Mobility

Do you need a cell phone to survive?


cell phones for emergenciesIf you have a message that needs to be delivered immediately, such as a security alert, e-mail isn't the medium of choice -- or at least that's what cell phone providers will argue. Why? According to this story by CNET Networks' News.com, "More than 233 million people in the U.S. subscribe to a cell phone service, and many of those people view their cell phones as the one item they do not leave the house without." Read the article in its entirety: "Cell phone becomes new town crier."

Here's the lowdown:

What's new:
University and community leaders are just now starting to see how cell phones, the one item people don't leave the house without, can be used to keep citizens and students informed and protected, particularly in the case of emergencies.

Bottom line:
Experts say text message alerts, for example, may have helped in such tragedies as the Virginia Tech school shooting this week, Hurricane Katrina, and Sept. 11, 2001.

There are other cell phone apps beyond text message alerts that can help people in emergency situations, such as Rave Wireless' Rave Guardian, which "combines text message alerts and GPS tracking services to help turn students' cell phones into personal alarm devices that can be used in a crisis."

Sure, cell phones aren't just for chatting anymore. But will we eventually need a cell phone in order to survive? Join this discussion, and let us know how crucial (or insignificant) cell phones are in your life. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stay on top of the latest tech news

Get this news story and many more by subscribing to our free IT News Digest newsletter, delivered each weekday. Automatically sign up today!

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

61 comments
66barracuda
66barracuda

you say the mall, Mom used to take us to the mall, drop us off and if we wernt where she said we had to be at the specific time she said to be there we got our asses handed to us. thats the problem today, Instant Gratification, Lack of Discipline, Lack of Self Esteem, Lack of self defense classes in high schools, no one NEEDS a cell phone, they need to be ADULTS and RESPONSIBLE for their actions, What kid isnt going to scream his/her head off IF they get abducted?..o wait mr. please i need to call 911 YEAH RIGHT. as for the idiot who lost his wife at the mall, stop texting and be WITH your wife and it wouldnt have happened...its called LISTENING..hey honey im going over here ..instead of saying ok and texting then saying wtf where did she go?..she told you were she was going you were just to involved with your texting to listen. she should dump yer ass and get a REAL man that will apriciate her. Cell phones are mucking up the stratus sphere with their damn sattlelites and the scenery with their gawd awful ugly ass towers, rip em down and be done with that garbage already. I vote for more solar flares from the sun.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

Cell phones offer us convenience that we mistake for need. It is nice to be able to reach my wife and kids at all times but it rarely is a necessity.

louisprudent
louisprudent

A mobile phone or mobile (also called cellphone and handphone is an electronic device used for mobile telecommunications (mobile telephone, text messaging or data transmission) over a cellular network of specialized base stations known as cell sites. mobile phones

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I won't be tricked this time, I tell you. :D

deepsand
deepsand

I use a pay-as-you-go cell, carried in the car, strictly for emergency purposes. Those who expect me to be at their beck and call are simply SOL.

DanLM
DanLM

I personally think every woman should own a cell phone. I always turn my old phones into the batter women?s association. Erie Insurance use to be my automotive insurance, and they suggested that if you have a cell phone with a camera to take pictures right away when ever in an accident for evidence purpose's. Even the people that do not have service agreements are now starting to carry the pay as you use types of cell phones. I think cell phones have become a part of the every day life and really are needed. How many people started using a cell phone when their car has broken down and they didn?t have one. We just had this discussion at work actually. And that is why they carry one now. Dan

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

Text message alerts and other cell phone apps can help us in emergency situations, but will we eventually need a cell phone in order to survive? How crucial (or insignificant) are cell phones in your life?

jfuller05
jfuller05

Cell phones aren't necessities, but they do come in handy when you need them. One day, I was in the mall with my wife; we were separated somehow, so I called her cell phone and we found each other after verifying our locations. Afterward, we were talking about how it would have been very difficult to find each other quickly without cell phones. Obviously, we would have found each other, just not as quick. It's little things like that situation that cause you to think, "What would this have been like without a cell phone?"

