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Get Smart – Why your next phone should be Smart

Posted: March 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Debatable, General | 7 Comments »

I’m beginning a series on a topic that I think is applicable to everyone, Cell Phones. Nowadays, just about everyone’s got one, but what one should you buy the next time your contracts up? Should you get a Smart Phone or a “Feature” phone (aka. Dumb Phones)? Should you go Android or iPhone? I will be posting some articles over the next week that offer different opinions on these topics. Today’s is a guest post from one of my friends, Jeremy Horneck. He will be offering his case for why you should get a smart phone and tomorrow my brother, Micah Tanis, will post on why you do not need a smartphone. Take it away, Jeremy.


The world is becoming smart. Well, at least the world is starting to use smart phones. The individuals using those phones may or may not be getting smarter. Currently, the smart phone market is filled with a variety of phones with diverse features. This diversity provides the ability to get a phone perfectly suited to an individual’s needs, but brings with it a confusingly large array of choices. To get to the meat of choosing which operating system to use we first must understand what a smart phone is and whether it’s worth having. To do this we have to answer three questions: 1) What does a smart phone do? 2) How much does a smart phone cost? 3) How will a smart phone help me?

What does a smart phone do?

The most common line that divides smart and dumb phones today is their internet connectivity. Most cell phones have some level of internet connectivity, but a smart phone uses the internet as its primary source of data. This allows the phone to share (sync) data between a home computer, the internet, and the phone. A good example of this is the calendar. The calendar on my smart phone syncs with my Google calendar, which can be accessible by me, my wife, my boss, etc. This functionality is based on internet connectivity. A smart phone allows access to the internet itself. If you are looking for a place to eat you can pull up Google maps. If you can’t figure out what other movie that actor was in you can use IMDB. These core features are all internet related.

In the next post we will answer the all important question, “How much does a smart phone cost?”

How much does a smart phone cost?

This question is not easy to answer. Cell phone costs can be deceptive. In order to get a good understanding of cost we need to factor in several levels of cost. First, there is the cost of the phone itself. I just bought the Verizon iPhone for $200. You could purchase last year’s AT&T iPhone for $49 (free if you were willing to accept a refurbished phone with a cosmetic blemish). The new HTC Thunderbolt comes out on Verizon later this month for $250. However, the cost of the phone is the least important of the three levels.

When you purchase a phone for this price the carrier subsidizes your purchase. The Verizon iPhone actually costs $599, but the carrier is willing to pay $400. In exchange for this deal you basically sell your soul to Verizon for 24 months. To get out of this contract you have to 1) Lie 2) Move out of the country 3) Die or 4) Pay a $350 early termination fee. That brings us to the second cost is the cost of the plan. The lowest plan is generally going to be $40 per month on the major providers. You will be paying this for 24 months. The third level of cost is the data plan. Generally, this will cost $20-30; most carriers require that you have a data plan if you have a smart phone. Lower level carriers offer lower prices (Sprint, T-Mobile [for now], and regional carriers) while upper level carriers offer better phones and coverage (Verizon and AT&T).

Because of these three price levels, your final cost for an iPhone on Verizon (or another smart phone on another carrier) is actually somewhere in the neighborhood of $1900 when you factor in the 2 years of data and voice that you are obligating yourself to. Of course this doesn’t figure in extra minutes or txt messages. For some reason, the carriers don’t want you to think about that number and instead will push $200. Lest we be too shocked at the high price, let’s also consider that a dumb phone will end up costing about $1000.  Of course, there are measurable cost savings with having a smart phone (e.g. you can find free txt messaging solutions that will save you $5-10 per month) as well as other expenses (e.g. I’m going to find it difficult not to plunk down $1.99 for Angry Birds Rio on my iPhone this evening).

Now that we have the depressing numbers we will look at the usefulness of a smart phone.

How will a smart phone help me?

This question requires a lot of information because different people will use the smart phone in different ways. To give some examples of how a smart phone can help you we will look at several case studies over the next few posts. These case studies are real events that took place in my life where I found my smart phone indispensible.

Case Study #1 – A Picture is worth $1900 over the course of 2 years

Imo, one of the greatest advantages of smart phone is their high quality cameras. In October my wife and I became parents of a little boy. This is the first great-grandson for 6 living great-grandparents and 4 living grandparents. He’s also the first nephew for 3 uncles and 2 aunts. To top it all off he is stinking adorable. Pictures have been in high demand. If there isn’t a new one up every few days or so, I feel the wrath of angry grandmothers. On my iPhone I have a couple apps for photography. My favorite is Instagram. Instagram takes square format pictures and grunges them up with some retro looking filters. It makes for some cool pictures that can be quickly posted to Facebook. I can get out my phone, take a picture, and post it in less than 20 seconds. I think that is great. So does my mom.

