"Ditch your land lines!," said the uppity tech writer. "I did it, and I'll be saving $816 a year," bragged that overconfident scribbler. He listed all the advantages, confidently extolling the virtues of a cellphone-only existence. That tech writer was me, and now I'm here to tell you that I've changed my mind. After tossing all my old telephones and dumping my plain old telephone service, I've lived with my decision for three months now, and I'm ready to hit Undo. I was wrong. Why?
I'll go over my decision point-by-point, refuting the same arguments I made in my article back in September.
Cost? I called cost "the big Kahuna," and sure, it's not cheap to have a old-timey telephone line and its associated handsets. But if you get a plain line without all the whistles and bells, and use the free Google Voice service for your voicemail, a phone line costs scarcely more than $30 a month. It's worth it.
Fewer junk calls? This time around, I got a new phone number, and none of the junk callers, robots or politicians know it yet. And they won't, because it's unlisted and unpublished. I had to bite the bullet and spend the extra $5 a month for that privilege, which I think is a ripoff. However, now I can go through my life without any telephone spam and have my landline, too, so maybe that'll be money well spent.
Phone autonomy? My lovely and quite adaptable wife has adjusted beautifully to a cellphone-only existence, and so has my 17-year-old kid. So I'll be the only one using this landline. Autonomy is mine!
You only miss a call if you want to? Google Voice saves the day again. If I get a call on either cellphone or landline, I have Google Voice configured to ring all the cellphone and landline phones at the same time. Problem solved.
Better phonebook features? I got a cordless phone system that lets me enter my most often-called numbers, and that phonebook shows up on the other wireless phone in the two-handset system. For any other numbers I need, I'll use my computer to look them up. That's good enough.
The following were the disadvantages I mentioned, and it turns out most of these factors were a lot worse than I thought they would be:
Cellphone sound quality sucks. This was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. I've had an unusual number of important phone calls in the past few weeks, and every one of them was marred by the horrible sound quality of my iPhone 4 and its associated AT&T network. The coverage here in flyover country is not bad, but cellphone sound quality is absolutely unacceptable. This was the dealbreaker for living with only a cellphone.
What if someone in the family doesn't have a cellphone? Everyone in the family does have a cellphone, so this one's not a factor either way for me.
Cellphone reception might be terrible where you live. As I mentioned, cellphone reception is not too bad here, but even with coverage that's okay, there was never one conversation I had over the past three months where someone didn't say "what?" or "pardon me?" at least once. That is just lame.
It requires additional responsibility. I still have the cellphone, and so does my wife and kid, so we all have shouldered that responsibility and done quite well. Our phones are almost always charged, and no one's lost one yet.
Awkward recording. This is another big problem, solved easily with a landline. It's just not as easy to record cellphone calls. And, as a reporter, many times during conversations I like to type notes on the computer, and my cellphone doesn't fit between shoulder and face well enough. And no, I don't care for the hollow sound of the iPhone earbuds' microphone.
Calling 911. Thank goodness I haven't needed to call 911, but it's nice to know that my landline will handle that with aplomb.
And by the way. . . One other gripe I had about land lines has been solved, too: That annoying clunking sound and the associated audio dropout that interrupts your phone call when Call Waiting comes through. It's a little-known fact that the phone company will eliminate the loathsome Call Waiting from your service (while letting you keep the absolutely essential Caller ID service) if you ask for it. Instead, for less than a dollar a month, they can install a more useful alternative: When you're on the phone, all your calls can be automatically forwarded to any other number of your choice. I chose my cellphone.
The bottom line. Although it's been a gigantic inconvenience to deal with AT&T and have a landline installed, that sweet, sweet sound of an analog telephone conversation is music to my ears. Problem solved. Living with only a cellphone and no landline for three months was a stark demonstration that proved to me that sound quality trumps any other convenience. So the best solution is to keep that landline, while holding your cellphone close. And maybe someday, cellphones will sound as good as those analog lines did back in the old days.