Alex Milligan

Prof. Dwyer

CM213: Writing and Communications

5 May 2014


               Smartphones. The word alone brings to mind the idea of instant knowledge and a whole new level of communication unlike any humanity has seen to this day. It is an entire computer, in your hand, that is entirely affordable; if its just one person on the plan. Cell phone companies promise that smartphones are typically affordable, especially for families! Of course there are affordable plans out there that can fit any family’s budget! It is so possible!

            In actuality it is not.

            The idea came to me from an AT&T commercial that frequently played on Netflix. The commercial depicts a “normal” nuclear family (mom, dad, daughter, son) and a sales associate. The sales associate is telling the family that they can get an affordable four person smartphone plan for as low as $160 a month. This includes unlimited talk, text, and 10GBs of data. The family is bewildered and quickly jumps at the idea.

            This commercial completely blew my mind. Recently I had made the decision to go on my own phone plan, therefore completely paying my own bill. My plan, which includes unlimited talk, text, and data as well as insurance on my phone, costs me around $95 a month after taxes. How then is it possible for a plan for four people only costs $160 a month? So I looked the video up on YouTube and read the fine print on one of the last scenes of the video “Other charges and restrictions apply” with an additional fee for every other device added. So that’s how they make up the extra fees.

            This lead me to another thought process, why would any family pay so much for a phone? As a member of a family of seven people, the amount it would cost my parents each month to provide us all with smart phones would be like a car payment. The world though, is now so geared to smart phones and the instant gratification and self –centered society that comes with it.

            Alluding back to the statement that I just got my own phone plan, here’s the story behind that drastic life change; it all started when I turned 18. I felt like I was in a pretty good place in my life. I was a senior in high school, I had a ton of friends, I just got a car, and I was out of class everyday by noon. It was awesome. I should have been extremely pumped to graduate and be with people who most likely I was not ever going to talk to again once graduation occurred. But I was not always happy and sometimes would become moody. And it all stemmed from a first world problem that now, given the fact that I am older, I am extremely embarrassed to admit that I suffered from; I wanted a smartphone.

            To me, a smartphone was like a golden talisman that lead to a new level of “cool” that my nerdish self could only hope to dream of. But for some strange reason, even though I worked 4 days a week and therefore had a steady income, my mom would not let me purchase one. I dropped more hints than anyone could imagine; every time an occasion that called for presents arose that I wanted a smart phone but I never did get one. How pathetic.

            Long story short, I did eventually get a smart phone but it was not until after graduation. I felt so cool and positive and the people at the phone store were like god-sent angels that embraced me in their arms and lead me to a new level of enlightenment and achievement and oh yeah that $95 a month phone plan, not including, of course, actually paying for the phone itself.

            This is where my question comes in again, why do we torture ourselves in this way?

            Of course, the history of smartphones began long before the actual emergence of smartphones. The interest began with the creation of the Internet and the expanse of communication. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 greatly pushed this into play.

            The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is a law that’s goal was to let virtually anyone enter the communications business; therefore creating the chance of competition within the market and for multiple companies to arise (think Apple, Samsung, etc.). This act changed the way we work, live, and learn, all while affecting phone service and the phone service market.

            The history of the smartphone starts with the history of the telephone. As almost everyone is taught in grade school, the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, with the first phone call being made in 1878. From then on, phones have been made in many different shapes, sizes, and colors (the first cell phone did not come out until the 1980s; costing a large sum and weighing over 2 pounds), all with the same idea in mind, a better way to communicate. This greatly changed though as telephones made their most drastic leap every in 1993 with the creation of the first “smartphone”.

            IBM and BellSouth made the first smartphone. It was extremely simplistic compared to the smartphones of today and could really only read email and send faxes (gasp, fax). As an added bonus though it was touch screen and named Simon. The primary focus of this design was to further expansion on important communication devices of the day.

