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Wanted: smart phone advice

I hate my cell phone. I hate it so much I don’t even carry it with me. I can’t even remember my own phone number.

I have a pay-as-you-go plan with Virgin Mobile, which costs me the minimum $16 a month even though I only use about 5 minutes in an average month.

To be honest, I’m just not crazy about phones as a means of communication. I much prefer written or face-to-face communications.

I think I need a phone that is much more than a phone. A smart phone. I want it to have phone capabilities, but I want to use it primarily for other things. Like listening to music or podcasts, checking to see when the bus is coming, getting directions, and sending email.

Do you have a smart phone? Would you recommend it? What do you like or dislike about yours? Which apps do you use? Is there anything I should know about plans before I commit? I’m thinking about canceling my land line, and just relying on a smart phone for all my telephone needs, so the costs will remain roughly the same. Good idea?

20 comments to Wanted: smart phone advice

  • Eric

    Warning… slightly predictable response.

    For a user who can afford it (min ~$60/mo with data plan) and who doesn’t want to fight with it at every turn the iPhone 4 is probably the only viable solution.

    If you want to dip your toe in the water there are lots of older iphones (3G and 3Gs) on the used market and you can transfer your current virgin plan over to a sim card and use the phone without a data plan. That doesn’t drive up your monthly cost but lets you try out the phone and wifi still works for email access and the like.

    Good luck!

  • Thing to keep in mind is nowadays, most companies stick you with a mandatory data plan should you decide to go the smart phone route. Since you say you’ll be primarily using it for email etc anyway, that may not be so much of a problem–just keep in mind if you change your mind, you can’t actually cancel the data plan for the duration of your contract. Yes, even if you’re actually going to stay with the carrier for the rest of your contract.

    If you don’t mind the touch screen, the iPhone’s definitely a way to go. Most of the apps you’ll need, unless you’ll be doing any kind of extensive Facebook/Twitter use, already come preinstalled on the phone or can be picked up for cheap/free. But, if you don’t want to fork over a large portion of your next two paychecks for one, you’d be best to switch carriers to get it–the unlocked phones are bloody well expensive. If you’d prefer a keyboard, Nokia makes several very good smart phones. At least, good enough that mine’s let me email/blog from it and didn’t explode–as always, your milage may vary.

    Also a note of caution: if you do *any* long distance calling at all, for any reason, don’t cancel your landline. Cell phone long distance rates suck, to put it mildly. Worse if you happen to also be outside your home calling area. Until Google Voice officially comes to Canada–yeah, I know, but I had to say it–any kind of calling outside of Ottawa is probably best done from the landline.

  • megan

    I love my iPhone, and for long distance I’ve used the Skype app with success. It’s not great for typing though, so if I were going to do things now, I’d get an iPhone that can multitask (I think they all can now) and get a Bluetooth keyboard to use with it if I wanted to do a lot of typing. Or I’d get an iPad and ditch both my laptop and my iPhone, since my laptop screen is pretty small anyway and I avoid talking on the phone as much as I can.

    Good luck!

  • SM

    Well, 2 gig mp3 players are about twenty bucks. Limewire downloads are free. For the rest, do you email before you leave the house, and get your directions before you leave the house from your computer. Need a camera? get a camera. You can email the pix from your computer….

    OR, continue to spend $200 a year on something you dont like, or spend $720 per year for a bells and whistles that 5 years ago, you managed perfectly well without. I suggest that you take that $720 and spend it on an adventure of some sort, like a little trip, or try sky diving with a friend. A used canoe is $600….

    The technology game is just a vacuum to your bank account.

  • Recondo

    Definately good advice from James. I was going to post the same thing. If all your family / friends are in town then cancelling your land line is the way to go. But any amount of Long distance you do with your Smartphone is rediculously expensive. This is what’s keeping me from buying a smartphone. For now I’ll stick with the pay as you go and land line combination.

