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Archive for November 2010

A solemn farewell to my all time favorite phone…

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It has been 6 years since I bought a prepaid phone from Tracfone as a cost cutting measure. That phone was the Nokia 1100b, and as seen from the pictures below, came with a wonderful assortment of gadgets and additions. Over the last 6 months, the battery has steadily decreased and provided less and less reliability as a cell phone. As of last week, the battery was too weak to take a phone call. That was the time I decided that I needed to change technology.


But before I discuss the new phone that was chosen as its’ replacement, let me share some information from my phones Wiki page: “The Nokia 1100 (and a closely-related variant, the Nokia 1101) is a very simple GSM mobile phone produced by Nokia. 250 million 1100’s have been sold since its launch in late 2003, making it the world’s best selling phone handset[1] as well as the best selling consumer electronics device in the world.[2]”, “Nokia’s one billionth phone sold was a Nokia 1100 purchased in Nigeria.[5]”  So as far as tech goes, I picked the most trendy phone on earth. And for good reason.. what other phone has anyone owned for 6 years and used daily…that had a battery or keypad that stood up to that amount of abuse? A quick glace at the picture will show you the standard things: a headset, car charger and wall recharger. In addition to these, I found a PC connector so that I could reprogram the unit and unlock it so that it would do much much more: like email, msn texting, Facebook updates, a changed default screen and screen saver,   wireless internet, and the ability to save my contacts and hold them on my laptop. All this on an apparently outdated cell phone.


DSC03724 Well the new phone that I own is an LG 420g from the same service provider Tracfone. Cost : $10. Yup…$10 every 6 years is my budget for cell phone upgrades…about $1.66 a year ( 13.8 cents a month ) I spent on keeping up with the Joneses, or even more shocking is when you look at it per day: 0.0046 cents a day for having that cell phone! The phone has mobile web browsing, Bluetooth, a camera, and all the usual things that you would expect a modern phone to have that is not a full featured smart phone (no in-client Opera or Android browsers, nor an in phone Messenger client for AIM or MSN). Still the phone does what I need it to do and quite quickly. I now have  Polyphonic Mp3 ringtones (for those of you who remember my Nokia 1100b was a monotone midi file player with a built in music composer, this is a step up. Picture quality is not great since it is a cell camera (.3 Megapixels woo hoo) but the texting is nice (it still has autospell), it can open web links and download via the mobile web server (however memory is only 10MB), play newer games and is a superior phone then the other options that the provider sponsored. The best feature of all is that this phone’s calendar is able to be sync’d to Google Calendars via VCS files. Thus, I can make appointments and set reminders while I am out on the town, and when I get back I can resync this into my laptop’s calendar or online straight from the phone. The only sad thing about this feature is that Windows Live Sync does not sync VCS files, but Outlook uses the format as well as Office apps. Why on earth would Windows Live not have a feature that MSFT developed and is in use by all other MSFT applications ticks me off. I will just toss it up to another poor business decision by MSFT. The phone is much lighter then the old Nokia 1100b and yet it’s battery life is about the same (no small feat when you consider the added features). I’d rank the phone as a solid 8 out of 10 for Tracfone. The only gripes  I have are: (1 point lost) that I had to find a workaround for incoming text. On my old Nokia, incoming texts were free and outgoing were .3 units. On the new phone, they charge for incoming and outgoing texts..but I did find a way using a built in programming flaw on the phone. (2nd point lost) the charge for mobile web service should be .3 units just like text messages and that talk time should be .3 units a minute. Instead on Tracfones they have three pricing models: 1 minute of talk is 1 unit, 1 text message is .3 of a unit, and mobile web is .5 units to connect to the internet and .5 units per minute. Given that the prices of these services has been going down, and that phone chat uses almost no bandwidth on the towers, this price should be decreasing as well as texting fees. Hopefully they will rethink their pricing models to gain more customers.


