More than a third of Americans – 35 percent of adults – own a smartphone.
I am not one of them.
My name is Elizabeth, and I am a self-confirmed Luddite.
It’s not that I hate technology, or am diametrically opposed to advanced electronics. I think certain gadgets have a rightful place in my life. I enjoy watching television, but have managed to eschew cable or satellite TV service multiple times over the years. I own a computer but, like my Luddite-loving father, I used dial-up service for my Internet connection until my work-at-home status made a faster downloading speed necessary.
A large part of my anti-technology persona comes from being a frugal feminina. Technology costs money, and I’d rather save my dimes and nickels for a rainy day rather than splurge on a device that’s going to be obsolete before I even plug it in.
But smartphones appear to be the way of the future. A 2011 study by In-Stat found that more than 200 million Americans – roughly 2/3 of us – will have a smartphone or tablet (or both) within the next three years. The ebbs and flows of the marketplace back this up. Smartphones dominated the sales charts last year, with all five of the top-selling cell phones falling into the smartphone category. Smartphone sales are expected to overtake traditional handset figures in Western Europe within the next two years, and carriers are taking notice, with many contemplating moves away from standard minutes-based plans in favor of flat-fee data plans.
Does that mean my days of sticking with my old, basic “dumbphone” are numbered?
The Case For Necessity
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in a restaurant/grocery store checkout line/church with a fussy child (note: I do have children, and they get fussy as well, so I’m not making judgments here). As soon as the child starts wailing, the frustrated parent whips out his or her iPhone, handing it to their child who – despite her nubile age – instantaneously accesses an app that lets her listen to music/watch a movie/play Angry Birds.
I don’t care if this tactic to appease a whiny child works – so do binkies, cookies, and my keychain. In other words, a smartphone is hardly a necessity.
A few months ago, I came across an article that outlined exactly what gadgets smartphones will replace over the coming years. Among the items on the list were:
- Digital cameras and video recorders
- Alarm clocks
- MP3 players
- GPS units
Sure, a top of the line smartphone can do just about everything. They can take pictures, play music, get you wherever you need to go, and let you access the Internet at any place, any time. But you know what?
I already own a camera.
I already own an alarm clock.
I already own an iPod (which I never use).
I already own a watch.
What I don’t own is a smartphone. So why would I spend a couple hundred dollars on a flashy new phone and the expensive data plan that goes with it to replace something I already own, something that works just fine?
Aside from my frugal objections, however, my biggest single gripe with smartphones is the convenience factor. Yes, I know convenience is supposed to be a good thing. But my cell phone has already made me accessible to people in places I don’t want to be accessible. I don’t need to be able to update my Facebook status in the grocery store. I don’t need to post a Tweet in church. I don’t need to check my email while I’m at the park with my children. Smartphones allow people to check out of the present, even when they shouldn’t. I know that, given the opportunity, I would probably be guilty of checking out in order to check in online. And that is why I think smartphones are a luxury I don’t need.
The Case For Luxury
Now that I work from home, however, I see the allure of smartphones. It’s an admission I don’t like to make. After all, I’m the last bastion of antiquity in America. Heck, even my grandmother owns a smartphone (she uses the GPS feature to avoid getting lost on errands around town; my mom uses it to track her every move remotely).
But there are days that I’m waiting in the pickup line at my daughter’s preschool, my infant son sleeping in his car seat, when it would be so helpful to be able to go through my work emails instead of flipping through radio stations.
There are times when I could knock out a small task while waiting in the check out line at the store.
There are instances when having a smartphone – and, in many respects, the ability to multitask – could help me check off the items on my to do list (both personal and professional) with greater ease and speed. In fact, one of my contractors is considering sending me a company iPhone – data plan included – in order to make me a more efficient worker. In their eyes, having a smartphone is a necessity.
I still have a hard time convincing myself that a smartphone is – or ever will be – a necessity. Maybe, if my watch, camera, and iPod were all to break on the same day, I’d see things differently. Maybe, if my laptop stopped working, I’d reconsider. But right now, I have gadgets that do all the things a smartphone promises to do. Why would I need to change?
Do you think a smartphone is a luxury or a necessity? Why or why not?