Tag: phones

When a Phone Is No Longer a Phone

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

We need a new term for the devices many (if not most) of us carry around in our pockets. I have an iPhone, as do the other members of the family. Several times a day, I hear things like, “Has anyone seen my phone?” “There’s an alarm going off on your phone.” “Mom, you just got a message on your phone.” “Put your phones away, it’s not device time.” However, I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “I’m on a call,” or “you’re phone is ringing.” We use these devices constantly, but we rarely use them as phones in the classical sense.

Thinking about this, I checked the call history on my own phone. There are dozens of “missed” calls because I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize. In the month of September (it being the evening of September 30 as I write this) I made 4 calls from my phone. I received two calls from numbers that I recognized and answered. 6 calls in a month. Meanwhile, I use my “phone”constantly for reading email, text messages, as well as audio books, reading newspapers, keeping up with social media, and occasionally watching shows like the new Foundation series on Apple TV+, or Ted Lasso.

The “reading” screen on my “phone.”

As someone who spans the digital divide, a phone, to me, is the thing on the wall in the kitchen with the cord that always gets tangled and can never be untangled, though which you talk to friends and family at a distance. For my kids, a phone is where you watch YouTube videos and from which you make TikTok videos, as well as play Minecraft or Roblox. It seems to me, we need a new name, something that better represents what this device is.

Sometime in the late 1990s (I think) someone coined the term “personal digital assistant”, or PDA for short. Unfortunately, PDA became a popular shortening of “public display of affection” which makes it an awkward candidate for an alternate name for a phone.

“Smart” phone is frequently used. I see references to smart phone everywhere, but this doesn’t work for me because it seems patently silly. The phone is not smart. It may make its users seem smart, but let’s not kid anyone that it is the phone that is smart. Then, too, “smart phone” still refers to “phone” which is the thing I am trying to avoid.

Taking some inspiration from the science fiction world, “brain pal” came to mind. Brain pal, of course, comes from Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. For something I carry around in my pocket, however, brain pal doesn’t seem to fit all that well.

What about “computer”? After all, a phone really is just a computer, all miniaturized down into a hand-sized package? These days, however, phones often do more than computers. The take photos and videos; they have all kinds of biometric capabilities. They can detect changes in surroundings, can identify their location on the globe, and even their altitude above or below sea-level. “Computer” seems a little too mundane.

When all is said and done, “phone” is likely the best we can do, and I suppose we are stuck with it. Rather than change the term, we just have to understand that the meaning has evolved, and we need to evolve along with it. We did it with albums. An album used to to be a record, a flat disk that you played with a needle on a turntable. Albums had tracks that ran around them and represented individual songs. We still use the term “album” although we usually don’t mean the disk, and we use the term “track” to mean a digitally stored piece of music. Those terms have evolved into what they are today and are commonly accepted. I guess I’ll need to do the same for “phone.”

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International calling

Going through my checklist of things I need to do before I go on vacation, this morning I called T-Mobile and had them explain to me how International calling works on my cell phone when I am traveling in Europe. Turns out, its very easy and straight-forward. I spoke to a very enthusiastic support person, who turned out to be very helpful. But that’s nothing unusual since my experience with T-Mobile has always been good.

First, he confirmed that my phone can handle international networks (it’s a quad-band phone) and that my services are all set up for international calling.

Next, he explained the “dialing pattern” while I am abroad. Essentially, any call I make, I hit 0 to pull up the plus (+) sign, then dial the country code, then the local number. Easy to remember. So for calling the U.S., I dial +1 followed by the area code and phone number. In London, to call the hotel I’d dial +44 then the area code and phone number, etc.

He gave me a good tip about voice mail If my phone is on and I get a call and allow it to go to voice mail, I get charged at the local rate for that incoming call. If my phone is off, I don’t get charged for the incoming call, but still get the voice mail message.

Next, he told me that text messages anywhere I travel are $0.35/message for outgoing and $0.15/message for incoming. This will likely be my preferred method of communication since it is very, very cheap.

Finally, he went through the cost per minute for calls originating in each of the countries I will be visiting:

  • Italy, $0.99/minute
  • Greece, $1.49/minute
  • Croatia, $1.49/minute
  • Turkey, $1.99/minute
  • London, $0.99/minute
  • Paris, $0.99/minute

He was very helpful and I am now satisfied that I know how to use my phone internationally and that I know how much it will cost me.

Check one more item off the list!

My new cell phone

My new cell phone was delivered this afternoon and it’s a pretty cool little gadget. It’s a Motorala RAZR. It’s very thin but has a very good display. I got it mainly for the BlueTooth and Speakerphone, both of which I have already made use. I have my phone book now synced to my Mac address book, and whenever I bring my phone within 30 feet of my Mac at home, it sync’s up the address books. This is incredibly convenient.

I had a work-related meeting that I attended remotely (from home) this afternoon and I used my speaker phone for the full hour-long meeting and it worked just great.

Now, I am tweaking the settings to get it to work just the way I want it to. For instance, I have Jen’s number voice activated, so if I touch a button and say her name, my phone dials her number.

I also tried the camera phone out and that seemed to work just fine. It does video too, but I don’t care so much about that.

It’s a pretty neat little gadget.

New phone

I ordered a new cell phone tonight. I’ve been wanting to get a new phone for quite some time and tonight I decided to do it. I got a Motorola RAZR V3 phone. It’s got a few additional features that I don’t have on my current phone, specifically the bluetooth technology so I can finally sync it up with my computer. I should get it via UPS in about 5 business days.

Voicemail experiment over

I changed my outgoing voicemail message back to normal this evening. Strangest thing, but it seemed to confuse people for some reason. Go figure.

I stayed at work later than usual today and didn’t do any writing this evening. I was going to try and read more of It’s Superman! and maybe finish it up by the weekend, but I’m beat right now; I didn’t even do pushups this evening; I’m just too darn tired.

I did finally get around to stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work this evening, so I have groceries now, and I packed my lunch for tomorrow (first time in a week).

I’m off to bed…

New outgoing voicemail message

After countless years of the same old boring outgoing voicemail message on my phone, I have decided to take the matter in my own hands and do a complete revision. After a number of takes (for clarity of signal, and because I kept messing up), I have a new outgoing message on my cellphone. Well, not exactly a new message, really it’s more a set of notes toward an outgoing message.

‘Read’ the message without having to call my phone