Buying a cel phone

Buying a cel phone

I wasn't exactly an early adopter of cel phones. I had never had one of those oversize grey banana looking things way back when; I'm loathe to adopt any new technology too soon on the learning curve, the cost is unreasonably high.

So it was that somewhere around 1993 or 1994 or so I finally got a cel but it was in my opinion too expensive for what it was. I just wasn't getting enough out of it for what it was costing me. I took a many year break from cel phones.

And while I was gone cel phones evolved. And evolved, and evolved. And it came to the point where their functionality became compelling. I'm not sure when exactly it happened but phones stopped being phones and became some sort of cross between a laptop and a camcorder.

Last February, having watched my kids text message their brains out I tried SMS and found it tremendously useful and ended up getting an LG "Keybo" because while text messaging from a cel phone was great the ABC DEF keyboard was anything but great. But the Keybo made sending text messages, much much cheaper than voice phone calls, and in my opinion much more efficient for most things.

I learned that instead of a phone number you can simply put an email address there instead - and it just works. My teenage daughter even figured out that you can send a text message to a regular land line telephone as well and *that* works too, long before the cel company ever mentioned to its customers that oh by the way this service works now.

But several months later as useful as the keybo was it was obsolete. It's still the best way I've ever found of sending an email but it only does email; while it claims to do web it's through a positively wretched piece of work called openweave. It doesn't work for so many things I found it unusable. And it had got to the point where I needed, not wanted, a phone that could actually do web. For real.

And it's not that this is new. In September of 2009 when an iPhone can be had for $99 and everybody has a blackberry. Presently the Palm Pre just came out last weekend half iPhone owning friends are lusting after them seriously. People who were thinking of getting an iPhone and instead going for the Pre, all because of one thing: many things. That is, the phone can multitask, it can run more than one thing at a time. This is probably the iPhones biggest drawback, this and the poor quality of the camera are the two things I hear most as complaints about an otherwise brilliant piece of hardware.

Blackberries are egregiously popular and there's always a newer cooler one coming out every six months or so.

The dark horse in this palm size effort to replace the laptop with a phone is Android, and for my money the one to watch.

The phone runs individual applications that provide functionality but choice of what applications you can run is not by any means arbitrary, it's up to either the manufacturer of the phone of the network carrier company: apple it the most notable in that it is the most restrictive about what applications they will permit to be sold for "their" phone (that you paid for, dearly. The most recent debacle was when a VP of Apple approved a Skype iPhone app, but it was pulled within about 20 minutes of being made available to the public.

But the phones that run the Google Android operating system are open. Anybody can write anything they want for android phones. Currently, in Canada, only the HTC dream and, um, the other one run Android. Blackberries use a proprietary OS and nearly every other phone runs Windows CE. I've seen enough of those things crash to avoid them. Palms run a proprietary palm OS, too.

Now, learning all this stuff was easy - it's all on the net. You don't have to get up from your desk to find it out. Now say you want to actually buy one. That's where the fun begins.

That is, you can buy Internet service from on the Internet, but can you buy a cel phone on the phone? No. You can't,

You can't even get information about them really. I called up my current, err, sorry, previous cel carrier and asked for more information about bigger, better and more expensive phones they sold. TO be certain I was using their phone via their service trying to give them yet more money for their products and services. You'd think this would be easy.

No, it's not. Even fairly simple questions about the phone, subjective opinions about this keyboard compared to that keyboard for example. The person I spoke to couldn't have been less interested. I asked if they actually knew much about the various phones and they said no, I should go to the store. I asked if they'd be kind enough to let me talk to somebody who actually knew about the phones and could talk about them. I was put back in the queue and spoke to another random sales droid. That didn't know any more about the phones thay sold than the first person. "Go to the store" they kept saying.

Which prompted me to retort at one point after spending 2 frustrating hours with these poeple in the phone: "I find it Ironic that my company is in the Internet business and you're in the phone company and we both exist because of the premise that if you buy our goods and service than you don't need to go out. But can I buy a cel phone by calling the cel phone company via my cel phone? No.

There are hundreds of cel phone stores in Canada. And there are more than a few people per store. This translates into thousands of people coast to coast that can sell yuo a cel phone. But the number of poeple that can sell you a cel phone *via* a cel phone? Zero. There are none. As far as I can tell the people you talk to when you get the right person to talk to about phones is just reading stuff off some web page and it's very clear the person had never actually handled any of the phones they're trying to sell.

Richard Sexton, Sep 09