How to get REALLY cheap mobile phone usage ...

by Sniffer | posted on 27 May 2003

Sniffer found this in a long packet-burst on an open AP. Honest. It tells how to get a working phone for £25, and a SIM for less than £5 per month. And the Hunky Mouse still bets you don't try it ...


*Core dump follows* :

Orange's customer base - and I suppose that they're typical - breaks down roughly two "Pay as you go" (PAYG) customers to one "pay monthly" or "corporate" customer. With a claimed customer base of 17 million, that's a lot of PAYG customers - and PAYG phones out there: over 10,000,000 of them, just for one telco, and it's not even the biggest. I was one of them until recently.

Unlike "contract" phones, PAYG handsets are kind of "timeless". I "retired" my old Motorola T2288e by handing it to my technophobic mother-in-law, with a tenner's worth of calls left on the SIM card. She was one of the 30% of the UK population who have never owned a mobile handset before. I doubt that she'll use up the tenner inside a couple of years - but she likes the idea of having the phone in her handbag "for emergencies". If she, and my eleven year old (Ericsson t-300 owning) son go out together and get split up, she knows that she can call him and they can "meet at the post office" or whatever.

So ... as the venerable Motorola was my only phone ... . what happened to me? Have I joined the ranks of the 30% of non-owners?

Not at all. I looked around for a replacement, and found two companies ( EaseFoneShop and Unimobiles ) who specialise in selling off "14 day phones". And what's a 14 day phone? Let me explain.

You'll doubtless recall the analogue days when coverage was patchy at best, and all phones came with a no-quibbles 14 day moneyback guarantee in case your new handset turned out not to work where you did. That guarantee, historical anomaly though it might be, is still on offer - "14 day phones" are second-hand handsets that were used by their one previous owner for less than a fortnight. And they are CHEAP. offer an Alcatel 301 "OneTouchEasy" delivered to your door for £25 including VAT.

<1/> OneTouchEasy phone

Is it sexy? No. Does it offer WAP, SMS, an alarm clock, diary, idiot-proof address book, and a handy charging "cradle"? Yes. Is it better (and sexier!) than my previous set? You bet it is - and a damned sight easier to use. So, if my old phone was so ancient, if I hankered after a more modern phone ... why haven't I upgraded before now? The answer, in a word, is price. I bought my Motorola a couple of weeks before the telcos finally ended the price war driven by the urge to "grab market share". I paid £28 for it brand new and boxed - and that included £5 worth of free calls on the SIM. But that was YEARS ago. Replacing it with a newer model after the price war armistice would have meant paying the full, unsubsidized price.

I suppose I could have bought a second hand phone - but until the phone companies agreed on a common policy for barring stolen handsets last year, I had no way to tell if my new phone had previously been owned, briefly, by a street-mugger. For me, a phone is a convenience, not a necessity. I bought the Motorola because I was working strange hours, and it was cheaper to call home and tell my wife when to expect me using a mobile than from a callbox (and it reduced the chance of my missing the last train!) It was worth spending £30, maybe as much as £50. But it was NOT worth spending £100 - and as the total value of calls per month fell well short of the minimum offered with a contract ... PAYG made economic sense.

I must be one of literally millions in the same position. Geriatric handset bought subsidized when it was the latest, sexiest model, and now showing its age. No desire to switch from PAYG ... but hankering for something a little newer. Not a P800 or an SPVx, just something smaller, without an aerial, with "vibra alert", and an easier-to-navigate (and longer) list of features. Willing to pay a "reasonable" sum for such a phone, but not the full price of a new handset. Yet finding a supply of such phones is almost impossible - it took hours of research on the web before I turned up even two links.

There's demand - even a small percentage of 30,000,000 customers is a LOT of potential sales! - yet there's no supply. No supply either for "grannyphones" - basic, minimal features handsets (like my old Motorola) that can be handed to elderly relatives for peace of mind. My 81 year old mother-in-law (or my 75 year old mother) don't want Bluetooth, WAP, MMS, or Irda connections. They just want a means to make a simple voice call in an emergency. A four year old model in good condition and with a known provenance and at a low price is exactly what they need. Again, the size of the potential market is vast - millions - yet it's a gaping hole.

On another issue, my son's needs and usage are different to mine. Peer pressure means that he needs something with at least some street cred, and he uses it quite a lot to arrange being collected from various events in his active social life. My wife's the same - she now has a Handspring Treo 180 and uses it to make calls and organise her hectic zooming from meeting to meeting. (Her calls are paid for by her employer)

So, we put my son on a contract; a good deal was offered, and it made sense. (T300, every available bolt on from FM Radio and MP3 Player to laser pointer for 99p and £15 a month) A side effect of the purchase was that I was put on the vendor's mailing list for "special offers". When I saw that they were offering a pair of 02 SIMs for £10, each with 30 minutes of "anytime" airtime per month, and at just £1.77 (each) per month (for "itemised billing") I thought (a) "there has to be a catch" and (b) "what the hell, it's only a tenner". So, I signed up.

There's no catch. I paid £25 for my phone - including VAT and delivery - and I pay £3.54 per month for an hour of calls each month at any time of day. The phone does everything I need it to do, and an hour a month is at least ten minutes more than I actually use. Now this is mobile usage at a sensible price.

So ... how come I'm one of a tiny minority making use of these facilities? How come, when Orange alone has roughly 12m customers on PAYG contracts, of whom millions must be using older phones, and paying more than I do?

End core dump.

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