            In the creation of cellphones and more specifically smartphones, other fields of communication have been created, most especially texting. Texting is quickly becoming the way that most people, mainly those of a younger generation, communicate. Gone are the days of letters, AOL messaging, and even strangely personal emails. Whole languages have been abbreviated to simple little texting terms or acronyms that make this form of communication quicker and even somewhat easier (though I myself get confused with the extremely long text codes, for example, ABITHIWTITB means A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush, what?). Favorites of mass text lovers include lol (laughing out loud),ily (I love you), rotfl (rolling on the floor laughing), omg (oh my god!), etc. For even more hilarious favorites visit (author’s note, perhaps insert section about texting competitions?)

            Stemming from this, what was the original purpose of smartphones? Though we wish to believe otherwise, smartphones are not just about texting and the instant gratification that comes from receiving messages quickly and posts made on social media. Smartphones were originally created with the purpose of taking the power of a computer and placing it in your hands in a small compact way. It is all about information access. Smartphones can decipher and read documents and transfer all the found information in a simple, concise way. Not to mention all the ways the phones can be changed around or enhanced with the large variety of applications that are available for download. It is almost guaranteed that there is an application for every need out there. Therefore, there is a large amount of responsibility concealed in a tiny object that many not really consider, including price.

            So how much is it on average for a computer in your hands? The prices of course vary on size, make, model, and storage. A chart and article on Forbes website depicted a study on different phone types and the different retailer’s price for each phone:

Pretty incredible huh? People actually pay for this (including me, not so proud Galaxy S4 owner). The article previously mentioned delves deeper into this, well not issue, more so fact that can or cannot turn into a major issue. It states that a large part of cell phone pricing depends on the company or retailer in which an individual purchases the phone. This is largely due to the way that T-Mobile changed the market with its no contract phone plans. Some retailers now feel that since there is no binding contract, therefore technically the person can leave at any time, the phone may need to be priced higher or perhaps people are freaked out by the non-binding aspect of the phone service and need to be attracted with a lower phone price. It’s a mess in that way, all over the place.

            Bottom line though, phone producers can pretty much do whatever they want, because they know that people will continue to buy and pay for their products. The smartphone industry is a large one and everyone who does not have one wants one and those who do have them typically get bored easily and can not wait to move on to the latest and newest model.

            Take Apple for example, barely a season passed after the release of the iPhone 5 before the iPhone 5S and 5C came out. They were almost the same exact product with only a few simple little quirks, and people with the iPhone 5 still rushed out to go purchase either the iPhone 5S or 5C. WHAT?!

            I guess what is most concerning is what this mentality is doing to younger generations. The other day I was sitting around with my younger brother (he is 13 and I am 19, so we are a decent amount of years apart but not a full generation) and we were only talking about one of our favorite TV shows Good Luck Charlie when he turned around and said “So are you going to get a new phone yet?”. I just looked at him and wondered what he meant. My Galaxy S4 was pretty much new. I had just purchased it the summer before and it still worked like a charm. I did not remember mentioning to him any problems with it so I asked him what he meant. He then looked at me like I was the dumbest person alive and said as if this was the most obvious statement in the world “Well the new Galaxy S5 is out, therefore your phone is outdated, doesn’t that bother you?”

            I swear if I could hit him without getting into trouble I would.

            What kind of statement is that? Just because a newer model is out I have to get the new one. That makes no sense. My phone is perfectly fine. I have a bad love affair with it to be truthful. I guess though I missed that conditioning in grade school, the conditioning that you always need to have the latest and greatest. I was not a technology fueled manic who had laptops provided in every classroom and could operate computer programs in second grade that I am now just learning about in college for the first day.

            I suppose I still love him though; product of modern technology and instant gratification that he is.

            With the pricy phone though comes that reoccurring phone bill. Phone bills vary across the board depending on the carrier and the type of phone plan that is attached to it. Some plans have unlimited talk, text, and data; while others may have combinations of the three with perhaps some having lesser usage than the others.

            An article in TIME magazine claims that the average phone plan should be around $47 a month and that most plans up the charges greatly. Those who do this are primarily the “big names” in cell phone providers, such as Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T etc.

            The $47 pricing is factored in by service and amount of data and how much it should actually cost a phone company to provide these services. However, this can be moved around and played with by major phone companies because they simply know that people will pay the prices for their services. The phone companies therefore sneak in the extra charges by paying revenue per unit or per cell phone on the line.

            In recent studies (conducted by TIME magazine), it was found that an average phone bill for an individual plan was around $71 per month while the average family phone plan was over $200 per month. Usually when their large phone bills surprise people, it is because they do not factor in the pricing of handsets and insurance and other things that go along with it. However, as studies have increased, it has been found that the average cost for phone plans have been decreasing.

            A great deal of people have been bargaining for cheaper phone plans and therefore have been moving to more “second-rate” phone providers such as Cricket, Sprint, and Virgin Mobile. The plans provided by these companies range usually between $25 and $50 per month; sometimes unlimited talk and text are included within these pricings. The only downfall to this is that some of these providers have “slower” service, for example 3GLTE as opposed to 4GLTE.

            Bottom-line, it is possible to pay less for your phone bill, but most likely you will have to change your phone and phone carrier in order to avoid pumped-up charges that are usually from using a big-name company, having unlimited everything, or needing the fastest service available.

            Here is a chart from TIME magazine displaying different pricings for cell phone plans:







< 500 MB

$55 (250 MB)

$60 (300 MB)

500 MB



1 GB




2 GB



3 GB



4 GB



5 GB


6 GB



8 GB



10 GB



> 10 GB

$10 per 2 GB










Upfront Phone Cost





Monthly Phone Cost




$27 for 24 months

Second Line



$60 to $70

$30 to $50

Third Line



$50 to $60

$10 to $30

More Lines



$40 to $50

$10 t0 $30

Mobile Hotspot?



$10 (1 GB)



Choosing a phone plan to best fit a budget is often hard to do. There are often many over charge fees from big-name companies and popular phones. It is just a matter of making choices that may result in having a not so popular phone or a big-name company.

            Though cellphones were originally seen as a symbol of power and wealth (think back to the first statement of the original cellphone costing a couple thousand dollars), they are now accessible by people all across the generations; though typically younger people. According to TIME magazine, however, the UN just recently released the statement that more people in the world have access to mobile phones than they do to running water.

            Of all the people in the world, around 7 billion, 6 billion have access to mobile phones while only 4.5 have access to running water. India faces the problem very directly. Of all the people in India, 1.2 billion are mobile subscribers and over 300 million people have access to toilets.

            This sobering fact puts the “issue” of smartphones more into perspective. Though smartphones are an important part of day-to-day life, there are many more important world issues that should be considered as well. Is it really a world that we want to live in that people have more access to mobile phones than running water?

            The power of smartphones and the vast intelligence that comes with having such an incredible piece of equipment should be used to spread awareness for issues around the world; not Facebook updates, Tweets, Instagram, and Snap-chats.

            In Sydney, Australia, according to a recent article, a campaign was proposed that on the last Sunday in February, February 26th, the citizens of Australia would make the effort to not use their smartphones for a few hours on that day is order to lower the dependence on smartphones. The day is called Moodoff Day. This day’s primary purpose was to

“designed to stimulate much-needed awareness about the potential for and dangers of excessive smartphone use, including addiction. Cell phone addicts have the urge to pull out their phone while having a conversation with others, constantly glance at their phone’s screen, or feel anxious if they’re not online for an extended time. A disproportionate amount of smartphone use can also cause a variety of health-related problems, such as trigger finger (tendinitis), cell phone elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome), and wrist and neck pain. In addition, 1.6 million accidents are caused each year by people talking and texting on their phone while driving”.


If this could become a worldwide event, many more people would be less focused on their phones and be better able to work on real-life issues.

            I suppose the bottom line is that smartphones are fantastic, but they are dangerous in the same breath. Phones are expensive and plans are too. Not to mention all the other tolls smartphones take. A consumer just has to be careful and understand each choice fully.












“History of the Smartphone.” QR Code Scanning. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014.



Louis, Tristan. “The Real Price Of A Smartphone.” Forbes. N.p., 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 May 2014. <;.


