We found out that the No. 1 mistake when you get rid of your home phone service is forgetting where you put your cell phone.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Help for those who jettison the home phone

Dec. 26, 2010

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard

   This year, Nancy and I gave ourselves an early Christmas present. In November, we tossed out our home phone and replaced it with two new cell phones.
   For years, we'd had a single cell phone used by both of us, supplied by Verizon. But we decided to switch to Sprint when we discovered Sprint would give us two new cell phones without charge with a new account, along with free activation, free shipping to our house, free roaming throughout the U.S. and, as most cell phone users already enjoy, free long distance, free calls to other mobile phones and free calls to all phones on nights and weekends. We also got a second line for only a few extra bucks a month and kept our old phone numbers (one cell phone number and one land-line number).
   Getting rid of our landline phone was easy -- Sprint took care of notifying our landline company of the cutoff and transferring the old numbers -- but the decision was hard to make. Many of our friends had long since abandoned their POTS (plain old telephone service) line in favor of cell phones, so we had a lot of advice to guide us.
   But we both liked our old phones. We especially liked the idea of a regular old phone -- something that looked like a phone, felt like a phone and fit in your hand (and against your ear) like a phone. Both of us have felt for years that cell phones are badly designed as talking machines. (They do fine for text messaging, but, hey, we're over the age of, ahem, 40, so we don't do texting.) For one thing, I've never been able to figure out how to hold a cell phone so I can hear the person on the other end properly. My ear never seems to be in the right place.
   So along with our cell phones -- basic models of a clamshell design, which seems better suited to carting abound in a pocket or purse -- we decided on Bluetooth headsets with built-in microphones. Nancy got a Motorola model that looks like something Secret Service agents wear -- it may, in fact, be the exact model they use -- and I'm still shopping for mine. The wireless headset lets you answer the phone and talk without needing to have the phone itself near you. Bluetooth has a range of 50 feet or more.
   Without a wall phone in the kitchen, we found out right away that the No. 1 mistake when you get rid of your home phone service is forgetting where you put your cell phone. After weeks of running around and looking under the couch cushions every time we heard a faint ring, we learned that it doesn't matter where you put your cell phone -- as long as you keep it in the same place every day.
   We got used to calling one cell phone from the other one to locate it by the ring, as many of you surely have learned to do. But what if you have misplaced both your phones? There's an easy way to get any phone to ring without telling your sister-in-law to call your phone. Go to www.wheresmycellphone.com and type the number of the phone you want to locate. The service is free.
   Apple iPhone and iPad users can use their computers to find their missing iPhone or iPad. You'll see a map with the location circled. If the iPhone or iPad has been stolen, you can wipe out the contents, for free, remotely. Go to www.apple.com/mobileme/features/find-my-iphone.html.
   And here are some other things we've learned:
      ⌦ Keep your toilet lid closed. Phones can fall out of a pocket and get drowned in an instant.
      ⌦ Charge your phone every night. Facing an emergency with a dying cell phone isn't fun -- or safe.
      ⌦ Make sure you have a money-back deal when you buy any Bluetooth device for your phone. Many of them are dreadful performers.
      ⌦ If you use the phone a lot, forget plans that offer minutes of use. Get an unlimited plan. You'd be nickel-and-diming yourself into a panic half the time.