Smartphones for the budget minded

Smartphones for the budget minded

In the world of technology, everything is so cutting edge that if you don’t have the latest quantum-core, fiber-spacial smartphone, you might as well be living in antiquities. I don’t really blame the tech writers for this, nor do I harbor any ill feelings towards the tech subculture that these writers cater to. But I’m not that guy, and you probably aren’t either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, and I have been an early adopter on many technologies. I was on the internet before the World Wide Web was a thing. I was the first person in my area to have cable internet. But I’m also not a wealthy individual, so I’m not neck deep in technology. I didn’t have a cellphone until 2004. I still use a basic phone whose primary function is talking, and it doesn’t have a qwerty keyboard.

The allure of the technology is great, but I haven’t had enough desire to go that route. I don’t need to be connected to the internet all the time. I’m already in front of a computer nine-hours every work day, so it’s also nice to have a break from it while I’m away from work. And I’ve got to admit, a pet peeve of mine is when people pull their phones out while we’re talking, or at the dinner table.

But life is changing for me where the use of some features, like GPS or Google Music, would be practical. I’ve also just reached the contract end on my current wireless provider (T-Mobile), so it’s the perfect opportunity to seek out my options.

One of the major priorities I have is economical. My budget is at its limits as it is, so I must justify increasing my mobile plan rates with cuts somewhere else. The best case scenario would be to lower my overall rates. So I took the method of factoring in monthly rates, activation fees, and phone costs and average it out for two-years so I can compare costs between services both contractual and pay-as-you-go. I won’t go into the details here, but I found that if I were to use my current mobile service payments as the baseline (700-shared minutes and unlimited texts on two phones), a cheap smartphone at $99 plus only smartphone data plans would cost over $1,200-per-year. If my wife and I both did this, it would be over $2,400-per-year, obviously. Is that worth it?

Everyone has different priorities, but is having access to Facebook in my pocket worth as much as a decent low-cost vacation? My wife and I could hit the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Cruises for a week with that amount of cash, or I could have GPS when I’m out of town once a month, and I can compare prices while I’m shopping (which isn’t very often at my income level). I know there’s more to a smartphone than that, but I’m finding it very difficult to justify such a hefty price just for the minor convenience of the laugh track app when I tell a particularly dry joke.

One website I follow covered this dilemma and opted for Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile as alternatives. Today being Cyber Monday, Virgin Mobile is offering three Android smartphones for 50% off, and an unlimited data plan starts at only $35-per-month. At that rate, a smartphone would be even cheaper than what I’m currently dealing with. But as price isn’t the only factor in economics, I don’t know how the Virgin network compares to other alternatives.

I really hope I’m not the only one who is in this predicament. If you have done this accounting for yourself and decided one way or the other, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

About Steven Kippel

Steven Kippel has worked as a systems designer for a leading high-end audio/video custom integrator in Southern California since 2003. He is responsible for researching new technologies and integrating them into existing systems and new construction projects. He has designed several high-profile systems for discriminating clients on the cutting-edge of technology. When he is not hard at work, Steven is spending time with his wife, playing with his band or promoting concerts and bands in the Inland Empire. His favorite bands include The Cure, U2, Eisley, Living Sacrifice and DragonForce.

View all posts by Steven Kippel →

3 Comments on “Smartphones for the budget minded”

  1. I like your cost analysis and comparison to taking a vacation. I too was very hesitant to jump on the smartphone data plan subscription wagon due to the exorbitant costs, however, I was able to justify it due to

    1) I can tether my phone to my laptop and use it for Internet access while on the go or if there’s a high speed internet outage at my house.

    2) My employer reimburses me $20/month for use as a pager/on-call device.

    3) The rest I can use as a tax deduction as it’s used for business purposes.

    If you have no business use and it’s for personal only, I agree that the data plan costs are ridiculous and possibly not worth subscribing to, with the exception of maybe Virgin Mobile.

    For what it’s worth, I hear Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network (as they own Virgin Mobile), however, I don’t know if it uses every single portion of the Sprint network that you would have access to when using a Sprint-subscribed phone.

  2. Yeah, I get smartphones for work, but I don’t get them for: children; students; working class (unless self-employed) etc.

    It just seems like a lot of money to check in on Foursquare.

    But I do have friends who don’t have internet at home, and they don’t work in front of a computer, and in that case it does make sense. But unless the phone has an HDMI output, like some Android phones do, I don’t know how you could possibly enjoy streaming video.

  3. My phone supports Netflix instant streaming, but I’ve never actually watched something using it. Doesn’t make sense to do it on a 4″ screen. With the HDMI out though, as you mentioned, it could be a super cool, portable Netflix player.

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