Retro Phone Journey, Part 2: Background


I recently (December 2021) acquired a brand-new Alcatel Go Flip 4. How did I get here?


First cell phone


Despite the importance of technology in my life, I have rarely been an early adopter. I don't trust most new inventions, and I don't like getting burned by "market forces". (I bought my first music CDs in the mid-1990s, long after that format had become dominant.) I got my first cell phone in 2005. I honestly don't remember what convinced me to do so, but I do remember that it was a cheap candy bar phone (probably Nokia) with a Virgin Mobile prepaid account. I wasn't interested in being roped into a contract, and only later figured out that the "top-up" charges worked out to about the same price as a contract. (Bastards.) I hated texting and avoided it.


First smartphone


In 2006, I worked a job that sent me to various sites around North America. Communicating with the office--both by phone and email--was important, so I was issued a smartphone. It was a brick that had a slide-out physical keyboard. If I remember correctly, it was running some version of Windows Mobile (or whatever it was called at the time). While working that job, I wrote software for handheld Windows devices, which wasn't too unpleasant. When I left that job, I had to give the hefty phone back. As much as I liked the phone, it did not inspire me to cough up the money to get my own.


First flip phone


Several years later, I was living part-time hours away from home, where only Verizon was reliable. This meant getting a new phone. I got another prepaid account, but instead of a candy bar, I got a flip phone this time. I still did not like texting.


First Android smartphone


In 2013, I finally decided it made sense to get a personal smartphone and a contract. The first annoyance was learning that Verizon would not transfer my prepaid line to my new phone. (Verizon would anger me many times over the years.) The phone was a Motorola Droid 2 Global with a lovely slide-out keyboard. I have used Android continually since then. That phone gave me my first experience with planned obsolescence. As with multiple later phones, I would have kept it indefinitely if allowed.


First iPhone


In 2017, I briefly used an iPhone SE for work. I did not enjoy it. The experience did nothing to improve my opinion of the overhyped, overpriced crap "designed in Cupertino". I continue to avoid iOS, but it keeps coming up in some contexts, so I deal with it.


Phucking Phablets


By the late 2010s, most smartphones available through Verizon exceeded 6 inches. This became a problem for me for 2 reasons: 1) I prefer to use my phone one-handed. 2) I prefer to wear my phone in a belt holster. Above 6 inches, these two practices become nearly impossible and definitely unsafe.


I have uncommonly long fingers. If my thumb cannot sweep from bottom to top of a phone, the "phone" is too damn tall. These days, most phones are too damn tall. It's bad enough that you can't wear these beasts on your belt; they don't fit in most pockets, either. If I need to wear a fanny pack, purse, or other bag to carry my device, it might as well be a netbook with a physical keyboard (or a cyberdeck, but that's another topic for later). I kept considering smaller phones, but oddly enough, the few smaller phones out there usually cost *more* than phablets while offering fewer features. They also tended to be "off" brands like Palm.


Leaving Verizon


After around a decade of annoyances, I got fed up with Verizon and switched to T-Mobile. This was mostly due to customer service, which many people agree is better with T-Mobile. However, I immediately got bit by my penny-pinching ways.


Firstly, my Samsung Galaxy 10Ae was a Verizon phone. This meant I could neither port it to T-Mobile nor install another OS on it. (In fact, none of my old phones that still run can accept an alternative OS.) So, I had to get a new phone with T-Mobile.


All available options were huge. I settled on one of the cheapest options, the Moto g Play. Big mistake. I thought I'd be happy with it since I'd had good experiences with Morotola in the past. However, I hated this phone from day one. It's the biggest phone I've ever had. I dropped it more times in the first week I had it than I had dropped any other phone ever. I looked into ways to avoid using it directly, like maybe getting a smartwatch, but the cost/benefit analysis did not look good there. I figured I'd wait a couple of years and get a new phone, hoping they were smaller again.


Wake-up call


Before I even got the Moto g Play paid off, it fell off my desk, dropped a couple of feet, and landed face-down on the metal foot of my desk. When I picked it up, I saw that the screen was shattered. I wasn't even sad that my phone was ruined. I was bummed about being out some money, but I was actually relieved to be rid of that "phone".


I instantly looked up what was available through T-Mobile but was careful to avoid getting locked in again. I considered a Pixel 5a, since they're on the smaller end of phablets, but no, I wasn't going to spend that much for a phone I didn't really want. I want to be able to carry a phone easily and use it with one hand. It seems weird that I have to put effort into finding such a phone, but here we are.


To my surprise, I saw that there were some flip phones available. I decided against the rugget CAT phones since they're pricier and might not be worth it. At a mere $100, I settled on the Alcatel Go Flip 4. For that price, I was willing to take a chance on something that might not work out. And sure enough, there are drawbacks to this decision...


Part 3: Lowered Expectations

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