8 phones in 20 years

I wondered how people manage to buy the new iPhone every year when they are locked into a 2-year contract.  Maybe they buy them unsubsidized, which starts at US$600.  It matters little to me since I have no intention of buying one (I do have an iPod Touch).  I had never even used one until earlier this year when a friend handed his to me to talk to someone.  One reason is the monthly price (there are more reasons).  The cheapest AT&T package is $60: $40 for 450 minutes and $20 for a 200MB data plan, which you must have.  If you want to increase the your data limit or add a text message plan, add even more per month.  For the past 10 years, I have been using T-Mobile’s $20/month for 60 weekday minutes and 500 weekend minutes, which is plenty for me, and $6/month for EDGE data.  Both were plenty for me, as I didn’t make many phone calls.  In the 3 years before I moved overseas, I used less than 1000 minutes total, so why should I pay for 450 minutes every month that I couldn’t use in an entire year?  Also, my phone wasn’t 3G-capable, so the $6/month was perfect.

I have included photos of all the cell phones I’ve used in the last 20 years.  The first one was a family phone, the next 2 were used primarily by me while in college.  The Motorola StarTAC was the only phone I could find for photo 2, as I probably recycled/donated the older ones after I took the first photo.  I would have liked to have re-assembled the entire timeline for an awesome photo of technological history.

Click to read more and see part 2 of my cell phone timeline.

The first 3 were all by Motorola, with service provided by GTE Wireless (which then combined with other companies to form Verizon), from 1993-2000.  The two Nokia 5100 phones in the first photo were part of a family plan, I didn’t have two of them.  They were used with Pacific Bell PCS (before it was bought by AT&T, then bought by Cingular, then bought back by AT&T Wireless) from 2000-2002.  In 2002, my legacy with T-Mobile began.  The Samsung SGH-R225m was bought at Best Buy, and with creative use of coupons and rebates, I ended up buying the phone for $80 and getting a $100 rebate, meaning I made money on it.  In 2004, I won the Motorola RAZR V3 from a radio contest/redemption program.  I went to the Cingular store to pick it up and the manager really wanted me to buy a plan with it, she probably assumed I would just sell it on eBay for quick cash.  I got it unlocked so I could use it with my T-Mobile SIM.  I wouldn’t have sold it because a cameraphone was a nifty idea.  In 2006, I bought the T-Mobile Dash, unlocked off eBay.  I wanted the keyboard because I planned to get the $5 T-Zones plan (which jumped up to $6 by the time I could sign up), and using a 12-button keypad for internet browsing would have been stupid.  Skipping the two-year refresh rate, and four years later, in 2010, I bought the Nexus One off eBay, as it was cheaper than Google’s online store, and used it in Bermuda with prepaid service and without a data plan.  Wifi was adequate, and I didn’t go off station enough to make the $45/month worth the money.  That brings us to 2012, when we say goodbye to a familiar phone number.

Now that I am back, I splurged for a new phone and plan.  I knew I wanted T-Mobile’s Monthly 4G plan, exclusively available at Wal-Mart and T-Mobile website (not T-Mobile stores).  For $30 prepaid, I get 100 minutes, 5GB of 4G data (after which you drop to unlimited 2G), and unlimited text messages.  So for only $10 more, I get more minutes (which could come in handy), unlimited data and texts?  Yes, please.  If you live in a good coverage area and don’t want an iPhone (which doesn’t have the AWS frequency bands), how could you not consider this no-contract plan?  If I were to find another overseas job and couldn’t use this plan, I could break it with no penalty as there is no contract.  The only drawback is that I had to give up the phone number I used for 10 years.  Not a big deal, I just hand out my Google Voice number and I can auto-forward calls to any new phone number I get.

I have the plan, now to choose a phone.  I bought the Nexus One online and enjoyed it immensely.  The one drawback was the tiny space allotted to app installation.  Sure, you can install many apps to the microSD card, and I did that whenever I could, but some apps would only work on the main phone, where I only had 200MB of space.  I got to around 20-something apps before low memory warnings stopped push notifications from working.  I knew that the HTC One X would be out by the time I got home, but from reading the technical specifications, it might not have worked with T-Mobile, as it lacked the AWS frequency bands (1700 and 2100 MHz).  It did support 1900MHz, and T-Mobile is refarming that band to 3G, but there is no guarantee that you would live in an area to take advantage of it.  It has the best screen around and purportedly a great camera and software package, but a non-user replaceable battery and no microSD expansion.  I really like their products, as my previous 2 phones were by HTC: the T-Mobile Dash, or HTC Excalibur, and the Google Nexus One, built by HTC.

Samsung has recently become the largest mobile phone maker, outpacing Nokia.  They have also recently announced the Galaxy S III.  It had a slightly bigger screen, but perhaps not as high quality as the One X (on paper at least, in real world use, I may not have noticed the difference).  Pros were removable battery and microSD expansion.  However, it relied on Samsung’s TouchWiz UI (user interface), much like the HTC One X would use HTC’s Sense UI.  I prefer the pure stock Android OS (which you might see referred to as ASOP), the way Google created it, and is found on the Nexus line of phones.

The first Nexus phone was built by HTC, the second and third were built by Samsung, the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus.  Google originally sold the Nexus One only on their own website (for $529), not in stores, which contributed to their low sales and shuttering of the online store.  The Nexus S was sold directly in brick and mortar stores like Best Buy.  The Galaxy Nexus was sold in the US exclusively by Verizon.  If GSM customers wanted one, they would have to import.  Three weeks ago, Google reopened their online store and started selling an unlocked, contract-free GSM Galaxy Nexus for $399.  It is nearly a six-month old phone with an older processor, older camera, and no microSD expansion.  There is also a new Nexus model expected by the end of the year, could I wait?  However, it did have a removable battery and stock Android.  I could deal with the no microSD slot by using cloud storage for music and video, as the 16GB would be vastly better than the 200MB I used to have for installing applications.  Plus, the cheaper price meant I would save $200 over the One X and Galaxy S III (which wouldn’t be available for months), which I could then apply towards a tablet (that might also take weeks of analysis and comparison).

If you followed my Facebook posts (or looked at the photos above), you’ll know that I chose the Galaxy Nexus, and I do not regret it at all, even with the news about the future of the Nexus line.  I think stock Android and lower price were the strongest advantages.  If you want to see the factors that I considered, peruse the following table.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus HTC One X Samsung Galaxy S III
Android OS stock 4.0 Sense 4.0 TouchWiz 4.0
Screen 4.65 Pentile SAMOLED 4.7 non-Pentile SLCD2 4.8 Pentile SAMOLED
Processor dual core TI OMAP quad core Tegra 3 quad core Exynos
Camera 5.0 MP 8.0 MP 8.0 MP
Memory 16GB fixed 32GB fixed 16GB expandable
Battery 1750mAh removeable 1800mAh locked 2100mAh removeable
T-Mobile 3G? yes, pentaband HSPA maybe, not guaranteed yes, pentaband HSPA
Price (unlocked) 399 600+ probably 600+
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One Response to 8 phones in 20 years

  1. Pingback: Making more money on mobile phone service. « One City At A Time

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