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've got a couple perfectly working Cells sitting in boxes after being non-transferable between service providers. I think I'll be checking out the battered womens organization around these parts. As for the camera on the phone; when they first came out my reaction was "really, now we need cameras in our phones? Voice, text, email and applets isn't enough?" But yeah, I wish I'd had a phone with camera after being bounce of the front of a box van.

The family Jules
The family Jules

haven't had a land line for 10 years. used to be that i'd never get sales calls, but that seems to be changing. 2 phones, one for work, one for personal. i've used it in the past to call police on drunk drivers. i do a lot of traveling and long distance phone calls, so it saves me on long distance also.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

used to be you wouldn't have a phone if the power to the tower goes out. This can be a problem during power failures caused by weather, which often affect large areas. Maybe they've started putting some form of UPS on the towers now, so I may be out of date. For those of us with dial-up ISPs, the land line is still desirable. To answer the original question, I don't have a cell phone and don't plan on getting one. Our combined local and long distance bills are usually around $35 monthly. The cell plans I've seen are much more than that. As for the auto breakdown issue, what I'm not spending on a cellular service will pay for a lot of automotive preventative maintenance.

GSG
GSG

At first, I only got mine in case of emergency and because my Mom worried because I drove 50 miles to and from work. When I had my car wreck, and no one would stop to help, it proved it's worth for the 911 call. I also don't want to pay long distance charges, and then file for reimbursement when I have to return calls to work, or to pay long distance to call certian family members. I recently got texting because my nephews text more than they talk, and I figured that we could text to keep in touch. Honestly, I could do without it, but it's nice to have on trips and during the communte.

naba.hazarika
naba.hazarika

It is not that we can't survive without a cell phone, but the question is whether there is any alternative to lead life in such a user friendly, compact format. Cell phone today is not only a tool to be used during emergency, it is a part of our day to day life.

tkwong
tkwong

For over a decade, I was hooked to my cell phone, then my Blackberry including the internet. I used to be on it everyday, hour for both work and personal stuff. It consumed who I was. Recently, I had a 'awakening' on the job by a new manager that forced me to re-evaluate my career and life. I've since unhooked myself from the Blackberry (still have it) when I'm not expecting a crucial call / message and I LOVE IT!. More personal time, bonding time with the kids, time to read newspapers and books, and to listen to podcasts. I'm loving it!

des
des

I am from Africa - the backend of all woods, working landlines are a thing to dream about, obtaining a landline, if you dont have the money to grease all the palms, forget it. The cell, obtained and working within hours, the new 3G, automatic switching to edge and gprs what a wonderfull invention. In Africa you need to know where you are as the sign posts are non existing, phone a freind and find out which tree must you turn left or which pride of Lions are where, have instant communication with the spotter aeroplane. Talk to a pal in new york from Mzuzu, a place not even on a map. Order spares for your Land Rover from the middle of the bush, get supplies. Get weather reports, find out what is happening in the world, use it as an emergency torch to help you find your way in the dark and it makes calls too.

K7AAY
K7AAY

http://home.avvanta.com/~libertyhall/sms.htm Why? Cell towers have, at best, two T-1s for voice (48 channels) and generally only one (24 channels). WHat happens to caller No. 49 or caller No. 25? Three guesses, folks, and the first two don't count. However, SMS works over the GSM (and TDMA) control channel, which works even when voice channel overload strikes. As for CDMA and iDEN systems, the control channel is virtualized, but it has priority over voice. Just look up the record of the James Kim search in Southern Oregon; Kim's vicinity was found by SMS messages sent to his phone, which got through Edge Wireless (local GSM carrier) even though he had very little battery and not enough signal for voice. SMS can save your life.

lonnie.hill
lonnie.hill

If I didn't have my cellphone, I'd be completely out of business, because I need it to communicate with my clients, to find out information, and of course, text messaging. This is my business line, so no cell phone, no business. The great thing is to have unlimited inbound calls for a buck a day from my provider, so I can't complain about that! :-)

