Once people get to know me, they’re often surprised I don’t have a mobile phone. The first mobile phone I had didn’t work out. I got it about fourteen years ago. The problem was it cost quite a lot. Calls were free after 8 pm, but before that hour, I paid. I decided to pay the penalty clause to get out of the contract because I’d either use the phone and pay a small fortune, or I’d not use it at all and feel like a sucker for paying the monthly fee.
My second phone was a pay-as-you-go model that cost me $130. The beauty of it was I did not have to pay anything if I didn’t use it. That’s the theory at least, because if you spend money to buy time for it, the time expires unless you buy more before the expiry. It quickly came to the point where I’d be paying the equivalent of a monthly fee unless I could just let the unused time expire without feeling ripped off. The idea behind getting the phone was to use it for safety while taking long driving trips. After splitting up with Marylou, I only went on longer driving trips a few times a year so the phone would sit unused for so long that the company would deactivate it and give my number to someone else. I had to jump through hoops to get it reactivated again. Rogers finally changed their network and didn’t bother offering me the opportunity to buy a replacement phone at a reduced price. When I asked about it, they told me that they didn’t contact me because my phone had been deactivated for more than a year at that point.
The only time I miss having a mobile phone is when I drive to visit my family. This is especially true now because I’ve taken to driving more slowly for economy. It would be very handy to be able to call my parents en route, to update them on when I’ll be arriving. I only go a few times a year so the expense of a mobile phone would not be worth the advantages.
Certainly there are times when having a mobile phone would be handy. After the shortest reflection, I know the cost of a mobile phone isn’t worth the convenience. Most of the time I think a mobile phone would be handy, I wouldn’t even bother crossing the street to use a pay phone. Hardly a pressing need.
While I do value my freedom enough that being accessible at every moment is not a situation I’d willingly pay to create, I could just turn the phone off when I don’t need it. The bigger objection I have is simply the cost of service. I can get home service for $22. Local calling is always free and with the dial-through long distance services, I can call anywhere in North America for a dollar an hour. Why would I want to pay perhaps twice as much for a more restricted service? Not that one can’t exceed the restrictions, but you’re going to pay. Both Bell and Rogers are happy to provide air-time in excess of what your plan offers for 30¢/minute. Long distance, in plans that don’t offer a deal on long distance, is also 30¢/minute. That’s twenty times the long distance rate I pay on my retro land line!
As an aside to my international readers, Canadian wireless rates are completely out of whack when compared to other countries. I understand that even the rates in the United States are a bargain compared to ours even though the US rates are high when compared to many European countries. If you want Internet access on your phone, our service is even more expensive in comparison to other countries. While the iPhone is not available in Canada, but Michael Geist took a look at the numbers:
In the U.S., the AT&T iPhone plan offers 450 anytime minutes (unused minutes can be rolled over to the next month), 5000 additional night and weekend minutes, and unlimited data for $59.99.
Looking at current plans offered by Rogers, Geist tallied the costs to get as close to the same service as possible within the offered plans:
a plan from Rogers that offers less than AT&T — the Canadian version does not have unlimited data, does not offer rolled over minutes, and has only 10 percent of the night and weekend minutes — currently runs $295 per month
Beyond the cost, what makes me uncomfortable is the ridiculous addiction some people experience with their mobile phones. A man-on-the-street interview on CBC News: Sunday was particularly enlightening. Citing the reasons he loved his mobile phone, he said, “It gives me freedom to be away from the office and my home.” Interesting, because I also feel completely free to leave my home and office even though I don’t have a phone. It seems the mobile phone is making up for another problem he already has.
This said, I understand the need to be reachable. Take my friend Don. He wears a mobile phone on his hip. I’ve asked him about it because in the twenty-seven months we’ve worked together at our present job, I’ve heard him use it exactly once. He told me it’s for emergencies. His wife has the number, as does his child’s school. Despite having the phone with him all the time, he’s not chained to it.
The guy interviewed on CBC News: Sunday went further, “I can do work while lying on the beach … and that can’t be bad, right?” I don’t have to explain why this is ridiculous, do I? What he describes isn’t freedom, it’s precisely the opposite.
Be shocked that I don’t have a mobile phone. In return, I wonder why 19 million Canadians do have mobile service.