Wednesday, January 7, 2015

If you choose not to decide...

I haven't spent this much time in a Verizon Wireless since I tried to figure out how "forest people" can get internet from a "little magic box." Unsurprisingly that time, the workers gave me funny looks and shamed me for dropping their new iphone 5 on the floor, but I more or less got what I came for.
This last month I've been frequenting wireless stories for two reasons. Firstly because Amil wanted a new phone, and secondly because I decided that it's time for me to convert from my beloved "dumb phone" to a more intelligent, useful one.

The decision to transition to a smartphone has come with much hesitation. I've been proud of my long battery life, ability to disconnect and be present when others are staring at screens, and of not requiring any new resources for a phone I've had for a couple years. Nevertheless, I've caught myself calling friends and family for directions, or begging friends to look up an answer to end an argument. Since Amil got his new phone, I've used it to check my e-mail and deposit checks, and listened enviously as he talks about all the podcasts he's listened to while doing work around the property. So often I've longed for some story to listen to while I weed and rake, and it seemed that dream was as easy as transitioning to a smart phone.
But if only it were that easy. hah!

I was very fond of Amil's new droid. The camera was much better than my trusty dusty Powershot. The speakers weren't great but they did the job. But mostly, the programs were navigable, the apps were endless, and so were the possibilities, it seemed. The more I used his, the more I wanted my own, with my own passwords saved and my own apps. Since we don't have internet in the house, it was nice having it in the palm of my hands without having to walk to a coffee shop or down the road.
What I didn't want, however, was a brand new phone. Having committed to not buy new for almost two years now (making only a few exceptions), I couldn't let myself buy a new phone, with newly extracted precious metals and petroleum resources.
The first thing I found on my search was the Fair Phone. The fair phone had everything I wanted ethically, and almost everything I wanted from an OS. But the more I read about it, the more I realized that this search was going to be complicated. The phone seemed to be made in Europe somewhere...and was so popular that they were actually out of phones and unsure of when they'd make enough to fill the back orders. Even if I did get my hands on one for the pretty price of 310 pounds, I wasn't sure how to connect it to a US carrier. Not to mention that I couldn't budget that much for a phone, knowing my history of dropping, cracking, spilling and my out-of-doors lifestyle.
So, having my heart fulfilled by the fact that there IS an ethically, environmentally friendly made phone out there, although out of my reach, I began to search elsewhere.
I decided to wait until I came home to ask my family about their phones and plans, and inquire about our family plan. In the meantime, I dropped my phone again and again until it eventually ceased to come back to life. Even without a phone, I was determined to do my research and not find something new.
Once back at home I received all kinds of advice. I learned I was no longer attached to a family plan with Verizon, so that made the search more endless and therefore more complicated. I could search for any phone and any plan I wanted, but with that kind of possibility, I didn't even know where to begin.
I searched for lists of "most eco-friendly phones," and saw some lists (though mostly outdated). The prime advice was to use a reused phone or just stick with your old one, unless it's broken like mine was. In the past I've always just used friend's old phones, which has allowed me some very interesting and very free varieties. I was hopeful at getting my dad's old phone, but the more I looked at it, I began to agree that it is a little outdated, and just like Amil's, it's just not MY phone...something for me to use and customize. I'm looking for a device that will supplement my professional and creative work and that I'll hopefully have for a long time. The list also mentioned Samsung and Nokia for using reused and repurposed materials, as well as the LG Enact.

My mother had taken my usual route and gotten a phone from her sister, and is using Consumer Cellular, a pay as you go plan. I looked on their website and stopped by target to look at the phones, when I was told, "I'm surprised there's any phones left this close to the retirement center." Hmm. That statement just punctuated what I was realizing. It's a great plan for people who don't use their phone much but want a smart phone for some things. But since I'm attempting to transition to using my phone for work a lot more, I would need something more. Even though mom's $20/month bills sounded good.

Since starting my search, I began to notice all sorts of cell phone plans and advertisements on TV and online (I'm still creeped out that ads know what you're looking for and target that). T Mobile's data roll-over commercials caught my eye, as did Sprint's "cut your phone bill in half" plan. I searched through my wish-list of "eco-friendly phones" on Craigslist and eBay, but soon decided not to buy a used phone that way. There's simply no way to tell for sure if it's "unlocked" or how well it works, and most of the prices were just as expensive or often more than buying a phone with a plan. The trouble was going to be finding one used, pre-owned or refurbished. I looked at Verizon and AT&T, but the used phones they had that I liked were out of stock, or there were other minor complications.

The most help I found was from the cell phone search at I was able to put in all the things I'm looking for and compare plans side by side. The first on the list was from a program called Givmobile that gives 8% of your cell phone bill to charity. This sounded as good as the fair phone, and plans started at $25.00 a month. But quickly I saw that it only used 2G, and there were some other flaws.
The next cheapest was TextNow Wireless, which takes advantage of abundant WiFi for most calling and texting, and only uses 3G and 4G from the spring network when wifi isn't available. I've been curious to find a program that works on Wifi, and this one is right in my price range. On top of that, there's a Samsung cellphone for only $100, with the plan, which you pay month to month. I'm waiting to hear back about getting my phone number transferred, but I'm seriously looking into TextNow.
I'll keep you posted in a few weeks when I've settled onto something.

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