Tis the season to shop for a new cell phone (and carrier?)

22 Nov

We have Sprint as a cell phone carrier.  I’ve been with them for years, and was with Verizon previously.  Greg also was previously with Verizon.   Our contract is up in January, our phone is nearly two years old now too.  We’ve been sharing a phone for the last (almost anyhow) two years as part of the downsizing of our budget.  For a while, we tried the pay-as-you-go routine, but the fees for a phone that saw almost no use were excessive in our opinion, especially since most of the time, we’re in the same location.  We also have the “everything” plan, mostly because in the past, everything seemed to be more than my package included…every month.  It costs us about the same, and we don’t worry about it anymore.  I like that, not worrying about data, texts, day of the week, hour, or minutes.  It fits with our “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS) philosophy these days.

Two years ago, after the fourth Blackberry malfunctioned (ringer quit when I was receiving a call) I was on the rebound from “smart” phones.  I wanted a phone that WORKED, and preferably a flip phone to stop the continual “pocket dials”.  I also wanted a QUERTY keyboard, as I had fallen in love with that feature on the Blackberries.  The answer was LG’s Lotus.  They had just come out with a new Lotus, and I didn’t see any reason to pay extra for the new one, when the old one had what I was looking for.  I opted for a basic black one, with a nod to Greg’s gender…I just couldn’t see him being crazy about pink or purple, and we’d already decided to stick with a single phone for a while.

I don’t really have any complaints–the phone has done what it is supposed to.  Granted, it’s NOT a smart phone, and that’s my own fault, so it has pretty limited use outside of making phone calls.  I don’t use a lot of smart phone features, but I do use some.  Greg uses a phone to its maximum capacity, however, as he’s much more the geek than me.  I’m curious about the gimmicky things, like the codes you can photograph and your phone gives you the info.  I might use Twitter more if I had a phone app that could handle it.  Sometimes even I have a need to check my email when it’s not convenient to tote (or use) the laptop around.  And as Greg pointed out…it’s coming onto the holidays, and MouseHunt will have their annual Winter Hunt.  (Yes, I’m a huge fan of HitGrab’s MouseHunt game…)  I just might want to log into Facebook (the devil we all love to hate) or MouseHunt (they are on Facebook, but you can also access the game through their website.)

I want a smart phone.  Now comes the hard part.  I want one that works and makes us a whole lot happier than the Blackberries ever did.  I’m not sure about touch screens, I’m a bit leery of their lifespan, and I prefer to use a phone about two years before replacing it.  We’re also moderately hard on our phones–I’m apt to drop them, we’re continually plugging in headsets, chargers, etc.  We have a granddaughter who might grab it with sticky fingers, or poke at it.  I’ve also been burned on that whole “it’s gotten wet” due to the moisture sensor inside of the phone (it had NEVER been in the rain or dropped in water either.)  It seems that the Gulf Coast, with it’s ambient moisture levels and the constant sweating (try holding a phone against your ear for 20 minutes on hold when it’s 93* F. and the humidity is 98%…) is going to always indicate that you “got it wet.”  I’m just glad the dogs are all long past puppyhood and are highly unlikely to snatch it into a slobbery mouth and run off with it or chew it.

So, I started with Sprint, since we’re a current customer there and I don’t have to wait.  They too have the iPhone.  They also have Google’s phone from Samsung.  They have several other smart phones.  It means renewing the contract for 2 years unless I opt to go with a “pre-owned” phone.  I checked that option, but it seems the only ones offered there are the Blackberries that left such a horrible taste in my mouth as one after another failed despite reasonable use and care.  There is also the Samsung Transform Ultra.

The Samsung Transform Ultra is slightly more attractive than the Google phone because of it’s addition of an external memory card.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s also $20 cheaper.  The iPhone, with it’s attractive availability of a variety of accessories and apps, is more than double the price, which is a big ouch with the KISS budget.  (That might be more Kiss it good bye than keep it simple too)

Now when I’m dealing with my frugal side, I want to look at just the smart phones that Sprint offers at no additional charge.  That sounds wonderful until you read the reviews of those phones.  It seems it would be a false sense of economy that lead me that way–frequent failure and being forced to replace it at a higher cost later isn’t going to save me any money in the long run.  I really DO want the phone to last the full two years of the contract, or nearly so.  My current phone isn’t broken yet…but the hinge is getting weak, and one of these days, it’s going to fall into two halves.  Experience with many cheap flip phones in the past has given me practice in feeling the warning signs of a worn out hinge.  It MIGHT make it to January, it might not.  To make it worse, the closest Sprint store is over 50 miles away, making replace/repair difficult too.

And then, there is the possibility of switching carriers.  C-spire offers what seems like better coverage (my sole complaint with Sprint is spotty coverage in rural areas) and similar pricing packages.  The iPhone is the same price, and they also have the Samsung Admire at no extra cost.  There are more C-Spire stores on the Gulf Coast than there are Sprint stores too.

How far will customer loyalty and ease of managing the entire new phone thing be if I stay with Sprint compared to switching to C-Spire?  I’m not sure.  I haven’t dropped into a C-spire store to see about the process.  I do know that the store in Gulfport that we dropped in was not very clean, had outdated sales and promotions posted everywhere, and had very little in terms of the latest in phones on display.  We were there about 15 minutes, and the sales clerks never spoke with us, nor did they leave the sanctuary of their sales counter at the back of the store.  We had driven over early specifically to stop there, as my mother was flying into the airport, and  leaving without talking to anyone left us with an hour to kill–we went shopping elsewhere for other things.  I won’t go to Gulfport again if I need a Sprint store, we’ll check out the one in Mobile instead.  Hopefully, their demo phones won’t leave us searching for wipes to remove the grime after we touch one.  It was literally the dirtiest cell phone store I have ever seen, from the fingerprints on the doors and windows to the displays inside.  Even the narrow counter that held the phones had obvious grunge on it.  We were there in early October, and the sales/promotions advertised on their displays all had ended in September or August.  (For Gulfport people, this was the store on the North side of I-10 off of Highway 49, I gather there is another store somewhere south of I-10 as well.)  I absolutely despise poor customer service, and dirty displays don’t do much for me either.  The employees there are obviously putting in time for a paycheck, and aren’t even particularly worried about job performance ratings to keep their jobs.

On the bright side, this is the season for great deals often.  I’m not too worried about the contract not being up for another month, it’s cheaper to just pay for a second phone for a month than to pay the “early termination fee” anyhow.

The big question might be…iPhone or not?

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