A reader said he bought his first smartphone ever for one reason: His flip phone will no longer work properly if the carrier drops support for 3G (third generation). This was news to us.

Sprint already dropped its support in April in favor of 4G (fourth generation) and 5G (fifth generation). Verizon will no longer support 3G networks after December. AT&T will drop its support in February. T-Mobile is expected to drop support next year or the year after. If you buy a 3G phone from a company that has dropped its support, you can’t activate it. If you already have a 3G phone, it means no more updates. It also means dropped calls. That’s curtains for our old Jitterbug phone.

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett famously uses a flip phone. He told NBC News last March that a friend sent him an iPhone, along with a letter telling him it won’t bite. He said he’s screwing up his courage to make the move.

He could go with a dumb-phone-smartphone hybrid, also called a smart-feature phone. They look like the old flip phones, have long battery life, cost around $60, and have basic apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube. The Wall Street Journal says 84 million of them will be sold worldwide this year. However, the top sellers, such as Nokia’s 8110 4G, (how do they come up with these catchy names?) get a lot of bad reviews on Amazon. FakeSpot.com says these reviews are mostly real.

Avoiding the smart-dumb phone, our reader bought the LG “Rebel 4” for $50 on Amazon. We’ve had good experiences with LG Rebels, which are not the very cheapest smartphones you can get. But if you go cheaper than that, you run into problems, like excruciatingly slow processing. The reader is a TracFone customer, which uses the Verizon network. Though TracFone sells the Rebel, it was cheaper to buy it from Amazon. It comes with two gigabytes of data good for 60 days.

Did you ever wonder what “LG” stands for? Bob knows. Because he’s been covering this field for so long, in the early days he met with reps from the company. Back then, it was called “Lucky Goldstar” to encourage good fortune. “LG,” get it? Now they say it stands for Life is Good.

Doctor Stupid

“Dr. A.I.,” short for artificial intelligence, is one of Alexa’s new skills. Bob calls it Dr. Stupid. If you have the free Alexa app on your phone or an Echo smart speaker, you can say, “Alexa, open Dr. A.I.,” and theoretically get a diagnosis of almost any health problem.

When we started it up, Alexa named some common health conditions and asked us to choose one or name our own. Joy chose “headache.” Alexa repeated “headache, worst-ever.” We’re not sure where she got “worst ever,” but it happened every time we tried the app. After telling us that over 8,413 doctors helped her reach her diagnosis, she said: “Wow, that’s a lot of white coats.” The virtual doctors said we might have a brain aneurysm, stroke or “Q fever,” a dangerous infection. Another time, we told her our problem was “sniffles.” This time she suggested the common cold, adding that she doesn’t have a medical degree but could put us on the phone with a real doctor. That would have cost $44. We told her no. It seems like the main purpose of the program is collecting $44 fees.

App Happy

Fetch Rewards” is a free app for Android and iPhone that gives you points when scan a store receipt. To do that, just point the app at the receipt and tap the picture of a camera. Use the points you earn to get discounts in a wide variety of categories, including travel and retail. We got a lot more points for shopping at Target than we did Whole Foods. For pharmacy discounts, swipe the screen at the top of the app until you see “Save on Your Prescriptions Too.” Then use the “SingleCare” code at the pharmacy. We got 24 percent off two prescriptions and 5000 extra points in the app.


38 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent.” Search on that phrase to find some humdingers in an article at MentalFloss.com. “Kummerspeck” in German means emotional over-eating. It’s literally translated “Grief Bacon.” “Tartle” in Scottish is that panicky feeling you have when you’re about to introduce someone and can’t remember their name. “Pelinti” in the Buli language of Ghana means to move food around in your mouth, when it’s so hot you have to let out steam. “Fremdaschamen” in German is vicarious embarrassment. “Pana po’o” in Hawaiian means the act of scratching your head to remember something, like where you left your keys.

Now Backing Up

When a reader suggested a free backup program, Macrium, we were all for it. Then we ran into a snafu.

We’re not sure what we did wrong, but the restore process aborted in our recent tests. So we switched to Ashampoo Backup Pro 14, which is currently on sale for $25 from ashampoo.com. There’s also a free trial. This is the kind of Windows program we love.

Backup Pro 14 holds your hand. At each stage of the backup process, it gives you easy-to- understand choices, along with the pros and cons of each. For instance, do you want to back up the whole drive, including programs, or just files and folders? Do you want to be able to access the backup from Windows File Explorer? Do you want to pick the files to be backed up? How long do you want to keep the old backups? Do you want your restored files compressed? There were many other questions, all easy to answer. The backup and restore went beautifully in our tests.

2 Responses to “DISCONNECTED”

  1. I, too, was told my 3G Verizon phone would not work after December 31st. Then a day later I called Verizon, and of course got a different rep. She said the the date to drop 3G has been moved forward one year, so there is no need to rush out and buy a 4G or 5G phone. Apparently some reps have a hard time keeping up with the latest official announcements from management.

    P.S. Many years ago you recommended Quicken when it first appeared. I am still using my DOS v.7, as it requires no updates or replacement annually.

  2. Thanks so much for this great info. Sorry we didn’t see it before today.
    Write us any time at bobschwab@gmail.com or joydee@oncomp.com. Thanks!

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