Just Give Me A "Dumb Phone"

I know this column is a bit late. I suspended my column-writing for a day while I concentrated on the country's finances. So, here it is:

Someone in my family who shall remain anonymous to protect her identity -- and our marriage – owns an iPhone. And she loves it. My limited research tells me that everyone who owns an iPhone, a Blackberry, or any other "smart phone" loves their phone. How can you love a phone? To me, it's like loving a paper clip. Anyway, now Google's getting in the smart phone business with its version -- the G1. So there's going to be more love going around when it comes to these devices.

I understand that one of the reasons that their iPhone is the last thing that some people look at every night and the first thing they smile at every morning is because of the wonderful design. I guess the same goes for the other smarty phones. The other reason people adore them, of course, is that these phones can do so many things. They're actually powerful computers that are also phones.

You can use them to send email. If you're really brave, you can use them to check your stocks. Some of them have navigation systems. The G1 system has "Street View" which will show you actual street-level photos of the street. I guess this is better than taking your eyes off your beloved electronic device and just looking at the street you're standing on.

Okay, okay. Obviously, my sarcasm doesn't mask my true feelings about these things: who needs them? If you're saying they're just fun toys, okay. But don't try convincing me that you "need" them.

The G1 won't just have a camera. It will have a camcorder. I guess that is something people might need. I mean, look how often you'll be in front of a bank, you'll see it being robbed, you'll see a pregnant woman trip the robber, then the bank guard will deliver the baby, the pregnant woman's estranged husband just happens to walk by and is so touched by the sight of the innocent baby that he's thrilled that they are a family again, and all you're thinking is, "I can't believe I wasn't able to record this on my phone." That kind of thing happens to all of us all the time, right?

They call these things "smart phones." My question is, if they're so smart, why don't these phones work better -- as phones? That's something you never hearin the commercials. Nobody's saying, "Not only do you get all these features, but you always get a strong signal, a perfect connection, and an easy to understand conversation."

Doesn't it seem that the more expensive the phone, the worse it works as a phone? I've actually suggested to my wife -- I mean to the anonymous family member -- that she buy the cheapest phone available to use as a phone, and keep her iPhone for all the fun things. That's not going to happen. I think she feels that she would be cheating on the phone she loves.

I can remember when phones actually worked each and every time. Now, people dangle out of windows to get better reception just so they can say they're going to be late for dinner. It seems to me that first you should fix the phone aspect of the phone, and then you come up with all these fun features. I don't need a phone that can tie my shoes. Well, actually, that would be a pretty cool feature, but barring that, I prefer a phone that works.

From a business standpoint, I must be wrong. People are buying these things and falling in love with them, and they don't seem to care that the most common thing they say over their phone is, "I can't hear you. I'll call you back from my real phone."

They are fun things to own. I just think they should stop calling them phones. Maybe more appropriate names would be the Gee1 or the iFun. When the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced their new product, they projected an air of fun. They weren't wearing suits and those fancy shoes with the little holes in them. They wore casual clothes and rollerblades. I guess that shows they're not button-downed CEOs of some stuffy phone company. Also, if the product bombs, the rollerblades will help them make a quick escape from their stockholders.