Leaping Into The 21st Century

I have finally decided to take the leap into the 21 st century and get a smart phone, but I wanted to look before I leaped.

We sure hope Randy chooses a smart phone soon, so he can download our ParksNReviews mobile app!

So weeks ago, I started to research the options.

Now I am gridlocked, because the options are so plentiful that it’s hard to decipher which is best.

I hope some savvy Week-Ender readers can give me advice.

I know some of you are probably laughing, or shaking your head ruefully, amazed that there are still dinosaurs roaming this earth who don’t have a smart phone.

But as of February 2012, nearly half of adults in the U.S. still didn’t have them, according to one internet survey; but 53 percent did have them, so you can see where that trend is going.

As fast as technology moves today, it won’t be long before smart phones are the rule, not the exception.

Smart phones seem to have jumped generational gaps, too.  I’ve seen a lot of the “Greatest Generation” ambling along tapping on the screen of their phone. Though I must say some of them looked more confused than enlightened.

Heck, I always thought my current phone was pretty smart, and it isn’t even considered a “smart” phone; but it can do amazing things like remember the last few calls I made or remind me if I have a meeting and stuff like that.

But apparently, in some people’s opinion, I have a dumb phone.

I’m not alone in my puzzlement; the survey indicated that most people didn’t know if they had a smart phone or not, and of those who said they did, most didn’t.

So what is a smart phone, really?

My research finds that these are the main differences, in their simplest form, without all the extraneous techy-drivel:

• A smart phone connects directly to the Internet, while a regular cell phone has to go through a cell carrier tower.

• Smart phones get direct Internet connection because they can connect to wireless towers as well as to regular cell towers; not so with dumb phones.

• A smart phone can run applications, or “apps,” and a dumb phone can’t.

• Smart phones have more in common with laptop computers, such as larger keyboards and operating systems that extend the phone’s capability.

Now, to blur the lines even further, many regular cell phones have started to incorporate features that mimic a smart phone, like a larger screen or bigger keyboard, that don’t actually qualify them as a smart phone.

They’re smart phone wannabes, I suppose.

Then, to really drive the average user crazy, there are like a zillion different phones, each with some feature or two that makes them different. Some will do this but not that; while some do that but also do the other--ad infinitum.

After a couple weeks of self-study, I figured it was time to see an expert. So I went to my local technology store--you know, the “best” one I could find. There I spoke with a young man, Tommy, who was very knowledgeable and helpful; but in his proficiency he may have actually muddied the waters a bit more.

After showing me the whole line of dozens of different smart phones featured by several different communications companies, Tommy and I narrowed it down to two competing devices.

One was from a company very well known for its global reach, popular operating system, and user-friendliness.

The other was by a competing operating system known for flexibility for those who liked to play with apps and gadgets, but not as user friendly, although the phone itself had a much larger screen that was easier to use.

Since I was still in the research mode, I walked out of the store with Tommy’s name and a catalog that compared all the dozens and dozens of options right down to the nano-bite.

The catalog pictures are very pretty, but I’m still gridlocked.

Part of the problem is that the two I liked--and most others--require a two-year contract!  But you get the phone cheaper (like two-thirds cheaper) if you sign the contract. So if I think I like it but don’t, I have to live with it for two years?!

Then, there are some companies who don’t require a contract, sell the phones for a one-time, moderate fee, but it’s unclear (to me anyway) what kind of coverage or technical support I’ll get…more research, more time with Tommy!

Oh, and just to make things interesting, Tommy told me that if I waited a few weeks until the new operating system came out on one of my two top selections, the price on the phone would drop considerably.

He also said that about every 10 months, everything changes in the technology world, so what seems the latest and greatest today may be archaic by then.

It all kind of makes me long for the days before deregulation, the days of one phone company, party lines, and dial phones. Or even the days when a cell phone just sent and received phone calls.

But I am determined to continue this leap into the modern age, so I’ll keep studying the issue until the right solution for me makes itself known.

Are there any Week-Ender readers who can help educate me and other PRB readers who might be tied up in the same gridlock?

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Peachtree City, Ga.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.

Bryan BuchkoComment