Waiting in the bowels of New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal recently, Nancy Kadlick was losing faith.
She was supposed to meet her friend Cynthia Santoro, but as the minutes ticked by, she wondered if she was in the wrong spot.
It turned out she was. "I was upstairs, and you weren't there!" Ms. Santoro exclaimed when they finally found each other.
The cellphone was supposed to put an end to moments like that. But the 54-year-old Ms. Kadlick, of Salem, Mass., is among the roughly 30 million American adults who don't own one. She used to pay $65 a month, but she ended her cellphone service a few years ago, trying to cut costs.
"I got tired of geting ripped off when paying the monthly phone bill," said 24-year-old Melissa Johnson, of Hayward, Calif. "It's pretty liberating."
Ms. Johnson works as a home health aide. The 85-year-old woman she cares for does have a cellphone. "She yells at me, 'Why don't you have a cellphone?' "
Getting rid of her phone has meant getting reacquainted with punctuality. When she meets friends, she names a precise meeting place and time, often in nearby San Francisco.
Overall, cellphone ownership among American adults is around 88%, according to Pew Research Center surveys. In the past two years, there were some increases in cellphone ownership among the poor and the elderly.
Subscribers don't appear to be dumping their plans in large numbers, and wireless carriers are betting that cellphone users will spend more and more for mobile Internet service. But, as devices like the iPhone and the pricey data plans that typically come with them continue to spread, some consumers are looking for ways to cut back.
Low-cost prepaid cellphone plans have proven increasingly popular.
The problem: She can't afford the early termination fee, and she said she would likely have to wait more than a year to make the switch.
She was forced to cancel her credit card so she would not get billed a cancellation fee. Now AT&T is threatening her with legal action.
She finally switched to a free Android wireless network phone from New Era Distributing Co. with no monthly fee or contract.