Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Great Cell Phone Ripoff

The Closed Road - Fish Camp, California
Captured using a Nokia Lumia 1020.
Like a lot of people I do this once-every-other-year ritual of purchasing a discounted cell phone with a two-year contract. I've had my Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone for two years now, and while it still works, the battery doesn't last as long as it once did and the phone has recently developed some minor quirks. So I figured it was time to think about getting a new one.

To my surprise one can no longer get a discounted cell phone with a two year contract. It's not offered anymore. Either pay full price upfront or pay full price in payments.

I've done this contract thing for the last 12 years. With the exception of the Lumia 1020 (which I paid $100 for), I've always picked a free phone--free with a two-year contract. Before the phone I have now I had a Samsung Galaxy S. Before that it was a Casio "dumb" phone.
Gas Station Sunset - Ehrenburg, Arizona
Captured using a Samsung Galaxy S.
Cell phone companies rip you off. They charge way too much for their services. It's expensive! I've always justified this with the discounted phone. Yes, they're ripping me off, but they gave me a $500 break on my phone. So it's more-or-less a wash, but the cell carriers are still coming out well ahead.

Now they're not offering discounts. Sure, they may have a couple of options that are slightly on sale, but most phones are going to run you between $600 and $900 dollars. Pay it all up front or pay it in small chunks over two years.

It's crazy because the phone companies have been increasing the cost of data by giving you less of it. Unlimited data was once common. Now most people are sharing two or three gigabytes between all of their phones, relying on WiFi to cover the rest.
Pool Chairs & Lake - Goodyear, Arizona
Captured using an old Casio cell phone.

To be fair, Verizon and Sprint are both still offering discounted phones with two-year contracts for existing customers only; however, this will be over before the year is over. Soon everyone will be in the same boat.

What are your choices then? You can shell out big bills for an overpriced phone that will likely have a cracked screen within the first year. Or you can buy a used phone and hope that it will last for more than a few months and that the previous owner didn't put any bad stuff on it. Or you can continue using your old phone until it dies. If you are poor the government will give you a "free" (paid by others) phone, at least here in America.

It's a shame that it has come to this. If it wasn't such a useful tool I'd strongly consider not having a cell phone at all, but that's not really an option. I just hate getting ripped off. I was already getting raked over the coals, and now it's even more so.

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