Monday, November 23, 2009


Today I made a few changes to the way I intend to interact with phones, and I thought I'd see if any folks out there had any advice for me about these changes.

I switched to a pay-per-minute plan for my mobile phone today, and also signed up for Google Voice (thanks to an invite from a twitter follower), with a new Google number. My mobile plan is now 1 dollar every day I make or receive (actually answer) a call, plus 10 cents for each minute of those calls.

So here's what I'm planning on doing: I'll tell people my Google number. They'll call that, and it'll call my phone, and I'll not (in general) answer it, but I'll notice that somebody called because my phone will ring. Then I can wait for them to leave a voicemail, and check it online (assuming I'm near a computer (which I probably am)). If it's important (and the person isn't online where I can just chat with them) I can then call them back.

Perhaps this is selfish and a hastle for the people that call me. But there simply aren't that many people that call me, and most of them (Mom, e.g.) probably won't mind or even notice the slight hastle. And if I know somebody will be calling (a friend arriving somewhere, say), I don't have to let the call go to voicemail. And I can tell folks that if they'd really like to reach me, now and on the phone, they can just call twice or something.

I thought I'd see if anybody out there does, or has done, or has had a friend do, something similar. If you've got any comments of feedback about my new scheme for being a cheap-ass hermit, please leave one below. Don't bother calling me :)

That's basically the end of this post. But my original version of the post started with the story behind making these changes, and it's all written out, so I thought I'd include it anyway. If you don't care, then go find something else to do, I won't be offended (I won't even notice, but even if I did, I wouldn't be offended). If you're bored... here's the story:

I think I've never really been a fan of talking to people on the phone. Certainly not recently. I'd almost invariably rather talk to somebody via email or instant message. But I've got a phone, because apparently you've gotta have one. And, I'll concede, they have their uses.

When I started grad school, I got my own mobile phone (look at me all grown up), and an individual phone plan. I've been on the cheapest mobile phone plan since then (5+ years now). I have never gotten particularly close to using anything like my allotted minutes. My most recent bill claims I used 6 minutes total. Not exactly something I was happy paying 50 dollars a month for, but I was too lazy to look into many other options.

The other day I accidentally left my phone in my pants pocket when I put those pants through a cycle in the laundry machine. It was an old phone that I'd gotten for free for signing up for whatever plan anyway, so I can't say I was too upset when it came out of the laundry and wouldn't turn on. I was mostly amused, and glad it didn't do any damage to the laundry machine (water and electronics being what they are... I figured).

After letting it sit for a few days on the hope it might sort itself out, with no luck, I decided it was time for something new. What I probably most wanted to do was get a Droid. This would mean paying more for my phone service, but it'd be paying for something I'd almost certainly use. Not the voice service, so much, but certainly data. However, I listened to the voice of reason (for now :)) and decided instead to switch to a pay-per-minute plan with AT&T (my current provider, inertia being what it is). I went and got a new phone (the cheapest), and am now (after some slight hastle with the SIM card, and having lost all of my contacts) on a plan where I pay 1 dollar every day that I make or receive a call plus 10 cents per minute that those calls take. While I certainly can see that some months will be more expensive than others (due to travel or getting stuck on hold doing something stupid), I have a hard time believing any will be more than the 50 dollars a month I was paying. That's something like 6 minutes of calls every day, or a couple of hour long calls scattered through the month. I'm not sure there's anybody I want to spend an hour on the phone with.

None of that is particularly interesting or exciting, I suppose. It's new for me, so a little exciting, but I can't see why you'd care. What's more exciting is Google Voice. Thanks to an invite from a twitter follower, I now have a Google number. In fact, it's HAM-BLET (in an area code that isn't where I am), which is a little fun (ANIDIOT wasn't available). And I guess the idea is I have the number... indefinitely. And then I can add any of my usual phone numbers (the one I've had for a while now, e.g.) to my Voice account, and whenever somebody calls my Google number, I see the call on my normal phone. And if I decide to not answer, Google will record the voicemail for me and send me an email (or text message, but I turned that off) with a transcript, or I can even listen to it online. That's probably the most exciting thing I've seen in... rather a while. Pressing some buttons online and having my phone ring is pretty magical.


Mitch said...

I'm late to the party here (very behind on my RSS feeds), but I'm glad to read of your experience with this. I'm moving to the UK for 21 months starting next fall, and my Verizon contract here in the US is up in February or March. I think I'll be doing something similar, but probably changing providers in the process so I can get a GSM phone that I can take to London and swap out the SIM card.

How's the experiment working now that you're a few weeks in?

sumidiot said...

Hey @Mitch. UK for 21 months sounds fun, hope it goes well for you.

As far as the phone switch... it's been fine for me so far. It helps that basically nobody calls me, and vice versa. So I'm pretty positive about the whole thing. And google voice still seems magical to me, even though, with nobody calling, I haven't gotten to play with it much.

Mitch said...

My parents are about the only people I talk to on the phone, and that's every other week. I use Google Voice for the front gate at my apartment, since it will only call local Atlanta numbers and I still have my Fargo cell phone number. My Google Voice Atlanta phone number forwards to my cell and allows me to let people in. I've also taken to giving the Google Voice number to people who need to reach me when I'd rather they call my office but can't be sure that I'll be in there when they call.