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The Perils of Choosing a New Mobile Phone

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Yesterday brought the news that a 13 year-old boy had been selling nude pictures that his girlfriend had texted to him to classmates for $5 a pop. Leaving aside the possible prosecution for distributing child porn for a second, the first thought that occurred to me was why a child needs a mobile phone with a camera anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand a teenager being able to get in touch when they’re away from home, but does it really need to be a whizz-bang wonder of technology?

I prefer to keep my devices separate, with my laptop, digital camera and very basic (no camera, no picture messaging, no internet access) mobile phone all sharing space in my bag. I like my phones small and compact, I like my laptops with keyboard I can type with comfortably; if I were a keener photographer, I don’t think I’d consider the camera options on a phone to be good enough; and I like my phones small, light and inconspicuous.

Lately though, I’ve been having to search for a smartphone, after being asked if I could get a pocket-sized computer for someone. They’ve never used the internet before, but want to start now, and would prefer something that would fit into a coat or jacket pocket. I’d suggest getting a netbook and a man-bag, but that’s not how they roll. So I have been trawling through pages and pages of reviews, trying to find something that will work.

Having narrowed it down to “phones that are not fragile and impossibly expensive to replace,” now comes picking the network and the package. The UK mobile market is competitive, and there is no phone that is off-limits. Networks offer yearly upgrades to customers, and offer all sorts of text and data bundles in the hopes of rolling you over into a new contract.

But what if your credit rating is shot to pieces, or you simply don’t like the idea of being tied to a contract? There’s always pay-as-you-go (PAYG), but then you’re paying significantly more for the phone, and more per minute or megabyte too. Some networks do offer PAYG bundles, but these aren’t as competitive as contracts, and could end up being very expensive in the long-run, especially if you go over your allotted number of minutes or your data allowance.

In the end, after a bit of research, I found what I thought was the perfect phone. Going through one of the biggest specialisst retailers, I realised that I probably wouldn’t be able to get it without a contract. While this normally wouldn’t be an issue for me, my friend doesn’t like paperwork, so I had to find a way to go PAYG without breaking the bank. Luckily, there’s plenty of merchants on Amazon who are willing to sell unlocked phones that will work on any network, and they’re willing to compete with each other on price. Having checked with my friend’s network, I tracked down a data bundle that would allow for light browsing for a set price, with any unused allowance rolling over into the next month. So we’re now waiting for a shiny Nokia N900 to arrive in the post. It even has a stylus, so my tech-phobic friend doesn’t even have to learn how to type!

As for myself, I’m going to stick to my retro phone. It may not have all the the bells and whistles, but as long as my handbag continues to behave like a Tardis, there will always be room for separate pieces of specialist kit that I can tote from place to place.

[Image by DJWudi]


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