No, Mom, That’s SMS

Today my mother got her first smartphone.  I want it to be as simple and pleasant as possible for her to take this leap, but she’s going to be on my plan, so I covered some basics.  Here’s what I told her.  I’d like to know if I lied, so comments are encouraged.  But I already know that this version of the facts is AT&T specific.

The Parts

We get service from AT&T, our carrier.  Other carriers include Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile.  The cell towers talk to our phones.  AT&T makes everything outside our phone work for us.  Because of the way our plan works, we need to consider three different services that AT&T provides.

The Three Services

  1. voice – The voice service is a shared, limited number of minutes for calls.  My wife will use most of these.  Calling each other on our cell phones doesn’t count toward the limit.
  2. SMS – This is an old, limited way to send text messages.  It is expensive compared to sending text messages over data.  Mom doesn’t text, so I’ll get into details later about how she can send texts over data.
  3. data – Mom will have 300 MB per month of data usage.  When her phone accesses the Internet via the cell towers, that’s using the data plan.  If she just uses navigation and occasional web browsing, the 300 MB will seem large.  If she watches videos or listens to music when out and about, it won’t be enough.  For that, she can use wifi (see below).

Using the Phone

This will be a refurbished Samsung Note II, nice for her because it’s larger and because of its stylus.  Also its Google integration will be useful to her, I think, for navigating, her main reason for upgrading to a smartphone.

I only covered two uses of the phone, and she asked about a third.

  1. calling – In the AT&T store, she tried calling me while I stood outside.  I had her use the speaker phone, too.
  2. navigation – We used Google Maps to see Boulder, Colorado, and to get directions and start navigation.  She liked it.
  3. bridge – She asked whether she could play (the card game) bridge on the phone, and I said that there were probably a bunch of bridge games in the Play Store.  This led to a discussion of apps and the Play Store.

I told her that AT&T only provides a few apps.  By far, most of the apps she’ll get are from independent third parties.  I told her a story about how I looked for a nice French-English dictionary app last night.  I found some free ones, some great looking ones for $24.99, and one that I almost got for $5.49, but I finally remembered Google Translate and noticed that it has gotten a whole lot nicer since I last used it, and it’s free.


We talked about Google a bit, and I summarized by saying that they release things early and then note the reaction of consumers before launching again, bigger and better, or pulling the plug.  They offer useful things for free and figure out some way to make money off it at leisure, while addicting everyone to Google.  Often I will curse Google when a familiar app or service suddenly changes, but usually things generally move in a direction of general improvement.


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