Friday, December 17, 2010

Culture: Ode to a Phone

My first cell phone, a 2005-era Nokia 6010, sat retired on 17-December-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In this day and age of throw-away technology, in which electronic devices are considered obsolete after two years at the most, it is remarkable when devices last much longer than that. I try to use things for as long as possible, but it seems like I go through about a portable radio or MP3 player each year--which is why I never get a particularly expensive one.

One device that I did get a decent amount of use from was the first cell phone I ever purchased. After several years of carrying a company "roving" cell phone on business trips, I decided that for a vacation to the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2005 that I wanted to have a phone of my own. Not knowing how long I would want to hang on to it, I went with T-Mobile pre-paid and had to actually buy the phone, a basic Nokia 6010, and decided to get a Seattle number so my relatives could call me as a local number.

That arrangement worked so well that I have kept the SIM card for that account ever since, even after I moved to Canada. It's actually cheaper to maintain the US account and get domestic rates while in the United States--the cost can be as small as $25 per year--than to rove into the United States on a Canadian phone.

Furthermore, I was so used to how the Nokia phone worked that I didn't like the new, basic Sony Ericsson phone I had to buy when opening a Canadian account. So, I had my Nokia 6010 unlocked and have been switching SIM cards at the border ever since, using a Canadian provider in Canada and a US provider in the United States ever since.

Thus, the Nokia 6010 has been my cell phone essentially continuously for more than five years. The amazing thing is that it is still in relatively good physical condition (see the photo above) and seemed to function as new. Sometimes a SIM card wouldn't be quite seated correctly upon a change, but that was always readily addressed by putting in the phone again.

Finally, this past summer, one of the buttons on the phone quit working. It's not a particularly important button, being the upper left button mostly used as the "back" button in the menu system, not for dialing or anything especially important. Thus, for a time, I didn't let it bother me very much. However, I knew it was only a matter of time before something else broke--a five year old cell phone is living on borrowed time.

A few weeks ago, I spotted an especially good deal on an unlocked Nokia 2720 on an eBay auction and put in what proved to be a winning bid. About the only thing that had annoyed me on the Nokia 6010 was occasionally having a button pushed while the phone was in my pocket, or alternately, having to unlock the keyboard before every use. Thus, a very basic flip phone seemed like what I wanted as a replacement, and the Nokia 2720 was what I settled on.

Thus, my first cell phone has now been relegated to backup status--but only after more than five years of quality service. I will be happy if my new cell phone lasts even two-thirds as long as its predecessor.

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