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Was hiking in VERY rocky area N of LA (Devil's PUnchbowl LA County park). Broke my leg. Because of slippery twisty paths and not being as careful as I could. As near Lancaster, was able to call 911 on my cell phone, got airlifted out. Because of this it was a very clean break, didn't break the skin. I was walking (with crutches) two days later, after being whisked off to Cedars after stabilizing it, for surgery on Sunday. No matter how much you spend on car maintenance, you will always have a breakdown, maybe less if you maintain car well. While strangers will often stop and help, strangers could also stop and rob you. My car threw a rod (at nearly a quarter million miles) on a freeway. Managed to pull over. A cop pulled up very quickly but I'd already called AAA. If you have a phone you can call places see if their open, etc. I've given up landline since have cell phone. I was paying $22 a month for a phone I hardly ever used. And broadband for computer so not used for internet.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

Having a personal cell phone has been of crucial use exactly twice; once for a call to 911 to report a barn fire and once to call 911 to report a lost autistic child in traffic. The rest of the time it's been a way for my employer to call me at all hours and for my wife to keep tabs on me ("I'm at work, trying not to get fired for taking personal calls! Can this wait?"), neither of which I consider to be crucial to my survival. I've had a Ham radio for decades and it has been more useful, and more fun, more often.

george_moore
george_moore

I'm Deaf. The things are useless to me. If I'm not looking at you, you're having a private conversation . . . with yourself. Lovely idea, of course, but you have to e-mail me to get my attention. Might be nice to get READABLE Voice Mail off a Cell; that'd be cool. "Texting" is for code freaks; I speak English. GTM

Poordirtfarmer
Poordirtfarmer

I broke down and went with a family plan. We've a cell phone for every family member (Wife, 3 girls & me). My thinking was that we could coordinate things better, be safer and more efficient if we all had phones and could keep in touch Turns out to be a big waste of money from my perspective. I don't get called & the phone is seldom answered when I call - its just dad. Wish we didn?t even have them.

akruzel
akruzel

That's it! Last month I used 27 minutes on my cell phone and 20 minutes were used to check messages. I do think addicted cell phone users have added new meaning to rude, though I do get a charge watching them talk to themselves.

tick
tick

I don't have a cell phone and no plans to get one. I see the convenience uses out of them and the emergency uses as well, but my desire to be a part of that is pretty low. My vision may be somewhat skewed as I am on a university campus where I see nearly 90% of the population on their phones the second they leave class. I've no desire to be tethered to work or anyone else for that matter. There are times everyone should disconnect for their own good.

mhbowman
mhbowman

like roadside assistance, staying in touch with your kids, or jobs that involve sales, and traveling etc. That said I don't have a land line and log maybe an hour of calls per month. Apart from examples like these I would estimate at least 90% of calls to be useless banter between people with 30 second attention spans who feel like they are multi-tasking and in effect "getting something done". If you don't think pay attention to how many people are talking on the phone while driving down the road. I would estimate it's about 70%. I have a teenage daughter that pays for her own phone. Last month she managed to stay within her minutes and limited the majority of her calls to evenings and weekends. HOWEVER she still managed to log over 70 HOURS IN ONE MONTH. The child literally narrates her entire life while she's doing it. Hey what are you doing? Nothing. Just getting up. Going downstairs to get some breakfast. Later in the evening the conversation turns to more important issues like: Hey what are you doing? Nothing. Just gonna have a snack before getting ready to go to bed. Then she would proceed to sit in the kitchen and continue her conversation about what she was thinking about eating etc. We finally had to establish a rule that their phones remain in their rooms to get some peace.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Recently this issue has been discussed in Toronto because several schools and even now whole school boards have banned students using cell phones inside the buildings(they may use them outside at recess/spare periods). Parents can call the school if there is an emergency and they will track down the kids - I know this works because two weeks ago this happened to my kids - who do not carry cell phones. One single mom called into the radio station and complained that she needed to keep in touch with her kids because plans change and timing changes, and she couldn't rely on the schools to pass along messages in a timely manner. Hmmm....we somehow managed without this when I was a kid.... A professor who had implemented the ban for his university class had a cool rule. If his cell phone rang (it never did) someone from the class could answer it. If a student's phone rang he would answer it. It only happens once per term.... What boggles my mind is that people call for the most inane stuff that they don't really need -just because they can. I have a cell phone provided by my work. Its for work emergencies or short conversations. The company doesn't mind me using it for personal stuff, but I don't share the number out. If you just want to chat call me at home - I'm pretty grumpy in my rush hour heavy traffic commute. James

