April 18, 2009

The great cell phone experiment

They’ve been debating making the switch, and this week they tried it out. My parents are thinking of giving up their landline and getting a cellphone.

It’s a dramatic move for them, and they aren’t making the decision hastily. My father first sent an email out to the extended family, asking for everyone’s advice. A flurry of emails explored their options thoroughly. My father was born in 1931 so he’s got a learning curve with new technology.

Then I suggested that they take my cell phone for a week to try it out. “Do you have the manual?” my father asked.

By the next night, he had called every family member on my contact list. I think he was taking notes as he did so. “Are you inside your house? I’m going to try speaker phone. Do I sound any different? I talked to Red-haired Daughter last night, cell-to-cell at 7:34 pm and got very clear reception.”

My father has some problems with his hearing — some say it’s from years of playing as a musician, but I think the job he had setting up pins in a bowling alley when he was teenager may have done some damage as well. So he likes the speaker phone button, which he can use to make our voices louder.

My mother adapts to new technology easily, so she didn’t feel the need to call around the country, but my father needed empirical evidence. He waited until my daughter arrived on the west coast this week (she’s at a musical festival called Coachella) so that he could try calling someone that far away.

What’s funny is that my father rarely makes a phone call. I’ve talked to him more this week on the phone than I have in my whole life. I could tell when he’d get to a new section of the manual because he’d call and tell me about some feature of the phone. (“Did you know it’s like an answering machine too? It can record messages!”)

My parents won’t have trouble sharing a phone because I predict they will use it much like a landline. It’ll stay on the desk until it rings. They are surprisingly pleased with the obnoxious ring on my phone (it’s a recording of Shaggy Hair Boy that sounds something like a smoke alarm going off) because it’s a noise that can be heard throughout the house. I don’t foresee my mother calling me from the grocery store any time soon. But my parents do spend a lot of time at their camp in the summer, and it’ll be nice to know they can contact family members in the case of an emergency. And now, if I need to know how to use any feature on my phone, I can just call my Dad. Because he’s read the manual.

Feel free to chime in if you have any thoughts/experiences with giving up a landline and going to a cell phone ....


Rhonda said...

Does your dad wear a hearing aid? My dad has a hearing aid and has tried all kinds of cell phone configurations to work with it. They have an option that will send the sound straight into the hearing aid, almost like Bluetooth, but it's too expensive for him to think it's worth it. Other than that, though, I can hook you up with detailed lists of the pros and cons of different phones with hearing aids.

My dad is 72, but he spent his entire career with the phone company, so even though the technology isn't intimidating to him, he is constantly testing it.

Rana said...

I've considered it once or twice, since if we went entirely to cell, all of our long-distance calls would be no extra charge (and I love our company - was Working Assets, now called Credo).

Three things so far have worked against it, one of which would apply to your parents' case, one wouldn't. I do use it as a mobile phone, so D. would be without a phone unless I got another one for him or for the house.

The other concern is the matter of what happens in the event of a power outage. The two potential problems are the instance in which the battery runs out and it's not charged when the emergency or blackout happens, and the longer blackouts, when the phone simply runs out of juice. Having an alternate way to charge it, off-grid, would be key if it's going to be their primary phone.

A final concern is the use of the phone during emergencies. Two possible complications (and this will depend a bit on how your community has decided to handle cell phones). One is that, unlike a landline, the exact location of a cell phone is harder to pinpoint if someone makes a 911 call. If there are enough relays around, triangulation is probably good enough to locate a house, but not an apartment in a city. I'd ask the local 911 board about this. The other is that if there's some location-based telephone alert (which is how our friends learned that they needed to evacuate for wildfires) the cell phone would need to be on the list.

Still, as I've said, I've considered this myself, and may someday do it, just to save the expense.

parodie said...

I currently only have a cell phone, and I've been thinking about getting a landline again. The sound quality is variable, and I'm just not convinced the savings are worth it. That's really the only advice I've got, though.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I misplace my cell phone all the time, and the only way to find it again is to call it from my land line.

I do have a handset as my land phone but at least that thing has a beeper function, so I can page it & it will tell me where it is.

Sandy said...

It's easier to lose or break a cell phone. I've never left my landline at the grocery store or dropped it on pavement.

Bad Alice said...

My husband an I each have a cell phone and no landline. We don't see the point in paying for the extra service. We haven't had a landline in about 5 years. So far, so good. A few times I've left my cell phone behind at work, but I definitely think it isn't worth the extra money to pay for two phone calls on the two separate occasions that happened.

Anonymous said...

i have a landline, mainly for international calls. plus i have unlimited calling on it so i use it more than my cell phone... its voip so it's not expensive. my cell is through Credo and i just have the really basic plan...ie no text and all the fancy crap

from away said...

depends what the so-called upgrades are in your area, but around here they've gradually disconnected the copper as cable and fios expands, so during an outage there's only the 2-3 day backup power you'd get with a cell anyway. stupid, imho, but unavoidable. so we didn't mind ditching the landline for a cell because it isn't any worse now that the landline is relatively unreliable, and the rates are better.

landismom said...

I've thought about doing this--the thing that keeps me from it, mostly, is that our landline is tied to our internet service. I'm not sure we'd save any money if we gave up our landline and just got a separate deal on internet and cable.

Plus I don't really want my mom getting in the habit of calling my cell.

Bridgett said...

We got rid of our land line about a year ago. We are not big phone talkers, so it works out well. My mom (75 years old) has also made the switch -- she likes it because she can carry it with her when she's hiking or camping and though she's never needed it, she feels more secure thinking that she can get some help if she needs it.

patrick said...

I've not yet made the leap to cellular... I've a bad feeling about being tethered. I use a rented one for about five days a year during festival week but that's about it.

However, as I've been doing a bit of traveling the last few years, the waning availability of pay phones has created the need to consider getting a pay-as-I-go cell phone. It makes it easier to hook up with friends.

You might be interested to know that the word verification word for this comment is "emisong"... I kinda like that.

sherry said...

I don't know if this is true everywhere...but here even if you are not paying for a land line, if the phone is plugged in the 911 service still works. It is the only thing that works, but it works.

Jodie said...

Get a cell but keep your land line for emergencies.

Cells are not nearly as robust as land lines. The system has too many opportunities to fail. Power failures, earthquakes, weather, terrorism, solar flares,... the list is endless.

Even VoIP is not as robust as land lines.

(I know. It's my job to know. I have both)

YourFireAnt said...

I'm not a cell phone user, so I don't have one. I am among other things a dogsitter, and reluctant to look after dogs in a house without a phone . You should think of all the people besides you who need to use a phone in your house.


word verif: shines

Kait said...

Sorry I'm a bit late to the game - I tried to comment on this earlier this week but had some Internet troubles.

I completely agree with the concerns about hearing aids and 911 access. I don't know how often a situation would come up where someone else would need a phone, but it's worth considering as well.

My primary suggestion would be to make sure your parents get the same phone and provider as you have. That way, when they call you for troubleshooting, you'll have a better idea of how to talk them through it. I had an older friend who wanted to buy a digital camera, and I had her order the same one as mine for that very reason. Whenever she had questions about what went where or which button to push, I could look at my own camera and talk her through it.