Mobile Phones Steven Kippel on 28 Nov 2011
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.