Nov 7, 2005

give me the worst phone you have

I went shopping for a new phone this weekend (landline versus cell). My current phone was a little beaten up, acting a little flaky at times, and constantly screwing up my WiFi signal at home. Actually shopping would be the wrong term. I simply purchased the cheapest cordless phone I could find.

It's an odd situation when you actively go looking for the worst product a store carries. And I wasn't looking for a cheap phone to save money. Phones hold that weird place in consumer electronics where phone companies have tried to improve them, but they haven't been improved.

My old phone was some 2.4GHz deal. Exactly the same frequency as my WiFi. The two liked to flirt with each other. My WiFi router is a total whore. Phone frequency meet WiFi frequency. They couldn't get into bed quickly enough. "Get a room" I would scream as my internet connection crapped out. 5.8GHz is the new black with phones. But that's the frequency that the next generation of WiFi is going to operate at.

Some phones do a decent job of working around another signal with the concept of channels. A channel is a frequency slightly different from 2.4 GHz (e.g. channel 1 = 2.400GHz, channel 2 = 2.405GHz, etc.). But that doesn't always work either because the signals do not tightly fit into their energy spectrum. There is signal bleed. And my last phone bled like stuck pig. It was like an 18 wheeler driving down the wireless highway. Everything in its path was taken out. Especially trashy looking WiFi signals with curvaceous figures.

There's another problem related to this. Everyone else owns 2.4GHz phones and WiFi products and will soon own 5.8GHz. It reminds me when 900MHz phones started to become popular and interference problems started occurring. It's ironic how an old 900MHz phone solves a lot of problems for me. No one owns anything in that spectrum anymore except a couple of old age pensioners in Ohio. And it sounds exactly the same as the newer phones. Trust me.

The next thing to consider in a phone is the feature set. Speed dialing, programmable features, conference calling, etc. Which bring me to my second problem (in SAT form). VCRs are to my parents as phones are to me. I've never for the life of me figured out how to use any of these beyond the 5 minutes that I spend with the instruction manual. After that I've forgotten the contorted set of buttons to press to quickly dial my dad. The UI is terrible. Considering we've had mildly well designed UIs in cell phones for a while I'm not sure why this hasn't transferred over to land lines. And while I'm on cell phones, why are cell phones so tiny and handsets so monstrous? Probably because the designers are focusing on new features and not on making it smaller. Again the solution here is to buy the phone with the fewest number of features.

Amazingly there was only one phone that met this criteria. A lonely 900MHz phone sitting in the display. It was so lonely it took 2 people 20 minutes to actually locate one in a box. Poor thing. Well now it has a nice home and it works wonderfully. All for $25.

1 comment:

Jinkman said...

A key advantage of low tech is the control that it brings. When i run a network in my house using wires, I don't worry about easedropping, conflicts, router viruses, firmware problems, and all that stuff. I know exactly where the network is enabled, because I driller the holes for the wire.
But the cost is definitely higher; I have to run my own cable.
But the costs often have unintended benefits. With networking, I get to drill holes in things using power tools. I also discover how my home venting system works (or doesn't), and where the rats in our house used to hang out (don't ask). That's pretty useful information, actually.
Another example is when I write by hand; I'm more economical with words when I've got to scratch out each one in my horrifically bad handwriting. It's not that the harder things get, the better they are, but there is something about effort that can be very focusing and enriching. Kind of like how some of the most impactful artistic creations happen during times of turmoil. Or how some produce grown without large amounts of fertilizer and water can have more complex, intense taste.