  • Arden

    I have the prepaid plan with virgin that costs me absolutely nothing aside from time used, not a single fee per month. It costs way more per minute than any others but since I use it so little, it’s really worth it, but I buy a $100 card up front, and it doesn’t expire for a full year (unlike most company’s prepaid cards, which are sneaky and expire between 15-60 days, depending on the amount on the card), and it usually take me about 8-9 months to use it up.

    If you decide on replacing the cellphone with a smartphone, go for an iphone. I just don’t think smartphones are usually worth it, and you could likely get away with even cheaper through virgin if you switched from the plan to prepaid. I enjoy my ipod touch, so I can see the appeal of the iphone, and if I were going for a smartphone, that’d be the one I’d pick, but I’d have to be using it a LOT more than I do now to justify the price.

  • Heather G.

    I have a Blackberry Curve through Virgin Mobile. I pay $50 a month for 500 MB of data (and I don’t come close with moderate usage, though I steer clear of video streaming) and unlimited evenings and weekends. I have unlimited calling and texting to 5 people nationwide (but there are other choices you can make within the $50/mth plan).

    I email a lot, I tweet, I do some surfing, I download e-books in a pinch, I check my TTC schedules and the thing I love best is that I can use it to show coupons and boarding passes and such without ever having to print (no printer in this house). I tried a friend’s iPhone, but I couldn’t get past the touchscreen keyboard, I like the tactile QWERTY keyboard of the Blackberry.

    Long distance wise, I just buy a calling card for 5 bucks, program the number and pin right into my phone book, and use that to make any long distance calls outside of my chosen 5 folks. I haven’t incurred a cent beyond that, and you don’t get charged extra to use your data when roaming within Canada. Virgin is also way better than Rogers or Bell for hidden charges… no extra 911 or ‘network’ fees. My husband and I are happy enough with our respective cell phones that we did away with our landlines a year ago, and we are paying much less overall.

  • @Heather: You’re probably still paying the 911 fee–they just don’t include it on your bill. Rogers/Bell have started doing that as well. Indeed, 30 seconds of googling says at least in some provinces, the fees are still applicable with Virgin. Although as I’m pretty sure Bell now owns all of Virgin anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did just tack it on to your bill.

  • Nat

    Nothing to add here really. But I can’t live without my iPhone. Like you, I hated my cell phone. This I actually use. In fact, I go back home when I forget it.

  • Rae

    I haven’t had a landline in about 5 years. I had a blackberry without data plan for years, and the calendar was great – interfaced nicely with outlook, blah blah. Then I got a data plan.. and it was good, but over connected.

    So! I sold my blackberry for a samsung sliding keyboard texting phone (primary form of communication), and got an ipod touch as well – it manages the calendar stuff, has a calculator and a few fun games, and if I have wifi I can tweet/check my mail on it. I love it! Would def. consider an iphone in the future.

    The main downside is no long distance plan, so whever I want to call someone, I either pay the .25/minute OR, I get one of those phone card thingies, OR .. I just don’t call – which is what tends to happen most 😉

  • Leanne

    I too have recently decided that I need a smart phone. Like you, I rarely use my cell, but I think I will use a smart phone much more.

    iPhones are in short supply right now. I tried to get one over the weekend, and there were none to be had. So you decide on an iPhone, you may need to wait a while.

  • purleygirl

    James has good advice: the right device for you depends on what you need and plan to do, and how much time you’ll be doing it. I ditched my landline over 13 years ago and have never looked back. For long distance calls, I use a long distance calling card from the local convenience store, which only costs $5 or $10.

    I’ve been using the Samsung Wave for about a month and it’s great. It’s like a cheap version of the iPhone except for two things: (1) a data plan is NOT required to access the internet. You can use free hotspots or your home network if you have a router; and (2) the operating system, Bada. Samsung’s OS is a little clunky and not as good as Apple’s or Android, but it still works and there are a number of free/cheap apps available.

    Other features include a fairly large screen (as far as cell phones go) and the colours and resolution are fantastic. You can also take photos, store music, listen to fm radio, and record voice memos to yourself on the phone. Voice clarity and volume are also pretty good when using the phone function.