“NetLingo List of Chat Acronyms & Text Shorthand.” Net Lingo. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 May 2014.<;.


Newman, Jared. “Which Wireless Plan Is Cheapest?” TIME. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 5 May 2014. <;.


PRWeb. Vocus, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 5 May 2014. <;.


“Telecommunications Act of 1996.” Federal Communications Commission. N.p., 31 May 2011. Web. 5 May 2014. <;.


Tuttle, Brad. “$47 a Month? Why You’re Probably Paying Double the ‘Average’ Cell Phone Bill.” TIME. N.p., 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 May 2014. <;.


Wang, Yue. “More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets, U.N. Study Shows.” TIME. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 5 May 2014. <;.



5 Notable Sentences:

  1. I’m 17, five years younger than Rekia Boyd will be when she is shot in the head by an off duty police officer in Chicago.
  2. My heart is pounding out of my chest, not out of fear, but because I want a chance to choke the shit out of John Deere. I can’t think of any other way of making him feel what we felt.
  3. After the President’s letter goes out, my life kinda hurts.
  4. I receive a sweet letter in the mail with the burnt up ashes of my essays.
  5. Mama’s antidote to being born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi is not for us to seek freedom; it’s to insist on excellence at all times.

Brian Philips

Within Brian Philips, “Your Stupid Rage”, the author discusses how it is foolish for fans of soccer to get themselves all angry over their team’s success or failure and how pointless it all is. It would be much more enjoyable for everyone involved if people did not invest so much of their emotional energy into a game and rather just sit back and enjoy everything. It should not be this club against another; it should just be one entire soccer community as a whole enjoying a game together. It is stupid to become so enraged over such trivial things when there are many more important things in the world to worry about.


With any type of writing, an author has puts his or her name out there in an extremely public way. Writing is personal, so it is kind of like having your diary made public. It is also difficult to try to argue or make a point about a heavily debated issue. I guess that is were I am starting to feel the pressure with my own essay. In my essay on Smartphones, I am discussing the pros and cons and well as pricing for cell phones and cell phone plans. The reason why I am nervous is because many people are highly aware of smartphones and all the above-mentioned things I talked about. Therefore by writing this essay, I am putting myself out there in an extremely public way, which is opening myself for criticism. However, this is something that all writers face so I better get used to it.

Sarah Vowell

            Sarah Vowell’s novel The Wordy Shipmates depicts a kind of “rule-breaking” in writing that can show her subject matter in a completely different way. For example, the novel is about the people of the Mayflower and the different journeys that they had to take. Though her way of telling history is completely different. She uses real life examples, such as The Brady Bunch and the Simpsons, to display history. The tone of her work is very conversational; something I would really like to use in my writing. I love when I can actually hear, in my own mind, the author’s voice and feel like he or she is speaking directly to me. All throughout grade school and high school I was told never to use the word “I’ in all of my work. That though was always difficult to me because I write the way I speak, therefore not using the word “I” is very difficult. That is part of the reason why I love college; I can use the word “I” in order to express my writing in the best way possible, by speaking directly to my reader. For me, that is the best way to express any kind of information. Essays

Pamela Colloff, “The Innocent Man”


Three Things that made the essay noteworthy:

  1. The essay read like a storybook, a great way to keep the reader interested.
  2. The essay had a great sense of anticipation, much like a movie trailer.
  3. The essay also drew attention to a real life issue, all while providing an extremely real life example.


The readers of Longform appreciated this essay so much because it used a real-life example to show a major issue in the United State’s judicial system. The words were crisp and easy to understand, all signs of a good writer.

Tom Scocca “On Smarm”

In Tom Scocca’s “On Smarm”, Scocca discusses “smarm” which is the idea of snarky comments being made and not addressing them. The essay discuses that people do make negative comments and that they are hurtful, but that does not mean that they should not be said. Comments that are not exactly positive are not bad; it all depends on the context in which the comments are given. Constructive criticism in order words. The world is surely lacking in that. A lot of people think hurtful words can seriously ruin everything, which is true. But “hurtful” words can be good too, just depending on the way they are phrased.