Monday, 13 January 2014

A brand new year, a brand new phone

Strapped for cash, I was unable to buy a new SIM-free mobile phone in 2012, and got one on a 24 month contract instead. Strictly speaking, that contract expires on 9 August 2014. But, of course, Vodafone will let me upgrade from 26 May, which isn't so far ahead. It's time to think about what I will do.

Some will say: For goodness sake, this isn't worth powder and shot. If you've got a working phone, just go for the cheapest possible option, whatever that is, and then focus on Other Much More Important Things instead.

But I think that mobile phones (which are little computers) have become an essential part of modern life, and, like it or not, an awful lot of modern life is based on the assumption that one owns an up-to-date model with comprehensive capability. Indeed, if you don't own one, and know how to use it, you are severely restricting your options for being connected to other people and services of all kinds. Even if I were a self-sufficient recluse, I'd still want news and information: and a modern mobile phone is beautiful for providing a window on the world, and therefore for self-education and widening one's outlook. It's an indispensable companion, but also a tool. And you should always use the best tools, and keep them sharp.

So, what will I do in May? Certain choices are no-brainers.

First, I am happy with my phone company, which is Vodafone. Their coverage is fine, their website works, and their phone app works. They may not be the very cheapest, but they give me what I want with no hassle.

Second, I like my phone number, and I want to keep it. This rules out going for special 'new customer' deals which entail having a new number. I don't think I would have to change my phone number if I switched to a SIM-only contract instead of a phone-and-SIM contract, provided I stayed with Vodafone.

My next phone of choice - if I am sensible about what I am prepared to pay - would be the Samsung Galaxy S4. I'm using a Galaxy S2 at the moment, and I'm very happy with it, subject to one important reservation: the screen is not quite large enough. My tired eyesight and fat fingers need something slightly bigger. Having held one, the Galaxy S4 seems ideal. And no doubt the Galaxy S5, due shortly, will be ideal too, with knobs on - but I won't be able to afford it. Similarly Samsung's Note 3 will also be too expensive, but with the additional snag that it's too large for my hands. I don't want to change brands because (a) I want another of Samsung's bright and colourful screens (and the S4 offers a Super AMOLED HD screen, no less); and (b) I've come to like Samsung's implementation of Android very much. So for me the choice of 'next phone' is easy.

Given all this, where do I go?

The cheapest option is to keep my Galaxy S2 and switch to a 12-month SIM-only contract. That brings my monthly mobile phone cost down from £21 to £14, saving £7 a month. Vodafone offer cheaper SIM-only deals, but if I want 750MB of Mobile Internet data usage per month - which I well might - £14 it must be.

Upgrading to a Galaxy S4 will currently cost me a minimum of £29 a month. But once the Galaxy S5 is launched, the cost of an S4 might well come down to £25. Which is £4 more than I pay now. It would be affordable, and I'd fix the small-screen problem. And it might be that I could negotiate something off the monthly cost, or get something extra thrown in (such as a larger data allowance).

What about buying my own SIM-free phone, and popping a £14 per month Vodafone SIM card into it? Just now Amazon will sell me a white SIM-free Galaxy S4 for £390. But by May the purchase price could fall to around £300. The monthly cost would still be only £14, but I'd have to stump up £300 in cash. But hold on - Fiona is having her annual service and MOT in May, and there's my Welsh Tour to fund in June... No, £300 for a phone on top of all that would break the bank! It can't be done.

It can't be done even if another factor is brought in. Yesterday evening it was brought to my attention that whether I upgrade to a fresh contract, or buy a new phone outright, I would still be able to sell my Galaxy S2 to one of those online companies who specialise in buying used phones. Envirofone was mentioned. Feeding in my phone's IMEI number on their website brought forth an offer of £46. That's not to be sniffed at. Yes, it's a deal I would take. But it isn't enough to make a big difference.

It'll have to be the £25 monthly contract, I'm thinking. At least eyes and fingers will feel pampered!

13 comments:

  1. You can have my useless phone if you wish! LOL. I want a retro one with no Internet connection. I'd have thought you wouldn't be needing such a phone if your tablet is big enough (for Internet use). Didn't you say the tablet is small enough to be carried in your handbag but big enough for Internet use? If that is the case you don't really need the same sophistication with the phone, especially as you say the phone screens are fairly small for Internet use. I'm confused.

    Shirley Anne x

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  2. Shirley Anne, the tablet is indeed easily portable, but it has Wi-fi only, and no SIM card. So while its large screen is lovely to look at, it can't actually be a phone; and I don't take it outside the house unless there is some particular reason to, perhaps to use as a road atlas in the car, or to display some photos to friends, neither of which a phone (even a big one) can do nearly so well.

    I honestly don't share your retro point of view. Super-capable phones are entertaining as well as highly useful. I think they can enhance modern life, as well as being essential for it.

