Ninety percent of adults own a cell phone and more than 60 percent of them own a smartphone. However, 20 percent of smartphone owners say the cost is a financial burden. So, is it worth the extra money? Or would a lower cost cell phone adequately serve your needs?
The initial cost of a cell phone is less than $100, while most smartphones cost between $200 and $500. Smartphone calling plans include monthly data access charges that boost the costs at least $30 higher than most cell phone plans. Data access charges can run still higher, two to three times as much (or more) if your favorite tasks use a lot of data.
So how do you decide whether a smartphone is worth the additional cost? First of all, let’s consider what cell phones can and cannot do.
Cell phones can make voice calls and send text messages. Most cell phones can also take photos, but usually of lower quality than smartphones. Finally, cell phones are smaller, have a longer battery life, and don’t break as easily as smartphones if dropped.
Cell phones cannot be used for video phone calls, accessing the internet, reading or sending email, or using mobile apps.
So, what can a smartphone do that a cell phone cannot that might make it worth the higher cost? The following list of tasks are the most common uses for a smartphone:
Most popular smartphone tasks
- Text messaging
- Make/receive voice or video phone calls
- Use the internet
- Send/receive email
- Social networking
- Take photos
- Read news
- Watch videos
- Play games
- Use GPS navigation for turn-by-turn voice driving directions
- Listen to music or podcasts
- Various other tasks such as getting sports scores, tracking calories or exercise minutes (or miles), or calling a taxi
It’s very interesting to note that the two most popular tasks on smartphones are the same as those for cell phones. So, how useful are the nine tasks that smartphones can do that cell phones cannot?
Another noteworthy fact: Besides making or receiving phone calls, the primary reason for using a smartphone is to kill time when alone or while waiting for someone. If you are likely to fall into this category, then you would be money-ahead to use a cell phone and find less expensive, perhaps non-technology time killers.
Popular low-tech pursuits for occupying idle time include reading, doodling, working puzzles (crosswords or Sudoku), playing solitaire (with an actual deck of cards), making “to do” lists (using paper and pen), doing “chair” exercises, catnapping, window-shopping or people-watching. If you are at home or the office, the list of possibilities grows even more: cleaning, hobbies, etc. With either a cell phone or a smartphone, you can also make phone calls or text friends to kill time.
Further, people with tablet computers use them for primarily the same reasons as smartphone users. So, if you own a tablet (or perhaps a laptop), you may not need a smartphone.
Good and bad reasons to buy a smartphone
One of the best reasons for spending money on a smartphone is if you have limited or no access to the internet from a computer.
Another good reason to pay the higher costs of a smartphone over a cell phone is if your job requires or benefits from the use of a smartphone. For example, if you travel frequently (local or otherwise), you may have a critical need for GPS navigation and the ability to check email and update your calendar throughout the day while away from the computer. Or if you are in a technology-related business, then using the latest mobile phone may promote a successful and efficient image to your clients.
One of the worst reasons for spending money on a smartphone is if you have regular access to the internet from home and/or work or school and can conduct all of the above popular activities via a computer, relying on a mobile phone only for voice calls and text messaging.
If most or all of these tasks aren’t particularly useful for your needs, then a smartphone becomes an expensive and non-essential accessory. And a cell phone looks like your new best friend.