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Tech Talk

Lose my number, and yours, too

12/16/2015

One of the more awkward points in a relationship is when you realize you’ve outgrown someone. The worst is when you break up with a significant other or drop a friend that no longer fits your lifestyle. But that awkwardness is not exclusive to people. While some items pretty much force you to drop them (such as out-of-style clothes), others become so ingrained in our lives that you consider learning to live with their obsolesce (like large DVDs collections). It becomes much more uncomfortable when it seems society is about to outgrow something, and right now it seems that distress is being caused by mobile carriers.Phone numbers

To be fair, mobile carriers offer a great deal of value, mostly in wireless data connections. However, their primary service is quickly becoming obsolete. One could argue that phone numbers are not truly necessary, and by dropping your phone number, one could lead a more peaceful existence. Now, before you turn the page and write this off as inane, think back to the last time you upgraded your phone. As exciting and shiny as your new phone was, your old phone actually retained a lot of its utility. All your media and documents stored on the old device can still be accessed, and through Wi-Fi connections, practically all the old applications will be able to update and delivery the same functionality.

Of course, before we go any further on the virtues of living phone number free, there is, without question, one huge detriment: emergency situations. Say you find yourself on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, and your car is dead. A phone without cellular service is not going to do you any good. In these situations, the only remedy is connecting your phone to a mobile provider that offers a data-free option such as Google’s Project Fi . But to give our parents and grandparents credit, generations of travelers lived without cellphones, and somehow the species survived. So I do believe it can be done. Also, how many times in the last 10 years have you actually found yourself in that kind of emergency situation?

All right, maybe the fear of dying on the side of a country road is too much for you to personally overcome, but what about your child? I’m not saying sacrifice your kids to the roadside gods — actually just the opposite. Why do they need a phone number? Most kids live a life confined within a 10-mile radius of their home, and it seems 99 percent of them have smartphones. While I know talking on the phone isn’t entirely dead, it’s pretty close when it comes to teenagers. Most teen and tween communication is done through applications like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Yik Yak, Skype, Hangouts and other web services. These applications don’t require a mobile carrier contract or a phone number, just a Wi-Fi or data connection.

With every parent concerned about distracted driving, removing the mobile carrier/data connection part of the equation is actually a life-saving decision. Without a mobile carrier’s data connection to fuel their distraction feeds, smartphones become useless, and drivers’ eyes have nothing to do but pay attention to the road. As an added bonus, as soon as the driver finds a Wi-Fi connection, notifications and messages will flood in, rewarding them for driving safely.

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I’m sure you’re already envisioning the tantrum you’ll incur by telling your kid they won’t have a phone number, but through Wi-Fi, calls can still be made, photos can still be shared, media can still be streamed and all without a monstrous mobile carrier bill to satiate. CV

 

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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