I have a long history with cell phones, unlike most people my age. Yes, it’s common now for 13-year-olds to walk around with Razrs, text messaging each other and driving up their parents’ bills, but 7 years ago, I was the only 13-year-old at my school to have a cell phone. The phone was a hand-me-down, a pre-paid AudioVox phone that I had to buy minutes for myself. My parents gave it to me because there was no other convenient way to contact them when I needed a ride home from my after-school activities.
Just before my 16th birthday, I received an upgrade. The phone stayed the same, but my mom switched me over to the Verizon Wireless family plan, because she was sick of paying so much to call me. The phone was woefully lacking in features – it could receive text messages but not send them – but I put up with it for longer than most people would, even after my dog chewed the antenna off it.
Verizon gives you a great deal after two years, and replaces your phone at a steep discount. So right before my 18th birthday, we replaced the phone with the cheapest model available, the Samsung SCH-a650 (which is so low-end, that I’m having trouble finding a link for it!). I didn’t see the need for a fancy camera phone, in fact, I was excited just to have a phone that could download ringtones and send text messages!
Just before my next two year mark was up, I managed to trip and fall while walking up a flight of stairs and talking on my phone. It was barely a trip, but I landed hands first… with the phone in my hand. It still worked, so long as you didn’t need to use the screen for anything! I took it to Verizon and cashed in on my insurance plan to get an exact replacement. I was aghast, however, at the $50 deductible, for a phone that I was going to replace in a few months anyway! But I’ll get back to that later.
Shortly after that, my two year mark came along, and I paid $68.14 (including tax, which is assessed on the full price of the phone, not the discounted price you pay, and shipping) for the CDM-8945 camera/music phone. Which brings me to… the 5 Mistakes I Made When Buying My Cell Phone:
1. Not asking myself “Do I need a new phone?” Or, well, I did ask myself this, but I didn’t answer it honestly. Truthfully, my “old” phone was practically brand new, since it was a replacement for my broken one. I probably could have gotten a year, or more, out of that phone – if I had been honest with myself.
2. Not carefully evaluating what features I needed and wanted. Ok, so, I decided to buy a new phone just because I wanted one, since I already knew I didn’t actually need one. I decided it was time for a camera phone, and, in truth, I do use this feature a lot. On the other hand, I had just purchased a new Canon Powershot, so did I really need to double that up? I also picked my phone for its MP3 capabilities, which I haven’t put to use yet because that requires an additional purchase of certain accessories. So far, the only feature that’s new and exclusive to my phone that I’ve managed to put to use is “polyphonic ringtones.” And I’m sure my family hates me for having to hear Steve Miller Band’s “Jungle Love” or the Indiana Jones theme every time someone calls me.
3. Only fools rush in. I had been looking at new phones pretty much since the day my old phone broke. But, when I went to make my final evaluation and purchase, many of the phones I had looked at previously simply weren’t available to me. This is how I didn’t end up with the Samsung SCH-a950, with the sweet MP3 controls on the outside, which is the phone I had my heart set on. If I had waited, and checked the Verizon website every few weeks, would it have become available to me? I will never know.
4. Reviews? We don’t need no stinkin’ reviews! Why didn’t I Google the model name of the phone I was looking at? Why didn’t I look it up on cnet? I don’t know. Chalk that one up to the stupidity of youth.
5. Putting it on the plastic. It’s a “duh!” thing now, but at the time, buying the phone with my credit card seemed perfectly sensible.
All is not lost, though. I’m pretty happy with my cell phone overall – it has some neat features that I’m very glad to have, like the option to take a video and set it as the ringtone (I haven’t seen this on any other phone). I just wish I had taken my time with it, instead of just hopping on the Verizon website and saying “Weeeeeeeeeee! My two years are up! Time to plop down some change for a new phone!” I guess I have two more years to learn.
About the insurance plan: Before I broke my phone, we all thought the insurance plan was a good idea. But when we finally ended up using it, and found out about the $50 deductible, I started to wonder. So I did the math:
The insurance plan costs $5.99 a month. I had it for at least 20 months before we used it, so that’s $120 + $50 deductible, not to mention that we’ve continued paying for the insurance plan since then (another 9 months, or $54), bringing the total up to $224. My current phone is still listed at $50 (what I paid) on the Verizon website, even without the “New Every 2” discount.
So, let me get this straight… if my phone breaks again I could either pay $72 a year, plus a $50 deductible, or I could just buy it again for $70 ($50 + tax and shipping). Wait… isn’t insurance was supposed to save you money?