How has your usage changed over the years?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| October 8, 2013

Cell phones have always played a pretty important role in my life since about the age of 11 or 12. Before then, I never really cared or gave them a second thought. But about that age is when my older brother got his first cell phone, and after seeing how important it became to his social life and how often he was using it to talk to his friends I realized that I had to have one too. I needed a cell phone. Unfortunately, I had the worst parents in the world and they wouldn't let me get one until I was the same age as my older brother, and like he had to, I needed to get a job in order to support the privilege.

Challenge accepted.

Fast forward to being 14 years old, and I suddenly found myself with a summer job and a means to pay for that which I so desperately wanted. After a few weeks of working, I had enough saved up to purchase a prepaid Verizon phone and a $30 refill card. The plan was weird because it wasn't really a plan - when you purchase a refill card you could use it however you wanted to. Every service had a different price. A minute cost 10 cents, and a text message cost $0.25 per message sent/received. At first, it was easy to stay under this limit as I only had one or two friends who had cell phones anyway. I preferred voice calls because it was cheaper and it took less time to complete. You could have an entire conversation done and over with in two minutes, which cost me less than sending one text message. But as more friends started to get cell phones now that we were entering our first year of high school, it was becoming more evident by the day that my $30 plan wouldn't last me long; not surprisingly, 120 text messages just wasn't cutting it anymore. I needed a different plan.

I have to take a moment now to be thankful that prepaid carriers have since changed to work more like postpaid carriers when it comes to plans, because searching for a perfect new prepaid plan with an emphasis on text messaging was absolutely horrendous in 2005. I mean, Verizon was pretty bad at $0.25 at the time, but nothing else was really that much better. I found $0.20/message, $0.15/message, and finally the lowest I found was $0.10/message, so I went with that one. It worked a little better, but it was still a bummer because being 14 I couldn't sign up for a plan of my own for a few years. Yes, I was that friend that would tell people to call, not text, which was a real social downer at that point in time, but it was what it was. As it turned out, luck would fall upon me in the form of Cricket Wireless, which just so happened to be rolling out in my city.

Cricket was my first taste of what mobile freedom was like. I was able to get unlimited everything at the time for 45 bucks a month. The only downside was that I could only use it in and immediately surrounding the Kansas City metro area, but being only 15 at the time I didn't do much traveling anyway. It worked out perfectly. It was perfect because not only was I now able to text as much as a budding social butterfly could, but I also had access to data now. I could download ringtones and browse Facebook, and... well, that was about all I used it for at the time. But the point here is that I could do it, and it was the start of a whole new world for me when it came to mobile usage. There was no turning back now.

I was actually still a rather heavy voice user, even when I unlimited access to all features of the phone. I would say I used all three pretty evenly, which was why it was such a perfect plan at the time. I was paying for exactly what I needed. It was perfect. But now when I reflect on my bill every month, I kind of cringe because it's not like that anymore. I have access not only to 500 minutes that go nearly unused every month, but also free nights and weekends and free mobile-to-mobile. Given that I hardly ever call landlines or businesses, or even go over 50 minutes a month, it seems like a waste of money. It is interesting, though; I never thought that I would want to almost completely get rid of the phone aspect of my phone. Eight years ago it was all I wanted a phone for, and here I am trying to get rid of as much of it as possible because as phones changed, so did my habits.

And how about you, readers? From the time that you first got a cell phone until now, how has your usage changed?

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