Hands In Your Pocket! Series
i got a new iPhone…
Recently I have been amazed at how the business of consumerism has changed. As the man from ING Bank says, “There are hands in your pocket!” (HIYP!) He is 100% right and most of us have no idea how deep they are reaching.
Being now on a fixed income without the benefit of disposable income we are seeking out ways to reduce our spending.
The co-pilot and I spend about $225 a month on communication equipment and services. This includes our home phone, our two mobile phones and our internet service. In addition to this we pay just over $40 a month for cable TV. This is down from the $138 a month that we were paying for several years before we decided that there was frequently nothing on TV that matched our interests. A simple call to our cable Provider and the mere mention of switching Providers was enough to put together a package that suits our needs.
I have had a mobile account with the same Provider for almost 14 years. Apparently this entitles me to some sort of savings as a loyal consumer according to their TV ads; (read sucker.) In terms of how far into the system one wants to penetrate, deciding on hardware is one of the most difficult choices, and there are many. Some very busy business people buy the cheapest prepaid phone, load it up with copious amounts of minutes and gigabytes and chatter away all month or until it needs a refill. Since the entire cost is tax deductible it works best for them. Other folks, like me, just want to have the convenience of a device capable of multi-tasking. The co-pilot and I also like to be able to keep track of each other whether we are across town or on different continents and we like to be able to stay in touch with the rest of the brood on a fairly constant basis. After all, isn’t that the essence of today’s increased communication ability? And for that reason The Providers are lined up, ready to take your credit card number for the services they provide.
I have been researching the mobile phone scenario diligently for over a year. Finding the right product and service package to suit all of our requirements is not possible within our budget. Because we travel to the USA once or twice a year I had hoped to find a mobile scenario that would suit both countries. This is not possible. The best thing to do is to shut off your Canadian phone at the US border to avoid huge roaming charges and buy an American device for use in the US. Plans in the US and Western Europe are generally 20% less than Canada and in Central America rates are about one third of Canada, but service in Central American countries can be sometimes sporadic.
Many people have replaced their home phone land lines with a mobile account. There are some advantages to this, especially if you are frequently away from home. We are considering this, but our internet service is through the phone company. I haven’t yet been able to find out if we can cancel our home phone and still keep the internet. In some cases it is not possible; you must have a phone also for some odd reason. HIYP!
With all the media hype about the new iPhone 5 we decided to have a look at them. I am no expert, I admit, but from asking many questions I found out that aside from a very few nice improvements, a better camera, HD video capability, etc. the thing is pretty much like the iPhone 4S, the 4 and a few of the previous iPhone models. There are a couple of significant changes, though. It is a different size – this means that none of your previously purchased hardware add-ons, like cases and covers, belt pouches, will work with it. A new plastic bump case which costs perhaps $5 to manufacture, ship from China and market costs anywhere from $20-80. HIYP! Also, the familiar connection port that Apple has used since the first iPods and is standard for all their mobile devices to date has been changed. Hmm, now you need different chargers, etc. HIYP! And of course the cost of the iPhone 5 is higher.
The last mobile phone I bought was some sort of LG touch screen with an Android operating system, capable of all data functions. It also acted as a mobile hotspot and I used it frequently for its internet capabilities right across Canada (there were only a few blackout areas in northern Ontario.) I bought this for about $100 one year ago. The new iPhone 5 retails at $700 without a plan or to use as a prepaid device. This forces one to purchase a plan that amortizes the unit over a 3 year period, much like buying a house or a car.
So, armed with my little bit of knowledge, my old phones and a well worn credit card, I stopped to talk to a salesperson at a kiosk in a local mall last week. The person behind the counter was young, cute, female and had a pleasant smile and a light-hearted, bubbly personality. I suspect that she was about 21 years old. I began to explain in a long winded way what it was that I was interested in; upgrading the co-pilots current phone and changing the phone number; upgrading and changing my prepaid phone to a contract in the same account as the other phone. I also indicated that I may be interested in two new iPhone 4s units, one white and one black. This was, no doubt, a tall order for Miss “I’ve Got This.” I’m not sure if it was the multiple parts of the request or if it was simply that there were too many variables but I immediately got the ‘this does not compute’ message in her eyes. Meanwhile, a more senior and experienced young lady who was assisting another customer and listening in with one ear jumped in and started to give instruction to the new girl. As I continued to ask questions, between these two most helpful sales reps I started to get answers. Many of the answers were unrelated to the questions but that was OK; I was slowly making progress. Oh and did I mention that the sales persons were cute. We eventually established that I would receive two new iPhone 4s’s which were being offered at $70 each with a 3 year contract. I could switch the phone number on one account to a more local number and I could upgrade my prepaid account while keeping the same phone number. Even I was having trouble keeping this all straight.
After standing at the kiosk for over an hour the co-pilot began to get antsy. Not only was she having doubts as to her ability to use this new and totally bewildering touch screen technology, there was also the issue of the money. She gets antsy anytime expenditures might be over a hundred dollars and she begins to question the necessity. She would much rather forgo all of the electronic gizmos in favour of smoke signals and a dog team, but if she has to make a call she has mastered the push-button telephone quite well, thank you. And she doesn’t like to wait since she must have many more important things to attend to. We finally agreed that she should probably go and do some of those other important things while I waited for the two brainiacs to figure out how to transfer our information from the old phones to the new ones.
A whole lot of paper was produced and I was called upon to initial here and sign there so many times that by the time it was all done I though I might have just mortgaged the farm or something. I also had to show the nice girls two pieces of photo ID so that they could prove to the government that they were not supplying electronics to the Taliban. I was finally presented with an invoice that far exceeded the aforementioned $70 for each phone. It was then that little Miss Know It All pointed out the small display sign at one end of the counter that included their rates for assisting with the purchase. I mean really, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! It’s like if you buy a pair of shoes there’s an added charge for trying them on. “That’ll be $125 for the shoes, $4.50 for the box, sock rental of $1 each X 2, 50c for the bag, oh and $5 for someone to help you try them on. In my case, there was a $40 per unit charge that included the following: removal of the new unit from its box, purchasing and installing the SIM card which allows your phone to operate on The Providers system, retrieving and transferring info from the old phone to the new phone, filling out the paperwork, adding some taxes, something about a security fee (good word, everyone is using it these days) and I’m sure, the fine print said something about offering a bright and bubbly disposition to an old guy with grey hair. HIYP!
And then, “Gee, we’re sorry but we couldn’t close the one account so you will have to just call The Provider and do the cancel thingy over the phone.” More on that later. “Oh, and we couldn’t retrieve your data from the one phone so you’ll just have to do that when you get home, using your computer – it’s easy.” Oh, will I get a discount on the HIYP! fee? So sorreeey, that’s just not possible but if you want to bring the phones in tomorrow our computer nerd will be able to accomplish the impossible. Well that’s a 60km round trip for me. Not likely that will happen. HIYP!
We went home and I was able to upload my new phone with the right data. It was not easy. I had to use something called the iCloud which, apparently works overnight while you sleep. This made me aware of the fact that no matter where you are, who you might be (or think you might be) no matter how hard you might try to disappear or lay low or stay off the grid; if you have a mobile phone, THEY can find you. The experts say, “Just remove the battery.” Guess what? It’s almost impossible to penetrate the security of an iPhone and certainly not something that the average Joe can do with a hammer and a large screwdriver.
When I called The Provider to see why I had three phone numbers active I found out that I apparently still owed money on the co-pilots old phone and how did I wish to pay for it? Well, in the usual fashion, I replied, through the nose. Also, we’re sorry but it’s not possible to just change your account, you have to open a brand new account (presumably for my brand new iPhone.) Then you must wait for the time for which you were billed and you paid in advance to expire on your old phone. HIYP! Yes, you will actually be paying twice for the same service for a while, but hey, you are one of our best consumers. You have been with us for 14 years. Thanks for your brand loyalty. And thanks to you too, Deepjeep, somewhere in India!
So for $100 a month for 3 years we both have new iPhones. That’s a $3600 minimum cost for two phones with an actual manufacturers cost of about $100 and some air and data time . HIYP! If we happen to go over our allotted minutes in any given ‘service cycle’ then we’ll pay them a bunch more, even though we might not have used up all of our allotment from the previous month. More HIYP!
Well, the good news is that after a couple of days using the new iPhone 4S the co-pilot is loving it. Texting like a pro and even dialling the odd time. Wonderful! But she does get this odd look in her eyes when the thing starts to vibrate.
The HIYP! Math.
Recently I have taken up this hobby and have made an interesting discovery. Where there is a demand for service, there are also opportunities for large profits. Duh!
A little quick math on mobile devices:
North America – 300 million people.
Percent of people likely to have mobile phones – 75% = 225 million phones
Average phone expense per month – $60
Industry gross revenue per month – $13.5 billion dollars per month. HIYP!!!!