5 Reasons I Don’t Own a Cellphone

As a geek, I'm sort of expected to own a cell phone (or two!). But I don't have one, and likely won't in the near future. The truth is, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to new technology. I'm happy to acquire, play with, and disassemble the latest gadgets, but I won't trust them until they've proven worthy. So what's my beef with cell phones?

  1. Sound quality: When my girlfriend calls me from her cellphone, half the time her voice sounds like a robot from a cheap sci-fi flick. (Nothing says "I love you" like a robot with pincers.) As if that weren't bad enough, any ambient noise is converted into the auditory version of a Jackson Pollack painting.
  2. Sketchy contracts: I consider myself fairly skilled at reading through thick legalese, but damn do they have some good contract lawyers. I use Linux because I don't want to have to try to outwit my computer every day -- I'd like to have a cell phone contract I can simply trust.
  3. Hidden fees: Someone told me about their experience with Suncom's "nationwide coverage". The deal was that if she saw "Suncom network" in the corner of the display, the call wasn't roaming. Then she got a huge bill, because she was in an AT&T-carried area and the display read "Suncom & AT&T". Technicalities will bite you in the ass.
  4. Over-priced and over-featured: I want a simple phone with a black-and-white screen, no games, no camera, and a pay-for-what-I-use calling plan. Unfortunately, they don't offer that -- for example, if I go for a plan that has nation-wide coverage, I end up with bluetooth, GPS, web capability, and a camera. I don't want to pay for all that!
  5. No control over my bill: When someone calls Collect on my landline, I can refuse the call. When I call long distance from one landline to another, it doesn't hurt the callee. However, the same is not true of cell phones. I have to pay for inbound voice and text as well as outbound ones. Not only that, texting to some numbers will incur an arbitrary fee I can't choose to accept or reject. No way!

Why do you have or not have a cellphone?


Responses: 12 so far

  1. Anonymous Coward says:

    It may be "fashionable" to act the contrarian, but let's not ignore the facts, puhleaze...

    First up, I view a cell phone as a convenience, am not obsessed by it and is a low-usage user on the cheapest CPP plan (in fact all subscription or post-paid plans of ALL mobile phone phone providers where I'm from are free-incoming).

    Sound quality of cell phones in metro/urban areas with a quality network is superior to any VOIP, bar none, simply because it is a dedicated network that does not relay its data packets over a shared, public network that gets dropped.

    I'd be surprised if there isn't there any CPP (Caller Party Pays) plan in the US where the call recipient is not charged for incoming calls, otherwise known as "Free Incoming Calls" ? Mobile phone providers in other parts of the more developed world have been offering this under the onslaught of local competition for years now.

    Besides, if you feel ripped off by exorbitant plans, but is a low-usage user who needs to be contactable, there's always the prepaid card that you can used to tops up your account. And yes, they work in any old cell with a monochrome screen. It's what some parents use to control usage for their chattering teens who've their ear forever glued to a brain-irradiating device. So you see, Bluetooth is here for a reason. Handsfree headsets, preferably a wireless Bluetooth one, allows your hands to be free when you're driving and spare your brains from frying.

    I suspect you're a miser with a gadget affliction: you lust after it but is too cheap (broke?) to fork out money for them. Admit it. If someone hands you the latest & greatest gadget for free with no string attached, you'll be jumping at it in a heartbeat. Just being honest here. Hope you're not offended.

    Cheers.

  2. Tim McCormack says:

    Sound quality of cell phones in metro/urban areas with a quality network is superior to any VOIP, bar none, simply because it is a dedicated network that does not relay its data packets over a shared, public network that gets dropped.

    I'm not in an urban/metro environment (though neither am I in the sticks) so reception is not guaranteed to be as wonderful as the situation you describe.

    I'd be surprised if there isn't there any CPP (Caller Party Pays) plan in the US where the call recipient is not charged for incoming calls, otherwise known as "Free Incoming Calls" ? Mobile phone providers in other parts of the more developed world have been offering this under the onslaught of local competition for years now.

    I'm not claiming that all plans charge like that, or even that plans exist that fall under all 5 points I mention -- this is just a gathering-together of all the reasons I haven't bought a cell.

    Besides, if you feel ripped off by exorbitant plans, but is a low-usage user who needs to be contactable, there's always the prepaid card that you can used to tops up your account. And yes, they work in any old cell with a monochrome screen. It's what some parents use to control usage for their chattering teens who've their ear forever glued to a brain-irradiating device. So you see, Bluetooth is here for a reason. Handsfree headsets, preferably a wireless Bluetooth one, allows your hands to be free when you're driving and spare your brains from frying.

    Oh, I do love those hands-free sets. (Actually, it's not so much your brain you have to worry about as your eyes, according to some more recent studies.) I would consider getting an emergency-only pre-paid phone, but I'm talking about land-line replacement plans. I see I was unclear in my post.

    I suspect you're a miser with a gadget affliction: you lust after it but is too cheap (broke?) to fork out money for them. Admit it. If someone hands you the latest & greatest gadget for free with no string attached, you'll be jumping at it in a heartbeat. Just being honest here. Hope you're not offended.

