Monday, November 29, 2010

Fast away the old tech passes

These days, technology needs frequent updates. If we’re lucky, we get a few years out of a device before whatever it’s designed to do for us can’t be done on that device.

Cellphones are a good example: Analogue became digital became 3G and beyond. Old phones can’t work in the new world. I’ve had five cellphones in my life, and I’ve just moved on to my sixth which, compared to some, is a positively glacial pace of change.

On November 12, 1998, I bought my first cellphone, a PrePay on the Vodafone network (which they’d recently purchased from BellSouth). At the time, it was both New Zealand’s only pre-pay plan and the country’s only digital network.

I stayed on prepay for twelve years because throughout that time my needs didn’t really change, and what I wrote back in 1998 was true for those 12 years:

“…I hardly ever actually NEED a cellphone, but… when I do need a phone, I really need a phone. It seemed silly, though, to sign up for a plan when my needs are so limited right now.”

Throughout that time, I used my phone so little that I probably averaged no more than NZ$10 a month. All I did was receive calls and send the occasional text; I hardly ever made a call. That couldn’t last.

Last year, I got Nigel’s iPod Touch as a hand-me-up when he got an iPhone. I played with it a bit, and found it was really handy for accessing the Internet over our home WiFi network (or public ones, where available). However, it requires WiFi to connect, has no camera or ability to record sound—all useful for the social media stuff I do. But it’s the need for a WiFi connection that was the main problem: A lot of useful information is stuff for mobile devices/smartphones, everything from traffic reports to movie times to Google maps, and none of that was accessible on the iPod Touch without a WiFi connection.

My phone, meanwhile, was 3G, but had limited functionality. For example, because it was a prepay, I couldn’t use it to pay for public parking (meters took cash—which I seldom have—or one could pay by cellphone—provided it wasn’t prepay). There are many other vending machines that allow payment by text, with more sure to follow.

So I was increasingly left out, or left behind, by having a basic phone that did nothing but make and receive calls. That’s now changed: I have an iPhone on a billed account.

My phone usage is unlikely to change much, truth be known, but mobile data—like email—will be handy. By signing the contract, we saved about $400 off the retail price of a phone, so the increase in my monthly charges will pay for that interest free.

The time had come to move on from my old cellphone world, and to merge that with the useful functionality of my iPod Touch. Somehow, I doubt it’ll be twelve years before my next technological shift.

I was reminded that I actually had one more cellphone, a prepay Virgin Mobile I used while in the US a few years back. I gave that to our niece when she when there a few months later, but it's now no longer usable.

No comments: