The $10 per Year Cell Phone

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davew's picture

Consumers are engaged in an interesting if largely dysfunctional relationship with phone providers and internet providers. First of all they are almost exactly the same thing these days. The whole idea of an analog voice signal from your house to grandma's house has gone the way of red riding hoods. Everything is digital data. A telephone is just voice data with an expectation of very quick delivery. Your internet, cell phone, and land line are just different data delivery mechanisms. The providers want to obscure this as much as possible. Heaven forbid should you start to think of a cell phone and a land line and an internet connection as redundant.

Different providers use different tricks to separate you from your hard earned. Old school phone companies want to sell you dubious services. Maybe you want caller ID, but this only comes as part of a package that bumps your monthly rate from $8 to $20. Cell phone providers are even more canny. They offer you free stuff. Very cool free stuff. We're talking a little computer that fits in your pocket and can make calls from anywhere. When I was a kid this would have been beyond Star Trek. I'm not being ironic or sarcastic. This is some seriously wonderful technology. And it's free! Sort of. Free if you agree to pay them $80 per month every month for two years. This free, in my a case $150 phone from TMobile, will actually cost $1920 (less whatever you think the service is worth).

If you want to maintain contact with friends with a cell phone and internet what is the alternative? There are many alternatives. For one thing I am happy with my TMobile pay-as-you go plan. This really does cost me about $10 a year. I don't need that many minutes. Next I wanted a replacement for my dying Palm PDA. This moves me into the smart phone world. I still don't want a contract however and TMobile will not give or sell me a smart phone without a data and voice plan... but amazon.com will. So I buy a phone from amazon, pop the SIM card out of my dumb phone and into the smart phone and I'm off to the races. TMobile is none the wiser. It gets better.

This new phone has WiFi which means when I'm at home or in any place with public WiFi which is pretty much every building now I have a truly smart phone. Google sky, world maps, and shots of politicians' junk. When I'm away from WiFi I have a very nice cell phone and a small computer. And this costs me $10 per year. Am I done yet? Not even close.

Remember when I said that voice is just data? We now live in an age of voice over internet. This means when I am on WiFi I can use Google Voice (free for the time being) or Skype (very cheap) to call anyone, even people who don't own a computer. This means for the vast bulk of the calls I do make don't consume any minutes. If I had a voice and a data plan I wouldn't use either of them. This would be a good deal for whoever sold me the plan. I can vouch that voice over internet works a heck of a lot better inside a coffee shop then cell phones do. Seriously if you haven't checked out Google Voice and/or Skype yet I strongly recommend them.

Because I don't have a data plan I can't interact with the internet from everywhere. This means I can't use my cell phone as a proper GPS. Since I don't drive this really isn't a concern, and even if I did drive I doubt seriously it would be worth $1000 per year to me.
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jkawiley's picture

Re: The $10 per Year Cell Phone

I must be turning into a dog. All I hear is "blah blah blah TMobile blah blah blah TMobile blah blah blah".

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scrooks's picture

Re: The $10 per Year Cell Phone

I have GPS apps on my iPhone that don't take a constant data connection. The app itself is a large download because it includes all the map information. Wouldn't something like that work just fine? Maybe Android doesn't support such a thing? I remember seeing once that it had an upper limit on the size of an app, but that was a while ago…

The apps I have can be put into "bike" mode (as well as car or pedestrian). Seems like it could be helpful sometimes. But they also aren't overly cheap. Certainly not 99 cents.

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davew's picture

Re: The $10 per Year Cell Phone

Yes. That would work just fine. What is the name of your mapping program?

I was speaking of the google default which is just an interface to google maps. It's natural they did it that way. I also remember the craptastic mapping app Garmin used to sell which required a process for downloading data that would have made the Marquise de Sade smile. I guess it never occurred to me that someone could squeeze a whole mapping database into something that fits on a cell phone. I just upgraded to 16gb so I might as well use that memory for something.

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scrooks's picture

Re: The $10 per Year Cell Phone

I paid for more GPS apps than I'd like to admit. The one that I think really stands out is Navigon MobileNavigator.

On the iPhone, the USA version is $49.99. But they also sell 3 "MyRegion" versions that each cover 1/3 of the US for $29.99. The MyRegion versions can be bumped up to the full USA version with a couple of in-app purchases if and when you're ready. Kind of nice.

All of them are about 1.5GB. The MyRegion versions are that big because they have the other 2/3 ready to be unlocked for a small sum.

I have no idea if these are available on Android, but if so, I'm betting you won't ever bike out of "MyRegion West".

By the way, I agree COMPLETELY with the Garmin maps sentiment. You think it was hard getting map updates on a PC, you would have cried with the Mac process. Things are much easier on the iPhone! Garmin does sell an iPhone GPS app, but they were very late to the game and I never hear or see any reviews of it. It's also one I never actually bought myself. A quick look on the App Store shows 3/5 stars and many angry buyers, so I think I made the right choice.

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Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich. -- D. Duck