According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, roughly half of all Americans now own a smartphone. It’s easy to see why; the devices offer unprecedented convenience with constant access to email, the internet, and a smorgasbord of useful apps and addictive games — not to mention that they can be used as a camera and a multimedia player. Oh, and lest we forget, smartphones can also send text messages and make phone calls.
If you’re one of the lone holdouts who still doesn’t have a smartphone, or if you’re thinking about downsizing — stay strong. Despite what peer-pressuring smartphone lovers would have you believe, there are plenty of good reasons to avoid the devices altogether.
1. The phone itself is pricey.
If you do your homework, you can find smartphone models that are free when you sign a mobile contract. But if you want the iPhone 4S or the very latest Android, expect to shell out between $100 and $200, assuming you sign a contract. If you don’t want to saddle yourself with a contract, you’re looking at spending $300 to $500 or more for a single device. The most basic iPhone 4S costs $649 when you buy it unlocked from Apple.
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Think about how easy it is to access the internet. You probably have a computer that can access the internet at work or at home or, if you frequently carry a laptop or tablet, anywhere that has wifi. During the times you’re not connected to any of those sources, ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary to be able to get online. Is it hundreds of dollars’ worth of necessary? For some people, the convenience smartphones offer outweighs the expense; for others, though, investing that much in a phone just doesn’t seem worth it.
2. Data plans are increasingly expensive.
Unfortunately, your expenditures aren’t over once you’ve got your smartphone in hand. Monthly data plans are getting more expensive all the time, and major providers are starting to tighten up on so-called unlimited plans (both AT&T and Verizon no longer offer unlimited data to new users). Your mobile internet speeds may automatically be throttled or slowed down once you’ve used a certain amount of data, preventing you from using your connection’s full potential.
If you’re not on an unlimited plan, you may end up having to to pay for overage charges if you go over your allotted data. And if you have a phone that can connect to 4G internet, which is the fastest available mobile internet today, it’s very easy to gulp up your data allotment in a very short span of time. Reports indicate that Apple’s new iPad with 4G connection could max out your data plan in just 10 minutes — and while the iPad may not be a phone, it’s a cautionary tale worth keeping in mind.
Consider the long-term view when you’re considering a contract. Your monthly payment may not sound like much, but over time, those bills add up. It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s possible to get a basic cell phone with no contract at all. For some consumers, the relative convenience of having a smartphone may not justify the ongoing monthly expenditure.
3. You could probably live without it.
There’s no question that smartphones have lots of nifty features, from cameras to Siri. But are they all really necessary? Unless you use your smartphone to conduct a secret, James Bond-style life, it’s a safe bet there are at least a handful of features you could live without.
Even if you do want to be constantly connected to Facebook and Twitter, you don’t need a smartphone. Facebook’s mobile texts feature sends notifications about new messages, comments, or friend requests as text messages to your phone. You can also update your status, post on friends’ walls, and even Like statuses all from a basic cell phone — just make sure you have a generous texting plan.
You can also tweet straight from your phone via text messaging, as well as receive messages containing the latest tweets of the people you follow. Both Facebook’s and Twitter’s services are free, though of course you’ll be billed by your phone provider for the texts you send and receive.
4. Smartphones require more attention.
If you get a smartphone, bid adieu to the days of charging your phone once every five days. Smartphones typically need to be charged every day or two; all that data usage (plus the pretty screen) drains the battery quickly. And if you’re the type of person who hates worrying about your possessions, a smartphone is definitely not a good fit. Smartphones are delicate, easy to drop, and expensive to fix. If you know yourself to be clumsy, likely to lose things, or accident-prone, having a smartphone might cause you some serious headaches.
Basic cell phones arguably carry a safety advantage, especially for those who use public transit frequently. Your friends might mock you for your early ’90s telecommunications choices, but you’ll probably stay more aware of your surroundings without the distraction of a smartphone, and a basic phone’s a lot less appealing to thieves.
5. Unplugging can be good.
There’s increasing evidence that being constantly tethered to electronic devices is altering how people process information, their ability to concentrate, and even how they sleep. (The New York Times‘ Your Brain on Computers is a great roundup of these worry-inducing findings.) Ditching your smartphone makes it easier to give your brain a much-needed break.
If you’re bored on the train, glance at your fellow passengers and invent life stories for them, or pick out your favorite building in the city skyline. Need to look something up on Wikipedia? Try asking your friends or coworkers. You may not learn the answer, but you might end up learning something else entirely. Lost? Ask a person for directions; it’s great practice if you ever want to travel internationally, where you may not have smartphone access. By getting rid of your smartphone, you open yourself up to all kinds of experiences — some funny, some odd, some boring, but all real.
[Image credit: Infrogmation]
More from Tecca:
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- Battery Life: The surprising cost of free apps
- Study: Teens texting more than ever, making calls and hanging out in person less
Tecca.com is a personal technology site dedicated to helping you get the most out of the devices, services, and digital media in your life. We’re here to reduce the stress and increase the fun by making tech more accessible, more useful, and easier to understand.