Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mobile Madness

I've been wanting a new phone for quite a while now: quite apart from the lust factor of a shiny new gizmo, my current phone is pretty knackered. Of course, being a geek, I don't just want any old phone, I want a top o' the range number that does all kinds of useless stuff. I want one that's as stylish and funky as the iPhone. In fact, I want an iPhone, but since Tellyfuckingfonica have exclusive rights to that gadget, I won't be getting one.

So, I've been researching the market, and what I want now (actually more than an iPhone), is a handset that runs Google Android, specifically with the HTC 'Touch UI' skin. So that restricts things somewhat. The HTC Magic is exclusive to Vodafone, and I'm with Orange: moving could involve a JazzTel-style debacle. But as I passed the local Orange dealer yesterday, I noticed an HTC Hero in the window: from only €9! I went in to enquire, carefully not building any expectation that I would actually walk out of the shop with a new phone.

The sales assistant said it was only €9 if you were a business or self-employed. My hope-rating increased to 2/10. I am self-employed (autonomo), and I can prove it! So we talked about packages and lock-ins - we're looking at €32/month, minimum 18 months. That's not bad at all. She gave me forms to fill in, and my hope-rating increased to about 5/10.

But the first question slayed me: did I want to keep the same number I had with my previous supplier, or get a new one. I asked where was the option to switch my existing contract with Orange to this one, and keep the same number? There wasn't one, because you can't do that. Hope-rating: 0/10.

But, she said, you can get the phone as an individual, but you'll have to pay something (I already knew from previous research, the 'something' starts at €209). She fiddled about with the computer. It turned out I have some Orange Points, so the 'something' is only €180. That's way too much right now, but maybe when a large outstanding bill gets settled, I'll do it. As an alternative, she offered the HTC Tattoo, which also runs Android, and is very cute. And 'only' €89 with my points. Hope-rating 1/10, I went away and checked out some reviews - they all admire the phone greatly, except for the crap touch-screen (resistive, rather than capacitive) that makes the thing virtually unusable. So I won't be bothering with that, even though I could get it from Vodafone for €29.

Y'know, phone companies really do get on my tits. Sometime soon, HTC or some other bugger will bring out a new phone running on Android. It might be offered exclusively thru Vodafone or someone else. As a new customer to them, I'll get the phone for almost nothing, and Orange will do nothing to stop me - they won't say 'oh, Keefie, don't leave; look, because we value your custom, you can have the HTC Hero for €9 after all'. I don't want to move to a new supplier: I've had no problems with Orange. But now they have the phone I want and won't let me have it for a sensible price.

I know these high-end phones are pricey: they are little computers, after all. In some ways, I think the UAE had it right. There was an open market in unlocked phones. You bought the one you wanted, stuck your SIM card in it, and off you went. The maze of offers, counter-offers, exclusives and value-adds here does my head in. And in this particular instance it hasn't increased my choice at all, in fact it's limited it to about zero.


So I thought, why don't I shut down my existing account with Orange, and then open a new one? I popped into the shop and suggested this, and the assistant said she couldn't see why not. So this evening I went yet again, armed with all the required documents. I'm buggered if I know what happened, but eventually she told me it would be €289 for the phone. WTF? What do you have to do to qualify for the advertised €9? She shrugged her shoulders - no idea. Feck. But it looks like there's tons of Android phones coming out in the next few months, so I'll just have to be patient and then take my business elsewhere.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Be patient, but yes: Android's worth it. Really nice and easy to use, plenty of apps and it's open source.