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Buying a smartphone


I’ve just agreed to acquire a new mobile phone.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a smartphone for a while, and tossing up whether to get an iPhone, or an android-based phone. I’m currently with T-Mobile, but I would prefer to be with Orange (I’ve irrationally loved tripster.ru since before I owned a mobile phone, and even bought shares in them at one point).

The phone must also be a light saber

My needs for the phone:

  • makes calls
  • sends and receives text messages
  • stores contact details
  • alarm clock
  • operates as mp3 player / ipod replacement (lost the last one)
  • access to internet including gmail, twitter, facebook
  • decent mapping and ‘where’s nearest’
  • works in the USA
  • light saber app
  • shake app
  • prettiness

I don’t currently have an account with iTunes and have never owned an Apple product.

The phone must be free and the calls cheap

My needs for the deal are:

  • 50+ texts (I’m not a big texter)
  • 150+ minutes (the more the better)
  • unlimited internet use
  • £30 or less per month
  • free phone

Basically, I know what I want and how much I’m prepared to pay for it, and I just want the best-est, shiniest phone for the price. I’m also likely to be comfortable spending this amount per month for the next few years. I think I’ve been paying around £25-£30 a month for about the last 7 years already.

shopping around

I had a scout round the deals at Carphone Warehouse and Orange online. I also read as many reviews as I could. I found it difficult at first to work out which was likely to be the best Android phone, but the iPhone was easy to narrow down.

Basically, to get an iPhone 3GS, I need to either spend £45 a month, or spend £125 on the phone. Neither is acceptable, so I’m only looking at the iPhone 3G 8Mb. The best deal with a free phone happened to be Orange. It has:

  • 250 texts Anytime Any network
  • Unlimited Internet Anytime Any network
  • 150 minutes Anytime Same network

This is barely acceptable. And the reviews of the 3G phone seem to say that it’s slow because its an older version. But still, it’s pretty and shiny. In fact, it’s the prettiest and shiniest phone on the market.

For an Android phone, I considered:

  • HTC Hero
  • HTC Tattoo
  • Motorola Milestone
  • HTC Desire

This list was based on the reviews I found on the internet, and the phones that were available on Orange. All are available free, with unlimited text messages, unlimited internet and 400+ minutes for £30 a month. But I wanted to see what the phones are like in real life. And I was open to seeing any other phones.

When I hit the shops, I saw a couple of actual iPhones and decided that they are beautiful and the interface is straightforward. I also dismissed all the sliding keyboard models. Too clunky, too ugly and the keyboards were difficult to type on. I also decided that of the 3 HTC models, the Desire was the best. But none of the Android phones had actual demo models to play on.

I was collared by a sales assistant in one of the shops, which was a mixed blessing. I was subject to a hard sell. He tried to sell me a ‘deal’ of £35 or £45 a month, even though I explained that I don’t use that many minutes or texts a month. But he was friendly and I watched him demonstrate the HTC Desire. I didn’t get to play with it myself, but it looked nearly as intuitive to use as the iPhone.

In the end, I decided that the package on offer with the iPhone 3G wasn’t nearly as good as with the Desire. The Desire is second best to the iPhone in looks, but I could see myself running out of minutes with the iPhone sometimes. And I’d need to keep the older slower 3G phone for 2 years at least.

So, I went home to phone T-Mobile to get my PAC and switch to the HTC Desire on Orange. But, I was sweet-talked into staying with T-Mobile. With a 900 minute, 500 text messages, unlimited internet and 60 minutes of international calls package for £30 a month. I felt a bit uncomfortable about having been talked into staying. But thinking about it rationally, I’m getting exactly what I want, a better package. It’s a win-win for T-Mobile and me. Maybe I’ll switch to Orange next time.

I’m picking up my new phone tomorrow. Can’t wait.


how to take advantage of the January sales



identify gaps

You need to make a plan of attack, and that starts, not at the shops but in your own home.

Firstly, what kind of shopping are you thinking of doing? Things for the house, electrical goods, new cds or dvds, clothes, Xmas decorations for next year? Consider whether you received any gift vouchers / certificates / cards for Christmas. What kinds of shops were those for? That will help you decide which categories to shop the sales in.

In any case you probably already have some stuff. Go through the things that you already have in each category and note any gaps. These are the things to buy in the sales. Identify all the things you need - these should get top priority in your list - and all the things you’d want or like to have - if you see a good bargain, you can then choose to buy those. Write everything down in a little notebook to take to the shops with you.