jmc_51
jmc_51

2 baby-boomers here allways had land line now we both just use cell phones (no texting though) we actually use ours for talking

marka
marka

If I didn't have the job I have I wouldn't have a cell phone. I don't like the feeling of being "connected" constantly. I doubt I would ever need anything beyond food, water and place I can call home, to survive. But then again I might not want to miss that important text message of some store trying to sell me more crap.

Ron K.
Ron K.

calling her cell phone and be close enough to hear it ring.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

If my kids have their cell phones on them when we go to the mall or the store can do their own thing for the same reason. I hate spending time looking for them.

DanLM
DanLM

If you wear eyeglasses, you can turn in your frames to the blind association when you buy new ones. Which they will then use to help individuals with limited income. I don't, because I always keep my oldest pair for backups. I don't know of any other services like these two, but I bet there are others. One person?s throw away can be another person's life savior.

clark1
clark1

Both have cells and twice they have come in handy for her. 6 months ago her car just died in the middle of nowhere, she was able to call me AND AAA for her "rescue". The other time was about a month ago, she hit a deer and it totaled her car, another rescue run. Also my kids live in Florida and my girls both have Verizon with free texting so we can keep in touch anytime if they need to talk.

Kellster
Kellster

My own and another for the Help Desk off hours support. I really don't mind and always embraced technology anyways, why wouldn't you? Only problem is I got a telemarketing - recording actually - on the company phone the other day. I wish that telemarketers could disappear forever.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Some of us got along quite well before them, and are doing nicely still. I was never a big user of land line phones to begin with (average local and LD bill less than $40 / month) and I don't feel the need to be constantly connected. Periodically my dept. directory threatens to burden me with one, but so far she's continued to forget to follow through. I've had four calls at home in twelve years. I don't think that merits spending $40 or more per month to be able to reach me, but it won't be coming out of my pocket. My wife and I play a game when we're out somewhere and another person's cell is in use. We try to predict whether the person near us will describe his own location before or after asking the other person where they are.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Assume I know nothing about cell phone technology. Okay, you don't have to assume; I don't. What are: Channels Caller numbers Are these limits on the number of callers a tower can handle at one time? SMS I assume this isn't Microsoft's "Systems Management Server" product. GSM TDMA CDMA iDEN Control channels Virtualized control channels Does "T-1" mean the same thing for cell towers as when I use it to describe land lines used to connect to the Internet? How can sending SMS (whatever it turns out to be) to a phone help you find it? If you feel these questions are beyond the scope of this conversation, I'll understand. Thanks.

Tig2
Tig2

You are the perfect audience for the cell phone. And we used to use shorthand when sending TDD/TTY messages. You can use any working phone to dial 911 if the need ever arises. Again, for you, the cell phone capable of text messaging is the better tool as 911 service is continually enhanced. All that said, I have a cell but don't use it much and have been known to glare at it rather than answer it. And I am always willing to be a contact bridge for a deaf person who needs to communicate with a speaker from a distance.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I hadn't considered it but lack of hearing would definately cancel most of the value of a cell phone. The Crackberry may be of more value or similar email focused cell devices. Actually, I just started seeing ads around these parts for video talk cell phone service. Soon enough a cell will be for voice, text, email, camera and video chat. I don't imagine reading lips is a communication method you'd choose where other options are available though. Text is great but for small messages like "leaving work, be there in ten min." It does suck for drawn out conversations. I'm a little spoiled though as I read and write my text messages on my Palm with written input and using my phone for the transport layer through bluetooth.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If you ever did decide to get a cell phone, you can use it to your preferences. Mine's basically a glorified pager when I'm out of the house. I was never one of those people that had to "be intouch" during or imediately at the end of classes in school or now, meetings at work. If you've not been hooked by mobile phones, you may be better off sticking to the POTS. Having my phone number in hand is great but every month I'm reminded that it's still bills as a premium method of communication. the Bell/Roger's competition is causing some good changes though.

