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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Here's What I Can Do For You - Smart Phones are Making us Dumb

I am one of the few remaining people in the civilized world that does not own a smart phone. I am as much of a gadget geek or tech head as anyone but for some reason I feel like smart phones are going to be the downfall of humanity. But, I’ll get to that diatribe in a bit.

As far as mobile phones go, I rock an LG Cosmos provided by Verizon. Prior to that it was the ENV2 which is now a piss poor Game Boy since I couldn’t transfer the games I paid for to my new phone. And, before the ENV2 it was a standard LG flip phone. I don’t even remember the name of it. I didn’t want that first phone. In fact, I lobbied against getting a cell phone. I didn’t need to have one. If I wasn’t home for someone to contact me, it was by design. I was at work, or out and if someone needed to get a hold of me, they would have to wait. It was my wife who made me get a phone. She was worried about me driving to and from work on the back roads of Deer Central, Southwestern PA.

So, I begrudgingly got one and I barely used it for anything but a few calls and mostly pictures. I have a generous plan with a lot of minutes and hardly scratch the surface of those limits. Then, I started texting here and there and eventually had to get a text plan which consists of 250 texts per month at $5.00 per month. I barely reach half of that on a regular basis.

Then, I got a call from Verizon Wireless looking to upgrade me. They wanted to upgrade me to a smart phone, offer data plans, and do all these wonderful things for me. They said all this after they examined my account and saw that I hardly used what I had.
“OK, I see you have an LG Cosmos which came with your plan at no extra charge.”


“We can upgrade you to one of our whiz-bang-smarty pants-phone made with a space age polymer and smells of strawberries. You can take pictures, text, use the internet, make a cartoon cat repeat everything you say in a cute voice, scan bar codes and find information that you didn’t care about before, search Google, make light saber noises and you can have it for $499 with a rebate of using it for a two year contract which makes it $99.00. Does that interest you?”

“Um, I’ve paid nothing for my phones since I started getting them, so, no.”

“OK, well, I see you use roughly 90 of your 550 minutes plan each month.”

“Yes, that sounds about right.”

“OK, here’s what I can do for you… We can upgrade you to that whiz bang phone that costs $99 and you get 700 anytime minutes for $69.99 for two lines. Does that interest you?”

“Um, no. I hardly call people now.”

“OK, well, let’s take a look at your data usage. You have 250 texts a month for $5.00. Of that, you use roughly 60 a month.”

“Yep, that’s pretty accurate.”

“You also have pay as you go MB usage of which you haven’t even used the Internet from your phone.

“Yeah, I don’t go onto the Internet from my phone.”

“OK, here’s what I can do for you. We can upgrade you to that whiz bang strawberry smelling phone and offer you unlimited texts and 2GB data allowance for $54.99 a month. Does that interest you?”

“Um, no. Look, you can see what I do with my phone now. Pretty much nothing. So, why would I pay more when I don’t do any of those things?”

“OK, understood. Thank you.”

Look, I understand that they are TRYING to sell me something. But, when you look at my account, which they do before they call me and SEE I’m not doing anything worthy of upgrading, there’s really no point in calling me, now is there? But then again, there’s no point in calling people, who are consistently going over their limits and paying a higher rate for the overages, to offer them savings. Because it’s more money in Verizon’s pocket.

Outbound calls are all about attracting new services and businesses, but there needs to be a smarter analysis of your existing customer base or you run the risk of alienating them more when you bother them with services that they clearly don’t even use that much. If you want to get someone into a higher bracket, examine the ones that maybe go over once in a while or come close to that overage. These are people that probably would entertain the idea of upping their plan in order to pay a little more but save a lot in the end. Don’t go after the little fish in the big pond. Go after the fish that is almost too big for his small pond and offer him a bigger pond where he is now the little fish once more.

But, this is why I probably would never make it in big business. I’m too concerned with the customers’ needs and not the shareholders’.

OK, now my rant. I’ve actually go on about some of this before… but that was REALLY doom and gloom stuff. This is a little more sarcastic.

Smart Phones are making us dumber. There was a time when having a mobile phone meant your parents had a rotary phone in the kitchen with a 100 foot tangled mess of cord attached to the handset. You could literally go into the garage and still be on the phone. After the wireless phone came into play, young kids could freely run through the house without the fear of being strangled by the cord that was stretched across the living room doorway.

Then we had pagers which sent us an alert to find a stationary landline to call whoever paged us. Cell phones that freed us up completely to communicate with anyone, anywhere, and at anytime. Eventually, texting became available. Now, we could have conversations without having to speak directly with someone. Email… for your phone. Human interaction became sterilized and devoid of emotion save for the few emoticons that litter the textual landscape of messages. Not content with having to be in front of a computer to surf the web or play games, phones began offering the ability to completely disconnect from reality… sometimes while driving.

We can now exist completely online with no human interaction at all. We can shop, learn, play, and communicate all from a phone. Moreover, there’s no need to even remember anything because our phones have access to the Internet. Phone numbers? That’s in my contacts. Useless facts about movies, sports, and history? You can now unload that from your brain because you can access it at a moment’s notice via your phone. We could lose all sense of direction because you can install an app that functions as a compass. And now, with the introduction of the iPhone 4S, we don’t even have to do any the searching for those things. We simply ask Siri, “What’s the capital of Iowa?” To which Siri should say, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you mean. Iowa doesn’t have a capital.” That’s a veiled Family Ties reference if you’re older than dirt, like me. Go ahead, use your smart phone to look that one up. I dare you.

Not only are smart phones making us dumber, they are allowing us to do dumber things, like texting and driving. Smart phones have turned us into lethal weapons out on the road. Even though it’s illegal, I see people every day in their cars texting while driving. It’s supposed to be bad to even be on a cell phone without a hands free device like a Blue Tooth. But I’ve seen police on cell phones all the time. Hell, I’ve come to a red light and sent off a quick text to a friend about a traffic snafu they may encounter.

Auto Correct not only makes us look like idiots because it sometimes throws in an inappropriate word during a conversation with our parents, it also frees us from having to know how to spell most words.

If you think about how much of our daily lives are impacted by the use of smart phones, it should scare the poop out of you to think about them all going away due to a catastrophic event like a terrorist attack or EMP discharge.

I’m surprised shows like The Walking Dead haven’t made a reference to the fact that cell phones are no longer around. There’s only one child on the show and he’s not a teenager, but think about all of those surviving teens and young adults out there who can’t text their BFF, “OMG, my mom is totally a walker, FML :(“

Of course, I have digital voice for my landline so, if the Internet and cable providers go down, I won’t be able to call for help from my home phone, but at least I don’t have to rely on some whiz-bang-smarty pants phone to tell me what to do in an emergency. I can at least remember that instead of asking Siri what the number for 911 is.

Funny, makes me kind of miss that 100 foot mess of cord that I used to get tangled up in when I was a kid.

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