Back in October 2013, I got my first cellphone.
Yes, you read that right. Until then, I had found my landline -- with a number that I've had since 1967 — entirely sufficient for my telephonic needs. The rare occasions on which a cellphone would have proved extremely useful did not outweigh the inconvenience involved in carrying one around, making sure not to lose or misplace it, and charging it every day or so, much less tolerating its periodic interruptions of whatever I was up to.
However, as recounted in my previous report (http://maceditionradio.com/node/5958), my better half prevailed. My wife Anna made it clear that she would feel comforted by knowing that, in an emergency, she could reach me, and vice versa. Not to mention that, if I went out alone, she'd appreciate a call letting her know when I'd get home. So I gave in.
As it happened, my age and income level qualified me for a Dubyaphone -- the appropriate nickname for the free cellphones with free service issued through a program initiated not by Barack Obama (who usually gets the right-wing blame for it) but instead by George W. Bush. So I applied for one, through Assurance Wireless (https://www.assurancewireless.com/), a division of Virgin Mobile, one of several providers in what's generically known as the Lifeline program. And a few days later, after my application passed its review, my first Dubyaphone arrived in the mail.
To put it bluntly, it proved a piece of junk: a Kyocera Domino, a flimsy "candybar" CDMA phone. So, after some research, I substituted a then discontinued LG Rumor Touch -- at the time, the only touchscreen phone listed as acceptable within the restrictions of the Assurance program -- that I bought for $68 on Amazon. I have now gotten almost five years' use of it; having amortized its cost at a little over $13 annually, I consider it worth every penny.
At the same time, its less-than-smart aspects, which charmed me initially, wore out their welcome. So when, checking back at the Assurance website, I saw that they now accepted and even provided free Android smartphones, I decided to trade up. Calling customer service at Assurance, I complained that I found the interface of the Rumor Touch clumsy, the keyboard too small, and the maximum volume for incoming calls too low (all true). The rep at the other end immediately proposed to send me a new smartphone for a mere $5 shipping fee, to which I happily consented.
For some reason, this swap required the immediate disconnection of my Rumor Touch and the suspension of my account until the new phone arrived and I activated it -- 7 to 10 working days, the service rep indicated. I don't understand the logic of this; had I not had my landline and Anna's iPhone at my disposal, it would have put me incommunicado for up to two weeks. For someone economically and/or physically disadvantaged (the main requirements for this program), that's not just inconvenient but potentially dangerous. However, as it didn't imperil me I opted not to look this gift horse in the mouth.
Sure enough, six working days later the new phone arrived. It's an off-brand of which I'd never heard, an American Network Solutions (https://www.ansmobility.com/about) ANS UL40. This is not that company's "rugged" top-of-the-line model, the H450R (https://www.ansmobility.com/h450r-rugged-smartphone), but a physically much less fully-featured one made specifically for the Lifeline program and not even described at the ANS website.
Nonetheless, it's a sturdy little machine. (For test results, see the Geekbench report.) (https://browser.geekbench.com/geekbench3/8447844) Swapping it for my Rumor Touch in my Lifeline account proved easy (with some help from customer service). I promptly put the Rumor Touch up for sale back on Amazon, so I'll recoup about 25 percent of its cost. And I'm now enjoying the full smartphone experience -- downloading and installing apps, accessing my PayPal account, reading the New York Times online while riding the Staten Island Ferry.
This new phone comes with a new, upgraded plan: 350 free minutes, unlimited free text messages, and 1GB of data per month. I can add 250 additional voice minutes for $5, though given my sparing use of this phone and my landline combined I think the basic plan will prove more than sufficient. I can't imagine needing even more, but, if I do, I can get unlimited minutes and 500MB more of data for a mere $15 monthly. Let me add that all this involves no contract, and I can cancel the deal anytime.
We plan to leave Staten Island permanently later this summer, relocating to upstate New York. I will probably relinquish my landline then, keeping the number I've had for it for the past half-century and forwarding any incoming calls to the Dubyaphone. Call me a laggard -- I don't mind. At least I have free cellphone service, and a $5 smartphone.
A.D. Coleman, Posted 7/3/2018
For more information on the American Network Solutions ANS UL40 visit: https://www.ansmobility.com/about
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