Last week, my cellphone died. Died, as in, I used it one evening, and when I took it out of my purse the next day, it was dead. The battery wouldn’t take a charge, plugging it in did nothing — it was a brick. I took the phone to Verizon, and they were unable to revive it, advising that the phone was probably beyond repair.
Think about all of the information on your phone right now — go ahead. In fact, you may wish to back up your contacts and images while you’re thinking about it. I have never been a fan of allowing my phone to backup to the cloud, so I used to back it up locally to my laptop — oh, about three years ago when I first got the phone.
My data’s gone, and there’s nothing I can do. I absolutely should have backed it up sooner, or more often, but it is what it is. I even took the phone to a CPR Cell Phone Repair location, who did some diagnostics on the phone and replaced its internal battery. Nothing. They concluded that the phone’s motherboard simply crashed, and that was that.
A funny thing happened though when I began telling friends and colleagues that I’d be without a phone for a few days while I decided what kind of phone to replace mine with. Nearly everyone was excited for me, with reactions ranging from “Great! Now you can get an upgrade!” to “Cool! What are you getting next?”
I didn’t think my phone dying was “great” or “cool” at all.
You see, I really, really, really liked my old phone. I’ve had a Motorola Droid 4 since 2012. It was my first smartphone, and I truly loved everything about it. My husband and I both got Droids that year, partially because of the Star Wars connection (yes, the box notes that it is trademarked by Lucasfilm LTD! What an esoteric Star Wars collectible) but also because of its at-that-time cutting-edge features. I liked the size of the phone, its features, its battery life — but most importantly, I liked this:
My Droid 4 had a slide-out keyboard. It’s simply a brilliant design that blends a full touchscreen phone with a full keyboard.
Now, I know the touchscreen purists reading this are sighing and thinking “that IS so 2012.” But listen — I loved this phone because of its keyboard. You can use the phone with full touchscreen capabilities and never open the keyboard — it pops up a digital keyboard when you want to type, like any smartphone. But, there are times I prefer the physical keyboard for many reasons:
- I use my phone AS a computer throughout the day. I can’t imagine what a pain it would be to write HTML code with a touchscreen phone, having to page through three different screens to get to all of the symbols and characters that are easily knocked out with a physical Shift key.
- I type extremely fast, and this phone is built for typing accurately at high speed. I can text and type rapid-fire without even looking at the screen. How many smartphone users can say that? I would happily pit myself against the fastest on-screen texter in a typing battle, and I’m confident that I’d win the challenge with my Droid 4. (I know the Blackberry has a keyboard, but I don’t want a Blackberry. Tiny keyboard with a tiny screen. The Droid keyboard is twice the size, and I still get a full-size touchscreen with it too.)
- The keyboard doesn’t take up screen space. When I am working on my blog or simply chatting with a friend, I still have all of my phone’s screen available to me — it’s not half-used up by the keyboard.
Yes, as a QWERTY keyboard smartphone user, I realize I’m in the minority. I recently registered for a blogger conference, and the registration form asked “What kind of smartphone do you have?” It gave two options: Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy — as if to say, “If you’re not using one of these phones, what are you doing at our event?” Indeed, I’ve got friends who blog as Verizon #VZWBuzz ambassadors with the latest tech gear — they’d probably cringe at the idea of a fellow blogger using this phone. I’d argue that they don’t even know what they’re missing. The slide-out keyboard isn’t a detriment or an “artifact” of an ancient technological age — it is a feature the rest of you are missing.
For me, this phone was my mini-mini laptop. And my mini-mini laptop was now dead.
Listen, I knew I would have to upgrade my phone at some point. The Verizon store staff kindly pointed out that the average life expectancy of a smartphone is three years, and my phone’s sudden death didn’t seem all that sudden to them. They pointed out that I had been eligible for an upgrade for over a year and asked what kind of phone I’d like to replace my Droid 4 with.
“Um… a Droid 5?”
I and the other die-hard keyboard enthusiasts have been anxiously awaiting the launch of the Motorola Droid 5 ever since production photos of it were leaked online in 2013. Droid enthusiasts cheered and rejoiced when we saw the new model still had its beloved keyboard… and then, nothing. I don’t know if Motorola & Verizon have halted production, or if it’s delayed — no one seems to know. Speculation abounds online that they are underestimating the potential audience for another sliding-keyboard phone. Instead, the Droid Turbo is now available, and it’s a touchscreen-only phone.
The guy at my Verizon store said they unfortunately hadn’t heard anything about the Droid 5’s release in quite some time.
“Can I get another Droid 4?”
Verizon Guy began to check. While Verizon’s website still showed the Droid 4, the computer said they were no longer being stocked. I asked what my other options were, and there was not a single phone in the store, from any manufacturer, with a sliding keyboard. Verizon Girl came over and showed me a Samsung Galaxy with a stylus. She said “You can’t type on this, but you can write, just like you’re using a pen.” (No thank you. Again — it’s hard to quickly enter a bunch of character strings that involve shift keys, capital letters and symbols if I now have to write them out..!)
I sighed. I said “If I’m able to find a new Droid 4 somewhere else, can I bring it in and have it activated?”
Verizon Guy said yes, warning that it might be difficult because the Droid phones are exclusive to Verizon.
I headed home and jumped on Amazon. (If you can’t find it on Amazon, it probably doesn’t exist, right?) A few minutes and $110 later, a brand-new Droid 4 phone was on its way to my door.
I was so excited when this phone arrived! I grabbed the box and headed right back to the Verizon store, where Verizon Guy shared my enthusiasm for having found a brand-new older-stock Droid 4. He opened the shrink wrap, activated the phone and attached it to my account. Less than ten minutes later, my new Droid roared to life with its familiar Droid audio tone.
Then, something surprising happened. After activating my new phone, Verizon Guy explained that $15 of the monthly service fees with Verizon go toward one’s next phone upgrade. Because I purchased this phone somewhere else, I was opting not to take the upgrade, so my bill would be reduced by $15 per month over the duration of my new phone’s lifetime. If and when I decide to replace Droid #2 and take my upgrade, my bill will also go back up by $15/month to go toward a future phone upgrade.
How about that? $180 of my annual phone bill goes toward upgrading to the next phone — I never knew. By buying this phone outright for $110, I will have saved more than the cost of this phone before this calendar year is through. If I keep this one three years, I’ll have saved $540 on my Verizon bill.
I’m still lamenting that I’ve lost some fun photos. (Yes, in addition to not backing up to the cloud, I also relied on the phone’s internal memory and never put a memory card in it — something I vowed to change with my new Droid. And, I’m spending a lot of time replying to texts with “Hey, my phone died and I lost all my contacts. Help me out — who’s this?”
But you know what? I can whip those texts out at high speed… with my eyes closed.