Scarp: Can you outsmart a smartphone? - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Scarp: Can you outsmart a smartphone?

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at mscarp1@cox.net.

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2012 7:41 am | Updated: 12:19 pm, Thu Oct 4, 2012.

Computers? Love them. Use them. And I’ve become a rather prolific author of text messages, taking the opportunity to perfect my grammar and spelling by fighting the urge to abbreviate.

My home and work computers are separated by about 20 to 25 minutes of driving time, so I’m never that far away from getting information from one. And I have a laptop I often take around in case I can’t wait and need to duck into a coffee shop or fast-food outlet to tap into their Wi-Fi.

So, I’m no anti-techie, thank you very much, which is an important preface to saying that I don’t have a smartphone. I don’t want one, don’t need one and have had a simply lovely time chuckling over how the latest craze in them — iPhone 5 — had the complaints start erupting almost as soon as the last guy at the end of that last all-night line got one. Something about maps. More on that in a minute.

Do I doubt smartphones’ ability to provide all kinds of information at your fingertips? Of course not. They are fabulous inventions, and I know that any day now they’re going to come out with one that you can also shave with, if they haven’t already.

My reason for smartphone aversion is simple: I just like saving about $500 a year in mobile Internet access charges by waiting until I get to work, or home, to find out something I really don’t need right this very minute. After all, I’m not a stock broker or an astronaut.

The allure of these wonderful devices, however, is that they make you feel like one of these cool kinds of people. And look like one. Which makes smartphones the 21st century version of the full-size, chrome-covered, four-door, eight-miles-to-the-gallon American sedan of the 1960s: They seated six people, heck — maybe eight thin ones — but usually that Plymouth Fury or Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight only carried Dad back and forth to work.

Of course, back then, gas was about 25 cents a gallon. Today, smartphones have all kinds of fees, plenty of extra costs for various accessories and many of the most desirable apps cost money to download.

I’m not here to speak for anyone but myself; you want a smartphone, you have my blessing, although at this point you may consider me someone who lives without the information these marvelous devices provide. Not so.

For example, as Christmas approaches each year I buy a $7.95 U.S. road atlas for the upcoming year and through my auto-club membership I get maps of the Valley and Arizona for about half that cost each.

They’re kept in the glove box (the atlas is in the back seat). I need to know where something is, I pull over, take one of them out, spend about the time smartphone owners take to look up locations using their GPS systems, find where I’m going and then head back on the road.

Also in the car is the (free) smaller-size phone book, dropped on my doorstep once a year, listing only businesses. I pull over, let my fingers do the walking, find the business, its address and phone number, then check my map if I don’t know where it is. Elapsed time: Two minutes. Value of the experience: Priceless. Literally.

Movie times? Restaurants to choose from? A play or concert coming up? If I’m neither at home nor at work, in boxes on sidewalks and outside businesses all over town are free publications that list this stuff.

Another example that isn’t in print: My favorite movie-theater chain has every one of its films and show times available on recordings accessible by (I hope you’re sitting down) using a phone to actually call a phone number. Low-tech, yes, but hearing the words, “For show times, press 1!” is also free.

Again, I’m no Luddite. Smartphones are cool to use and to have. And judging from all the paeans that filled my Facebook page when Steve Jobs died (I’ve seen less passionate eulogies for people’s relatives), I’m not going to convince too many people of my point of view.

Frankly, though, I just am not inconvenienced in the least by turning to other, quite easily available means to get information while saving the extra bucks it costs just to have and maintain a smartphone.

Naturally, I have friends with smartphones who correctly predict that the day is coming when I will walk into a phone store and find that they no longer sell garden-variety cell phones. Then, one told me, I’ll have to get a smartphone, and “you’ll be amazed by the convenience.”

Oh, I’m sure I will. And I’ll also be amazed by what it costs to be amazed.

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