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When your first car was cheaper than your new smartphone

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POSTED September 30, 2017 1:02 a.m.

My Aunt Ethel was aghast when she found out at a family Christmas Eve gathering in 1975 that I had paid $11,000 for a year-old Chevy Monza.
She essentially called me foolish with money and that I had been taken to the cleaners.
This from a lady who insisted on collecting her free block of moldy government issued cheese even though it was discovered after her death she was sitting on a small fortune. Ethel defined tight-wad, and not in a good way.
Ethel wouldn’t let up. Finally my Mom told Ethel point blank that she really didn’t know what she was talking about when it came to the price of goods these days (we’re talking 1975) given she was still driving a stripped down Comet she bought in 1963 for $1,900.
If Ethel were alive today and found out how much I just paid for a phone, the stress on her heart would be so harsh it would likely put her in the grave.
Yes, I upgraded to an iPhone 8s. I have now officially paid more for a phone than I did my first car — $750 for a 1967 Mercury Cougar.
I get that it is no longer just a phone, but rather a powerful handheld computer that makes the first Apple MAC with 128K of memory a $2,500 paperweight and about as nimble as a turtle mainlining Sominex compared to what I carry around in my pocket.
Much of the bells and whistles are lost on me, but I’m finally dipping my toes into apps besides productivity and work-related apps to conduct personal business such as banking. This comes from a guy who 13 years ago cut the landline cord somewhat ahead of the curve.
Costing just under $800, upgrading made be pause for a second. But given how much I use the camera for work and while on hikes, it is well worth it given the quality and the fact I don’t have to worry about wiping out a Nikon while I slide 30 feet down snow on my back after losing my footing.
It has eliminated the need to wear a watch and — if it wasn’t for my desire to have redundancy — could do the came for my alarm clock.
I don’t surf the net very often on the device as I don’t believe they make quad-focals which I’m sure I’d need if I did that long enough. I’m sorry, but there is no joy in reading a book or viewing a movie on a device about half the area of a business envelope. People talk about it not being a tactile experience. That’s true, but what I find more maddening is the strain on the eyes and the need to preserve efforts I’ve made to correct my already not too great posture.
I may be wrong, but a couple generations from now we may harvest the fruits of excessive smartphone use in ways that would not please us much. An example is the documented hearing problems that some have developed in their late 20s after spending a decade or so of their ears hooked to iPods and other devices via a umbilical cord while playing music loud enough that you can hear it four feet away.
To be clear, I’m not a Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. Anything that makes work more productive I’m all for. But there should still be limits to how far we would want to go. Change is good but not change for the sake of change.
It is why I had no problem not waiting for the iPhone X. While I’ve had iPhones for 10 years and prefer Apple products over most of their competitors, smartphones manufactures are now doing what auto manufacturers started doing about a quarter of a century ago when they started nailing quality and longevity issues. Instead of flooding the marketplace with all of the technology and improvements they could in a given year, they started taking measured approaches in a bid to encourage trade-ins. My youngest grandkid is using an iPhone 4 I first started using in 2010. It works just fine and does everything she needs.
Of course, she said she is working toward the day she can get a phone on her own. That said the iPhone 4 that is pushing 8 years of use isn’t preventing her from being a connected 18-year-old.
There’s only so much you can do to make a smartphone more appealing.
Some of the things — scratch that many of the things — are nothing more than cotton candy.
I get that smartphones are here to stay for a while.
But unless they come up with a function that converts air into gold, reprogram obnoxious people at a tap of an app, or create a ringtone that can bring a person to their knees that only salespeople trying to talk you into a more expensive smartphone can hear there’s not that big of an incentive for me to get a smartphone whose price is getting nearer to my monthly mortgage payment.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

 

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