Case Study #2 – Where’s the beef-like substance?

Two weeks ago my wife was working in Milwaukee on a Saturday morning. Wanting to spend time with her, I went with her and waited at Starbucks for her to get done so we could go on a date. While I waited I paid for my drink at Starbucks using their gift card app, which allows me to pay my Starbucks bill without even getting out my gift card. I sat down and watched some English Premier League games on my app. When Anna was done with work we went to the best burger place in Milwaukee, Sobelman’s. I had a  Groupon for a $15 meal that I was planning on using my Groupon app to redeem. Unfortunately, everyone else in Milwaukee had the same idea. Because the restaurant was so full that we would have waited at least an hour to get in we decided to go somewhere else. We went to another burger place instead, Stack’d. Unfortunately they were understaffed and we were told we would have an hour wait there. We needed to find another place to eat. I pulled out my iPhone and fired up Yelp!. The Yelp! app gave me a few ideas to eat (one of which was closed in spite of their posted hours saying they were open). We ended up eating at Wicked Hop. The food was not good. However, I knew that going in because I was able to access reviews from my phone; unfortunately, I chose to ignore them. While we were sitting at the table waiting for our check I was able to post my scathing review on Yelp!. Not really a happy ending, but it reviews have helped in the past.

#3 – To do or not to do, that is the question

I’m not really an organized person. I’m about to embark on the next stage of my career path and would like to do a better job of being organized. To help me in that endeavor I have been learning about the GTD method of time management. At its root GTD is about organizing everything you need to do into specific folders. There is no “GTD tech” and the founder of the method claims that it is tool agnostic. The important thing is to use tools that you enjoy. Since there are no tools I enjoy more than my MacBook Pro and my iPhone I searched for tools in those contexts. What I found after a week of searching was This great (free) service provides internet based to do lists with tons of customization. When I put a to do on my toodledo list it is automatically sent to my iCal on my phone. There is also an iPhone app ($3.99) that will sync with the web app. I haven’t fully implemented this, but I already feel more organized.

#4 – A penny saved is a penny to spend on more apps

Not only am I not very organized by nature; I’m also not very thrifty. My iPhone is loaded with several money saving apps. Mint helps me budget. Groupon helps me save money while still doing fun stuff. Clearcheckbook helps me not bounce checks. Square allows me to take credit card payments on my phone. Red Laser allows me to comparison shop on the go. There are countless smart phone tools that can help with saving money (which is important if you’re dropping $1900 over the course of 2 years:). For more on financial growth and to get prepared for the future, we recommend to got to Skrumblewebsite.



That is a summary of smart phones. You need to make the decision for yourself. I think it is important to realize that smart phones (like all technology) make fun, useful tools, but they are horrible gods. I love my iPhone. I recommend it to people all the time. There are lots of great things to do with it. However, I need to realize that more than anything else in my life, my iPhone can be my idol. That’s kind of sad, but it is true. I hope my summary gives you an idea of what a smart phone can be used for without elevating it to a status that it is certainly not worthy of.

What are your thoughts? Is smart phone the way to go? Let us know in the comments.


7 Comments on “Get Smart – Why your next phone should be Smart”

  1. 1 Jared said at 9:06 am on March 24th, 2011:

    $1.99 for Angry Birds RIO! Holy cow…this should be a separate point in why you should buy Android – Free…

    Great post!

  2. 2 Austin Hoffman said at 3:39 pm on March 24th, 2011:

    $1.99 for Angry Birds gets even more ridiculous when you realize there are still ads…

  3. 3 Jeremy said at 10:39 pm on March 24th, 2011:

    It’s only free on the Amazon market though, right?

  4. 4 Jeremy said at 10:40 pm on March 24th, 2011:

    I have managed to resist the urge so far. Minecraft has occupied my time instead.

  5. 5 Tech 4 The Rest of Us » Blog Archive » Why I can stick with my “Dumb” Phone said at 8:55 am on March 25th, 2011:

    […] is the second post in a series on Smart vs Dumb phones. Yesterday was the first post, “Get Smart – Why your next phone should be Smart“. Today’s is a guest post from Micah Tanis on why you can stick with a […]

  6. 6 Jared said at 9:39 am on March 28th, 2011:

    Yes on the Amazon Market…which is surprisingly more awesome that I had thought it was going to be,

  7. 7 Tech 4 The Rest of Us » Blog Archive » Why your next phone should be an iPhone said at 8:15 am on March 30th, 2011:

    […] week I ran two articles on why your next phone should be a smart phone / dumb phone. This week I will post two articles on why your next phone should be an iPhone / […]

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