March 25th, 2011

5 Reasons Not To Buy A Smartphone

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**Today’s guest post is contributed by Money Crashers.**

In this day and age when it seems like almost every week there is another “latest and greatest” technology gadget put out on the market, it can be enticing to jump in and pick one up for yourself. This goes for 3D televisions, 14MP digital cameras, and the list goes on.

Another popular item that fits into this list is a smartphone, a mobile device that offers the most advanced computing capability and connectivity.

 While all the additional options offered to you by a smartphone may seem like “must haves” in your everyday life, there are several reasons NOT to purchase a smartphone.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who get the full “bang for the buck” from their smartphones, but I have serious doubts that everyone who owns one is really getting their money’s worth. Below are some of the reasons why you simply shouldn’t purchase a smartphone.

1. They’re Expensive with Ongoing Costs

Any way you look at it, these mobile devices are expensive. While the price range varies greatly, the newest iPhone costs $200 with a two-year contract. This is expensive to begin with in my estimation (considering the cell phone I currently own was free and I have no contract).

The price is also deceiving, mainly because you have to factor in the monthly charge for the iPhone data plan pricing. If you think you’re saving $200 on the price of the phone, but the data plan is $20 more than other data plans and the phone requires a two-year contract, then you’re actually losing money. Before investigating any smartphone, be sure to look into the cost of the data plan over two years to see if you’re really saving any money over other options.

2. Do You Really Need That Much Technology in Your Life?

This is how I look at it – I have a PC at home that I can access at any time, and I own a laptop computer that I can take with me if I need to. I have up-to-the-minute sports scores on my television, as well as up-to-the minute news reports. To be honest with you, I have all the technology that I currently need in my life. I simply do not need the Internet in my pocket 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Do you?

3. Tied Down by the Contract

The next reason not to buy a smartphone is the contract that is usually required for the data plan. Personally, I do not believe in signing a contract for any service that I have, and I am currently not under contract for any of my services, including my cell phone plan, my home high-speed Internet service provider, my satellite TV through DIRECTTV, etc.

Remember, there’s a reason why all these companies want to lock you into a contract. Because of all the intense competition in these industries, prices continue to drop across the board. So do yourself a favor and never sign a contract for any service if you can help it.

4. You Could Have a Misperceived Need

I truly believe that the majority of people who have smartphones think they are a necessity, when in fact they are not. Look at it this way: Twenty years ago, most of us didn’t even have cell phones, and five years ago, I doubt any of us had smartphones. It then stands to reason that if you made it that far in life without a smartphone, there’s a good chance that it is not a true necessity in your current life.

As I stated before, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who make full use of their smartphone capabilities; I just think the majority of people who now own one only think they have a true need for them. As with any large purchase, you need to ask yourself one simple question: Do I really need this in my life?

5. Not as Convenient as You May Think

In my opinion, smartphones really aren’t as convenient as you might imagine. No matter what connectivity speed you have, pages load relatively slowly on smartphones, and navigating them is more a nuisance than anything else. I happen to have big fingers, and I struggle whenever I try to do anything with someone else’s smartphone.

Final Thoughts

As smartphones get faster, easier to use, and cheaper, I might consider one in the future. But at this point in time, I think that owning a smartphone would do nothing more than increase the stress level in my life. In the end, you’ve simply got to decide if owning a smartphone is truly a need in your life, and if the benefits you derive from it are going to outweigh the expense (i.e. it can’t just be about looking cool in front of family and friends).

Do you own a smartphone? What are your thoughts on the benefits in relation to the costs?

David Bakke contributes for the Money Crashers personal finance blog and writes about financial topics like smart shopping, saving money for retirement, and building wealth.

If by chance you already own a smartphone, here are some free tips to get the most out of it:

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  1. Last year I bought a Nexus One. Before that I didn’t even own a cell phone. I paid for it without a contract. I use it as an mp3 player while I am walking, a navigator when I travel, moderate comments on my blog while not at home, and tethered to my laptop wherever I might be. Currently I pay $40 a month for unlimited data but have no cell phone minutes.

    How’s that? A cell phone that I can’t use as a cell phone most of the time unless I set it up to call using the data connection.

    I cancelled my DirectTv several years ago as that surely wasn’t a need. But sometimes you just want a new toy to play with, whether it’s a smartphone, cable TV, or some other service.

    But as you say, no contracts.

    Rick at 10:14 pm on March 25, 2011
  2. I own a smartphone, and I have to agree with a couple of the arguments you mentioned against them. Specifically, they are expensive, and generally tied to a more expensive 2 year contract. I held off for years on getting one simply based on cost. Eventually, I bought the iPhone4 as my first smartphone shortly after it was released. It is completely worth the cost in my life. Could I live without it? Of course I could. However, it adds a huge level of convenience and efficiency to my life. I’m a college student 5 days a week and working another 30 hours a week on top of that. I’m not about to bring my laptop everywhere I go because it is way too bulky and I worry it would be too easy to break it or let it get stolen (plus I’d still need an internet connection); cell phones are discrete and easy to carry around. I’m not about to write an essay on my phone for school, but the smartphone does make it easy to manage files from home while I’m out and about so I can use a computer at school to start an assignment and easily access it when I get back home or vice versa. I can even just whip out my phone while in a study group or between classes to review documents or look up information. Yet that’s just a fragment of how I use my smartphone. It’s a media center for entertainment while waiting around anywhere, or to look up what movies are playing, when, where, and see the trailer, even buy the tickets. It’s a camera that I never forget to bring with me to record videos or take a picture, which can be very handy (ever gotten in a car accident or found yourself wanting to record something that you never anticipated?). It’s a recording device for meetings or lectures, or even just recording a voice memo to yourself so you don’t forget the instructions your doctor gave you, etc.. It helps me stay up to date on emails, friends, and blogs. I can shop from my phone without having to make an extra stop at the store or mall. Lastly, I never have to worry about getting lost or wondering where to go for something good to eat while on a trip or out of town. If I’m going somewhere I’ve never been I can simply look it up and get directions without a map or having to stop and ask for directions.
    If you’re not like me, constantly on the go with too many tasks to catch up on, then save your money for something more worth while in your life. Smartphones do come with a huge price tag, but that’s not to say the value won’t outweigh the cost.