tracfone Most people will berate Tracfone for the high per minute pricing that they charge for their minutes..which depending on which card you buy or how much you use your phone can be pretty pricey. The key in using a Tracfone efficiently is to maximize the value of each unit paid for and to manage talk times. For Example : I have had Voicemail on Tracfone for 6 years and counting… the amount of minutes I used to check my VM by dialing it in my cell (a horrible thing that should have been free to check from your cell).. is about $5 (rounded up). Since I am normally near a landline, I call my cell number and enter the VM system via the prompts and can check it without using my cell. The result is that I could run out of minutes on my cell phone and still have the number active and sending to VM (technically, I do not have to pay another cent to Tracfone for the next 2 years and during that entire time, people will still be able to send text and voice messages to my cell and I will be able to retrieve them at no cost)

tracfone_costs A neat blog post was written by another blog poster called the frugal nerd, in it he posts some graphs based on Tracfone pricing models and marks out the best prices for each card that is bought and what is the most cost effective means of talking on the phone and how to manage it. After following the pricing structure you can see a few things: 1. The price is comparable and competes effectively with a paid cell phone on a per month basis. 2. It makes no allowance for texting nor mobile internet charges (which just like a cell phone from a paid subscription, will increase with usage). 3. The trend of owning a Tracfone would tend to lower the costs. For instance, in a paid plan like Verizon, you might be paying $60 a month for a basic cell plan ($45 + fees and taxes). This is your MINIMUM pricing for the phone, as the fees will increase with more talk time and usage, but if you don’t use the phone that much one week, you are still paying 1/4th the monthly minimum. If you look at it from a prepaid phone, your starting rate is about $5 a month (to keep the number active if you are just starting the service otherwise as you use the phone, your service date keeps moving forward into the future.. like mine which is active till 9-22-2012), and each time you need minutes you can automatically recharge them or buy them.



This results in you becoming more aware of how much time you use your phone and you invariably become more cost conscious. If one week passes and you don’t use your phone (just like the above example), your minutes are still there, and your real cost has decreased by 25% for that month, all other costs being equal. The end result is that a prepaid phone is perfect for learning to budget your time and money, and to learn to use your cell phone as an optional device and not as a required device. You learn to talk on the phone for shorter periods of time, you learn to text efficiently and clearer, and lastly you understand that your phone is an accessory to live but not a substitute for living. So imagine if you talked less then say : 1300 minutes a month. Under one of the specials, you can buy a 400 minutes card, get 250 minutes free, and with my type of phone, any minutes you buy are doubled. The cost? $100. or 7 cents a minute. Better yet, you can buy a 1500 minute card for $199.00 (thus becoming 3000 minutes on my phone) and the net result (without bonus codes) of 6.7 cents a minute. Added to this is that if you don’t talk for 20-40 hours in a month, then this gets spread out over the longer term. So if you are paying $99 a month on a regular phone for 3 months, you have 3900 minutes of talk time (or about 10,000 text messages ) on a Tracfone with about 3 years worth of active service (your number will still be active for the next 3 years).  3900 minutes is a lot of time. That is 65 hours of talking or around 43 minutes a day chatting. Given that I rarely ever talk more then 30 minutes a day on the cell phone (more like 10-20 minutes a day at most)… This service plan would last me about 195 days (20 minutes a day) or 6 1/2 months. Not too bad, especially since I am more likely to spend about 3-10 minutes a day on my cell and several days do pass when I don’t even use my cell phone (and thus the minutes just sit there or decrease by .3 units for a text). You begin to see the economics of a prepaid phone and the lack of stress (no need to worry if your check will bounce, nor a recurring bill to worry about..if you are short on funds, just talk less). When you look at the model of the current subscriber services like Verizon, you realize that the flat per month fee for an unlimited plan costs you more money then the value you derive from its use. In fact, the monthly plans encourage their users to talk more and use their phones more and more in an effort to gain as much value as possible from the plan. Paradoxically, the reason why we have cell phones is to keep in touch with people for emergencies and in order to make plans and see people in person but the cell phone plans promote the alienation of people via separating them and offering ever more ways of avoiding people. Why talk on the phone when you can send it to Voicemail? (even though you have unlimited minutes) Why Call someone now when you can just send them a text message? Why send them a text message when you can send them an even more informal email or Facebook comment for them to find??  Each time we add a layer of innovation to the phone, we are preventing ourselves from actually doing things. The end result is that we have more and more ways to communicate with each other and less and less things to talk about or do together.

Written by Josecito

November 27, 2010 at 2:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized