There's a famous scene in an otherwise so-so film, The Godfather: Part III, where a baggy-eyed Al Pacino passionately delivers a memorable line…the only memorable line of the film…in his special brand of trembling emotion: "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back innnn!" And that's a close approximation of how I'm starting to feel these days with my growing desire/hesitancy to rejoin a club I long abandoned years ago. You see, about 5 years ago I decided to opt out and ditch my cell phone. Yes, a Los Angeles resident who not only lives in a city where cell phones are deemed a necessity, but who also happens to head up a tech blog. Did I just blow your mind?
"Wait...you're telling me the managing editor of Unplggd doesn't own a cell phone? Someone get Mario on this!"
Or did I upset you with this bit of personal information? Because I'm usually greeted by one of these two reactions when asked/provoked into revealing that I don't own a cell phone: incredulous disbelief or simmering judgment. Or maybe it's because I'm always bumming off quarters for the pay phone. Some would see it befitting us few who willingly choose to live without a cell to don a scarlet symbol so all good people would be aware of our perplexing proximity (though certain AT&T customers live in a similar constant state of disconnect despite owning an iPhone *zing*)!
It's as if now the absence of a cell phone is the absence of one of our senses to some, perhaps now an extension of all our senses…except, increasingly, those senses related to common courtesy. It has been a long while since I carried one in my pocket regularly, yet in these 5 years the absence hasn't proven much of a handicap thanks to the fact my middle name is "Homebody" and nobody except our hungry felines want to reach me. My Fav 5 would consist of Emily, our two cats, our betta fish and my mum; I'm interested in a "don't call me, I'll MMS you" plan.
Have I been an American psycho for living without a cell phone for so long...or now, because I'm an Apple user considering an Android device?
But this chapter of my life is about to come to a close, and you can help me try and make that first wobbly first step back into the mobile connected world a solid one. For my finger-dialing muscles have atrophied, my text messaging typing skills have dulled to an accuracy rate that will surely result in high comedy via autocorrect, and my grasp of Hipstamatically-transforming snapshots of my breakfast burrito into Facebook-worthy images laughable at best.
My decision to return back to the realm of the mobile connected was born of two factors:
1) you, the readers out there, some of whom have asked us to expand our horizons and cover devices beyond those anointed by Steve Jobs and his iLoving minions (love you, Steve…call me!), and
2) recognizing the tech landscape has changed vastly in the last 5 years, with smartphones being where the most exciting and interesting advancements in social interaction between people and machine is happening (*cough* Angry Birds *cough*).
I may not own a cell phone, but I'm certainly not ignorant of how far mobile devices have come since retiring my final 120 x 144 pixel color flip phone. I've gone far too long without and now I, too, want the option of ignoring the people around me at the swipe of a touchscreen!
So what do you think, fair Unplggd reader? I've set my sights on eight Android models, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Shall it be the Motorola Atrix, with its blazing fast dual core processor? Or the gargantuan screen HTC Thunderbolt? Maybe the sunlight-friendly, power-efficient Super AMOLED screen of the Samsung Galaxy S II? Or should I just say, "Whatever, as if…" and just wait for the iPhone 5 and keep drinking this delicious Kool-Aid?
*Note: I don't care so much about voice (though, of course, I want to be able to hear and be heard with clarity when I do make a call), but I'm specifically interested in the extra bells and whistles offered by a robust data plan and features. It's the "smart" features and apps specific to the Android platform I'm hoping to cover and compare.
[Illustration: Kyle Bean]