Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Electronic Drool Aid Asset Test

Cell phones are a particularly egregious example of planned obsolescence-- lots of people seem to just upgrade their phones every year or two, taking whatever low-priced or free phone their service provider happens to be offering. My own approach has been a bit different-- when I first decided I wanted a cell phone, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted, and I didn't buy a phone until I found one that was right. It cost about $450-- so I bought it. I did have moments of groaning over how crazy it was to spend that much on a phone, but it was a great phone.
I used it for about 2 years and would still be using it now, probably, if it hadn't been stolen.
I loved it so much that I couldn't bear to replace it with a different model, but there was no way I was paying $450 again, or even more to buy it without a contract, so I bought a used one on eBay for much less-- unfortunately, it didn't always work very well. But I was still so in love with it that I had it repaired, twice, rather than replacing it. But that probably wasn't a cost-effective way of dealing with it.
After a while, the problem kept recurring and got worse: every time I picked up a call, I'd end up disconnecting it instead. It got so ridiculous that one of my friends, the one who was probably being hung up on the most often, gave me her old phone when she got a new one. I never liked itall that much, but it served the need for over a year, until recently, when the charger I had for it stopped working. I probably could have bought a new charger from a guy on the street for $5, which was how my friend had originally bought it. But I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do:

  • Cancel my cell phone service, since I now have a landline again, as well as a Blackberry for work that I could use for personal calls, within reason?
  • Buy a nice new phone?
  • See what kind of phone I could get for free by renewing my contract?
  • Wait for the iPhone?
  • Buy a charger and keep using the old phone?
But what about the fact that I now have this Blackberry? I really don't like using the Blackberry as a phone or a PDA, but the email function has become a necessity for work, unfortunately. This has led to me carrying around a ridiculous number of gadgets:
  • PalmOS PDA-- used for recording expenses in Pocket Quicken, Calendar and To-Do list, Addresses, Memos, encrypted storage of passwords, etc., e-books and dictionaries, a small amount of music, spreadsheets, worldwide weather forecasts, currency conversions and time zones, photos and movies of niece and nephew, restaurant and movie listings for NY and other cities, and other occasional random uses like an inflation calculator, calorie counter, constellation maps, flags of the world, wi-fi web browsing, solitaire, crossword puzzles and other games, and piano and guitar chords (not that I actually play these instruments, but it's a neat thing to have.) As you can see, this is something I really use! See this post for the complete history of money I've spent on Palm Pilots!
  • Digital Camera-- you never know when you'll need to snap a photo
  • iPod-- I rarely carry this around unless I'm taking a long plane journey. Otherwise I prefer to stay tuned into my surroundings.
  • Cellphone
  • Blackberry
Some of my devices do more than one thing, but often not well enough to get rid of the device that does only that thing and does it well. But I'd really like to cut back on carrying around and charging the batteries of all these devices! I can't get rid of the Blackberry, but I started to consider getting a Treo for all the rest. I love my current PDA and don't really want to stop using it, but a Treo with a big memory card would serve as a phone and a PDA, as well as being good enough for day to day music and photo needs. And getting the latest Treo would satisfy my inner geek needs. The more I thought about it, and the more I poked around online to research it, the more I wanted one! Unfortunately only Cingular sells the model I want so far, so I couldn't just renew my contract to get a good price on the Treo unless I moved my number over to Cingular. I've heard horror stories from a lot of people who have done this, so I want to just stick with T-Mobile and not complicate my life. But that means getting an unlocked phone, which would be about $450.
Compromise: buying a lightly used Treo on eBay... which is what I just did, explaining part of my higher than usual "miscellaneous" expense category for March.
I'm hoping that this Treo works out better than the last phone I bought on eBay. So far, it works well, and though I miss the larger touchscreen on my old Clie, I like the compactness of the Treo and the ease of being able to automatically dial every contact in my address book. The only thing that frustrates me is that I could use the device for email too, but T-Mobile's data plans are way too expensive. There is no way I'm doubling my monthly cell phone cost just for the convenience of occasionally checking my personal email or browsing the web. Especially since I can use my Blackberry for that. But now I loathe that turd of a Blackberry even more whenever I compare it to my shiny little Treo!

This is yet another thing I really hadn't planned to spend money on at this point. And of course now that I have it, I'll want some kind of case, and I've already had to spend a few bucks on new versions of some of the software I use. It's also time to go through the gadgets I'm not using any more and try to sell some of them on eBay, so perhaps that will help soften the blow a bit. Otherwise, I'm hoping my recently reawakened inner gadget freak will go back into hibernation so I can actually start saving money on a regular basis again! But my CD player turned out not to have survived my move-- no surprise, as it was a college graduation present and was already getting a bit wonky last summer. And with the extra space and more frequent visitors I have in my new apartment, watching DVDs on my 12" laptop isn't as satisfying as it used to be. I do kind of have a yen to get a bigger monitor that I could wire up to my stereo, and an extra set of speakers so I'll have good sound in the living room and the bedroom, and maybe a wireless router and an AirPort card so I can blog and listen to music while sitting outside, and an external hard drive so I can burn more music.... AAARRGH, I want a HOME THEATER SYSTEM!!! Must stop now!!!

