Hi, my name is Phil, and I am still a landline user.
There, I’ve said it. I feel like I’ve admitted a dirty little secret–maybe I should even enter a 12 step program of some sort. After all, I’m a long time, devoted tech guy and lover of gadgets of all kinds.
I was a very early and heavy business user of cell phones, and loved having one. Not quite as early as the initial “brick” stage, but soon thereafter. And of course the mobility provided by cell phones and laptops initially and now Smartphones has been a boon to business and personal productivity worldwide. Particularly in the third world where communications infrastructure was way behind, wireless technology has enabled these areas to leapfrog over fixed wired technologies entirely into the wireless present.
Wired telephone service definitely appears to be going the way of the dodo bird. A study by the CDC shows one in four households the US now do not have a wired phone, and more than 50% of adults age 25-29 have only a wireless phone.
Wireless technologies have changed our lives and for the most part for the better. There is no doubt about this.
I love having the mobility of a cell phone and the computing power of a Smartphone most of the time. But there are some downsides to our developing total commitment to this new technology, which is why I still have multiple landlines at my disposal:
To me, this is the biggest reason to still maintain a landline. If I’m talking to a client, especially for the very first time I much prefer the predictable QOS a wired phone line offers. Mobile phone technology has improved dramatically over the years, with much greater spectrum available and technology that can more efficiently use it. But the mobile phone companies have generally used this added spectrum to add data services and stuff ever more calls into a fixed amount of bandwidth. As a result, the call quality of mobile phones is still highly variable and often much lower quality than a POTS line. Add in dropped calls, dead zones and the like and conducting business over a mobile phone can be still be frustrating. Dr. Marty Cooper, generally considered the “Father of the Cell Phone” said in a April 2013 Interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune: “My focus is to improve cellular, get rid of the dropped calls. There is no excuse for that now that the technology has been around for years. ” Mobile phones are ubiquitous, of course, so everyone understands that spotty quality and dropped calls are part of the game. But it isn’t the most professional way to conduct business. I actually have a decision to make myself soon. With traditional landline technology rapidly going the way of the Dodo Bird, even the old tech giants like AT&T are rapidly pushing folks off the old analog system (either through incentives or dictates) to VoiP. I’ve been thinking about converting my 2 analog lines to the AT&T Uverse VoiP product due to several advantages. But VoiP can have the same type of QOS issues that we still find with the cell system, so I haven’t yet leaped.
Some save money by using their mobile phone exclusively and eliminating landlines. If you are a heavy cell phone user by preference or necessity that probably makes a lot of sense. But if most of your calls don’t really NEED to be made on the go, sometimes the opposite is true. A standard, flat fee landline can be pretty cheap compared to most cell phone plans–again, if you really don’t require the constant mobility. In addition, prepaid cell service has become very inexpensive (in the US, at least), saving considerable money vs. many contract cell phone plans while also provide greater flexibility in switching service and phones or dropping service. Depending on your own usage patterns and needs, the mobile service-only option isn’t always the cheapest.
Yes, this is an old technology and going away fast. And there are online solutions to get around not having a landline and physical fax machine. But when fax is called for, it’s still pretty convenient to do it the old-fashioned way.
Courtesy & Safety
Unfortunately along with YOU having the ability to communicate from anywhere so do the hordes of people around you. Does she really need to be on that call (loudly) while checking out in front of you in the grocery store? Or check that email or text while flying down the freeway at 75 mph? And the very personal things people will say on a mobile phone in public never cease to amaze me. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I once had a guy Googling on his Smartphone as I tried to interview him for a job.
Ability to “Get Away From it all”
After call quality, this is the next most important reason I don’t rely exclusively on a mobile phone. If you don’t’ have a landline as your primary number everyone assumes you’re always available–and I pride myself very available anyway. While there are obvious benefits to this total connectedness, at times it can get to be too much. In the not that distant past people understood if you took you an hour to return a phone call. Now many folks are upset if you don’t respond to any type of communication instantly. All of this technology has accelerated business and has made us more efficient in many ways. But I do believe that it’s also important have some uninterrupted time be able to recharge your (personal) batteries, or do some solitary strategic thinking about an important problem. Being disconnected for just a while–or even the notion that you CAN if you wanted to– can be really helpful in many ways.
The bottom line is that 98% of us don’t really “NEED” all of this mobile technology. For doctors and others in some type of emergency response profession it’s an absolute requirement. But for most of us it’s really a want and a convenience, not an absolute need. I’m not sure many people understand that these days.
Most of us really enjoy the power and convenience of our modern mobile technology. But if you ever have a day where you feel like you’re overwhelmed by it all, try backing off a bit. Leave your phone at your desk (or at least in your car!). Go for a bike ride, read a book at the coffeehouse or hit the gym for an hour or two. Get totally disconnected, if only for a short while. Go Old School. You might actually find it nostalgic and refreshing.
So that’s my rather obscure opinion on the state of communications technology–am I just being silly? Post a comment and let everyone know what you think.