mhbowman
mhbowman

Take time to think, reflect, or maybe even read something every once in a while. Give your ears and mouth a rest. I've been asked several times by my kids about our plans for summer vacation. With a straight face I've told them several times about renting a luxury "cabin" in the mountains for about two weeks. It has every every modern convenience except cable, satellite, internet, or phone service. You should see the look on their faces when they think about being disconnected for even a day much less two weeks. LOL.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Before having a cell I agreed with friends that only doctors or "emergency" occupations really needed one. After getting a cell, I'm hooked and can't live without it. Now I also understand etiquette. The cell remains on vibrate when out of my house and I don't answer it just because someone is calling. I try to avoid sharing my half of the conversation with the other TTC riders and really avoid the slow dazed walk. You've seen it demonstraited by Crackberry Zombies checking email during 100 person subway transfer half way down the stairs. If more people had a distant concept of "gadget etiquette" (as it's been stated in a few articles) schools would not have to ban cell phones. The same for movie theaters and other public places now interested in Cell band jammers. If there's an emergancy and you have to call out; every building still has a land line and I bet the theater staff wouldn't mind it being used. If there's an emergency and you have to recieve the call in; we survived as a species before 24/7 connectivity. You'll get the message after the movie, someone will come and find you with a message from "the office" or perhaps it's something you should have had a plan in place to deal with before the movie started. Still, the rules would not be needed if responsibility for use was understood ahead of time. I'm just surprised it's taken so long for school to start doing this. It sucks but they're not doing it without reason.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's Toronto; rent is madness so move's happen. With cell coverage and me usualy in the city, there's no reason for a land line outside of the battery limit in your phone during a blackout. Just inately having your phone number in your pocket is fantastic provided you have some concept of responsability about it. I'd also recommend looking into Texting depending on your plans message fees. If I want to get ahold of a friend I can send off a quick "hey, call me when convenient" too them. If it's a single piece of information, I can ship it out and know it's waiting on the other persons phone without calls for "did you get my voicemail the other day?" I also like that text messages are usually national, none of that long distance crap so I can bounce a message out to relatives in BC quick and easy. I actually use my phone for talking but the text feature has some great uses. Not pushing here, just info.

LockOutGirl
LockOutGirl

I don't see the reason for a land line anymore. It's just another cost that we don't need. I live in a gated apartment complex and the gate's box is keyed into my cell phone number. This is GREAT in that if I forget my card, I just pull up, enter my code and the gate calls my cell. I answer the call, hit a button and the gate opens. Never lock yourself out of the complex again! (Now my apartment or car, that's another matter.) I will use text messages on my cell, but I'm kind of leery about using it for alerts. Service around here is spotty sometimes, and cell phones aren't reliable. I've had people call me, but I never knew it - no "missed call" message, no indication that I got a voice mail, nothing. So, nothing is infallable. With the VT tragedy, even if cell phones had been used, the lines became so jammed at one point that nothing would have made it through. So, that overwhelmed system would have failed.

Ed H.
Ed H.

I don't have a cell phone (thought about getting one) or other portable electronic communication device. Not that I am technically averse, it's just that I don't want to be tethered to some device all the time and feel obligated to pay attention to it. I see all these people who have all these gadgets and seem to be unable to go anywhere or do anything without them. I enjoy the peace, quite and freedom.

Dennis.Keeling
Dennis.Keeling

My phone was purchased 18 months ago. it is permantly switched off and I only have it for emergencies. I certainly could live my life without a mobile, a car, a stereo, a tv and the internet. All I need is a computer, radio and a guitar

accountservices
accountservices

Lately I have been turning my phone off for small blocks of time. This allows me to think for a while without being interrupted by the cell. When I am ready, I turn it back on when usually there are vmails. I then answer the vmails with a better frame of mine. There are often those that are just spots of information not requireing a response. By blocking doing this, I have save myself from getting into an unecessary conversations which have the potential for wasting time (because I like to talk).

