As the Cell Phone Diva, I have lived and breathed cell phones for almost four years. I can tell you the exact model number and service provider of a handset that someone is holding up to their ear, even if the mobile's distinguishing features are covered by tousled hair. Cell phones were my thing. Everywhere I went, once someone discovered what my job was, a plethora of questions and complaints came my way; and group-wide conversations about phones, carriers, and how they affect everyday life quickly ensued. But that's part of the job--that and, of course, answering your questions.
Then it happened: the day I stopped answering my phone. Well, let me back up a bit. I was driving with my mobile in hand and the speakerphone on to get directions when I got pulled over by a cop. He was giving me a ticket for driving while using a phone. Being the Cell Phone Diva, I asked the officer to explain the law to me in great detail and what exactly it does and doesn't cover. According to him, "hands-free" quite literally means hands free. Your hand should not be on the cell phone while driving. A Bluetooth headset is acceptable, and even the speakerphone would have been OK had the phone been in a holder and both my hands been on the steering wheel. It's a good law, I'm not complaining. The irony was not lost on me. I took the ticket and the new information with a smile, cursed at the phone, looked both ways, and merged back into traffic.
And that's when I witnessed it, the most simultaneously sweet and fascinating image: a guy fiercely riding a bike in the middle of two-way traffic wearing a white helmet, a white button-up shirt, and green slacks. One pant leg was lifted and appeared to be tucked into some part of the bike, and in his mouth was a single, red rose. I was floored, mouth agape. It reminded me of another time when people wrote letters and phones were in homes, not in pockets. If I had a camera phone, I would have taken a picture. But I didn't, and I still can't forget the image. Maybe it's silly or corny, but you never know when something's going to hit you in the right light. It's different for all of us, and we can't choose when it's going to strike. For me, that's when I knew it was time. Hanging up
It's been close to a week now that I haven't used a cell phone in some way, shape, or form, and aside from a bad case of text-messaging withdrawal, it hasn't been too terrible. To ease the addiction, I have found myself in an instant-messaging (IM) frenzy, which isn't helping since most of the people I text with don't IM. It's a problem; I'm seeking help. People ask me if I will get another phone, and right now, I have to say, it's not too likely.
That said, being the Cell Phone Diva has had its perks. For starters, I've reviewed or seen almost every handset that's come out in the United States in the past four years. I've tested all sorts of services and can tell you that I'm ecstatic that 3G has finally arrived. It's hot, trust me on this. Over the years, I've even gotten a peek at what's available across the pond in Europe and across the Pacific in Asia. Yes, they do have cool stuff we don't have here. I'm not denying it. But before ogling too much, remember they also sell phones in an entirely different manner, and foreign handsets won't necessarily work the same way in the States.
But our services and handsets don't exactly suck either. We have megapixel camera phones with as much memory as low-end MP3 players (though it'll be better when we can send pics to any MMS-enabled phone). We have stylish mobiles such as the Motorola Razr and my favorite, the Siemens SL56; smart phones from Symbian, Microsoft, RIM, and PalmOne; and wireless Web services that offer instant replays, news, and the ability to check e-mail, play games, or listen to music. Looking ahead
I remember when there was only one-way text messaging, and you could only send text messages to people with phones from your own service provider. The cell phone industry has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and it's getting bigger. Translation: you'll have even more questions. But not to worry: there are plenty of resources at CNET to help answer them. For selecting a phone and a plan, check out the buying guide
and our partner site, InPhonic
. For the latest handsets, see our new reviews
. And for finding the best provider and how-tos, post a question in the cell phone forum
--CNET readers love to dish phones.
In this final column, I'd like to thank you for all the letters over the years and offer one last piece of advice: obey the phone laws, be respectful of people around you (texting or talking can be rude in some environments), get the plan you want, and every once in a while, put down that cell phone and look up at the world going by; you never know what you'll see.
Want to say good-bye to the Diva? TalkBack to me below.