Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cell Phone

I'll be getting a cellular telephone in Guelph, and not getting a landline. I've never owned a cell phone before, so I've started looking at the available options. Apparently, there are five service providers in Southern Ontario, which apparently includes Guelph:

Fido/Rogers (two brands, multiple billing differences, one network)
Telus (possibly having a variety of sub-brands, like "Mike" and "PCS")

I have no bias towards or against any of these providers (yet). It occured to me that the majority of my readership (such as can be judged by commenting) here are cell phone users, and may have valuable insights into this technology.

In checking out the webpages of the various providers, I've noticed that they all seem to really want to sign people up for long term contracts, like 2- or 3-years. While I expect my PhD to take more than three years, I'm not sure I want to be locked into a contract with the first cell phone I'll own. So the trade-offs between pay-as-you-go or pre-paid services vs. long-term contracts are very interesting to me - does anyone have any thoughts?

Additionally, I don't know anything about handsets. Reviews of particular models are abundant and easy to find - but there are so many different options that I don't know where to begin. Getting a phone will probably be the first important thing I do in Guelph - it's likely I'll get a phone before I find a place to live. This raises the possibility of a short decision-making time, in that I probably won't have time for detailed review of the options. So I'm asking for your opinions on various handsets, particularly at the level of brand-reputations - do you like Motorola? Nokia? Sony-Ericsson?

Given that I hate talking on the damn thing, it's unlikely I'll want a package with big discounts for heavy use - I'll probably avoid the stupid thing as much as possible. For that reason, I'm currently leaning towards buying a handset for full price and then setting up some sort of pre-paid or pay-as-you-go package with one of the providers.

Any thoughts you may have are very welcome.


Carlo said...

Pay-as-you-go is bad and ridiculously overpriced. You'll find out that it doesn't take more than a few long conversations to rack up the bills. (Did I say 'long' I meant as in, 15 minutes long...)

I've gone FIDO and Rogers. FIDO is better. Their service isn't always as good as the others but they're cheap (maybe $45 to $50 dollars a month) and the handsets are cheap as well.

I'm stuck on a Rogers plan for 1 more year. It's $62 a month with zero features (that was on a 3-year plan!). If I want a voice-mail box and call display, it's $80 a month. I hear that Bell is pretty comparable in terms of contracts and rates.

Be careful, cell phones are way more expensive than land-lines...

In terms of handsets, here's my best advice to you (as I've had like 3 of them): get the cheapest one you can, and fuck the features. So $300 dollars gets me a phone with a crappy MP3 player AND a shitty digital camera?!?!? Sweet!

Presumably you'll take your cell-phone everywhere you go. It's going to sit in you pocket/backpack with all kinds of other stuff and get banged around like hell. Can't be helped. Don't be seduced by belt-clip holder things either, they fall off and you'll end up losing the phone (personal experience talking here).

Get the most durable, scratch resistant one you can, for the most affordable price. Trust me, in 1.5 years your connection won't work anymore and the guy behind the counter will tell you that your phone is 'no longer compatible with their network' anyways (personal experience again).

FIDO month-to-month is the way to go. When may plan expires, I'm kicking my phone to the curb.

Carlo said...

That's when 'my' plan expires...

Anonymous said...

I was on Fido (in Calgary) for a few years, and dropped them as their coverage stopped growing as the city continued to expand. I can't speak for them in the Guelph area, but Fido and Rogers suck out here.

Another thing to look at is the network's analog coverage. If you'll be using it while out on any field work, those costs could rack up quickly (if they charge extra for analog, or have to "borrow" off another network).

I've been with Bell for a good long while now (going on 6 years), and I've been happy with them. Steph could probably share some expletives to describe her experiences with Bell customer service in Ontario, but we've been treated very, very well out west. Maybe they just cleaned up their act.

Bell gave Queens a "group rate", which offered a pretty good couple of packages for her to choose from compared to the normal retail offerings. The problem was, Bell went back on all the bonuses and her first few bills were like $150+. After MUCH complaining, she would eventually get it fixed, but then it would get screwed up several billing cycles later.

Moral of the story: get any and all bonuses, incentives, and add-ons written directly on your contract, initialed by the sales rep (if retail). They seem to love to screw customers whose sales rep didn't enter in everything, claiming "the bonus will be automatically added to the account". So many people get burned by this!

I have a Samsung A900. I like it a lot. It is flat, and fits comfortably in my pants or coat breast pocket. I'd go on about features if you cared. Steph has a Samsung A920 (the 900 is better). I've been biased towards Samsung for a while now. They always seem to last longer than the contract length.

I've heard endless bad experiences with Motorola, and specifically the Razr.

Like Carlo said, don't put any weight on the camera/video or MP3 features. They all suck! Dave has a Nokia which has the best camera I've seen on a phone yet (2 megapixels).

If you want to go all-out, get the Palm Treo PDA. Who knows, you may find it invaluable.

Do you need a cell phone? What about VoIP? I think Vonage's WiFi Phone is a bit of a gimmick, but the V-Phone supposedly works very well. Of course, neither of these can replace the reliability or versatility of a cell phone.

Anonymous said...

I did spend many hours asserting myself on the phone to Bell customer service. Once they realized that I was not going away, they submitted to my wishes.

I think I paid about $45 per month and had voicemail and call display included. (2002-2006, that plan doesn't exist anymore.)

My phone was the free one they had for my plan (1 yr). It was a brick and fairly feature-less, but it still works to this day (but both batteries kicked the bucket).

Bell are still totally satanic fuckers.

No land line means you can only get cable internet. Does this matter to you? Keep in mind that southern Ontario has more options for landlines than BC or Alberta.

Mike's phone (Samsung A900) is fine, but relatively new and quite expensive. I feel that the A920 is sturdier and will stand up to more abuse at a lower price.

Bell's coverage is swell. I used my phone to receive text messages in the US (which people can email to you). Very helpful. Making a call would have been $4/min, but receiving texts is free.

The novelty of being able to watch kung-fu on my phone wore off very fast, fyi.

Pick a plan you like (price and minutes/features) then find the lowest priced phone that said company has that gets decent reviews from users. That worked for me.

Cell phone makers are playing to the people who need the newest, coolest phone, no matter what the price.

Hope this helps.

Carlo said...

Here in 'The Hammer' (Hamilton) you can get Bell High-Speed internet without a land-line for $40 a month (I got the first 7 months at $25 though, there's alway deals).

Just a heads-up, be careful about Internet service providers in Ontario. MANY of them (Cogeco, Bell, Rogers) have maximum transfer limits on most of their plans (usually in the range of 2GB/month + $10/GB extra). I just downloaded the Kubuntu Linux Live DVD (4GB) that would have cost me $20 extra.

When I first looked at it, Bell seemed expensive (no limit though). Then I looked at those nasty transfer limits and realized that Bell was providing me with a wireless router and unlimited transfers... $10 more per month was worth it.

Think about the cell-phone long and hard. I'm usually a)In the lab or b) at home. Do I really need one?

In Vancouver I was almost NEVER home (so many things to do!) so it was worth it.