Posted by: patenttranslator | January 12, 2014

Say Goodbye to Your Cell Phone Contract and Keep Using Your Phone for Next to Nothing


I have been using a cell phone for about 20 years now. Back in the nineties, I believed that it was important to answer every phone call because the call could be from a potential customer and people don’t like to leave message. I know that I don’t like to leave messages.

During my lunch hour, I used to forward my main phone line to my cell phone so that I would not lose a single call while walking around downtown Petaluma, California, browsing in a bookstore, antique shops, and junk stores.

Somehow I believed that being tethered to a phone line on my portable phone meant being free, although seen from a different perspective, this kind of freedom now looks to me more like slavery.

But times have changed. I stopped forwarding my office voice line to my cell phone several years ago. The fact is that not many people call these days. And too many people who do call are not really people but machines with prerecorded messages trying to trick me into doing something that I really, really don’t want to do.

Every few months I do get an important call, for example from a patent lawyer who just found my website and who is looking for a translator who can translate German or Japanese patents because he is expecting a lot of such patents in the near future. But do I really want to answer 500 calls from answering machines on my cell phone, while browsing in a bookstore, exercising in my gym, or driving in my car, to make sure that I don’t lose one potentially important call?

The answer at this point in my life is: HELL NO! Even if it means that I may lose a potential client because I am no longer a slave to my cell phone.

When my 2-year contract with Verizon expired in December 2013, I was going to keep the line, but without the data plan which costs 30 dollars a month. Without the data plan, I would pay 35 dollars a month, with the plan, it would cost about 70 dollars a month with taxes. But when Verizon told me that I have to keep the data plan with a smart phone, I told them to cancel the service.

I still need to have a cell phone on me for emergencies, for example if I get a flat tire and need to call a towing service. Fortunately, since I did not throw out my old Blackberry phone, (I found it in a big box where I keep toys that I no longer use), I activated a new cell phone line with T-Mobile on my Blackberry. Instead of paying 70 dollars a month to Verizon, I pay 10 dollars every 3 month for this service to T-Mobile. It comes with only 30 minutes of talk time per month, but that is plenty for occasional use and emergency purposes.

I still use my iPhone all the time because everything on my no-plan, no-service phone works just as it did for the last two years, as long as I am connected to a WiFi service, except for the calling part. So I take my Blackberry with me if I go somewhere where I might need to make or receive a call.

At home, connected to my WiFi router, I still check my e-mail mostly on the cell phone, (compulsive and excessive checking of e-mail is a characteristic symptom of translator’s dementia, and like most translators, I too am suffering from this dreadful disease).

I can still text my kids or talk to them on FaceTime from my “dead” iPhone as long as I am connected to Internet.

I also take my iPhone with me whenever I leave the house to check my e-mail if I go shopping,  to a bookstore, or to the gym. There are four WiFi spots at a small shopping center near my house, so I can check e-mail easily there (or the latest gossip on LinkedIn, Twitter or Reddit, or my blog count if I want to), while sitting in my car parked in front of Dunkin Donuts, or while exercising in my gym. And the bookstore where I go about once a month also has free WiFi. I love the fact that once I have connected to free WiFi in a certain location, the phone recognize it and connects to it automatically next time.

As most of the conversation with customers, both existing ones or potential ones, takes place in e-mails on the Internet, the actual telephone call features of cell phones are becoming less and less important by the day.

I could also call from my “dead” cell phone by using the Skype minutes that I bought more than a year ago for 10 dollars, in case of an emergency. Or I could fully activate cell phone service temporarily for a month should I need to travel and then discontinue it again.

Since free WiFi spots are everywhere if you live in an urban area, the phone companies will have to rethink and redesign the entire concept of mobile phone services.

It was such a beautiful, double-dipping business model for phone companies when they could charge both the person making a call and the person receiving the call!

I look forward to watching them squirm trying to figure out the next cell phone mouse trap for people like me.

Unless they can quickly figure out what to do about the fact that free Internet service is available just about everywhere these days, they are going to lose a lot of money that people like myself have been paying to them, mostly unnecessarily, for the last two decades.


  1. I also use an old smart phone (an Android HTC Incredible I) like a little portable mini-computer and it works great, because of the ubiquitousness of wi-fi. However, I just want to mention that when I was making the transition from a smart phone to a dumb phone, I did some research about it and found in several places online that if you start using Skype or some other “phone” service on a Verizon cell phone, they may, or probably will, start to charge you minutes for the usage. This sort of usage time will be very expensive, without a plan. I continue to use my little computer, although I know that it might not go on functioning forever; I never use it to talk, out of fear of being charged by Verizon, because they will bill you if they have any excuse for it.


  2. “I did some research about it and found in several places online that if you start using Skype or some other “phone” service on a Verizon cell phone, they may, or probably will, start to charge you minutes for the usage”.

    Can they really do that?

    Does anybody have direct experience with something like that?

    When I tried to make a phone call when I no longer had Verizon service, after the ringing tone there was a message telling me to stand by for an operator who will take my credit card information.

    So I hung up because I knew that it would be very expensive.


  3. Now that you have let the cat out of the bag, Steve,………………..


    • What do you mean?


      • (tongue firmly in cheek), you have tipped the ‘service’ providers off to an opportunity lost. Brace yourself for ‘innovations/new developments’ to rectify this ‘market failure’. 🙂


  4. Right.

    Viva il Capitalismo!


  5. I like the out-of-the-box thinking. Like you, I am an obsessive e-mail checker but would just as soon check the phone; never thought of this as an option!


  6. I mean chuck the phone 🙂


  7. The only concern to me would be security when using the free or public WiFi hotspots (wireless traffic sniffing).

    We are lucky in France to have fierce competition, so data & voice plans are really unexpensive (as low as 16 €/month for 3GB of data + unlimited voice & text messages (unsubsidized)). Great if you already own an off-contract, unlocked smartphone.

    You’re right that traditional voice calls are becoming less and less important (not VoIP such as Skype, etc.).
    Most ISPs in France also provide free WiFi access to their subscribers via their users’ routers. The router is provided by the ISP, and the WiFi network is isolated from your personal network (different SSID). The user can of course accept or refuse to activate this service.
    As for voice calls, even with an unlimited plan, i generally use less than 2 hours a month, so sure the carrier can offer unlimited voice plans with users like me.


  8. Well, compared to France, we are forced to pay more than twice as much for cell phone service on smart phones by Verizon, AT&T and other assorted corporations here in the states.

    I think that a lot of people will do what I have done and that the cost of the plans will go down as a result of that.

    A similar thing is happening also with cable TV service – people are getting rid of the cable and keeping only Internet service where you can watch both news and movies (movies for example on Netflix).

    Especially young people do that often do that.


    • There’s also enough competition in the US I guess, but maybe due to the large size of the country, carriers certainly have much more infrastructure costs (cell towers, backhaul…) to offer decent coverage (but also more customers, so…).

      Interesting point you mention, about the people getting rid of (expensive) cable TV (“cord cutting”). Let’s see what will happen to the cablecos and the cable industry that have been losing subscribers. Don’t know what their churn rate is, but i guess it must have been pretty high for the past three years.


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