“Buying” a cell phone


[Ada and Richard]

It’s time for me to acquire a new cell phone. Actually, I
should have gotten one 2 years ago when the current one acquired
its intermittent problem. It stops hearing what I say. I can
make phone calls, and people can call me, but they all hang up
on me because they can’t hear me saying anything to them. I did
some ill-considered fiddling with passwords, so now the only fix
for this problem is to take the battery out for a few minutes.
This only happens every few months, so I haven’t done anything
about it, but now that I’m eligible for a new subsidized phone,
I figure I should get one.

The two features I’d like are a better camera and an ability to
read books. The better camera looks doable for a few tens of
dollars. This is frivolous, since I already have a better
camera, but it doesn’t fit easily even into my jacket pocket, so
I often don’t have it when I want it.

Reading books costs several hundred dollars, though. If you buy
from the T-Mobile store, any of
the phones smart enough to run reading software require a data
plan, which costs $25/month. So for the two year life of the
contract, that’s $600, plus whatever the phone costs.

I really don’t see that I want internet in my phone $600
worth. I need a phone that’s capable of internet, as a backup in
case the cable goes down, but that’s a few days a year at most.
Since I got Comcast instead of Verizon, I’ve had only a few hours
of down time, which happened at night so I didn’t need to use the
cell phone. When I’m at home, I have an upstairs desktop and a
downstairs laptop, and most of the places where I go and have time
to browse the internet have WIFI (so I can use the internet tablet). I know the people who have
iPhones do use their internet access, and maybe I’d wonder how I
lived without it if I got it, but right now I don’t feel like
spending the money.

Of course, you can buy an unlocked phone from Amazon or Newegg,
and probably you don’t need to get the data plan if you do that.
But the unlocked phones are all $300 more than a subsidized
version that comes with the data plan.

And again, this would be frivolous, because I already have my
Nokia N810 Internet Tablet for reading books. And it does fit
easily into a jacket pocket, so it’s only bad organization when
I don’t have it.

I investigated whether I could use the camera on the Internet
tablet for better pictures than the cell phone gets me, and it
turns out that I can’t, although it’s possible someone
could use it for something. It’s a fixed focus, intended for
doing video calls, so taking anything but yourself is difficult,
and the software seems to be pretty flaky. I managed to get an
out-of-focus shot of something unrecognizable, but never managed
to get the dog (my usual test subject), even though he’s taking
his morning nap and not difficult to shoot with a normal camera
at all.

So I’ll probably just upgrade to something similar to what I
have, maybe spending the $40 to get a better camera. In two
years, maybe the cost analysis will be different. Or maybe the
unlocked phones will get cheaper in less than two years.

There’s a character in Dickens’ Bleak
House
who is described thus:

He immediately began to
spend all the money he had in buying the oddest little ornaments and
luxuries for this lodging; and so often as Ada and I dissuaded him
from making any purchase that he had in contemplation which was
particularly unnecessary and expensive, he took credit for what it
would have cost and made out that to spend anything less on something
else was to save the difference.

One of my friends who bought an iPhone justified the expense
because his cell phone plan was $30 less per month than someone else’s he
knows (although it’s $30 more than mine). I do a certain amount
of that kind of thing, too, but I’m resisting the temptation in
this case.

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