Friday, 1 April 2016

New phone decisions!

It's that time again, when the upgrade date is approaching and one had better work out the best options.

I'm with Vodafone, and I have a white Samsung Galaxy S5 purchased on a monthly contract with them almost exactly two years ago. I was able to get the S5 on the very day it was first released - they merely added four months to the contract, making it 28 months instead of 24 months. It will end on 8 August 2016. The upgrade date is 26 May 2016. I am looking at the pros and cons of upgrading to the just-released Samsung Galaxy S7 in late May or (more likely, bearing in mind holiday dates and delivery times) late June.

I am in fact very happy with my S5, except for one thing: its internal memory (nominally 16GB) is rapidly dwindling. It's all that Ordnance Survey 1;25,000 Explorer mapping I've been installing! It will go only into the internal memory, and can't go onto the inserted 64GB memory card. I use this kind of mapping all the time, and will only want to install more and more of it. The S7 would give me an extra 16GB of internal memory, and solve this increasingly pressing issue.

There are other reasons for buying an S7 of course. It's a nicer design. The electronics are better. And its starting firmware will be the very latest. It will look (and operate) as a top-flight phone for a long time ahead. I can expect superior capability and performance during that time. I am a 'power user', and do far, far more with my phone than just make calls and send texts. Really, it's not a telephone: it's a small mobile PC.

It's only two years old, but my S5 is now getting its last firmware update, and after that it will rapidly become old hat. That's the pity about modern mobile phones. Even if they really suit you, and you love them, and look after them, they gradually become useless because usually they get only two firmware updates. In time the latest apps won't work on them. They slide relentlessly into obsolescence. And to cap it all, the battery will show signs of failure before the thing is three years old. Sigh.

Two years ago, when upgrading from the S2 to the S4 or (as it turned out) the S5, I wanted to buy the new phone outright and use it with a low-cost SIM card. But I couldn't find the many hundreds of pounds needed, and had to go the monthly contract route. This time I have a bit more money, and an outright purchase is a viable option. These are the advantages that matter to me:

# I can buy the new phone from any online retailer I like.
# I can get one in exactly the colour I want, with (if there is any choice) the precise specification I want.
# I am not tied to a monthly contract.
# Indeed I am not tied to a two-year replacement regime. Three years seems to squeeze the most from a phone.
# I can stay with Vodafone, and keep my phone number, but pay much less per month with a SIM-only deal. 'Much less' would be something like a £20 to £25 difference, compared to the monthly contract charge.

There are some possible disadvantages:

# I must come up with the purchase money every three years. (But times have changed, and I can nowadays put the money together for a planned purchase like this)
# If it's defective, there will be no hardware support or replacement, except whatever the retailer might agree to. (But if I buy from a firm like Expansys or Clove - or even Samsung itself - I ought to feel reasonably confident about not getting a duff phone)
# As a SIM-only customer, I might be less valuable to Vodafone and get less service. (Not that I have ever called on them for much!)

If I bought outright, I would first have to wait for the current contract to end in August. However, the price of a new S7 should have come down a bit by then. Its about £570 just now. I would hope to find one for £500.

Of course, if the deal is right, I can always buy on contract again from Vodafone, and do it sooner. Taken over a 24 month span, the overall outlay is similar to an outright purchase. Vodafone's contract would work out slightly more expensive, but really there's not a lot in it. I would however have to commit to a long contract - and with it, less flexibility about how I spend my cash month by month.

So there's a clear timetable here. At the end of May or June I shall look at what kind of deal Vodafone can do for me, and take it if it's too good to resist. If I'm not tempted, then I'll review the situation again in August, and probably buy a new S7 outright from somewhere. I will simultaneously switch to SIM-only, and then dispose of my S5 to the kind of online company that will buy it from me, and sell on the valuable parts in an ecologically-good way.

And why the S7, rather than the larger and supposedly more desirable S7 Edge? On a brief handling, I've found the Edge cuts into my palm and won't be nice to hold for very long. That's the simple reason.

Well, that's going into the whole matter in an awful lot of detail! But then perhaps all this may be useful to someone in a parallel situation!


  1. It is that time of year again for phone decisions here too. Should I trade in my museum piece Nokia for a fancyphone? Still use coins in our parking meters so perhaps not...

  2. Cut the contract and keep your Vodafone phone number, if that's what you want. I love my Samsung S7 and that I bought it outright. I also got to choose the colour that I wanted and that I can replace it when I want. I can sell it while the retail value is still good and upgrade when the latest model comes out. I'm forever a Samsung fan though.

    Nathan @ Cheeky Save


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