Why Upgrade Your Cell Phone?

As technology spirals out of our grasp and into the hands of the younger generation, it’s easy to become confused, frustrated, and frankly, lazy. Why should we spend so much time learning to use these new tools when our old ones suited us just fine?

A common example is the cell phone. With smartphones becoming more and more popular, it can be hard to find a nice, effective, ‘regular’ cell phone with proper coverage and a normal price range. Your children, friends, co-workers and even your cell phone provider keep pushing you to upgrade your phone…. But why should you?

Well, here are a few good reasons:

Organization: Smartphones were created to act as personal organizers, with electronic schedules, diaries, shopping lists, reminders and contact lists that allow you to keep track of everything in both your work and personal life.

Flexibility: The portability of your smartphone allows you to take notes as well as change and review appointments, contacts, emails and documents while you’re on the go.

Connectability: The speed and data quality of smartphones allows you to connect to the internet, and even to your remote computer network from any location. Information sharing is made easy with a smartphone, which can process large email attachments or data files from almost every website. These features can ease the life of remote workers or mobile workforces, as well as people who travel frequently.

Information: Smartphones can access thousands of services, opening an entire world right at your fingertips. With a smartphone, you can access maps, navigation help, news coverage, weather reports, traffic information- even Google search!

Quality: The quality of a smartphone’s camera, voice calls, text messaging and web browsing are all significantly better than those on older cell phone models. Communication is faster, conversations are clearer, and photos taken while on the move can actually be cherished in albums or files both online and off.

A Walk Through Time: The History of the Cell Phone

The cell phone as we know it today is really quite a new invention. It’s almost difficult to remember life without them, but for those of us who are nearing or beyond middle age – we spent most of our lives without these devices.

The first person to communicate through wireless was probably Dr. Mahlon Loomis between 1866 and 1873. A dentist, he was clearly a forward thinker who figured out a way to transmit messages telegraphically at an 18 mile distance from the top of the Cohocton Mountain to the top of the Beorse Deer Mountain in Virginia. He was awarded a $50,000 research grant (an enormous sum of money in those days) and he used kites that had copper screens linked to the group with copper wires to use the Earth’s atmosphere as a conductor to transmit messages.

Fast forward a century and we come to Dr. Martin Cooper, who is given the title as the inventor of the first portable handset. He began working for Motorola in 1954 and was tasked with the goal of developing portable products. AT&T was racing to introduce the first cellular communication at the same time, but Mr. Cooper won the race. He created the first working prototype of a cellular phone, called the Motorola Dyna-Tac. After testing it with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington for a while, he and Motorola took the phone to New York.

Playfully showing AT&T who was boss, Cooper placed the first cell phone call in New York City to the AT&T Bell Labs. After this miraculous breakthrough, Cooper spent the next ten years figuring out how to bring this technology to market. In 1983, Motorola introduced the 16-ounce “DynaTAC” for commercial use. Unlike today’s amazing prices, each cell phone then costs $3,500.

Cell phone popularity grew exponentially during the 80s, although most of these were actually car phones. Most people still weren’t carrying cell phones in their hands; rather they had them installed in cars. There were some models that came in tote bags so that they could easily be hooked up to the car’s battery with the DC outlet, while others came in briefcases to hold the large batteries that were necessary.

By the 1990s, the second generation (2G) phones were available and could be used with mobile phone systems like GSM, TDMA and CDMA. These networks allowed for better call quality, less dropped calls, and faster network signaling. Technological advances also enabled cell phones to become hand-held, requiring much smaller batteries.

Today, of course, we have 3G and 4G cell phones that allow users to do an enormous range of functions. They offer everything from email and Internet access to streaming videos and TV, accessing WiFi and beyond.

Convergence is the Key to Cell Phones of the Future

The high-tech world is advancing at a breakneck speed! The influence and penetration of incredibly versatile devices into our daily lives is dramatically changing the way we live. It was not so long ago that if you needed to call someone from a public space, you needed to use a public phone. And if the person you wanted to get in touch with was not at home, leaving a message on an answering machine would just have to suffice.

