Dead iPhoneCredit: Nathan Borror (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sketch22/1127556671)

I can afford an iPhone. In some ways, it probably would make my life easier.  But I don’t need one. Am I a freak, a Luddite, or neither?  If you have a smart phone or are considering one, the answer might be useful to you.

Cost Versus Benefits

Although I can afford a smart phone, is it worth the $100 a month it would cost me for a typical data plan? If I bought an iPhone 5 years ago, by this time I would have spent $6,000 just to use it. I can think of many worthwhile things I could spend that money on, including travel and other memorable experiences. So, for comparison, let’s see look at the benefits of these devices.

Connectivity

Many argue that a smart phone is all about connectivity. Connection to the Internet, and to each other, 24 hours a day, wherever you are. Personally, I have difficulty staying connected to the people I am physically with. A tool that helps me connect with people who are not present does not help me with this problem. I have been with friends and acquaintances who zone out in the middle of a conversation, immersed in their phone screen. When you don’t have a smart phone yourself, you notice this behavior more readily. If I had a device, I would probably be more likely to ignore people I am with.

Connectivity has another downside. Having your loved ones always know where you are (via the GPS locator on your phone) is generally a good thing. But... should the government know? How about corporations? Because of geo-tagging, if you post a photo taken with your iPhone on Facebook, anyone who comes across that photo (a "friend" of a friend of a friend) can find out exactly where that photo was taken, and from that information, know exactly where you live?[4] Anonymity is underrated. Because I don’t carry a smart phone, I can walk into a store without announcing myself and my shopping and credit history.

Navigation

Interactive maps are one of the most used smart phone features, and rightly so. But when friends discover I have no GPS on my phone or in my car, they wonder how I can find my way around. I remind them that before such devices, we got along just fine. Were the streets full of lost people wandering cluelessly? Were people mistakenly driving thousands of miles across multiple national borders when attempting a 90 mile drive to the local train station (This actually happened to a women in Brussels when her GPS mistakenly pointed her south instead of north[1]). Printed maps are still available and they are not limited to tiny 4 inch screens. Finally, research shows that the more dependent you become on a GPS, the more you lose your innate sense of direction[2]. This becomes a problem when you misplace your phone or the battery dies. 

Security

Smart phones are powerful devices full of your most sensitive, personal information and people lose them or have them stolen regularly. You need an action plan for when your phone is stolen or lost [3]. Because security threats are always emerging and changing with new technology, you must invest time and energy to guard against identity theft. 

Some might argue that an iPhone actually improves your physical security because of all of the information at your fingertips. Plus, you can use it as a flashlight if buried in an earthquake. A flip phone, however, servers almost the same purpose, at much less cost. 

Conclusion

I get why smart phones are so popular. Wherever you are - at the doctor's office, at a party where you don't know anybody, at a work meeting that bores you, or even while driving, you can actually use your phone to be somewhere else. The entire Internet is available to you. That is really liberating, but it can also be insidious, addicting, and dangerous for some people. For me it would interfere with my ability to be present and I do not have the discipline to limit my use. For those without this problem, more power to you.