I’m looking for clothes, and going through my existing wardrobe I have the following gaps, compared to my ideal wardrobe:

  • casual trousers (up to 2 pairs)
  • work trousers (up to 4 pairs)
  • fine knit sweaters (up to 3)
  • long sleeved t-shirts (up to 3)
  • chunky knit cardigans (up to 2)

So, with my clothes shop gift card I should be looking out for only those things in the sales. Since my existing clothes have worked out ok for the last 2 or 3 months none of these are strictly essential, if I can’t find things that I like.

In the electrical goods items, I don’t have but would like the following:

  • microwave
  • toaster
  • freezer
  • ipod
  • printer
  • george foreman style grill

Of those, probably the most urgently required are the microwave, grill and printer. I received some cash for Christmas that could be usefully spent on some of these items.

thinking about specific shops

Where exactly are you going to hit the sales? I have no car, and live about 45 mins walk from a major city centre, so that’s where I’ll be going. There’s one electrical goods store, so I’ll see if I can get a bargain in there. Otherwise, I’ll tackle the shop that I have a gift card for, and a couple of others that stock clothes in my difficult to buy for (short, round) size.

Maybe you’d be better off buying online? That could certainly work in some categories (not clothes so much) and might be a better use of your time. It’s not normally worth hitting more than one or two major shopping centres for the same types of items. especially clothes - the discounts don’t vary all that much from town to town.

setting price limits

It’s oh so easy in the sales to spend more than you intend to because the bargains are so good. Once you’ve identified all the things that you want or need, set maximum prices on them and write these down. This stops you spending more just because something has been reduced a lot even though it still costs more than you’d really want to spend.

With my clothes selection, I’d set limits on categories plus an overall limit - e.g. no more than £40 on casual trousers, no more than £30 on long sleeve t-shirts, and no more than £100 all together. I’d do the same if I was looking to buy books or cds or dvds.

With electrical goods, I prefer to set a price limit for each item, and an overall limit. I’m not going to spend more than £60 on a microwave for example.


Some things benefit from a little research in advance. This mostly applies to electrical goods. Do this before you go, and write down any suitable brands and model numbers.

hitting the shops

Time to put the plan into action.

Wear comfortable shoes and layers as the temperature can vary wildly. Take enough money to cover tea breaks and lunch out and ideally a reasonable sized bag with you. If you will be trying on clothes, wear something easy to change in and out of.

Only go into the shops that you identified previously. Don’t veer off the list. Stick to your price limits. Take a break every 2 hours or so. When you can’t carry on, stop and go home. There will be other sales.

Good luck.


advertising sells. unfortunately


I wonder whether I’m the only person who is not really interested in shopping for gifts this year.

It’s not really that I don’t want to give gifts to my friends and family, I really enjoy getting them stuff - thinking about what they might like and wrapping and so on. It’s just that for the last 5-6 months, I’ve very rarely been proper shopping (as opposed to food shopping). When I went browsing in the shops the other day after work, I found the whole experience overwhelming. There were too many people, and brightly coloured shout-y posters telling me about all the money I could save if I just spent my money in their shop.

my accidental advertising diet

I think I’ve inadvertently been on an advertising diet. I don’t watch a great deal of tv, and much of it is BBC, so ad free. And I have relative online advertising blindness. Most of the posters I pass on my way to work are either public service or for products I’m really not interested in, like car insurance (I don’t own a car).

This accidental advertising diet meant that when I was surrounded by lots and lots of ads, I had a bit of sensory overload. It was like the whole town was shouting ‘buy me, buy me, I’m a nice bright shiny bauble’.

still left me wanting to buy stuff based on ads

But, even though the ads in the stores in town overwhelmed me, they also made me feel like I wanted to buy things. I’m not sure exactly what things, but I definitely wanted to buy.

Fortunately, for Christmas shopping I need have to a list and buy for difficult people (aka men). So I didn’t actually get sucked in to buying things I didn’t need.

so I’m back to avoiding ads

I’m going to try and keep up this advertising diet, now that I’ve noticed it though. I don’t need to spend money on things that I don’t need, or want. I’m supposed to be a grown up these days, and I want to save my money for fun stuff that I actually do want, as well as slightly less fun stuff that I need.


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