Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cell phones come with 'Star Trek' capabilities

Like many people, I have come to rely upon my cell phone. I carry it with me nearly all the time. And unless it's pretty late in the evening, it's usually on and ready to ring if anyone calls.

I've had my Blackberry Pearl for two years now, and I've been pretty happy with it. It handles calls well, handles my e-mail, at times, more efficiently than my computer. It even allows me to browse the Internet to keep up on scores involving my favorite teams.

I had kept my eyes on co-workers' iPhones and asked a few questions about other phones from time to time, but I hadn't really paid too much attention to the wide variety of cell phones and what they are capable of doing, until I received an e-mail from my carrier awhile back informing me I had qualified for an upgrade. Then, when my wife recently got a new phone, I looked closely at what phones are available these days.


There used to be only three or four kinds of "smart phones" - the devices that allow you to do just about anything but launch the space shuttle. While iPhones, Blackberrys and other top brands may still be at the top of the heap, you now have your choice of smart phones. One local store has about a dozen on display, in a wide variety of shapes, colors and screen sizes.

Things sure have changed since I bought my first Blackberry. Back then, the only choices you had were to turn it on or off. OK, so you could choose between gray and a lighter gray. Big deal.

Now, there are phones that slide open to reveal full keyboards. The cameras onboard have better resolution than some of the digital cameras once used by this newspaper. You can browse the Internet, instant message friends, update your Twitter and Facebook pages and keep track of your day on a calendar.

Oh, you also can talk to people on the phone.

Think back to the phones you've had in your life. The first one I remember was a big, black, heavy rotary-dialed phone in my grandma's living room. It rang so loud it seemed like the house shook. It was a big deal when we got our first push-button phone.

The first mobile phone I remember seeing belonged to one of my dad's clients. It was wired into his pick-up truck and was quite impressive. Not long after that, my future wife received her first phone when her parents got concerned about her driving by herself to her student-teaching gig in college. It was in a big, black bag. And without the antenna on her car, it wasn't of much use for anything other than a large paperweight.

Now, phones fit in our pockets. There's no need for a big antenna on the roof. They can do things that once only happened on devices in "Star Trek."

I still like my Blackberry, and I have a couple of months before my contract expires. Between now and then, I'll have some studying to do.