Usability of the mobile generation

In today’s world, it seems crazy that communicating with other people should be problematic.

We have home phones, mobile phones, Internet phones. There is a call, a text, an Instant Message, a Tweet – via phone, Facebook & a thousand other apps. We all seem to be so connected we should almost be able to read each other’s thoughts.

So why can it be so difficult to get in touch?

Part of the reason, it seems, is a selfish choice that leads in turn to frustration, cost and a failed experience.

I’m talking particularly about the trend of avoiding landlines. It’s something that seems to be growing, particularly amongst younger audiences, but also in many families. And I can see the attraction, at first. The telecoms companies want a hefty connection fee, and a monthly line rental fee that takes a nice bite out of your finances before you even make a call. And since you’re paying your monthly mobile anyway, why not just cut out the landline altogether?

It’s something that I’m seeing increasingly, particularly amongst my children’s friends. And it annoys me.

First off, you get the expense hit when your child wants to ring a friend. We have an Internet phone with free untimed calls to landlines. so they know they can use the phone to call a friend and chat for ages, for free. But if that friend has no landline, they’ll ring the mobile instead. Instead of a few free calls on the bill, I get a $50-70 hit for long chatty mobile calls.

So I have to school my kids on talking quickly, and cut them off after a few minutes.

Next, you get the reverse call. Child’s friend sends a text, usually along the lines of “hey, call me”.

“Why can’t they call you”, I ask. “They don’t have credit,” the child responds. So, now not only do I have elevated bills to call this kid, I now have to pay when he wants to call our house.

And finally, you get the most frustrating issue of all – the inability to get in touch.

This generally happens when that household has run out of mobile credit for the month. My child wants to organise a trip to the movies with a friend, and rings.

No answer from their mobile, but no point in leaving a message since they are out of credit and can’t pick messages up. So, he has no choice but to ring again later. Then ring again, and again.

Next, he tries ringing that child’s mum (also, of course, on a mobile). Mum picks up, and says the child is off with friends later on. Not sure when he’s due back – but since we don’t have credit right now, call back a bit later.

You also encounter this problem, in a much more expensive format, when non-custodial parents have only a mobile contact. When children want to ring mum or dad every night, or several nights a week, just watch as the dollars fly out the door.

And it’s really not just about the cost – the frustration and pain of repeatedly trying to get hold of people, leaving messages that may or may not get picked up, sending texts that may or may not be read, is a royal pain in the rear section.

It’s a relatively simple choice to decide not to have a landline, but in effect you are passing the costs on to everyone around you who needs to get in touch. You’re also frustrating the crap out of parents who need to get in touch, for one reason or another.

Vent over.

Gary Bunker

the Fore