to meet at a specific place at a specific time.  If one of us happens to be late there is no way to tell the other person.  If they happened to give up waiting there would be no way to get in touch with them until the next day.  If they didn’t understand the instructions on where to meet we just basically would not be able to meet.  Fortunately they can find a pay phone and call my cell but if I didn’t have a cell we would not be meeting period.

    I meet friends several times a week I would not easily be able to connect with without a cell phone.  For example at Sega we didn’t have personal desk phones per person so contacting someone outside the company (or having them contact me) to make plans for dinner would have been nearly impossible.

    1. buying a cell 2. paying for monthly service 3. which may not work in some locales 4. keeping the phone charged, etc.

    Those are basically non-issues for me based on how much I get out of the phone.  When I bought my first one, it was just because I was a gadget freak.  I bought it while I worked at Crystal and didn’t think it would really be much more than a gadget only.  It didn’t take long at all to find out it really was super beneficial and not just a toy.

  • bionicroach

    I have pretty much always had the same point of view as kongorilla — I’m also rather selfish about my privacy, so I tend to enjoy it when people can’t find me.

    So why am I suddenly changing my ways? The same reason I always change my ways: A pretty girl wants me to. :)

    (Sure, I will be glad to reap all the benefits that Gregg mentioned, but historically, logic or practicality have never really been driving factors in my decision making processes.)

    My aim is to try and have the best of both worlds as long as I can by keeping my phone a secret from my boss, coworkers, and basically everyone else who I don’t particularly want to talk to when I’m not “on the clock”. We’ll see how well *that* works out…

  • http://eden.siuyue.li/ wulong

    don’t forget to get caller id… then you have the best of both worlds.. when you see someone you don’t want to talk to hit /silence/. It’s awesome.

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman
    me neither

    but historically, logic or practicality have never really been driving factors in my decision making processes

    Me neither. It’s only after having one did I realize how useful it was and how much more of a chore many things would be/were without one.

    Now for example when I go home to visit the U.S. I buy or rent a phone.  It’s only like $50-$70 to buy a pre-paid phone and since I know I’ll be much more likely to connect with friends, the whole point of visiting the U.S. I feel it’s worth it.  If I went on a real vacation though then I most likely wouldn’t want one unless I had friends in that city I was planning to meet often.

  • kongorilla
    Ewww….

    How would a city person live without a sink? On second thought, don’t tell me.

    I’m telling you Gregg, if you get rid of your friends, relatives, and co-workers, you really don’t need a cell phone. Worked for me.

    One funny thing that happens nowadays, since I always have a 2 year-old with me: if I tell a salesperson that I have to find a pay phone to make a call, they always offer to let me use the store’s phone. Maybe I look really frazzled and they feel sorry for me or something. So, in opposition to what everyone told me (that once I had a child I’d need a cell phone) I actually have less need of one.

    See Gregg? There’s another option: Have a baby.

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman
    no sink

    notice I didn’t put “without toilet” :-p

    Not that I need a VCR or DVD player but even more than the cell phone revolution, what the hell did we all do before videos and the net?  How did we stay in touch?  What did we do with our free time?  I know the answer to that but it’s hard to remember what it was like before those options existed.

    Speaking of babies and cell phones there is an ad running for one of the newest AU phones because they support mp3 type music.  The ad is of a baby crying in an airport.  The mom gets out her cell phone, puts on the baby’s favorite song and puts the head phones on the baby.

  • kongorilla
    Irresponsible Father?

    I was at a park with my kid a few months ago, and a mother who was having trouble with her cell phone asked if she could use mine. She assumed I had one in the diaper/toy bag I had with me. I told her that I was sorry, I didn’t have one. She looked at me almost startled and said she couldn’t imagine going out without hers, because what would she do if something happened to her little girl? Perhaps it was wrong of me to infer from her statement that I was irresponsible for not having one. And perhaps it was wrong of me to think “Is she any better because she carries a phone that doesn’t work?”

    The thing was, we were practically in the shadow of a major hospital when she said it. That’s what I mean by getting a new mind-set when you get a cell phone. The old ways of handling situations aren’t the reflexive response anymore.

    A side note: Is there etiquette about asking to use a stranger’s cell phone? It felt weirdly personal that she asked to use mine, even though I don’t have one. It wasn’t an emergency or anything, just a really inconvenient situation she was in. Could it have cost me $ for her to make the call? I’m really ignorant about this stuff.

  • dma
    Tu-Ka

    I saw an ad for it on the train today, this phone doesn’t come with a manual. It doesn’t need one.

  • Shigatsu_AKA_April

    i actually want a simple phone now.  I spend too much money downloading ringtones, games, and screensavers that i cant see because i have a flipy phone.  Im always wearing down my battery on the internet.  I even use my phone as a flashlight at night.  its really bright with all the color graphics.  I dont think a could get rid of it but many days i swear that i will.  people all always calling me and i always go over my minutes.  i cant fight temptation.  i need to answer my phone.  but next month all of my friends and family and i will be switching to the same carrier so that we will be able to talk for free to each other. 

  • Leo

    I’m satisified with my cell. Its a simple phone, no camera, no media player, nothing. Just makes and takes phone calls. My one complaint is the battery life, but adter two years, its not surprising that its bad. Unfortunatley, with this merger between Cingular and AT&T Wireless, I’m afraid that I’ll have to upgrade to a phone that has more usless features. I can understand checking email, but I’d rather read a book/newspaper/magazine than surf the web on a small screen. ;)

  • anon

    Where can I buy it. signed luddite (whatever that is)