Shopping for a new mobile phone plan that balances my gadget fetish with my tight budget got me thinking just how easy it is these days. For the telecommunications and mobile phone market, consumers have almost perfect information available about pricing.
Mobile plan provider’s websites usually have options to search by criteria such as monthly fee, handset type, data use and call use. Offerings between providers are very similar, so comparison is easy. There are websites which allow you to set search criteria to compare packages from different providers. Some of the information on comparative shopping websites may be biased or incomplete, but they do provide a good avenue for research.
The level of availability of pricing information that has become available through the rise of the internet is brilliant for consumers. On the other hand, the telecommunications and mobile phone industry are extremely good at marketing, so there are lots of traps for unwary consumers. I think the marketing strategy providers use is to sell the handset features and in this way get you to sign up for a monthly plan with more credit than you otherwise would have used.
In the interests of my budget I looked at the plan requirements I needed first in terms of data and credit and then considered the handsets available on plans fitting my needs . My old provider did not offer very detailed billing information, so I worked through my mobile phone’s call and data use log to work out my average use over a few months. I ended up getting a Samsung Galaxy S3 on a plan that cost $32 a month. This includes a cost of $2 a month for the phone. $48 for a modern phone seems a pretty good deal to me. I thought about using my old phone, but could not find a suitable BYO plan or prepaid service that would have worked out cheaper. I also figured the benefits of the improved security and reliability that at come with a new phone as well as the warranty would be worth it.
This plan gives me enough call and data credit to cover my needs with a bit of a buffer. At the time I signed my contract, there were two more advanced Samsung Galaxy phones and many other phones using the android system with better specifications. However, there was nothing revolutionary or mind blowing that would change the way I use my phone or really enable me to get much more out of it. Certainly nothing that was worth the extra $10 – $40 per month.
To me, the advancements in newer phones are really only incremental refinements upon what was already available in the last two handsets I owned. I think among major mobile phone producers the technology has converged, so much of their business model is to differentiate themselves from the competition by building their brand or selling minor new features.
Most of the big improvements I see are shipping with the operating system. One I noticed on my new phone is the ability to auto-switch between wifi and mobile network data which could really save on data use. With my old phone, I had one month where I turned off wifi when it wasn’t working properly and forgot to turn it back on. As a result, I copped a large data bill, but this new feature should avoid a repeat of that scenario. Since that drama, I also set my android phone to automatically stop data use once I hit my monthly limit which I think saved me a couple of times. They threw in 2.3 Gb of data a month with the new plan, so noting my increased data needs, that should also help.
I have always been a few phones behind the latest and greatest. I feel like even though I have got a slightly outdated phone, it still feels new to me. I think realistically understanding my needs and wants is critical to this and other purchasing decisions which helps me stick to a budget.