Mama’s Got a New Smartphone!

The only three cell phones I've ever owned.

The only three cell phones I’ve ever owned (2008, 2012, and 2014 respectively).

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.

My first ever smartphone selfie (which was harder to do than I expected!)

My first ever smartphone selfie (doing this is harder to do than I expected!)

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.

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10 thoughts on “Mama’s Got a New Smartphone!

  1. Please do not download the “History Eraser” app. Have we learned nothing from Ren and Stimpy?

    I’m am usually late to the party with techie things because I live directly over one of the seven gates of hell and nothing ever works right. Especially wireless network stuff. I have a smart phone because my contract was up and they were giving them away (for all the reasons you mentioned). One day we will have no other choice, so I might as well figure out how they work now. i don’t care about any of the features. I send text messages. That’s about it. I can wait until I get home for YouTube. I don’t play video games, either. I simply don’t care about any of those things.

    I do not have an iPod or anything with a lower case ‘i” in the beginning. I listen to albums, not individual pop songs, so it makes more sense to have the CD. What else do people have? I have a blu-ray player, but I guess no one cares about hard copies anymore. Yup, I have two laptops. Those are the only things I have that plug in, not counting guitars and stuff.

    Is there something wrong with me? I also don’t like coffee or animated movies. Or Fleetwood Mac.

    Maybe I’ve been dead for 10 years and no one told me.

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    • Yet another way in which you and I are opposite, EJ – you live in proximity to technology hell and I am an unofficial member of the IT team at work!

      I use a few of the features on my new phone, but not many. I’ve already had the thing for three weeks and only just found out that the data wasn’t working (which I troubleshooted* in an online forum). I do own an iPad, which I use as an e-reader (it will also sub in for my laptop while I’m away), but I bought it secondhand. I also have an iPod which I use at the gym, but it was a gift, and it eight years old. (I was mad as hell years ago when it broke and Apple refused to repair, offering only to sell me a new one. Luckily, but I found a shop specializing in repairs to i-products that fixed it for $20.) Least you think me a disciple of the cult of Apple, my new phone is an Android. I’m not brand-loyal to any technology but rather just a technology scavenger.

      People probably think there’s something wrong with me too. I also don’t like coffee. Although not even I’m so counterculture as to dislike Fleetwood Mac. But you can indeed go your own way. 😛

      *Is that right? That doesn’t sound right at all.

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  2. Eric, I don’t like coffee either. Actually, I kind of hate it. The smell alone! *shudders*

    I’ve only had 4 different phones in my life. Well, 5, but two of the same model–my current Nokia E71 which I will use until one of us dies. And by “us,” I mean, me or the phone. I replaced its twin after the third hard drop onto concrete. Yes, it takes 3 hard drops onto concrete to break a Nokia. But not the whole thing, just the camera. Once you have a camera on a phone, you can’t go without. The camera wasn’t repairable, so I bought another unlocked E71.

    It does everything I need it to do (make calls, send texts, take pictures, make notes) and a ton of things I don’t need it to do.

    It has a full QWERTY. No touchscreen. It runs Symbian. It’s a dying breed.

    I will hold out on going touchscreen until I have a knife to my throat and gun to my head and three grenades flying through the air toward me.

    Congrats on your upgrade and your small carbon footprint. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person obsessing about where all those discarded cell phones go. Every time we load a cart of decommissioned computers/servers/printers at work to go off for recycling, I get this feeling of doom in my stomach. We’re just one organization. Everyone is doing it. Yeah, it’s recycling, but it can’t be 100% recycled. There’s just no way.

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    • I don’t like coffee or its stink either. Every time I go to a coffee shop with a friend, I have to leave the clothes I wore and the bag I carried in a different room overnight to let them off-gas in peace.

      It might be you and your phone and the roaches in the end. Three hard drops is pretty good; the average iPhone screen seems to smash if you look at it funny. My phone for work has the full QWERTY, but I’m a bit too ham-fisted to make it work. Sending a text takes like 10 minutes. That said, I find myself compulsively cleaning my touchscreen, for I can’t stand fingerprints on things. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s because I’m a neat freak or was a criminal in a past life.

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  3. I’m happy to have a prehistoric push-button Nokia, which I rarely use anyway. No wish or need for anything else. Maybe, like you Janna, if I was embarking on an extended trip then I’d consider.
    I bought my first mobile (cell) in 1997 just when they were catching on and were getting down to a reasonable size 🙂

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    • That was the year I graduated high school. I’m trying to determine if you mean reasonable or “reasonable”. 🙂 Although among smartphones, they seem to fluctuate up and down and size with each iteration.

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  4. I think I’ve had four phones: the first one couldn’t even send texts. I had that for several years, gave it up for a text-capable one when prepays came out. I then upgraded the second one to a flip when I got sick of it ringing home whenever it was in my pocket. That was five or six years ago.
    I’ve now changed to one that has a touchscreen, but only because the buttons on my last phone finally died. Not exactly a smart phone, though. Too expensive.

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    • I only got into texting because all my friends were always texting me (rather than calling) and it was costing me money. Nowadays, my “phone” is much more of a texting device than a talking device: I only really talk to my parents and sister!

      I think that cell phone contracts on the whole are too expensive, or otherwise not flexible enough in their options regarding data; it’s either all the data in the world (for a corresponding out-of-this-world price) or not ~quite~ enough to prevent you not having to constantly check your usage. I guess one day when they embed computer chips in our heads so we can all communicate telepathically, what type of phone one has won’t matter anymore.

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