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Why I Ditched My Smartphone

posted Sep 2, 2011, 1:13 PM by Phil Spitze   [ updated Sep 2, 2011, 1:28 PM ]
The Cause
I have been a Samsung Galaxy S (Captivate on AT&T) user for just over a year and have been relatively pleased with the experience. There have been a couple of drawbacks that I noticed that were really getting on my nerves. The first was the lack of performance (and sometimes response) of the phone application. And this is a unique problem, because in reality the phone function on a smartphone is software and therefore a soft phone, susceptible to all of the problems that software has. The other problem I had identified was the screen size, especially when travelling to a new city and using the maps. There just wasn't enough screen for me to get a good feel of the geography. The third issue for me was battery life, and these three combined forced me to find a new solution. And I did! Here's how.

The Solution
First of all, I didn't want to give up the Android ecosystem and experience that I had come to love, so I figured a tablet would be the solution. I settled on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7", and decided to go with a 3G version on Verizon. This would give me constant connectivity, tethering for my laptop, and a "just right" screen and device size. The bonus was that I got a refurb from Verizon online for just $79 with a 2 year contract and no activation fee.

Next I needed a phone replacement and I went with a company I had used in the past and had good success with: Tracfone. I chose an LG flip-style phone for $19, which sounds great and offers a better in-use position for talking and hearing. Since there are no contracts, all I have to buy from now on are minutes. And since I'm a Google Voice user, when I'm at my computer I can make and receive all of the calls I want for free.

Here is the financial before and after:
Smartphone on AT&T (lowest data and text message plan) = $75/month

Galaxy Tab on Verizon (5 GB plan) = $30/month
Tracfone minutes = $10/month (really they are "as needed" but I'm suspecting a $10/month average.)

Before = $75
After = $40 (an $820 savings over 2 years!)

Here is the performance/use before and after:
Smartphone had a short battery life, small screen, sometimes was un-responsive as a phone, poor talk/listen form factor, but generally decent.

Galaxy Tab/Tracfone combo has days and days of battery life, the Tab's screen size makes viewing content and on-screen typing a much beter experience, the Tracfone always, always works and the ergonomics is much better.

A couple of drawbacks:
Carrying two devices is the feedback I hear most often, however everyone almost always is carrying a laptop bag or briefcase or some kind of day planner. With the right choice in case, the Tab fits right in, and the Tracfone is super light. I think my wallet weighs more!

A challenge I stumbled upon was handling my Google contacts and getting them on the LG. Luckily, this model has Bluetooth and it was a 3 minute solution of exporting my contact list on the laptop and transferring the file to the LG. It recognized the list immediately and imported them all properly. Easy fix!

Overall, I'm very happy with this setup and feel that I have the best of both worlds. A lightweight, long battery life phone that always works, and an Android tablet with perfectly sized screen that is easy to carry, type on, and use. On top of all this, I'm saving good money.

When I think of smartphones, I always think of my friend's analysis of his Roomba: "It's not a great vaccuum, and it's not a great robot." Sometimes it just makes more sense to have purpose-built devices and I'm 100% satisfied with my decision to follow this logic.