    You will need an Internet-connected phone to photograph and 'bank' customer cheques, when that facility is launched.

    Lucy

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    1. That is if I accept cheques, which I don't these days. I stopped taking cheques because it was awkward and inconvenient taking them to the bank, spending time and trying to find a parking space and also having to pay to park if I found one and all to deposit a single cheque most of the time! I have also has a few bounce on me. I take cash and let the amount build up so that when I go to the bank it is worth the effort! The idea of having a phone to photograph a cheque is preposterous unless the phone is used for the many other things they get used for today. I am not about to get a phone to do those things, I do not want the technology pushed into my face when I don't really need it. So no, I won't need an Internet-connected phone. The one I have now I never use on the Internet and when the contract is up I shall go retro. In fact I still have a couple of basic models I could insert my sim card into.

      Shirley Anne x

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  3. I'm completely sold on smartphones and would never willingly go back to a basic mobile. My Galaxy Ace (a snip @ £7.50/month) mostly gets used for emails and Google Calendar. I love the way it keeps track of our 3 Google accounts and how updates appear on my desktop computer in seconds.

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    1. Mine is a Galaxy Ace too Angela but I wouldn't give you tuppence for it I have a line rental so it came with it

      Shirley Anne

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  4. My antique nokia which I only switch on by arrangement or in emergency started to become unreliable so a friend collected some phone with orange on it which seemed easier to find to take the old card. I charged it up about three or four months ago but just can't find it anywhere! I guess it must be more mobile than I had hoped. Well at least the old one which costs about nothing per month seems to work most of the time at the moment...

    Now if I had £25 per month to spare in one year that would pay for a new bike, then I could cycle over and have long chats with friends...

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  5. Ahem, it seems that there is a school of thought that modern phones are simply communication devices! I'd say that was nowadays just one of their many uses, and not necessarily the main one.

    Lucy

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  6. I thought that they were small fragile computers for people with lots of cash, small fingers and fabulous eyesight and a black belt in a martial art to defend themselves when someone wishes to relieve them of it.

    I have two real problems with mobiles. I hate to have private conversations in public and public is usually too noisy to actually hear the phone ring or the voice speaking to me...

    We mostly use the phone for organising dinner parties and that can be done from home in comfort.

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  7. Caroline, you have a point, but a mobile phone can also be an ebook reader, a music player, a TV, a radio, a document and spreadsheet reader/editor, a pocket notepad, a sketch pad, a calculator, a voice recorder, a camera, a photo gallery, a road and street atlas, a detailed map for walking, a tide table, a clock, an alarm clock/timer; as well as getting you the Internet generally, but in particular the BBC News, the Met Office weather, information on places of interest and where to stay or eat, information on which roads may have hold-ups on them, when the next train will be, what the ticket will cost, where next to take your caravan; as well as something to read and write blogs with or, if you really must, see what's happening on Facebook and Twitter; and yes, play a game on. All this, plus texts, emails, and - very occasionally - make or take a voice call (something I personally hardly ever do with my phone).

    Enough said, perhaps.

    Lucy

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    1. With all that going on you don't have the time for making phone calls Lucy. I don't like the idea of being held captive by a phone, I'd rather be doing something useful with my time.

      Shirley Anne x

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  8. And I forgot to mention the most obvious and most-used things: the phone is my calendar and my jobs-to-do list!

    Lucy

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  9. Lucy, you never told me I had a caravan...

    Perhaps there is something lacking in my personality but I see no attraction in playing games except the one where I skip ads in recorded programmes.

    Pads and clever "phones" are just the toys dreamt of when young which have arrived a little late to be of much use to me now. Expensive to buy and keep online especially away from home they are very hard to justify for my quiet life. I once considered a pad would be useful when travelling since short contracts are supposed to be available but to move across Europe would entail, if you could figure out each countries language and rules, a different contract and even then you would need some other means of phoning a hotel or B & B since the pads have been made so dumb! It costs about the same as a bag of crisps to make a phone these days but perhaps the manufacturers do not want to loose sales of unused clever phones owned by those who do not need to make many calls...

    I used my phone for the first time in ages to call a landline just the other day then again I was in the same room and was just trying to see what the fault on the land line was! Still have not found the orange one...

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  10. You are not unusual. Two of my best local friends scorn 'complicated' or 'expensive' phones. I hasten to add that this doesn't reduce my regard for them one bit. I just think that they might be better-served, and have a better overall experience, if they got themselves a phone on par with mine and installed different or extra apps to suit their lifestyle and interests. One of them is after all a Facebook fan, and would certainly benefit.

    Both friends think the main good thing about their phones is the very low monthly cost. I can't argue with their thrify instincts, and undeniably both have secured great deals from the economy point of view; but I would find their phones irritatingly slow, and no pleasure to use.

    There's a price to pay for everything, and pleasure is no different!

    Lucy

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This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

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Lucy Melford