    brian at 2:14 pm on March 26, 2011
  3. 1. They’re Expensive with Ongoing Costs
    My phone was $150 w/ contract, and if I was still on my old plan (I’m on a family plan w/ my roommates) it still only ran $98 a month, 400 minutes a month, unlimited everything, plus insurance coverage on my phone. A small price to pay for a tiny device that can do so much. (IMO)

    2. Do You Really Need That Much Technology in Your Life?
    Knowledge is power, a smart phone puts infinite knowledge at your fingertips, accessible 24/7 on demand. Your phone can be, and should be, supplemental to your own brain.

    3. Tied Down by the Contract
    Pay attention to you contract and don’t over extend yourself, but it’s a phone, not a house, I defaulted on my Sprint contract last year, all they wanted in return was the money I owed on the bill. No extra fees, no account canceling fees, maybe a late fee but they haven’t expressed a desire to charge for that. Seriously, not all contracts will result in the forfeit of your soul and all your worldly possessions, just don’t be dumb about what you agree to.

    4. You Could Have a Misperceived Need
    I’ve been using smartphones/pocket PCs since 2005 (my first ‘smartphone’ was a Palm Treo 650) they are ridiculously handy and endlessly stimulating. My ‘smartphones’ have been my second brain, and when I defaulted on my contract last year, I noticed the effects of not having information on demand (especially losing my GPS) imagine getting lost and having to find out where you were the old school way, asking random people, maps, payphones etc. Or having a thought you couldn’t complete due to forgetting a random fact ‘Who was that guy in that movie?’, ‘what was the name of that bar I was at last night?’, ‘what weight oil should I use in my car?’, ‘how far is the gas station from here?’, ‘how do you spell that word?’ etc. When you have information at you demand of any kind, it’s empowering, you just never realize how much it is until you’ve had it and lost it.

    5. Not as Convenient as You May Think
    That is a matter of opinion, and also entirely situation dependent. Just because you don’t know how to use something doesn’t make it useless or any less handy. That’s like saying “Laptops aren’t convenient because I don’t know how to make it do what I want.”

    Michael at 1:54 pm on May 16, 2011
  4. Thank you for the article.I agree with you.It is trend to own a smart phone.But some functions we do not need,really.

    Anonymous at 7:50 pm on May 23, 2011
  5. I got my smartphone, an LG Optimus, on sale at Target for $70. I use Virgin Mobile which costs $35 a month for unlimited data and 300 minutes. I’m learning the apps. I didn’t even realize it had the voice navigation. I didn’t have3 a GPS unit and now I have this included. This avoids at least some of the warnings. By the way, I like the new email credit warnings feature.

    Bernie at 10:15 am on January 7, 2012
  6. Hi!

    I just bought an IPhone yesterday, and I’m not sure that was a good idea. My friend told me to get one.

    I owned a Blackberry a few years ago, and I ended up using it way more than I should have. After I graduated college I then worked on a farm, where I noticed I would like have to have it by my side at like 5am in the mornings when I woke up just so I could check my email, while all my coworkers were still sleeping or doing something more valuable with their time! I actually felt kind of dorky. I think it sort of took me out of the real world.

    Sure it’s convenient if you’re checking your email about a sublet and need to respond or get in touch with someone ASAP, but I think I might get rid of my new IPhone.

    I think it’s easy to develop an addiction to a Smartphone. It makes it easier to only look at the world through your phone, rather than pay attention to what’s going on around you. Plus, I think the cost (which seems invisible to me because my mom is paying for it) really adds up over time and could be kind of unnecessary.

    I think it’s super fun because I can like play Words with Friends on it, however, I think unless you have the right discipline and ability to distance yourself away from this huge hunk of technology, it might serve as kind of a detriment.

    Things I like about it are the nice GPS unit, the CAMERA, and the overall glitzy feel to it. Things I don’t like are the fear of establishing an addiction, and a decreased quality of life.

    Michelle at 7:15 am on February 23, 2012
  7. What would you all think if you had an ipad or an Ipod Touch to supplement a feature (non-smart) phone? This way you still have access to the internet wherever you have wi-fi. I don’t think it’s too much to have both in your pockets or purse. Keys, wallet, cell phone, itouch. Four pockets, four items!

    Lowell at 6:08 pm on March 25, 2012
  8. I am about to buy a smartphone as my current one is 5 years old, but now your article set me thinking. Truth is, my sony ericsson w610 is in perfect shape but I think a smartphone would make my life a little easier… Or is it just the influence of other smartphone owners?

    Billy at 4:32 am on April 1, 2012
  9. I totally agree with you. You forgot to mention that the toxic addictions that the internet brings is now in your pocket 24/7. Yes, people, I’m talking about pornography and gambling. Shameful addictive behavior rhat has ruined countless marriages and relationships. If you thought you had a problem before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Bob at 3:19 pm on May 10, 2013

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