Since then, I've been revisiting the issue from time to time. I've come up with several additional things I could do with a smartphone that I can't easily do without one, such as:
- Looking things up to answer questions that occur to us while we're away from home.
- Using it as a GPS. (Yes, I can print out maps and directions from Google ahead of time, but only if I know where I'm going. If I make a trip on the spur of the moment, or get lost or detoured, having something that could steer me back to safety would be useful.)
- Geocaching, a kind of real-life treasure hunting game. It looks like fun, but I've never had a chance to try it because it requires a GPS-enabled device.
- Electronic coupons and rewards apps, such as SavingStar.
- Taking pictures of things for future reference. For instance, I could snap a photo of my car to remind myself where I parked, or take a picture of an interesting plant so I could look it up later.
- Keeping my calendar and address book up to date. (I currently use paper versions, but they're harder to update. The squares in the date book are too dinky to write much in, and the only way to update the address book is to cross out an entry and write a new one, so I eventually run out of lines.)
- Keeping a list of gift ideas for friends and family that's always on hand, so I can jot down ideas as I think of them (or snap pictures of possible gifts).
However, I've discovered that it's actually possible to get data with this same plan on an as-needed basis: just $5 for a one-day pass, or $10 for one week. And we probably wouldn't have to do this more than a couple of times a month; a lot of the activities listed above don't even require an Internet connection, and others (such as downloading coupons) could be done at home, using my home wireless network. So overall, the cost wouldn't be too bad. (And knowing that I have to pay for my data by the day would probably keep me from using the phone too often, so I wouldn't risk turning into one of those people who's unable to look up from the damn thing.)
So all in all, I've more or less decided that this will probably be the year we finally take the plunge and get a (basic, prepaid, refurbished) smartphone. Which will put us only, what, about seven years behind everyone else in the Western world.
Now, you can laugh at me all you like for being so far behind the times. But I firmly maintain that my wait-and-see approach to new technologies is actually a highly ecofrugal choice. All those people who rushed out and bought the very first iPhone when it first came out ten years back paid $500 or for a slightly clunky first-generation device with 4GB of memory. The phone I've got my eye on right now has 16GB, a far superior camera, Bluetooth, and all sorts of other features—for $150. In other words, by dragging my feet on this decision, I'm getting a much better product at a much lower price.
Being a late adopter has benefited me in other ways, as well. For example, I've never gotten around to buying a Blu-Ray DVD player, because I'm not that picky about video quality, and the higher resolution wouldn't make much difference on my smallish TV anyway. I used to figure I'd probably have to get one at some point, because by the time our old DVD player bit the dust, standard-resolution players would no longer be available—but by now, pretty much everything we want to watch can be streamed anyway. So by the time this player conks out, we won't need a new one at all. Voilà—by putting off buying this new gadget, we avoided having to buy it at all!
These experiences were the inspiration for my latest Money Crashers article, which is all about the benefits of being a late adopter. I don't spend the entire piece bragging about how much money and time I've saved by waiting to adopt new technology (though I'll admit to doing it a little bit); instead, I discuss why late adopters, or "laggards," are more common and more visible these days, and how being one can help you save money and avoid tech-related stress.
Here's the full article (complete with an incredibly clunky title chosen by the editorial staff, not by me): How Being a Laggard or Late Adopter of Technology Can Save You Money. Please do your best to ignore the frequent use of the phrase "late adopters or laggards" through out the article, as well; apparently my editors are convinced that the word "laggard," which I've never used once in my life until I wrote this piece, is a term that people might actually search for, and so they need to stuff it into the article as often as possible.