I Need a Smart Phone, or Something….

My trusty Tracfone just ain’t cutting it…

It’s getting embarrassing. Mobile content is increasingly part of what I cover in my media consulting work and blogging, yet I have the most bare-bones, behind-the-times cell phone imaginable. It’s an ultra-basic Nokia, and my carrier is the pre-paid service Tracfone. No web browser, and not much else. Currently I really only use it when traveling, although I’m starting to use it with Jott.

But I hate waste, and I’m starting to find little reason to pay for a landline plus cell phone (even a pre-padi one). I’m not really a phone person, and I barely use either one. But I need to have some kind of phone, because, well, that’s just life. So why not just pay for one that does all the main things I need?

Plus, I’m absolutely terrible about listening to voice mail. I generally do so only about once a week. Now that I’m managing all my tasks via e-mail, I find myself just wishing that my voice mail could automatically be routed to my e-mail as an audio attachment. There are services like CallWave and K7 which do that, and SimulScribe offers a message transcription service. Trouble is, these services don’t work with landline voice mail — only mobile providers.

I’ve resisted getting a regular cell phone not just because I generally hate talking on the phone, but because I’m very wary of mobile providers and their billing practices. Those bills are some of the ugliest, most cryptic documents I’ve seen, and somehow you keep getting charged for indecipherable and poorly documents services. My goal right now is to reduce stress, and just thinking about cell phone bills is a stressor.

But I know ultimately if I make a good choice, it’ll be good for me. I’m just starting my search, so if you have recommendations for phones, providers, and deals, please comment below. Here’s what I want:


  • Easy-to-understand bills without a lot of unexpected charges
  • Easy-to-understand, reasonably priced plan for calls, text messaging, and web/data access
  • Intuitive user interface for all basic functions
  • Good coverage throughout US, especially in Colorado
  • A decent web browser, e-mail interface, and feed reader
  • Must synch with Mac iCal (and generally be Mac-happy)
  • A keyboard that won’t tie my fingers in knots
  • Decent camera (for still and video/audio, at least short movies)
  • Good battery life
  • Screen that’s easily readable in sunlight
  • Reasonably priced optional data plan for my laptop (tether the phone as a broadband modem)
  • Customer service that doesn’t make me want to become an axe murderer.

Ideas? Tips? Please comment! Thanks.

7 thoughts on I Need a Smart Phone, or Something….

  1. Amy,

    I’m not sure if you can still get one, but after the price drop, I picked up a (now-discontinued) 4GB iPhone for $299. That’s pretty comparable to a Blackberry.

    I absolutely love it. Usually, when I really, really want a gadget, I end up being underwhelmed when it’s in my hand. The iPhone is actually even better (and more useful/practical) than I expected.

    When I registered the phone through iTunes, I unplugged it and looked at it — and it had already synched with iCal, Address Book, iPhoto, and Mail.
    It could be because I, like you, was using an old Nokia. (I think mine was even older than yours!) I’ve never had anything approaching a smartphone. I had no idea what kind of functionality I was missing.

    You won’t get capacity for video/audio (although I still suspect that could be coming in a firmware upgrade eventually). I’m not sure about AT&T coverage in Colorado. And I’m not sure about an optional data plan for the laptop. On everything else, I think the iPhone meets your “must-have” requirements.

    Since you’re a Mac person, I think you ought to consider it. I’m a recent Mac convert, and after about 3 weeks with the iPhone, I still find myself amazed at what it can do to make my life easier. (And don’t let Edge connection speeds scare you off. My expectations for mobile connectivity speeds are probably low, but I think it’s fine.)

  2. David — I’m definitely considering an iPhone. I’ve heard mixed reviews on its local coverage. I’ve also heard negative things about AT&T’s billing. But next week a friend of mine is going to stop by my phone and try his iPhone from here, so we’ll see how well it works from my house.

    – Amy Gahran

  3. Amy, SimulScribe works with landline, mobile phone and Skype voicemail. To set SimulScribe up with your landline, all you need to do is contact your provider and ask them to set your landline to forward to your SimulScribe voicemail box number whenever your phone rings and you don’t answer it. This function is called variable call forward or sometime no answer call forward. If you don’t know your SimulScribe voicemail number email me and I’ll get it to you.


  4. You may have an antiquated cell phone, but I think I’m the last person on the planet without a cell phone at all. I find the iPhone commercials to be cool, but if I did get a cell phone, I’d want onw like yours: barebones. I don’t think I need a telephone that takes pictures, shows movies, plays music, does windows, etc. If I had a cell phone, I’d want a phone. Period.

  5. Amy — I’m curious to learn how your test went. I’m also considering the iphone, and it would be great to know that it works well in Boulder, as my husband and I hope to move back there soon.


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