The Cell Phone Rant

If you live in Canada as I do, you have the misfortune of having to put up with what must be the most expensive and poorest quality cellular service on Earth. If you live in a rural area, you have the choice of exactly three carriers, two of which share the same infrastructure. You want a deal? Forget it.

Let’s look at where this starts. I hardly ever use my cell phone. 99% of the time it is literally turned off. I only ever use it to check in with my wife when I’m in town. It doesn’t work at the cabin (zero cell signal there) nor even at home without a booster. That’s how good our coverage isn’t. Thus I have a prepaid account which rips me $10 a month and even then quite often just plain doesn’t work when I want it to. For example it doesn’t function out of town even if we’re two feet apart because that’s “roaming” and there’s no way to load such ‘long distance’ service on to a pre-paid number here.

My venerable Samsung Rugby – note the dent

In order to achieve that technological miracle which in fact costs them nothing more at all, I have to ramp up to a monthly plan at a minimum $35 per. That’s an extra $25 a month to be able to do what I should be able to do anyway, and since I only need it maybe six times a year it’s not a very good bargain. You can do a lot with $300 a year. I could use a pay phone when I’m in the big city, but there aren’t any there anymore. Guess why.

Every cell plan now it seems is centered on text and data, rather than talking. Don’t you want unlimited gigabytes for $500 a month? Everyone does! Oh and you can get the latest smartphone too! Except smart phones are not smart, as anyone who is can tell you. Not only do they fumble under my large fingers, but everyone who uses them makes errors many times per day – and they think nothing of it because they have come to accept 40% accuracy of operation as “normal”. I’m an engineer, and I don’t. Smart phones are crap devices that fail as phones and as computers and yes as cameras. They’re actually better as cameras now than they are as phones!

One of the half dozen or so Smartphones my wife has had in the past 6 years

You wondered when I was going to get to cameras, right? Well here it is: the entire smartphone industry is based on selling people who already have viable devices a new unit because it has some small improvement such as a “better camera” which is hyped until the consumer is under the impression that they will simply die if they don’t get the newest model. The promotions are enough fertilizer to cover 100,000 acres.

I have had and still have an alarmingly large number of tools, and I can tell you that any time anyone tries to make an all-in-one device it ends up being a not-really-good-at-anything device. It can’t be helped. Whether it’s a multi-screwdriver or a cell phone or a car that wants to be a part time boat. The flawed design theory behind the smartphone is: since it has to have a CPU anyway, why not have it do other things that need a CPU to do? You then get a mediocre phone, which you have to downplay by extolling the virtues it doesn’t really have in other operations.

Seriously, kids; you press a button on a keyboard and you get that keystroke every time, unless the damn thing is broken. Pay attention the next time you play with your touchscreen device and see if it really operates at 100% accuracy. I hear my wife sitting in her chair cursing under her breath at her Samsung for hours on end as it repeatedly doesn’t do what she wants it to and often does something entirely different instead. And that doesn’t include certain Internet functions that are not accessible to smartphones at all.

Android OS? Blue Tooth? Wifi? Chromebooks? All about as reliable as a government agency; they cost a lot of money and if they ever function right at all you’re supposed to say they’re wonderful and be eternally grateful – until the next model comes out to replace the one you’ve got.

I can have arguments with people about how analog is in many ways superior to digital, although most of the time the other person doesn’t know the definition of either. I still have an old analog cell phone which worked better than any phone I’ve had since, but has been forced into obsolescence by companies out for repeat sales at the cost of burgeoning landfills. This gets into socio-economic areas as well as environmental ones.

My ‘ancient’ Audiovox cell phone

Our government oversight agency for telecommunications, the CRTC, has “come down hard” on the cell companies to force them to give us better options, clearer billing, and greater customer satisfaction. So far those companies have just been laughing all the way to the bank, and have done nothing. They’re proud of their top-end pricing limit (so you’ll never pay more than $1,000 a month for that data!), but they have no real options at the low end for occasional users like me or anyone on a budget who needs a phone for those instances when all you need is a phone. They don’t even make voice-only phones anymore.

Thus we have a world full of industries all operating on the flawed premise of selling people something they’ve already got, while cutting out any segment of the population that is not currently served.

As for me, there is no solution to my personal dilemma. I may as well go back to the pre-cell days and save an addition $10/month. I could buy a couple of walkie-talkies for what I’d save in one year, and operate for free from then on. If I could get the Mrs. to use one.

I’m wasting your and my time here of course; nothing is going to change for this rant. The majority of suckers with smartphones can’t even comprehend there’s a problem. After all, theirs does what they think they need to do with it – at least 40% of the time anyway – and at a cost that’s only ten or twenty times what the service is actually worth.

Ooh! Nope! There’s a Brand New model of their smartphone just out, so they all have to rush out and buy that now. Otherwise they’ll just die!

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