In just a few short years connecting with people has become virtually instantaneous. Unless you are at a place where you must turn off your cell phone, there is nothing preventing instant contact. But of course connecting with friends, family and colleagues is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities of today’s hand-held devices. (I hesitate to say “cell phone” because many devices today are really computers that also happen to have a cell phone function.)

And that brings us to the future of cell phones. Today we are at a turning point where having a mere phone is seen as a waste of the plastic the phone is made from. There are no longer many cell phones that don’t allow internet access, and more and more phones are of the ‘smart’ variety, containing within them an amazing number of functions from GPS to cameras, to large memories and storage capacities.

What is there to prevent our “cell phones” from truly becoming our computers? They are already loaded with great memory, apps, and operating systems. Everything else that a computer allows you to do can exist on the internet, in the up and coming “cloud.” Eventually, it seems pretty clear, we will be able to take our computers everywhere we go, and when we get home, or arrive at work, all we will need to do is place our devices down on our desks, wirelessly connect to our keyboards, mice and monitors, and we are ready to roll.

And if a great photo op presents itself, just pick up your computer (phone!) and snap a picture; or if your spouse calls to tell you he/she is running late, just press a button, (or maybe you won’t even need to press a button) and start speaking. And let’s not forget about the entertainment aspect of our cell phones. We are already using our phones to house our vast music and video collections which we then access via our TVs and stereo systems. In the future TVs and stereos will most likely be made obsolete by our versatile phones. As our technology continues to advance, we might not even have to touch our phones to operate them. Hand gestures, and speech will more likely than not become the mode of operation.

The future of cell phones is a future in which almost everything we do to interact with the world around us will be achieved through the convergence of all the various tasks into one, hand-held device. Who knows, maybe your ‘phone’ will one day even have a personality all its own, listening to your troubles, soothing your worries, and even being your newest, disembodied best friend.

Getting the Facts on Cell Phones for Seniors

There are many important considerations to factor into the purchase of a cell phone for the elderly. Whether you are the older person yourself, or you’re trying to decide on a phone and plan for a parent, there are many features that you need to consider.

Cell phones are an important tool to help elderly people with emergencies and medical needs.  The 5 Star Urgent Response system, for instance, is a phone that works like a personal emergency response system.  It includes a large button that the user can push when they need to contact a 5 Star Agent.  When a call is placed, the 5 Star Agent will be able to identify the user’s location, assess the situation and provide assistance or conference in 9-1-1 as needed. It’s a brilliant way for the user to feel safe and to have immediate help when needed.

Cell phones are also important for the elderly as they can serve as a medication management tool.  There are Mobile Apps available for cell phones today, like GreatCall’s Mobile App, that enable users to set up their medications, prescriptions and pharmacy information in the MedCoach app.  Users will get regular pill medication reminders and can even order refills right from the smartphone!

When searching for the right phone for an elderly person, usability is also of paramount importance.  A phone like the Jitterbug, for instance, features extra large buttons, a bright color screen with large numbers, and a simple navigation that includes “Yes” and “No” buttons. This creates much easier usability and allows the older user to navigate with ease.

For usability, some phones also have raised, separated number keys.  Phones such as the Pantech CDM8635 and the LG Wine II from U.S. Cellular make these tasks that much easier for elderly use.

Hearing is another important consideration when purchasing a cell phone for elderly care.  Many cell phones today are designed to work with hearing aids.  For some people, having a speakerphone might be enough, while others will need the extra help from the hearing aid tools.  These considerations should be carefully thought out and looked into to offer the best usability for the elderly user.

Finally, anyone helping the elderly user with the purchase should consider the user’s economic situation and plan needs.  Most elderly people will not need an extensive or complicated cell phone plan; they’ll need the minimal amount of air time and will probably need very little to no texting capabilities.  Shop around to find the best deal for the user, and ask about senior discounts everywhere that you go.

As a final note, make sure after the elderly person has his cell phone, that he is given an extensive tutorial about how to use it.  Just because this person now has a cell phone in his hand doesn’t mean that it will help him to keep track of his medications or to be safe should an emergency arise.  The tool is only as good as the user’s understanding – so make sure to properly train him before handing off the cell phone to an elderly user!

This video from the Today Show offers even more suggestions to help seniors with their cell phone needs.

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