    The Wave uses touch screen technology, which can be a bit finicky especially for those with bigger fingers. The Wave will also give you easy access to facebook, twitter, and other social media. It’s somewhat expensive to start, but it may be cheaper in the long run since you won’t be locked into a data plan for several years.

    Some carriers and the Telephone Booth have a trial period where you can return a newly purchased device within a specific period or if you have used less than X minutes call time. You might to check this out but be aware that sometimes there is a “restocking” fee to return the product.

    If you want to see a Wave in action, you can also check various on-line cell phone reviews. I find that “” is pretty good although it’s US-based.

    Hope this helps and good luck.

  • Heather G.

    @James: I guess I should have been more specific… I don’t particularly care whether I pay a 911 fee or a network fee… my gripe with Rogers and Bell (I’ve used both) is that they tack it on afterwards. When I signed up with Virgin, I chose a $50 plan, and that was the amount I was charged on my bill (plus tax of course). With Rogers and with Bell, it was like pulling teeth when I asked my inevitable question: what will my monthly bill be IN TOTAL. A $25 dollar plan would eventually become $45…

    And yes, Bell has bought the rest of Virgin, which worried me, but so far the only difference is that the network has improved and I now get free basic call display. So far so good…

    I’m not saying anyone should run out and choose Virgin, but I complained so much about Rogers and Bell when I was with them that I now feel obliged to present what has been for me a far better experience.

  • I have a plain (albeit pink) phone. My husband has an iphone. I laughed at his lemming like behavior when he bought one two years ago but have since come to appreciate the convenientness of it. (we were stuck in bridge traffic and were able to use it to find an alternate route to our destination).

    Our long distance is included in the phone plan (att wireless) and is not expensive. It costs 30 dollars a month over the price of the existing plan (we have 4 phones on the plan at this time) for unlimited data useage. It’s really not a bad deal. We got rid of the land line earlier this year and have not regretted it.

  • You guys with AT&T get a pretty nifty deal. Too bad rogers, which escentially bought out AT&T up here, didn’t try the same thing. National long distance plans? No such annimal exists.

  • Smartphone plans normally seem to end up costing $100 a month, once everything is factored in. Whenever finances are looking tight, I start thinking about getting rid of mine and going back to a basic phone.

  • Avoid a contract, at all costs. I think Wind Mobile (the new kid on the block with their own network–i.e. not just someone piggybacking on Rogers/Bell/Telus) has some special deals on ending September 30. Check their adds in the free papers.

    Some other ways that cell companies screw you over are described in my lengthy post, Bell and Blackberry are also a bunch of fucks.

    When I got my contract from Bell, I specifically had the representative write “No System Access Fee” on the contract, because the contract only listed the name of the plan, not what it contained. Later, when the System Access Fee showed up on my bill, they claimed that their copy of the contract was the official one and that copy didn’t say “no system access fee” on it. At the time, I didn’t have the time, money, or patience to sue them, but I would now.

    As for the Blackberry device, it’s supposed to do lots of things, and do them well, but if I do more than one or two of them it crashes. As described in my post, they refused to fix this.

    I’d say caveat emptor, but with all the ways cell companies screw you over, you’d might as well just bend over and include some extra money in your budget for paying more than they make you think you will.

    – RG>

  • Heather

    You could get an Android phone! Its an operating system owned by Google and based on linux (open source)

    It’s kind of like the alternative to blackberry or iphones.

    I have neither owned nor used one, but I like the idea of supporting the underdog :)

    Personally, I’ll stick to asking humans for directions, sending emails when I get home and being unconnected for precious moments in the day. :) I understand the appeal of a new toy though, especially if your monthly costs will be basically the same.

  • Thanks very much to all of you. Your comments were very, very useful. I know WAY more now than I did a few days ago. (For example, I hadn’t even thought about the cost of long distance.) I also did some rethinking about the whole idea of owning a smart phone, as suggested by SM.

    I’m still thinking and exploring options. I’ll let you know what I decide to do. But I just wanted to thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience with me.