Cell Phone Culture

By Mike on 12:15 pm

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I'm probably one of the few people my age who remembers the original cell phones. My dad's job as a civil engineer required him to travel to construction sites frequently. Therefore, he was given a car phone to stay in touch with the office. There were the first mobile phones. A chunky unit that sat on the center console. This was at a time when most shifters were still on the wheel. In the back, under the floor, sat a transmitter/receiver unit that was about the size of your typical after market car audio amp and it had an antenna attached to the side window.

Things have sure come a long way since then, with units that put Captain Kirk's communicator to shame, and then there's the iPhone that has everything but the kitchen sink (kitchen sink coming for rev 2.0). In fact, cell phones have become so common place, it's given rise to a whole new culture.

I admit that these things are the bane of my existence. I own one on a prepaid plan. I won't say the company but it's not Bell or Rogers. I rarely use the things since I'd rather talk to people in person or through email. I pay $10 a month for the service which allows my so bank minutes and I don't accept incoming calls through it. Basically, it's for emergency use only. My fellow university students however seem to spend hours with their phones. I don't know who they find to talk to. Talking, texting, taking pictures and video to send to their friends. This culture seems to span from the pre-teens right to seniors. Sure, it's put people more in touch with each other but of course, there's the obvious downside. One of the greatest problems I think we've all encountered is cell phones and driving. The hit TV show Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel proved that talking on a cell phone while driving can be just as dangerous as driving over the legal alcohol limit. Numerous traffic accidents, sometime deadly, have been caused by the fact that people cannot wait until their destination to talk to their buddies. Hands free units don't help much either. This is the primary reason why cell phone use while driving should be banned. There cannot possibly be anybody people need to talk to so urgently that they cannot pull over or wait until they reach their destination. Then there's people who talk on them in restaurants, movie theaters, lecture halls, etc to the irritation of many. Some social scientists have said that this is due to the fact that there are no set rules for etiquette for cell phone use. However, it all boils down to common courtesy.
Younger and younger children are now getting cell phones too. Most teens already own them and now cell phone providers are targeting children as young as five. Parents like it because they can keep in touch with their children, without having to actually see them. There have been rare cases that they have come in handy, such as emergencies at schools, like the Dawson College incident. However, for the most part, they are a irritant in the hands of teens and children. They go off in class, distracting the learning process. Many will even answer their phones rather than just shutting them off. This is even the case in universities. Do their friends not know they're supposed to be busy at that time?

Cost is also a major problem, particularly here in Canada. In the US, access to the iPhone's services would cost consumers $60 per month. That's pretty fair considering a similar high speed/phone landline package would cost that much. In the US, the iPhone's plan with it's 4000 minutes and unlimited internet/phone package through a land line would cost pretty much the same. That's 66 hours per month of talk time. Here in Canada, the iPhone service offered in the US, with unlimited internet but cut down to only 1000 minutes would cost nearly $295/month. Insiders have cited this as the primary reason the iPhone has not been introduced to Canada. Apple simply knows that very few people would pay such a high monthly cost to use the device when a laptop with Skype would probably offer more functionality. Economists have cited that cell phone costs in Canada are high due to lack of competition. There are only three companies providing mobility service to Canada: Bell, Telus, and Rogers. There were four until Rogers bought out Fido. If Telus had not changed its mind about the Bell merger, there would have only been two. For some reason, the CRTC seems to favour duopolies when it comes to telecommunications. However, consumers are loosing out since lack of competition does not encourage innovation. I expect to see service costs decline duo to the massive draw of the iPhone but I expect prices to still remain higher than they are in the US. In my opinion, and despite what the market says, I feel that cell phones have yet to prove themselves a viable alternative to land lines, simply due to cost factors and service availability. For land lines, local calls are free, long distance is cheaper, and you don't pay for incoming calls. Now, in many countries, particularly in the old world, this isn't the case. However, here in North America, cell service remains vastly more expensive.

Even though I'm a big tech fan, I feel that in many ways, the cell phone is a device the world, at least here in North America, can do without.

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