Dear cell phone

Nowadays it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t own a cell phone.  Most of the cell phones are smart phones.  Love it or hate it, we become inseparable with it. Cell phone is part of our identities: what kind of phones we use, what APPs are running, the customized wallpaper and notification tones, you name it.

Did the smart phone make us smarter?  Is our life becoming more meaningful, productive and better because of smart phones?  I’m not that sure.

I got my first cell phone probably in 2002.  At that time, all my coworkers were already using cell phones.  I was very late into the game.

Did I like it at the beginning?  It’s hard to say.  It was handy to be able to reach my family when I was running outside.  On the other hand, I didn’t like to be reached by work.

As an engineer, I was on the call all the time.  From that sense, I hated my cell phone many times, as the work-related paging and calls interrupted my personal life.  If it happened at 3 o’clock in the morning, I wish I could throw that cell phone away.

My first cell phone was used for 5 years.  The second phone (an LG flip phone, the one shown in the picture) was used for 8 years.  In the summer of 2015, a flip phone would cost even more than a smart phone.  So, I got the first smart phone, which cost $30.  The phone is almost 4 years old now, and I’ll keep using it till it dies someday.

Do I like the smart phone?  Not necessarily.  I still like my old LG flip phone better.  Let me explain why:

  • The smart phone is too big. It doesn’t fit well into my pocket, and could easily slip out.  Hate to see it drops to the floor.
  • It’s very hard to read the screen under the sun, even when just answering the phone.
  • The touch-screen keyboard is so sticky, and disappears when the screen is blacked out.  It’s not that good as the flip phone keyboard.
  • The last and most important thing is the APPs.

Let’s talk about APPs.  When a new phone is purchased, there are lots of APPs that are pre-loaded.  It takes a lot of resources, slows down the phone, uses the network capacity, and keeps doing the nonsense update like crazy.

For most of the APPs, we even don’t know what they are, and if we really need it.  Is it part of the operating system?  Does it belong to the carrier that we must have?  Or they are simply junks.  Can I go ahead and disable or even uninstall it?  Nobody knows.

To me, some of the APPs are like the student-projects.  They are half-baked, and not fully tested.  Some folks wrote the codes for fun, and it takes residence on our phones.

The next and bigger question is the personal privacy.  What kind of personal information on our phones do those APPs have access to?  For example, our messages, contacts, phone logs, photo albums, etc.

Why do they access our personal information?  What exactly are they doing about our information?  Have you ever thought about that?

I’m not a big fan of social media.  I tried some of them for less than 24 hours, and found out it’s not for me.  Then I just deleted them.  If you like them, that’s totally fine.  Each person has different tastes.

I have been using one chat program to connect with my friends in China.  Lately I decided to disable it on my phone due to privacy concern.  The Android version on my phone is too old, and I can’t control the APP access to my personal information.

As a result, I got a second phone, pretty much dedicated to run this chat program and other APPs if any.  I bought this used phone for $20, and use it only on WiFi.  No carrier.  This phone becomes a dead box without WiFi.  Of course, no personal information is stored on it.

In this way, my primary phone becomes pretty much a dumb phone.  To me, it is just a phone, mainly for voice calls, occasional text.  Once a while, I do use it to take pictures, or check the maps.  But, my location is always OFF, no exceptions.

How do I manage to drive with location off?  Ha ha, I don’t use GPS.  I’m still the dinosaur who is using the paper maps.  Before going to a new place, I check the Google map at home computer, and get a good sense of directions.

One day, if I couldn’t find a place, probably my brain is too old for me to drive.

My second phone always stays at home.  In this way, I won’t fuss about the APPs outside of the home, and definitely don’t want to get addicted to it either.

How did it go about this second phone arrangement?  So far so good.  I tried to spend less time on the phone, and focus on what matters the most to my life.

In summary, I don’t love the cell phone, and hate it sometimes as it could get too noisy.

Dear readers, let’s discuss:

  • Do you love or hate your cell phone?
  • How often do you replace your phone?
  • How do you control the APP access to your personal information?  Any privacy concerns?

Hey, I’m going to take a break from blogging.  Life is getting pretty busy lately, and needs some time to settle down.

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10 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    I don’t love or hate my smartphone. It works fine and it’s good. Life was simpler with the old flip phone, though.
    It is very convenient to use an app to communicate with my mom in Thailand. That’s the easiest way to connect.
    Have a good time on your break. I’ve been super busy too, but I want to keep going. I’m afraid I’d stop completely if I take a break.
    Best wishes

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, that’s true: “life was simpler with the old flip phone”. That’s great you are able to connect with your mom via the APP. I talk to my family in China on the phone, sometimes using the chat APP.

      March will be a hectic month for me. I’ll try to be back later, and will see how life goes.

  2. GYM says:

    I have a bit of the smart phone addiction. If I don’t have it handy I get a bit panicky. It’s bad. I have sometimes 2-3 hours of screentime on it a DAY!

    I also have concerns about privacy, I don’t have the Facebook app (no facebook) and I deleted Instagram off my phone but I log in it through the browser.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, once a while, I spent too much time on that chat program. That’s another reason I decided to run that APP on a separate phone. I just try to detach myself from the phone.

      Yeah, privacy is a big concern to me.

  3. Helen, I’m okay with cell phones. The convenience of taking a call anytime is great versus the old days of hanging by the land line when expecting a call. My smart phone is coming up on 2 years old and I have no plans to replace right now. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, yeah, it’s really convenient to make and receive a call anywhere and anytime. My phone is almost 4 years old, and doesn’t have much storage room. But it works okay for me, and I plan to use it as long as I can.

  4. Caroline says:

    Hi Helen, I mainly use my phone to communicate with my kids! three of them seem to communicate better via text than verbally! I don’t have any social media apps on it, just Flip, Fitbit…so nothing to keep me on it all day.
    I am concerned about my privacy because I don’t really understand the technology.
    And I replace my phone when it no longer works! Nothing fancy, whatever is the cheapest.
    Enjoy your break:)

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, yeah, the cell phone is handy for us to connect with families. After I removed that chat APP from my primary phone, I realized that’s a good thing, so I don’t fuss about the phone when out of home.

      Privacy concerns me, too.

      The other day, I heard Samsung just had a new flip smartphone that costs close to $2000. To me, that’s just a phone. Why would I spend that much money on a phone? That’s definitely not me.

  5. GYM says:

    I just saw someone on their phone while walking and I was turning into the alley.
    They didn’t even LOOK UP when crossing the street.
    I could have hit her and she wouldn’t even know it.
    We are all zombies on the phone!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, that is dangerous. I’m glad that person was safe. Yeah, phone could become a big distraction for pedestrians, and for drivers. I’m getting nervous when seeing someone is typing on their phone while driving on the highway around me.

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