Boy, we had some fun making fun of that Nokia 2600 the other day, right? But let’s get serious for a moment, because yes, that really is my phone! Although I have technically never bought a cell phone in my life.
I have had a tortured relationship with cell phones. I remember being at a local beach in CT with my parents in the late 90s, and I saw a woman answer her cell phone while relaxed in a chair. I’d never seen such a thing before.
“How terrible. Why would you want that?” I asked myself. Wouldn’t you rather just not be reachable for a little while? If you carried that around, anyone could bother you whenever they wanted! So while my high school friends started slowly adopting cell phones, I stayed out of it.
I kept this up all the way through college in the early 2000s as well. Who did I have to call? And who needs to call me so urgently? Nobody. Your dorm room has a free landline phone for a reason. So use it. Who needs a phone to talk? This is what computers and AOL Instant Messenger are for anyway.
I kept this up until 2005 when a flat tire on the highway left me stranded. I didn’t know how to change a tire, so I was stuck. I was about to start walking when a police car stopped and offered to call AAA for me. That felt pretty pathetic. (To add insult to injury, it turned out that my AAA card was expired. My parent’s hadn’t renewed it and didn’t tell me.)
So at that point I decided maybe I should think about possibly getting a cell phone for emergency purposes. Well, I still didn’t, and the only reason I have a cell phone now is because I was grandfathered in. In 2005, Marge joined her family’s cell phone plan, and needed to get rid of the Tracfone she had been using in college. So instead of throwing it away, I inherited it! It came with minutes and everything. That was the Nokia 5125, which debuted in 1998.
Soon after I took control of that cell phone, though, the technology was so outdated, that it had to be replaced because it wouldn’t work on their system or something. Apparently, this phone was analog. Tracfone replaced it with the Nokia 2600 for free.
The phone I use today is the phone that they gave me for free in 2006, a model that actually debuted in 2004. I proceeded to throw it in the car and use it as an emergency phone. Seriously, for years the only thing I ever used this phone for was to call AAA, or if I was meeting someone and I called them to say “I will be there in five minutes. See you then.” I honestly used it five times a year max. I’ve used it more this year than ever before because I had to make calls during work hours about the rental property and granite blocks we bought.
What’s great about this model is the battery life. I have left it in the car for a year without recharging it. I believe that’s because when it’s off, it’s off. It’s not like you all’s smartphones that have weird nonsense going on in the background running down the battery even when it’s turned off.
You also probably won’t be shocked to learn that I only set up voicemail on this phone this year. Yes, until this year, you couldn’t even leave me a message. I just never bothered to figure it out.
“But Norm, I see you typing on a little screen. I knew you had a smartphone!” Not true! What you see is an illusion. That is an iPod Touch 4G that I bought for $70 on eBay and I use strictly on wi-fi. More on that another day.
I would be remiss if I didn’t link to one of my favorite articles in recent memory, Shitphone: A Love Story, by John Herrman in Medium. In it, the author forsakes his iPhone (his fourth) and downgrades to what he calls the Shitphone, a prepaid off-brand smartphone wanna-be. He puts more eloquently than I ever could the beauty and wonder of off-brand electronics.
Basically, the premise is that in a world of constantly evolving technology, the luxury products of today become the middle class products of tomorrow as volume brings down costs and the race for the newest, hottest thing keeps speeding up and pushing yesterday’s tech to the side. You see this a lot in cars, as the highest class amenities eventually work their way down to economy cars after a few years. The iPhones of today are the Shitphones of tomorrow. All you have to do is wait.
How much does it cost?
You’re probably wondering how much this shitphone costs me and how I keep cell phone costs as low as humanly possible. First, let’s take a look at the norm, if you will.
I remember when the first iPhone came out and I was talking to someone about theirs. They said their monthly bill was “about $100, so you know, not so bad.” And I had no idea what to think because I had zero basis of comparison, but it definitely sounded expensive. If $100 a month was “not so bad,” what were most people’s phone bills normally like?
Well, Consumer Reports had an article about cell phone plans recently. Forgive me, Consumer Reports, for posting your article, although it is six months old…
I opened up to this page in Consumer Reports and barfed. Seriously, I had to run to the bathroom and barf my guts out once I saw what Consumer Reports had come up with as acceptable cell phone plans for everyone. $160 a month, $140 a month… These are the best plans for the money?? Things have gotten out of hand, people!
Even the Couple On A Budget spends $90 a month! And what is Ridinkulous but a Couple On A Budget? $90 is how much we spend combined on our electric and water each month, and I’d say those things are a little more important than a cell phone. Cell phones didn’t even exist 20 years ago and you people got along fine!!!
Ahem….. So, you’re probably asking, “Norm, how much do you pay for your cell phone every month?”
$5 per month.
That’s $85 a month cheaper than the cheapest plan Consumer Reports charted out for you. That’s not chump change. That’s a thousand bucks a year! Why, given 7% gains, after 20 years, that’d be almost $41,000!
And this Family with College-Age Kids paying $160 a month? Cut that shit out, and you’d save $78,711 over 20 years. Get real, motherfuckers. That cell phone addiction is going to keep your next “college age” kid from even going to college!
Consumer Reports, I love ya, but the least you could’ve done is put Tracfone or Ting or Republic Wireless on the chart alongside Big Telephony under a photo of a conscientious consumer such as myself. Here’s a photo and excerpt you could’ve used:
Norm, 33, emergency user
Norm doesn’t use a cell phone ever, except in case of emergencies, like if the car breaks down, or when he really actually needs to make a call that very second. Therefore, it serves less as a phone, and more as a kind of insurance. Norm doesn’t have time for idle chit-chat. He can count on one hand the number of calls he’ll make from this cell phone in a year, and can count on two hands texts he’s sent over the past ten years. By abstaining completely from the ever-upgrading mobile phone world, Norm never feels like he needs to get the newest phone. He considers any phone that works “Futureproof.”
$5 per month
So how do I arrive at that price? Tracfone is a prepaid service, and I buy one year at a time. A one-year contract costs $99.99. I have rarely seen Tracfone change their prices over ten years. But here’s my hot tip to bring that down about 33%.
Instead of buying a full year contract, buy just 30 days of service. This is $9.99. Once you go to check out, you should get another option:
At checkout, you can add 365 days of service for $49.99. After tax and everything, that brings you to $64.95 for a full 13 months of service. Honestly, this only works if you don’t need any more minutes, since this method only gets you 30 minutes for the year. I have enough minutes built up over the years from buying $99 full year contracts and using Tracfone’s sales to get double minutes and things like that. I will never finish the 2,847 minutes I have right now. So all I have to do is pay that $64.95 every 13 months to keep this phone alive, and I’m good.