Saturday, May 31, 2008
I don't want to download music on my cell phone. I don't want to check NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange. I don't want to watch TV shows, make movies, pay bills, take crappy photos, check a Facebook page, play video games, or catch up on the latest football news, either. I don't need a colour screen, or "great graphics", or 4000 features that I'll never use. All I want is a phone that makes and receives calls, that doesn't fall apart in six months, and has a long battery life. And that's what, evidently, no longer exists. All you can get now are overly complicated, infuriatingly fragile phones, with battery lives about as long-lasting as a trip to the backstage broom closet with Colin Farrell.
Take my last cell phone - a Sanyo from Bell. It began falling apart within two months (headphone jack got loose, charger stopped working, etc.). Now, not two years later, the battery no longer holds a charge. I'm lucky if it lasts 90 minutes - when I'm not talking. It also had an infuriating snooze feature: within at least two minutes of the alarm going off, a follow-up "snooze" alarm would go off, and if you can believe it...there was no way to disable that feature. I emailed Sanyo customer service twice about it; both times the agent confirmed that there was no way to disable the follow-up ring. And making it worse was that it was quite difficult to turn the follow-up alarm off; so frequently, the phone alarm would go off every two minutes for a ten or twenty minute period after the initial wake-up, while I tried to remember just how to turn it off.
My wife had another Sanyo on the same contract package; that one stopped working altogether about six weeks ago. So, she started using mine. No problem, I thought; this piece of garbage is on its last legs anyway. I'll just try to find a more durable, sensible phone.
So, I drove down to London Drugs and picked up a new phone compatible with new, no-contract provider Koodo. I got the base model Samsung - which started malfunctioning almost immediately (dropping out for a few seconds about every minute, no matter where I was). I brought it back and swapped it back for a Motorola. That one worked fine on the way home. Finally I'm in the clear, I thought.
But...no such luck. I realized as soon as I got home that the phone didn't have the standard 2.5 mm headset jack. It was on to bigger and better things - the USB port. GARG. I like wearing the ol' headset when I'm driving, and I actually like the cord since it makes it harder for me to lose. Well...no problem, I thought. I'll just get a new corded headset which fits into the USB port.
I then visited every electronics shop in Victoria - none of the salespeople had ever heard of a corded USB port headset. The only compatible headsets were Bluetooth.
The old corded headsets you could get for twenty bucks - the Bluetooths were all four, five, six times as much. And they also seemed fragile and small: perfect for breaking and losing. More GARG.
I bit the bullet and decided I'd try a high-end noise-reducing Bluetooth headset. Another bummer - turns out I needed to charge that just like I charged the phone (one more charging thing to worry about). And though the battery was supposed to last "a really long time" (according to the sales agent), it peetered out in no time. Who knows - maybe there was an on/off switch I was supposed to have turned off overnight - or five other switches. Even getting the dang thing to work in the first place was a chore; for some reason, my phone's Bluetooth capability kept shutting off, so I kept having to go in to turn it back on, and the piece itself had two different buttons...anyway, you get the idea: high maintenance, fiddly, probably going to break, etc. More GARG.
"Progress" in cellular phone technology, in my case, no longer exists: each gain is at the cost of losing some feature I valued, like durability, battery length, and ease of use. The old Audiovox CDM9000 I started with ten years ago on Telus was the best phone I ever had: while there was no text message feature, it was slim, simple, indestructible, and the battery lasted forever. Normal headphone jack, normal features, easy charging, no problem.
Why don't providers offer phones like that anymore? Maybe it's because folks like me are in an extreme minority.
But maybe, just maybe, it's because cellphone companies have overlooked an enduring customer preference, of some size anyway, for durable simplicity over fragile complexity. And if the day ever comes when one of them stops overlooking it and offers the solid, sensible type of phone I want, I'll be the first to sign up. But I'm not holding my breath.