Geeks And Gadgets

Sunday, April 27, 2008 0:15 | Filed in Life, The Pickards

I bought a new phone.

Owing to the fact that my new job won’t involve working in the same office as my wife and the friends I tend to go drinking with, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was likely to be spending more on telephone calls.

So I decided to go for one of those ‘pay monthly’ contract things. This is a little unusual for me. You see, the main reason I’ve been on pay-as-you-go for so long is that I understand exactly how these monthly contract wotsits work.

You know, where you work out how much you currently spend per month on your phone (£12 to £15), add a little bit to cater for the increased usage and then end up with a contract that’s setting you back £60 a month for the next four years because you get a phone with a camera and so many other add ons that not only can you make calls whilst on the lavatory, it will wipe your backside for you.

Well not me, I said. So on thursday I took a half-day off from work and headed across to Newcastle to work out what the best value phone I could get would be…

So, working on the assumption that I’ll use the phone at least 50% more, I was looking for something in the price range £20-25 per month. I was previously with Virgin Mobile — and had been for several years without any problem, so called in there first.

For £25 I could get a free phone, 200 minutes and 200 texts per month on a 12-month deal or 300/300 if I signed up for 18 months. Oh, and once you’re 6 weeks into the contract, they’ll credit your account with £100 so it works out at about £19.45 per month if you take the 18 month option. Not bad at all, I thought, and I nearly signed up then, but thought that would be a little naive.

After all, not only do I not know what the ‘opposition’ would give me, but I don’t know which of the bewildering variety of phones will be most appropriate for me. I want a phone which I can use to — and I know this is going to sound old-fashioned — make phone calls on. Text messaging is another essential.

Camera is not necessary, and unless it’s of good quality is not worth bothering with. The ability to play music is not necessary (that’s what I have an MP3 player for), but the fact that the manual available in the Virgin Mobile store allows me to compare phones as to whether they offer:

  • picture messaging,
  • animated screensavers,
  • picture phonebooks,
  • video capture,
  • FM radio,
  • calendars,
  • loudspeakers,
  • built in flash for the camera,
  • camera zoom facility,
  • bluetooth (blueteeth?),
  • memory size,
  • standby time,
  • talk time,
  • screen resolution,
  • camera resolution,
  • tri- or quad- band, and
  • SAR level (how much radiated gubbins you get off of it when you’re using it)

Unfortunately, for the most part this simply allows me to differentiate between whether or not a particular phone has a set of features that I don’t need in the first place.

I can’t remember which comedian it was, but I’m fairly certain I’m using someone else’s joke when I say that I’m a believer that a phone is for talking on. I don’t expect it to take pictures (use a camera) or play music, any more than I would expect to also use my washing machine to watch the telly on…

The comparison chart does not tell me the things which are of importance to me: colour, size, and whether or not I like the look of it.

So I asked the guy what he’d recommend, and he suggested the ‘Nokia 6500 Classic’. Hmm. According to the chart, that retails at £260 (if you pay-as-you-go), but it’s free on £25 per month. But — and I don’t know how big a but it is — it doesn’t offer an infrared port, has only 215 minutes talk time, and doesn’t offer an FM radio.

Are these key features?

In order to avoid the issue entirely, I decide instead to first investigate the other networks on offer, to work out where I’ll get the best deal as regards talk/texts and then I’ll worry about what phones are available.

T-moblie would offer me — for “only” £22.50 — offering me 170 minutes or 340 texts per month (i.e. if you send texts it uses up your minutes and vice versa). Hmm. Well, forgive me for saying, but isn’t that deal considerably worse? On the bright side, the guy trying to sell me the phone did describe the 170 minutes as “only 10 minutes less than three hours”.

Well, yes, but that’s still 130 minutes less than Virgin Mobile were offering. And as I’d already told him Virgin Mobile would give me 300 minutes for less than that, I think he knew he would struggle to get the sale. Plus I already knew I get Virgin Mobile reception both where I live and in my new place of employment…

I peered into ‘Phones 4 U’, ‘Orange’ and ‘The Carphone Warehouse’ but couldn’t find any deals anywhere which seemed to match the 300/300 for (effectively) £19 that I’d be getting from Virgin Mobile.

So. Virgin Mobile it was then.

(Which gave me the title I rejected for this post: “Why I’m still a Virgin”. If you’re wondering why I rejected that, it was mostly because the jokes about the Virgin brand name and sexual virginity became over-done and tiresome about fourteen years ago.)

Should I go for the recommended phone or pick a different one? Well, as I didn’t have my bank details with me on thursday, I couldn’t sign up to a contract then, thus allowing me the opportunity to research the relevant phones on the internet. Without using a mouse, unfortunately.

This limited the usefulness of the information I could obtain, but what I did discover was that from looking at the top four phones (by brochure ‘price’) that would be available free on my chosen payment plan, the Sven Goran Eriksson K850i was getting the best marks (ranging from 68/100 to 96/100 — but always the highest rated of the four phones).

Okay, there’s obviously a lot of personal preference to be thrown in here, depending on what sort of buttons you like, what sort of screen you like and so on, but I happen to like the look of this phone as it happens.

So what features does it have then — bearing in mind I only really want something that I can talk and text with.

Ooh! It’s got an FM radio. Well, I do actually quite like that, as my current one has an FM radio, and I’ve used that for listening to the football on a saturday afternoon a few times…

Oh! It’s only got one game. Less of an issue, since I’ve never played games on my mobile phone for about three years.

Ooh! It’s got 3G. Whatever the implications of that are…

What the…? It’s got a higher resolution camera on it than my camera has got. Does anyone actually need a 5 megapixel camera resolution?

And the Sven– sorry, Sony Ericsson one only has 547 MB memory. Some of the others have 2 GB. Do I not want one with more memory? On the other hand, how much memory does ‘Dave W’ and an 11-digit number take up, anyway?

And do I want a phone with more games?

So what phone did I get in the end then? Well, although I have some reluctance to share — most notably because I’m expecting someone to comment saying “oh, you didn’t want to get that one, you wanted to get…” — it would seem that the entire post has been about me buying a new mobile phone so it would be a bit of a waste not to tell you which one.

In the end, I went for the Sony Ericsson K850i. I like the colour, I like the buttons (more ‘separated’ than normal) and while I have traditionally preferred ‘flip top’ phones to the ones with keypads that lock or ‘slide’, there simply weren’t any flip top ones available that I liked.

So now I am faced with another dilemma.

Do I spend the next week deciphering the manual and customising every single last feature on the phone and having it set up with wallpaper I want, a screensaver I like and so on, or do I just pretend that I actually did want the default ringtone, and use the saved time to go out and do something less boring instead?

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1 Comment to Geeks And Gadgets

  1. Andy Mabbett says:

    April 27th, 2008 at 12:50 am


    Nuff said.

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