Opinion » Cybernaut


The phone trap



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Right now Canadians pay the third-highest rates in the world, according to a comparison made by CBC in August - $500 U.S. a year compared to $635 U.S. for Americans and $508 U.S. for Spaniards. On the other end of the spectrum Dutch users had the cheapest rates at $131 U.S. per month, although to be fair you could probably provide coverage for that small, flat and crowded part of the world with a few dozen towers while Canada is closing in on 10,000 cell towers with spotty coverage over our mostly unpopulated land mass.

The Canadian government is aware of the issue of high rates, which is also thought to be the culprit behind low cell phone usage. Canada falls last in terms of cell phone users in the entire 30 nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and well-behind less developed nations like Mexico.

When usage rates increase our costs should go down, but at the same time our usage rate won't increase as long as costs continue to be this high. It's a classic Catch-22.

While I am no Luddite, I am cheap. I also like to think I have the ability to put things into a practical perspective, after having lived through the harrowing experience of growing up with cell phones. Somehow I don't think it's right that a smart phone would cost more per month than my electrical and gas bill combined, and truthfully I'm not willing to sacrifice my ability to save for the future or enjoy my life now in exchange for a little convenience and some cool features.

In that sense, a technology that was originally marketed to high powered executives and car owners as an extra measure of safety is now being marketed as a lifestyle product. It's no longer a question of whether it even makes sense to own a smart phone (e.g. you actually need it for work), but rather a question of what smart phone you should get. You get something that can text message because all your friends have it. You need Twitter and facebook. You also need music, games, video, Internet, GPS and all kinds of other features you didn't really need before but suddenly can't live without.

I'm not anti-smart phone but I really can't see myself buying in until the day it actually becomes affordable, which means it fits into my current budget without sacrificing something else. That day is a long way off.