What are your favorite electronic toys, a.k.a. productivity tools? How much money have you spent on them?


Contemplations of a Woman said...

I also have Tmobile and want the Treo - the pda and phone in one is what attracts me ! There is a store near my job in Manhattan that said they could give me a brand new unlocked one for $200 bucks ..humm

anyway - love your blog ! keep up with good work sis

HC said...

Best post title ever! Hee.

I probably should have a PDA, but I've never wanted the burden. My gadgetry is normally limited to my Nano and my ancient (yet still reliable) Motorola phone.

Anonymous said...

Bronx chica favorite electronic toys so far is my cellphone(verizon) and mp3 player(sandisk). I hate Ipods and blackberries but may need to be ONE OF THOSE
Also your I may add that I love reading your has helped me alot along with doing research..You go girl!

frugal zeitgeist said...

I have a Blackberry; that covers PDA, cell phone, and email. I don't own an iPod or any other portable personal electronic stuff.

Anonymous said...

Bronx chica again..oh by the way, my birthday is on 4/5 and I have been an avid reader since finding your website in marie clair magazine...thanks again for your blog and God Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Until recently I carried both a Treo, which I used as a phone and PDA, and a Blackberry. I replaced both with the Blackberry Pearl, which is less bulky than either and works better. I LOVE the Pearl. That said, I didn't use the Palm functions of the Treo as much as you seem to--I carry a paper day planner for most stuff. And I still carry an iPod.

Anonymous said...

Why can't you swap get a Treo 700p to at least replace the Blackberry (email/calendar) and Palm OS PDA? Obviously it could also replace your cell phone as well.

Anonymous said...

I have a Motorola Q from Verizon. It is my cellphone, work phone, email sync, and text moguel. I used to have Cingular, but I got rid of that phone since work pays for the Verizon one. If I ever go over what's "reasonable", I just pay my office for it. Pay for it yourself to upgrade your Blackberry to a Treo.... that way you only carry 1 item... and you love it!

Madame X said...

I wish I could ditch the Blackberry but my company won't support the Treo...

Unknown said...

Treo...650 yet thinking about the new 700 series..iPOD as an essential for entertainment since ditching the TV and cable 16 months ago...My PC and mobile broadband card to reach the outside world and my little radio for local programing and news.

Anonymous said...

I switched from Virgin Mobile to Cingular and kept my number. It was a very easy process, no kinks at at. If your T-Mobile contract is up or almost up, I would consider it. Although I live in Ohio so Cingular coverage might not be the same and of course, T-Mobile has to release the number so they could always complicate things.

Anonymous said...

I lug the following electronic gadgets:

1. Palm m130
2. Video iPod
3. Camera
4. Cell phone

Was thinking about getting an all-in-one PDA, but it's just too expensive. All I do is waste time charging and synching these separate items. Heard great things about the Pearl though. You should check if your company has a corporate discount/deals with providers. That's how a friend of mine got the Pearl.

Anonymous said...

I used to have a PDA that I loved, loved, loved. I especially loved the database program into which I entered information about my favorite restaurants (hours, driving directions, favorite dishes, dishes that weren't so good), measurements I always forget (size of AC filter, windows, etc.), and stuff like that.

But one day it got ruined in the rain, so I bought another one on ebay. And then that died. And I really hate spending hundreds of dollars on a regular basis, so I'm trying to use various "hipster PDAs" (stacks of cards) to replace the important stuff.

Currently I have a digital camera that is tiny and fabulous and a laptop computer. I now drag both of them on vacations because I can upload pictures onto my laptop and I can also type my travel journal into it more quickly than I can write. Between my work computer and my laptop, I generally have a place to check e-mail and web pages.

I used to have a cell phone when my boyfriend needed one for a job and it cost the same to have two as to have one, but now I do without. I still miss it when we split up while shopping or any other time. I still hate the sound quality on cell phones, otherwise I might switch from a landline to a cell phone, but I'm not in the mood to pay for both.

My boyfriend has the whole computer as stereo, DVD player, etc. thing going on and a wireless router and I definitely enjoy taking advantage of that. He spends a lot of time fixing things, though, so if I was on my own I'd do those things some other way.


While I was reading your entry, I was thinking that what you really need is a utility belt like Batman and Robin have!

Another suggestion is to make your own case if you can sew, quilt, work leather, or anything like that. I crocheted a case for my boyfriend's iPod--just a deep pocket with a very long flap. He puts the whole thing in a baggie, too, if he thinks there's a danger of getting wet. You could sew a belt-loop thing on the back if you wanted to keep it on a belt. Or you could sew a ring to it if you wanted to be able to clip it to something, like to part of your purse.