life with my crackberry
The New York Times had an article last year on how smartphones are becoming seen as a necessity. Overall, it was sort of an eyeroll inducing article, and most of the commenters on the site did seem to be rolling their eyes. But I do think it made a good point about how as a group (whether a work team or a group of friends) reaches a saturation point with the technology, it becomes harder to be the outlier. People start to assume that you don't have comments on an email if you haven't responded in a few hours. People get sloppy about making detailed advanced plans because they assume they'll be able to reach you by phone.
At work, they asked us sometime last fall if we wanted blackberries, and I said no thanks. I check email from home anyway, and didn't feel like I wanted to be on constant call. But most of my team got them, and within a few months, I went back to my boss and asked if it was too late to change my mind. As it turns out, she had also said no previously, and was having second thoughts as well. So we both got them.
I've had it for a couple of months now, and I'm pretty spoiled by it. I still hardly use it as a cell phone — but the always-on connection to the internet and email is darned addictive. Before I had it, I couldn't imagine paying for a data plan out of pocket — I was quite content with the combination of my iPod touch and a cheapo pay-by-the-minute cellphone — but now if I went to a job that didn't pay for the service, I might come up with the money to pay for it myself. It's a perfect demonstration of the hedonic treadmill.
This week, there's been some buzz about IRS guidelines saying that personal use of a company cell phone is a taxable fringe benefit, just like use of a company car. This is apparently something that's been the official policy for years, but essentially no one has known about it (and it's pretty small change compared to use of a car). My understanding is that the new IRS guidelines were designed to clarify the rules and create a "safe harbor" so you didn't have to track all your use and allocate it across business vs personal, but what they actually did is draw attention to the policy. I think that in theory, it does make sense to treat these phones as a fringe benefit, but in practice, it's way too much hassle for the amount of money that would be collected.