Let me preface this entire column by saying that I hate mobile phones and think they are the bane of modern society.

I personally seldom carry one, and when I do, it's a pre-paid cheap disposable.

My mobile phone bill amounts to around $20 a month using this practice. What's yours?

Furthermore, almost everyone carries a phone nowadays, so when I need to make a call, I can just ask to borrow one. Most everyone obliges.

I'm not practicing this because I'm cheap. It's the principle.

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So now we have a slew of Asian companies going in and out of business trying to sell various handsets loaded with all sorts of needless features.

A classic example of what these phones can do was expressed on a video I put up on my blog here.

The affable Jeff Bonforte, now of Yahoo!, describes a Nokia phone that does just about everything but slice bread.

He describes a process where the phone takes a picture, then automatically sends the picture to a blog site and then passes it on to some photo-sharing system that gets routed directly to his mom. How sweet.

So what does mom think when some drunk gets hold of the phone in a bar and starts taking upskirt pics? I mean really.

This entire lash-up is not something I'd ever want. Just because you can use various complex mechanisms to do weird things doesn't mean you have to or should do them.

Anyway, the entire handset industry is boiling down to Motorola and Nokia, with everyone else falling by the wayside. Now we hear that Palm is going to be bought by one of these two behemoths.

I had actually written a couple of years back that Motorola was going to become an also-ran with its shoddy designs. Then came the RAZR, and that was the end of that theory.

Now the industry has become a fashion business with nifty designs, cool names and enhanced features.

And fashion is meaningless if you don't show it off. This means people with the coolest-looking phones are constantly flashing them, either to check for e-mail or to see what messages were left.

I would love to stomp on every phone pulled out unnecessarily by some idiot who just has to show off a shiny gadget.

Putting the World on Hold

The phone as a societal mechanism has always been disruptive, in the sense that it gets an inordinate amount of priority in day-to-day activity.

You can be standing in a long line at a store, and when the store's phone rings, you are put into a holding pattern while the phone caller gets the proprietor's attention.

Once in a while the proprietor will say, "I have a lot of customers here waiting to be served. I'll have to put you on hold."

But it's rare, since the caller will invariably hang up, as if that was an affront, so the sale is lost. Over time the phone caller ends up in a special priority situation.

The same holds true with the mobile phone. How often have you heard, "Hold on, I have to take this," from someone you are physically standing in front of and chatting with? The world is put on hold when a mobile phone rings.

The fact is, no one "has to take" the call. People choose to take the call.

Is anyone going to drop dead on the spot if they don't? It seems unlikely.

Whenever someone you're with answers the phone, you should immediately flash your middle finger and walk off.

These devices have done nothing to improve the quality of life or the national productivity. If anything, they have done the opposite.

Yes, they are great in an emergency and useful for finding someone in a crowd or for getting directions when you are poorly prepared and lost. But that's about it.

Instead, they are used for needless chatter and to give the illusion that you are some sort of big shot as you bellow demands into your device while in a public place.

Personally, I hope none of the handset makers ever turn a profit and they all go dead broke.

I feel the same way about the miserable carriers and service providers who are all one inch short of being out-and-out rip-off artists.

The bigger question is: How did we ever let this happen?

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