Friday, December 9, 2016

The smartphone scam

Everybody has one. The ubiquitous smartphone but put your hand on your heart - do you really need it? I thought I did but it turns out that I really don't, despite 80% of the phones bought annually in the USA being smartphones.

For about 18 months I was very happy with my Nexus 4. That was until the charging port became so loose that no cord would remain seated in the port. I tried everything from tape to play dough to keep the cord in place. Nothing worked! Eventually I got a cordless charging pad and that kept my phone charged until about August of this year. That's pretty much three years after I spent ludicrous money buying the phone. That is, of course where all the fun started!

Figuring it was the cordless charger I bought another one on eBay where the seller promised it would be here by the 30th. I figured I could go without a working phone for a week. Anyway, the week came and went with no sign of a charger. I dug out the old feature phone I used when I was in Britain and put a cheap Tracfone SIM card in it with a service that cost $15 a month instead of the $55 a month I paid for my smartphone connection. It was then that I found that nobody could figure out how to connect the features on my phone to the internet. The Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo etc apps just won't connect. Bang went $15 on that connection. I could have spent $20 on a connection that'd have lasted for 3 months with just talk and text.

A week later, as I'm starting a claim against the seller for a refund, the thing arrived. Excitedly and in eager anticipation I put my smartphone on the new charging pad and waited with baited breath. Yes, it began to charge. Coming back a little while later, the same thing that was happening with my old charger had recommenced. My smartphone charged for a brief while then quit charging. Given that two chargers are doing the same thing, I'm going to say the fault is probably the phone.

Needless to say, the seller of the charging pad was not happy about my neutral rating. Given that he gave a non working tracking number and lied about delivery date from California, I think giving a neutral rating citing delivery issues was fair. Anyway, he decided to try to offer me $1 to withdraw my poor rating. Nope. Not happening!

Having been using effectively a dumb phone since nobody can activate the features (Well, I think they could if they could be bothered) I'm actually finding life without a smartphone is actually quite pleasant. I'd had the sound turned off on my smartphone for a long time in order to avoid the irritating bleeps, bloops and blops it would make. Now my dumb phone rings when somebody phones me and bleeps when I receive a text message. I am not tied to the internet. I have no desire to check email nor browse the internet when I'm out and about.

About the only features of my smartphone that I used regularly were GPS navigation and the camera. Largely the camera has been replaced by the camera on my tablet. GPS is handy on a phone but it really eats the battery so it's not really that practical. I tend to prefer my in car GPS or now that I have to use maps at work rather than electronic navigation, I'm getting on quite well with old fashioned maps.

So, do I need a smartphone? No. I certainly do not. I am very unimpressed by the very short 3 year life of my $300 smart phone. If I bought a $300 TV that died within 3 years I would really be annoyed. I don't get why people are prepared to pay hundreds for devices that seem so throwaway.

Let's look at costs. I paid $300 for my smartphone and I get maybe a dozen calls a month. I paid $55 a month in order to get that dozen or so calls. So, in 3 years I paid 12x55 or $670 a year for the connection for a grand total of $2310 for a phone with features that aren't really necessary. Now let's look at how much my dumbphone costs. I paid $1.07 including tax for a SIM card that fits an existing phone. I can pay $20 every 3 months fir the connection. That's $80 a year for a grand total of $211.07 for three years. That's a saving of around $2,000. Not something to be sniffed at!

Meanwhile, since Blu nor Tracfone can activate the features on the phone, I'm not going to worry my pretty little head about them. Perhaps I would have gone for a new smartphone had not Straight Talk shot themselves in the foot. They sent an email advising me that I needed to renew my connection in order to "play on the internet". That really rang bells because playing on the internet is all I really was doing with my smartphone. That pretty much rankled me. I can play on the internet using my tablet elsewhere. Indeed, several years ago I used to use a MiFi pad for my internet connection and used $20 a month of data.

Comparing US and U.k phone and data deals, the USA is really getting ripped off. I understand that Tesco has a non contract deal where for £7.50 a month customers get 1gb of data and unlimited talk/text. That's about $10. Data is cheap in the U.K.

Of course it wouldn't be fate if three things didn't go wrong so here's the third. With my smartphone out of action, I'm unable to use the flashlight built into it. Thus I had to dig out my old Kmart flashlight with a built in generator. It's one of those lousy LED things and has barely had any use. After pumping it a few times to get light to inspect my tyres at work, the lever stopped working. Bearing in mind this thing never gets used, that's very poor. My mistake was in not buying a regular flashlight. I'd been convinced by the green scammers that a generator flashlight was more environmentally friendly. No it's nit if I have to throw the thing away after hardly any use in order to buy the flashlight that takes batteries that I would have bought in the first place. Now I'm going to have a job to fund a flashlight that takes regular bulbs!

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