My first one. Seeing as it’s 2014, I figured it was time.
I never had much use for a smartphone before now.
Some people who don’t know me that well assume it’s because I’m tech-phobic.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to the influence of both my retired military technician father and my computer-savvy neighbour in university, I’ve long felt comfortable playing around with technological devices.
I don’t hesitate to experiment with unknown commands and menu options to discover firsthand what they do, and regularly troubleshoot problems through either my basic understanding of operating systems or with the help of suggestions found on online forums.
Others who know me a bit better believe the reason is that I’m anti-technology.
This cuts a bit closer: I do dislike the frequency at which new iterations of the same basic gadget are released.
For something has to happen to all those old devices when their owners move on to bigger (or smaller) and only incrementally better. Often, what happens is electronic waste – a global problem with numerous environmental and social justice considerations.
But the real reason I’ve never had a smartphone before now – aside from the fact that as both an office worker and a writer, I already spend day and night in front of a computer – is because I’m vehemently opposed to overpaying for things.
And nowhere is the propensity for overpaying more prevalent, at least in Canada, then in cell phone contracts.
No free lunch
Cell companies are fond of making like they give smartphones away for free.
A smartphone is an expensive and sophisticated device; it’s a computer that fits in your pocket!
It’s NEVER actually free.
Especially since the “free” only ever occurs if you spend a minimum monthly amount on your plan, usually in the avenue of $60 dollars, of which at least $10 a month is being used to defray the cost of the phone.
With cell contracts lasting two years (only recently changed from three years), that’s a minimum of $240 you’re paying for that “free” phone. And this assuming you didn’t pay a sum up front for a top-of-the-line phone, which can range anywhere from $100 to $250 or more.
With a lot of the big-name providers, the “free” phone continues to be not-free even when the contract is up, for the monthly bill remains the same on a month-to-month basis until a new plan is set up.
Nice try, fellas, but I do know how to do basic math.
Becoming a smart phone shopper
I probably wouldn’t have bothered with a smartphone at all were it not for my big trip coming up in November.
Electrical outlets will be different than in North America, so having a some manner of device that can all at once take pictures, play music, produce maps, display my email, and let me make and take calls would be much easier to deal with than having to carry and recharge all of those devices on their own.
What I needed was to procure a phone on my own to bring under contract to help keep the overall contract price down. Some providers even offer monthly discounts for bringing your own device and allow you to go month-to-month, contract free.
I tried getting my hands on a genuinely free phone: my mother’s iPhone 4, which is no longer under contract. Despite being only 2 years old, this phone is ancient by industry standards, but would’ve been good enough for me, especially since my mom did want an upgrade.
But she wouldn’t give up the phone, for she was waiting for her provider to offer her an iPhone 5s for free.
Not gonna happen, Mom! There are NO free phones. I was with my provider for eight years – longer than some marriages – and they wouldn’t even give me a genuinely free phone, let alone a monthly contract closer in number to my current age than the age I’d be come retirement .)
Next, I turned to Craigslist. I’m a huge proponent of secondhand shopping and the secondary market; it’s the ultimate treasure hunt, plus trying to talk down the price is always a fun challenge.
But so many of the phone ads I read were sketchy. There’s an art to creating an effective Craigslist ad, and I’m totally going to write about it in a future post.
By now, I was convinced I’d be stuck forever with the phone that more recently than most would admit had replaced my original flip phone. But a solution came from an unexpected quarter: charity.
In this instance, I was twice over the charitable donor rather than the recipient – volunteering at a charitable event that had a donated brand new smartphone up for silent auction – but I came out on top in the end.
Since most people already have a smartphone (it being 2014) and because many people pay more attention to big names than specs, I picked up a top-of-the-line smartphone for a fraction of the price, and was then able to get that $35ish/month plan by divorcing switching providers.
Now I just need to learn how to fully work this thing. Time to get experimental!
What is your relationship with technology? Do you like having the latest device? Would you rather have no devices at all? Let me know in the comments.