Readers of this column may have noticed that, at least for me, art frequently imitates life. If a tree falls on my house in a hurricane, I write about what I learned about wobbly trees and insurance adjusters. If I the owner of the liquor store where I stop in begins to rave about all the new local distilleries, voila! Next week’s column!
This week I got a smart phone. And I’m told I’m going to wonder how I ever survived without one all these years.
I have my doubts. But I’m willing to hear arguments, and share them with you.
I have had a contract plan with a major company which will remain nameless (it rhymes with horizon). For the princely sum of $90 a month (after taxes and fees) I was entitled to unlimited phone calls anywhere within the United States on a phone that was anything but smart. Not that it didn’t try hard. If someone texted me, I got charged. If I tried to check my e-mail or access a map while I was stranded in the center of the Catskill Preserve, I got charged — if I could get a signal.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that very same company offering unlimited talk, text and web on a phone exactly like mine for $50 a month. With no contract.
I felt robbed. I don’t like to feel robbed. So I began to explore my options with the ironclad intention of dumping my contract and upgrading my phone while saving money. But did I need to upgrade my phone?
“I don’t know if I need it for my business,” I was told by Lucy Scala, owner of Woodstock Haircutz Day Spa in Woodstock, “but I don’t think I could get along without it. You’ll see. The biggest surprise for me was texting. I’m a total convert. It’s so simple and fast. Who wants to make a phone call or e-mail someone when you’re just asking what they need from the grocery store?”
Doreen Mar, the broker at Freestyle Realty in Woodstock where I work, agreed. “You can go anywhere and still conduct business,” she told me.
I asked how it had changed her business activities.
“I work twelve hours a day instead of seven,” she responded. “You can’t help but check it every five minutes.”
So I took a very unscientific poll. I wrote to people I know in various fields, asking them just how big a role their smart phones play in their business lives. I received 16 responses, including two from my children. My respondees included Laurie Osmond, owner of Ideology, Inc. and Creative Media Production; editor Akira Ohiso of Green Door Magazine; writer, publicist and community activist Jay Blotcher; AbbeDoesIt owner Abbe Aronson; Georganne Chapin, who is founder of IntactAmerica and president and CEO of Hudson Health Plan; Billie Dunn, employee communications editor at Central Hudson; WDST program director Jimmy Buff; PC Maven owner Jonathan Delson; owner Nancy Pompeo of Action Resources; Carla Goldstein, director of the Omega Women’s Leadership Institute; Chronogram publisher Amara Projansky; Kittycaboodle Design owner Acacia Ludwig; Kevin Christofora, owner of Woodstock Meats; Hugh Cummings, owner of HughNameIt Builders; and my daughter MayKate Burrell, who writes web content and is involved in social marketing campaigns, and son Cullen Burnell, Bottom Line editor at ESPN.
There were many real enthusiasts who could no longer image a life without the technology. “I marvel at the fact that I resisted getting a smart phone,” wrote Blotcher. “It has expedited progress on projects and creating community events tenfold. Now it is an extension of my right hand for business and socializing, even if I spend a smidge too much time on Words with Friends. I am compelled to say that I could not go without my iPhone for more than a few hours at a time … to the chagrin of my husband, who admonishes me from time to time, put the iPhone down, eBay will still be there later.”
Chapin admitted she couldn’t get along without a smart phone. “You didn’t mention e-mail,” she added. “E-mail on my phone is the most important feature for me.”
Aronson talked about the apps she used. “My office, biz, kid’s sched, and our overall life is so mobile, it would be completely impossible to juggle all three without a smart phone at this point,” she said. “I know, I know … we all used to get along fine without them. Not any more. It’s a crazy treadmill but I’m on it, and for the most part I love the convenience and the ability it gives me to be totally OCD about organizing stuff, planning ahead and putting stuff out in the world.”
Cummings emphasized how the smart phone has benefited his building business. “It started with getting an e-mail 12 to 16 hours quicker. Then I didn’t need my navigator any more because that was in the smart phone,” he explained. “Then we started using the phone for music at work and no longer needed our work radio at times. Also another use I do is to use my phone as its own WiFi hot spot. Then I can use my laptop or any computer on the web anywhere I get a cell signal, which is still preferred for the big screen …. I made sure to get a smart phone early because I didn’t want to get left behind and thought it would be nice, and now I love it.”
Kevin Christofora was the only person who responded that he didn’t use a smart phone and said he could live without it. But he admitted to texting to communicate with younger employees.
Like Nancy Pompeo and Carla Goldstein, who gave similar views as Jimmy Buff as to how smart his smart phone had to be, Buff was the most succinct in his responses.
What was essential? Text?
“Yes,” Buff replied.
Could you get along without it?
Did he answer this poll from his phone?
“No, but I could have.”