Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Upgrading a cell phone the free way

A few weeks ago, I finally joined the twenty-first century and acquired my first smart phone. No, I’m not a Luddite, I just thought I couldn’t afford to do this just yet. You see, for the past couple of years, I’ve been going to school full time and my budget has been tight, tight, tight.

And before you stop reading to get out your dictionary to find out what a Luddite is, that’s someone that doesn’t embrace technology—that has never been me. In fact, if you were physically reaching for a dictionary, you may be a Luddite. Just kidding, if you’ve been in school like me, you have probably been encouraged to own a real dictionary. But I will also tell you, there’s an app for that.

As 2012 rolled around, I decided it would be better to upgrade to a free smart phone versus keeping my old phone for one more year. There had been a couple of instances recently where I was out of town without my laptop and could have benefitted greatly from a quick search for something on the phone. But there was still the issue of money for the data plan that is required when you have a smart phone.

Since I have all of my services—internet, home phone, and mobile phone—with AT&T, I was able to negotiate my rates with them. I also cancelled some extra features I had on my home phone and in total I came up with an extra $32 per month. This made the $25 data plan (2GB) affordable and I’m ahead by $7—woo hoo!

I could have gone with the $15 data plan (200MB), but everyone told me that I would use that up in no time, and it looks like they were correct about that. It’s possible not to do this if you always use Wi-Fi, but that’s unlikely if you are, for example, using a navigation app while traveling in your car.

So why didn’t I just cancel the home phone? That is partly because I’ve had it for so long that it’s hard to give up and partly because cell reception, regardless of carrier, is not the best at my house. I am looking into switching to VoIP, but that change will be for another time. And in case you don’t know, VoIP stands for Voice over IP. This is where you use your internet connection to make free phone calls.

Shortly after I upgraded my cell phone, I heard that AT&T is trying to encourage people to upgrade their old 2G phones by saying that they may lose the ability to make or receive calls in the future. I don’t know when this will actually occur, but if you’ve been hesitating like me because of funds, take a look at your current bills and see if you can shuffle some money around so that you can make the change before you’re forced to. And even if funds aren’t tight, why spend more than you have to?

The other decision I had to make was how much to spend on the phone, and of course I wanted that to be free, too. There were quite a few phones that were only one cent, and that’s virtually free, right? Even the 3G iPhone was only ninety-nine cents, but it didn’t have a front-facing camera, and I had decided that I needed this so that I would have the option of using Skype on my phone. I already use Skype on my laptop, so I’m unsure I really needed that, but I had to select some features so that I could narrow down the choices.

You will have to decide what features are most important to you, but I also decided that the largest megapixel camera I could get is important to me. The Samsung Infuse—an Android phone—that I decided on has 8mp and the 3G iPhone was only 5mp. I also liked the idea of the memory being upgradable, and this is not an option on the iPhone. The memory is used for storage of apps, music, and photos. It’s possible I won’t need more than I have, but I just don’t want to be limited.

I’m very happy with my choice, but if you’re still not convinced that you should make the change, in a future post I will tell you all about everything else that you can do with your new smart phone—other than making phone calls, that is.

Question: Have I convinced you that this can be an easy and economical transition?
Leave a comment below and let me know. 

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