It’s hard to believe now, but up until about 20 years ago, a wireless phone was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford.
Even in the early 1990s, the cellphone was considered to be a frivolous item, while the landline phone was a necessity.
As much as we hear politicians whining about how poor people have cellphones they don’t deserve, wireless phones are pretty cheap these days. Walmart is selling the TracFone Samsung S150G bundle with double minutes for just $9.98. Add a 60-minute airtime card for $19.98 and get 120 minutes. It’s not an iPhone, but this device can certainly keep you connected for a very low cash outlay. There’s a wireless phone and a plan for every budget, so is the landline really necessary anymore?
When is a cellphone more practical?
These days, most of the time, for many reasons. There are no installation charges and you can take it wherever you go. Today’s smartphones are taking the place of cameras, clocks or GPS devices and can fill in for a computer when you need to go online while on the go.
Young people have been the first to totally cut the landline, because cellphones are so much more practical when you move frequently. When you go from your parents’ home to a college dorm to a fraternity/sorority house to an off-campus apartment within a period of two or three years, you’d spend much more moving landlines than paying for a cellphone contract. A smartphone is also the smart choice for a frequent traveler that’s rarely home long enough to answer a landline.
If your cellphone is your only phone, make sure you have a device that’s reliable and has excellent sound quality. Invest in an extra battery and charger to make sure that your phone never goes dead. Check eBay or Amazon for lower prices on accessories than you’ll find through your carrier.
Generally, the cheapest way to have a high quality cellphone is to sign up for a two-year contract with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. Brand new smartphones can be had for $100 or less, and models just a few months old are often free. Just be sure that you want to stick with the phone—and the carrier—for the full two years. Also, make sure the qualifying plan you sign up for doesn’t have hidden charges or require you to pay for features you don’t need.
Carefully assess your recent usage and consider whether you should continue with your current plan or choose another. If you find yourself texting more frequently, you could be looking at a higher bill if you don’t move up to a plan offering more texting for a fixed fee. If your needs for texting vary from month to month, look into free texting apps like Pinger or TextPlus to use when you’re trying to avoid extra charges.
You have a good reason to stick with your current carrier if you’re being “grandfathered” into a low rate for a plan that works for you. Otherwise, you may find a plan that’s cheaper in the long run from a rival carrier. Sit down at the computer, feed your information into the websites for the major carriers and see which offers you the better deal. The same carrier can be less expensive for you but more expensive for your neighbor. Do the math!
The case for the landline.
This case gets harder to make with every passing year and new innovation. For elderly people who have lived in the same home with the same landline phone for decades, they’re likely to be reluctant to switch to a cellphone, due to both the lack of familiarity and the added expense. They already have the equipment and may be grandfathered into a low monthly rate.
This is unfortunate, because people who are old and/or disabled have the most to gain by getting a mobile phone. Every year, we hear sad stories of people who suffered strokes or disabling injuries and lay on the floor for hours —sometimes days—before help arrived. Sometimes that help arrived too late. If you can’t convince that stubborn senior in your family or neighborhood to get a cellphone, learn how to use it and carry it on them at all times, try to get them to check into a service like Life Alert or the 5Star Responder available for $49.99 and $14.99 per month at www.greatcall.com. The small device can attach to a key ring and allow a senior in distress to reach help with the press of a button.
For the last few years, there has been a mobile phone called the Jitterbug that’s aimed especially at technophobic seniors. These phones feature large numbers, loud speakers and ease of use for $99.99 or $159.99 for the Jitterbug Touch 2 smartphone.
Another reason to have a landline is for business. If you work from home, a landline phone is a legitimate business expense for tax purposes and can offer better connections for important calls. Save money by bundling your landline with other services like Internet and cable TV. AT&T offers a wireless home phone device free with a two-year Internet contract that includes unlimited local and long distance calling for $20 per month. Carefully examine the plans available and evaluate according to your needs. The cheapest plan may wind up costing you in the long run if you have to pay extra for long distance calls.
If you need to place international business calls or have family in far way places, check into Skype. This Internet-based service allows you to place long-distance phone calls either free or for much less than regular carriers. Skype is available for computer, tablet or smartphone and allows you to video chat, too.
If you decide to ditch your landline, you’ll be in good company. More than one quarter of U.S. households now have only cellphones. It’s a brave new world out there, and one that’s changing all the time. With all the choices available, it’s easier than ever to stay connected!