I’m experimenting with ditching my phone number entirely. Here the back story:
I recently upgraded to a Samsung/Google Nexus 4 phone. Its awesome. Coming from a Nexus S 4g, the new phone is basically a faster, larger screen version of my old phone. Part of the upgrade was switching to T-Mobile’s 100 minutes, unlimited* data/text plan. The move brings my plan down from $85 a month to $33 a month. The savings and (relatively) low cost of the phone, means the switch will pay for itself in about six months. My prior unlimited data plan was crucial for me. I could tether my laptop over the 4g at the coffee shop and have high speed data all day long. I could push/pull big chunks of stuff to github or stream HD movies without worry of going over my data allotment. So, keeping unlimited data was my top priority in finding a new plan. The problem with most unlimited data plans is that you have to pair them with a billion minutes and pay a hefty add-on fee. I rarely used minutes before, so I felt trapped until I did some research. There are several companies that offer a low-minutes, unlimited data plan, with no contract. I knew I could shop around if T-Mobile didn’t work out.
With few minutes and unlimited data, I hunted around for a decent VoIP solution to still make/receive phone calls as needed. In the end, I got frustrated with all of the available options. I realized I might be able to go without making/receiving calls entirely, and I’m experimenting with how to do this.
None of the VoIP options I tried really fit my needs and requests. After searching around, I found that a lot of people were looking for a free option. The big suggestions were Skype and Talkatone. Both fell short of my demands. Skype is free if connecting Skype user to Skype user. However, incoming and outgoing calls cost a fee per minute. If I want a permanent number, its an additional monthly fee. Meaning if you get a number, then don’t use it, then need it again, you have to get a new number. You don’t “own” your number unless you pay the fee every month. This was not something I wanted.
Talkatone has a free option but the call quality is appalling. If its frustrating having dropped calls on a cell network, its absolutely sucks to have dropped calls over data or wifi (seriously WTF)? The paid version supposedly has better quality, but how good? If the basic functionality is breaking on the free version, is the paid version going to be better. Also, the interface is a joke. Every time you return to a text conversation, it drops a little “Resuming conversation with so-and-so” dialog box right above the text entry field. This dialog lasts for about a second. I know who I’m talking to! I both clicked on their name, and now see it in the conversation window. Get out of the way and let me type. Now I know I’m ranting but dammit I want something perfect.
I realized there was never going to be a good option. If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s definitely no such thing as a free steak dinner. I’m completely willing to pay for the “perfect” solution but nothing really gave me what I wanted. I don’t want to pay to maintain a phone number I may never use with Skype. I also don’t want to pay to find out the call quality sucks with Talkatone.
So, I’m ditching my phone number. I thought about it and it really started to make sense. I will admit this isn’t the solution for everyone. But maybe, just maybe, if you think about all the details of how you communicate, you’ll see having a phone number isn’t important.
On my phone I already have access to email, IMs/voice/video to Google users through Google Hangout, Skype-to-Skype video/voice, and text messages through Google Voice. Also, 90% of my calls are to/from my parents and girlfriend. They all have smart phones and can use any of the above ways to contact me. In fact, I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t have a smart phone. None of my contacts should ever need to call me.
My remaining calls are either to 1-800 numbers (like the bank or customer service) or people I never need to call right away. From what I’ve experienced so far, Skype lets you call 1-800 numbers for free. With my desktop gtalk (running in gmail) I can make additional outgoing calls to regular phone numbers. None of these people need to call me so I never need a permanent number.
Now having a phone should give you instant access to reach me. You can call me and you’ll immediate be able to talk to me. The problem is that this doesn’t work anymore. So many people, myself included, screen their calls. Honestly, I might not be in the mood to talk; I might be at work in a meeting, our out to dinner. On the other hand, I’ve never “missed” an email or text. I’ve never ignored someone who emailed me. I get email updates just as fast as an incoming call. I also can’t have a”dropped” email. It will always get delivered. I can’t remember how many times somebody has called me, missed me, and then said later “didn’t you get my call?”. When I then go to check, I have no record of a missed call. This never happens with email or texts.
Lastly, no more voice mail. Mother fuck, I hate voice mail. Personally I think voice mail should die along side the fax machine. What is the point of this anymore? Its my opinion that because we had answering machines for our land lines, when we all transitioned into cell phones, our voice messages became “voice mail” instead of “voice email”. Why do I have to “call” my voice mail? Why do I have to listen to an automated lady tell me about my voice mails? Why do people leave me a “Hey call me” voice mail? Why does my mom leave me a 20 minute one-sided-conversation voice mail? I admit Google Voice is kind of changing this but it is still the same. In the end I’ve trained most people I know not to leave me a voice mail. They know I don’t check them. But I still get the occasional spam voice mail. So how about voice mail all together?
So, to sum it all up. Don’t call me. I won’t answer. Email me first. Then if you’ve got Skype or Google Hangout reach out to me there. Lastly send me a text message. I’m dropping my phone number from the internet. Its off my resume. Its off my email signature. I’m moving farther into the 21st century.
*unlimited = 5 Gig at 4g speed, unlimited data after that at 3g speeds. I’m still pessamistic about these numbers but I can’t prove anything, yet.