Monday, August 25, 2014

A phone of one's own

I've had a cell phone since I was gifted a stylish Motorola StarTAC when I turned 16 in 1999.

Thus began my long relationship with cell phones: I've gotten 1 as a gift, 5 as hand-me-downs or on extended loan, 3 free with a contract, and 1 at a discount with a contract. I've gone through 10 handsets and been a phone-carrying mobile user for 15 years, yet never, in all that time, have I had to actually buy a phone from a retailer! 

But all that changed this summer. 

I lost my HTC One X in Indonesia in June. I was actually not very disappointed, because I'd been annoyed with the size and battery life of that phone pretty much ever since I'd gotten it, and I'd just been biding my time until I could renew my contract (which I estimated to be sometime in June) and get a smaller phone. However, upon my return to the States, I learned that, not only was there no such thing as a small smartphone any more, but AT&T had changed their pricing and would no longer be providing free or heavily discounted phones to users who renew their contract. I wasn't keen to spend full price on a brand-new phone, especially on some giant phone on some dumb installment plan, so I started shopping around. At first, I was gung-ho to find a new phone that would suit me, but I soon learned that good phones are not cheap, and there weren't even any phones out there that I considered good enough to be worth the price. 

So I switched from using my backup antique iPhone 3G to using my boyfriend's slightly less old iPhone 3GS, and contented myself with that until something better should come around

Then I broke his screen and the drama started afresh. After a few days, I repaired the screen for 63 dollars, but within a few more days, I stopped picking up a signal (I must have damaged the antenna too—what a waste of 63 dollars!), so I switched back to my antique iPhone. Then after a couple weeks of cursing my phone's existence, I got a Micro-SIM card for 25 dollars and switched to my boyfriend's slightly newer iPhone 4, learned it really was still possible to get a discounted phone by renewing your contract and that I'd overpaid for the SIM card (what a waste of 25 dollars!) and that I still don't like iPhones no matter how new they are, got a courtesy refund on the SIM card, learned it would be cost-ineffective to the others on my family plan to get an upgraded phone by renewing my contract, and started shopping again for new phones that would suit me. 

This time I lowered my standards and resigned myself to paying around 200 dollars for a phone that I might like slightly more than the HTC One X or the iPhone 4. Yesterday, I finally took the plunge. I have returned to my Motorola roots and bought myself a used DROID Mini on eBay (for 148 dollars, including charging accessories).

Yes, this is a long story, and it is really only the introduction to my true purpose: sharing the lessons I've learned from this phone buying adventure. When I told my dad my plans for buying an aftermarket handset, he asked me to provide a narration of what I needed to do, since he has a friend who needs to buy a new phone. And that made me realize, what with AT&T's new pricing structure, there are probably lots of first-time phone-buyers out there who are just as bewildered by this whole process as I was. 

So here I am to save the day! For the past month and a half, phones have consumed my thoughts. In my next post, I will share all those thoughts with you! Soon we will all be experts on navigating the seamy underworld that is basically any marketplace beyond your carrier's friendly neighborhood store.


Greg B said...

Hello moto welcome back.

Valerie said...

Heavens, that was an obscure celebrity!