deepsand
deepsand

merely a way to avoid saying "the older I get the less sleep I'm able to get." I now know why my grandparents were always up & about so often during so many nights.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I battle my own sleeplessness, though for different reason. Can't remember the last good sleep I've had. Though exhaustion does knock me deep for a few hours now and then. Mom used to say that getting old isn't for sissies. She was right. Do hope that pain continues to lessen for you. PS? Of course you were right! :D :D

deepsand
deepsand

Thanks for taking notice. The head/neck/shoulder pains are less frequent, and generally less severe or long lived, but still sufficient for causing me to be in a near constant state of sleep deprivation. Last night, for example, though the pain was rather diminutive, it, along with RLS, kept me tossing and turning until nearly 5:45, with the alarm set to 7:00 of necessity for the day ahead. So, while I'm subject to less pain, I'm still not nearly as productive as I need and like to be. From the Activity rankings, I notice that nothing seems to be slowing you down. However do you find the time? PS - Seems I was right when I said you'd be re-visiting a zombie thread!

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

I don't talk on the phone while driving.. EXCEPT to report accidents, stalled cars in middle of road, debris in road, a homeless guy wandering the freeway, people doing 100+ mph freeway racing, etc. It would only make matters worse because I WOULDN'T report these if I had to pull over. And I agree it is a large problem. some d*ckh**d driver of a pickup truck ran the light at a freeway exit ramp right in front of me, talking on his phone. and plenty of other examples.

Chilly Willy the First
Chilly Willy the First

As somone said in an earlier post, 70% of people going down the road are on the phone. A few years ago, I was driving from one state to another and had to get on a conference call. Well, I just whipped out the ole cell phone and proceeded to have an hour and a half waste of time like most conference calls are. What shocked me most was that I drove the 100+ miles and didn't remember the route at all. Next thing I knew, I was pulling up to my hotel. Oh, and don't forget the notes that most of you jot down while on one of these calls. What did you do only a few years ago when the wasn't any cellphones? You skipped the mindless chatter and waited until you got home or wherever you were going or if it was really "life or death" (some of the soccer moms think that ALL of their calls fall into this catagory) you stopped at a payphone. Those are hard to come by now because the cellphone has put that industry out of business. I wish EVERY state passed the law like NY did, if you want to talk on the phone, stop or pay a $250. fine. So to answer the original question..... Many people die on our roads every DAY using a cellphone so, to survive it's best if you don't have one. Unfortunately I still do. :(

dogknees
dogknees

.. you can't walk(normally) and talk/text at the same time, don't use the phone!

deepsand
deepsand

Also known as "disposable" phones, they can often be found at bargain prices in convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, Wa-Wa, etc..

deepsand
deepsand

Mine rests in the car, available for emergency use. Anyone that expects me to be at their beck and call is SOL.

drumbeat
drumbeat

I have an inexpensive phone that is used for Virgin Mobile. I pay US$20 every 90 days to keep the account active. Calls cost $.25 a minute for the first 10 minutes and $.10 per minute after 10 minutes. I have only made one call longer than 10 minutes in over 3 years I have had the phone. I have for emergencies only and the people at work do NOT have the number.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Where do you get them? Who provides the service? How's the sound quality and coverage? Googling it resulted in a bunch of companies I haven't heard of (Tracfone, Wirefly, Virgin (is that the same Virgin that's also a record company and an airline? That's reassuring, not.)). I don't know who the industry players are so I don't have any background to evaluate these guys. I assumed the whole system worked on the "proprietary hardware / long-term contract" service model since that's all I've seen advertised. It sounds like this might be worth the trouble. Any advice or recommendations I should keep in mind while investigating this? Thanks! EDIT - I'm going to start a new discussion asking for opinions and recommendations.

DanLM
DanLM

The ones where you pay for so many minutes, and you only pay again when you have used those minutes. And only if you want to. Pretty much how I use to do my long distance phone calling. I bought phone cards because they were cheaper then having long distance service. Actually, I do think the cell phones will dial 911 even if no minutes/service contract exit's. Please do not hold me to that statement, but I do believe I was told that. Dan

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'd like to have one for emergencies, but I don't want to pay $40 or $50 monthly for that kind of insurance.

Editor's Picks