Just a phone, dammit!

I’m a pretty big computer geek most of the time, and I do love gadgets. However, even I can sympathize with the consumers in this story:

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Nathan Bales represents a troubling trend for cellular phone carriers. The Kansas City-area countertop installer recently traded in a number of feature-laden phones for a stripped-down model. He said he didn’t like using them to surf the Internet, rarely took pictures with them and couldn’t stand scrolling through seemingly endless menus to get the functions to work.

“I want a phone that is tough and easy to use,” said Bales, 30. “I don’t want to listen to music with it. I’m not a cyber-savvy guy.”

But the wireless industry needs him to be comfortable with advanced features and actively use them. As the universe of people who want a cell phone and don’t already have one gets smaller, wireless carriers are counting on advanced services to generate the bulk of new revenue in coming years.

Consumers last year paid $8.6 billion for so-called data applications on their phones, up 86 percent from the year before, according to wireless trade group CTIA.

But they’ve also shown a growing frustration with how confusing those added features can be. A J.D. Power & Associates survey last year found consumer satisfaction with their mobile devices has declined since 2003, with some of the largest drops linked to user interface for Internet and e-mail services.

That has providers working hard to make their devices easier to use — fewer steps, brighter and less cluttered screens, different pricing strategies — so consumers will not only use data functions more often but also be encouraged to buy additional ones.

Basically, I tend to agree. Cell phones should be first and foremost phones.

All the extras that have been tacked on tend to mean little to me. I don’t text message, and never could see much utility in it. In fact, on the rare occasion that someone tries to text message me I get ticked off because it costs me money. (Because I don’t use the feature, I don’t have it in my plan.) I don’t want to watch video on my phone on a tiny little screen. I will occasionally use the Internet to check the weather, but only infrequently. I almost never use the phone to take pictures. About the only extra that I have a soft spot for are downloading all sorts of strange ringtones, but I could easily live without that.

Just give me a phone that holds a signal and doesn’t drop calls all the time, and I’m happy.

Oh, and it’s helpful if it’s cool-looking, too.