    I certainly have a gadget affliction, but I'm no miser -- just wary. I'm perfectly willing to spend the money, I just don't want to throw it towards something I'll regret. Free, with no strings attached? In a heartbeat, like you said. Out of my wallet? That's a whole different story.

  3. Sally Carson says:

    Cell phones are a blessing and a curse. I've had one since 2000, so I've had a wide array of experiences.

    The bottom line for me is safety, I like knowing that if I'm driving somewhere late at night by myself and my car breaks down, I can call AAA -- but that might be more of an argument against cars rather than in favor of cell phones though. If I were riding my bike, I would have the tools and knowledge to fix most problems myself.

    Cell phones are great for when things go wrong and you're supposed to be somewhere, you can call with a quick "I'm sorry, I'm running 15 minutes late." The problem with cell phones is when you and all your friends have cell phones, no one is willing to make firm plans. Instead of the old "let's meet at 3pm" it's now "I'll call you when I get there." Which really turns into an epic relay of phone-tag that can become really frustrating.

    I also really don't like the impact that cell phone have had on the use of public spaces. If I got to a park to relax, or a coffee shop to read the paper, I don't want to hear other people talking on the phone. And people on cell phones always talk louder than if they were having a conversation in-person. Plus, people the drive when talking on the phone are extremely dangerous and unaware of their surroundings.

    Overall, I think cell phones can lead to selfish behavior, but maybe that has more to do with the individual person than with the tool itself? I don't know.

  4. Tim McCormack says:

    Emergencies are a good reason to get a pre-paid cellphone -- it's the traditional cellphone plan that I object to.

    I know what you mean about how people talk on cell phones. (Louder!) I think it is simply due to the poor sound quality.

  5. Dave Tufts says:

    I agree 100% with your rant, and I too don't own a cell phone.

    I'd add #6 to your list, as: Interruptions - I'm available at work, on my work number and at home on a land line. If I'm somewhere else and HAVE to contact someone by phone, I'll figure out a way. Other than that, I have no desire to talk to anyone :)

    Stay strong - a friend of mine lost the battle last year:
    http://www.joshcole.com/news/detail.php?id=52

  6. Tim McCormack says:

    I'm not worried about interruptions. I'd leave mine off most of the time. But forgetting to turn it off, and having it go off at inopportune moments -- not cool!

  7. Dave Tufts says:

    ...but turning it on and off is just one more thing to do. My goal is to do less - if possible, nothing.

    Buying a cell requires so much time and effort. There's the up-front overhead of researching phones, researching plans, and learning to use the phone as well as the ongoing labor of remembering to turn things on and off.

  8. Loran Smith says:

    I agree fully with the post and will add additional reasons. Cell phones
    are regulated only by the national government rather than states
    which frees the companies to charge almost anything they want.
    Are you aware that ATT is trying to get permission to get out of
    the land line business by gradually raising the rates to "force"
    people to convert. Exactly what ATT did to public telephone booths,
    by the way.

    Also, except for a relative handful of business and professional people,
    most cell phone calls are meaningless and unimportant --but they
    do distract individuals from other things: driving the car, watching their
    children, etc.

    Cell phones are no longer immune to sales calls and robo-calls during
    campaigns. If I have the 3-digit prefix, the computer does the rest.

    For MOST cell-phone owners, especially young ones, they are wasting
    huge amounts of money in return for nothing. Of course, most of our
    society today knows little about how to manage their money. That's
    why they go running to government when their ignornance (or
    stupidity) bites them in the posterior.

    Bottom line: if someone really, really wants to speak to you, they will
    call back whether it is a cell phone or land line. For all the rest, why
    would you wnat to talk to them in the first place?

  9. Tim McCormack says:

    That's why I'm a fan of people getting one of those pre-pay phones, and only using it for emergency outbound calls.

  10. Seikin says:

    I agree with most of your reasons on some level or another...

    But cell phones are an option for some people who don't really have time for the landline. For example: someone who is constantly traveling will find a landline almost entirely useless...

    There are many reasons to NOT purchase a cell phone plan, but they DO have their uses... Many of us need them in our day to day uses...

    Are they worth the money? Maybe not always... maybe not Often... but occasionally yes...

  11. macpro says:

    I agree with most of the reasons why you don't own a cell phone. I don't own one either, never have but I won't say never will.

    The concept of getting a prepaid phone lingers in the back of my mind. What I wnat is a cell phone that I can only call out of but no one can call in.

    Anything like that out there?

    I don't like being charged for incoming calls and I don't would not like my cell phone or landline number be broadcast to anyone via caller I.D. I disabled caller I.D. on my landline but am not sure if that is available for a cell phone.

    All the other bells and whistles that cell phones feature I can do without. I certainly don't want to get telemarketing calls or text messaging spam. It's bad enough with landlines and internet. And I'm on the national "Do Not Call" list and whitelist my primary email account.

    Lastly and most certainly I can live without the financial burden of being a slave to another monthly bill!

  12. Tim McCormack says:

    @macpro: You could get a cell phone, turn off the ringer, and ignore any missed-call notifications, I suppose. :-P Also, some cell phones can be turned off (for *real*), during which no one can call you.

    It's sad that we have to resort to workarounds like this -- either the cell phone industry isn't listening to user feedback, or the vast majority of their market truly doesn't care about these things.