Saturday, July 23, 2005

Cellular Emasculation

I know a bunch of people who resist cell phones, which I can understand. They are annoying, after all. Especially the people who use them (including me). I've been using a cell phone for 6-7 years now, and suddenly being without one was disorienting (more on that below). The thing about cell phones is that they make life easier and harder at the same time. If somebody wants to talk to me, they call. It only makes sense that they call me, rather than my house, since I'm the one they wanted to speak with. I can call home about groceries, find out where M and the kids are, or any number of things.

At the same time, you have to have the discipline to turn the damn thing off. People complain about how intrusive a cell phone is, but you CAN get away from it. Just leave it at home, or on your desk if you don't want to be found for a little while.

I've had Cingular for the past couple of years. Since we live in a rural area, service is spotty, and the cell tower here is apparently pretty old. Every couple of years, I switch to a different carrier hoping that their service will actually work inside my house (and more importantly, in my basement office). When we first moved here, we had Sprint, but they had zero coverage in the area (couldn't even roam). So we moved over to Verizon, which was a big improvement, but still pretty unreliable at home ("Can you hear me now?" "No, god dammit. I can't"). That led to Cingular, which really wasn't any better, but had the rollover minutes and family plans, which seemed like a good idea and saves a little money.

Over the past few months, I've been spending more and more time on the phone because of work, so the crappy cell connection in my office had become an issue. At best, I could put the phone on the window sill and talk using my bluetooth headset. Functional, but a pain.

So, crisis hits, having trouble with a web server and I can't make a fucking call. I have 3 bars on the phone until I start dialing, and the signal drops. Over and over. So the phone hit the wall. Hard. It was a nice phone, too. It's probably fortunate the web server wasn't handy, because frustration levels were running pretty high.

That was about three weeks ago, so I've been without a phone for that short period. As of yesterday, I'm back on Verizon, and I have a strong signal throughout the house and in the office ("Can you hear me now?" "Yes, finally. Thank you very little").

I got a Treo 650 smart phone (no, I didn't pay that much - cheaper with a contract). So far, 24 hours in, the phone is wonderful. Easy to use, sound quality is excellent. Works with my Bluetooth headset and syncs with Address Book and iCal on my Mac (wirelessly of course, also using Bluetooth). I can check email, surf the web (sorta slow, but good enough for scores and news). I can do all sorts of things I couldn't do before. Like talk on the phone while sitting at my desk. This is what is known as a "convergence device". Phone, camera, video, PDA, MP3 player, computer, etc. all wrapped up in one small package.

Nice, but the truth is, I really wanted a phone that let me make phone calls when I need to. Seems like I finally have one.

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