Recently I got a new HTC T-mobile G1 mobile phone. Its a touch-screen smartphone with a full qwerty keyboard and I am reasonably happy with it. Its not the latest model out there but its a good compromise as it serves my needs and its a reasonable price. If you are looking for a new phone in the future, this information will be highly useful to you.

10 years ago a good mobile phone would be small enough to fit in your pocket, have changeable covers and customisable ring-tones that sound almost like your favourite song. Nowadays a colour screen capable of watching movies on is the norm and you can use the internet to download any chart track and listen with the wireless bluetooth stereo headset. It amazing to see how the use of a phone has exploded from a basic means of voice communication to a ubiquitous communication tool to interact with people all over the world in a huge variety of ways.

The search for a new phone.

Being into tech-stuff, I usually make it my business to know about new technologies. However, when it came time for a new phone, there was an overwhelming choice in handsets and tariffs. I simply had no idea what handset I wanted to go for next.

Looking at a few review websites and local advertising showed me the latest handsets and their features, but it wasn’t much more help. They all pointed towards the latest featured touch screen phones on expensive 24 month contracts. Up until last year I was used to the concept of Pay-as-you-go phones where you only have to top up when you need to. My monthly expenditure was less than £10 per month. However if I was to get the latest new phone I would have to be willing to accept a £35 a month contract with inclusive minutes and texts, whilst being locked into the contract for between 12 and 24 months. There were other lower-range phones, but cost savings on these phones would be made at the expense of features and speed. And so came the requirement to decide on what compromises would have to be made.

Because mobile phones are become increasingly bigger investments, it became apparent that I had to do much more research on mobile phones than just to walk into a mobile phone shop.

I found it particularly annoying that I couldn’t gauge how good a phone is by testing it for a few days to get a better feel, before buying it. There appears to be no company offering loans of high end phones. The closest I got was to try out some phones in the mobile phone shops. However I found it impossible to get a good feel for them; if they weren’t trapped in plastic casings on the shop floor, they were tethered to the base stations and even if I asked an advisor for a handset to test, I had at most 5 minutes to test the phone out with an advisor staring at me asking me for a sale.

It wasn’t enough to just ask friends or the shop advisors what phones were good. To get a better idea I had to google a few review sites to get comparisons and see what advantages and disadvantages were of each.

I came across a few review sites for mobile phones. One of which I found valuable was The reviews seemed to resonate with me in terms of what they valued in phones. For example, instead of just looking at specification only (something I found shop advisors to do all the time) they looked at usability of the phones, relative price to feature and performance, and stability of the phones. They also gave a star rating for their phones, prices on contracts and also uncensored (not in a rude way) user comments and feedback for the phones and the reviews themselves.

Using this site I created a short list of features and then phones that I would feasibly choose:

  • High speed internet (3G HSPA)
  • Capable of running 3rd party applications (In particular, Opera browser)
  • A good fast note taker (I frequently use my phone to take notes)

These features then led me on to the handsets.

  • iPhone – Firm favourite amongst friends and colleagues, but most expensive

  • HTC Android phone – the operating system appeared to offer great flexibility

  • Nokia N97 – A high-spec phone with a keyboard

  • Nokia 5800 – What appeared to be a slightly lower spec but a price available on pay-as-you-go

  • Samsung JET – A very fast phone with a reasonable price

Continuing research online, I came across this review ( ) which compared different operating systems in high-end mobile phones. After reading this, it was vitally important to realise the differences between the operating systems as this would ultimately make the differences between usability and functionality.

My short list then became iPhone or an Android phone. This is because they both have application stores / market places for 3rd party developers. Nokia Symbian does have a market place but I excluded them because of their old, slow operating system.

I was still unconvinced about the price of an iPhone, so the final choice was left with an Android phone. I opted for the first model of Android phone in UK: HTC / T-mobile G1.

I bought this phone on ebay for £133 + £7 p&p. I then bought an unlock code for this phone for £8, to allow me to use my three 3G SIM. I have also changed my contract on three to a 30 day rolling contract for £15 a month. This includes 100 minutes per month, unlimited texts and internet.

Using the G1

I have found this phone to be the best choice, and I am still happy to say that 2 weeks after getting the phone. In terms of functionality, it features all the tech-savvy items which are important to me justnow. Having fast internet, GPS, compass, 3rd party marketplace applications and easy note-taking.

The HTC G1 is certainly no iPhone. The hardware isn’t as good as it has a slightly smaller screen, doesn’t look quite as good and definitely isn’t as fast and smooth to operate. But it is significantly cheaper and the functionality is almost identical.

Using the G1 is a different experience; I tend to use the keyboard and trackball more than the touch screen. There is a touch screen keyboard like an iPhone and it is as useable as the phyiscal keyboard but I find I am just a bit quicker typing using the real keyboard. This is important for me as I find I type a lot more into the phone.

Advice on buying a new phone

I am definitely happy with my purchase of this phone. It certainly does feel like a compromise in terms of useability to the iPhone, but the price difference is more than enough to justify this. For me the iPhone is prohibitively expensive for what phones currently do (you could very easily get a low end phone and a Net-book for the same price)

This decision wasn’t made without a lot of research first and if I were to give any advice on buying a new phone:

Dont just fall for advertising. Or the shop clerks advice. Think about what features you would really appreciate or use in phone. Even if you just want the cheapest phone, look and see what cheapest phones there are.

Look and see what phones there are and their features. Use news websites and review sites to find out what new phones are out now and which ones are coming out. It will help to discover new functionality in phones so you can decide on whether or not you want it. I remember a few years ago being told about 3G internet and how it was the equivalent of broadband on a phone. Only this wasn’t true; the only use at that time on 3G was for video calls which cost 50p a minute. So did I really want to pay over the odds for a feature I would never use?

Look at pricing deals. Do you pay for the handset, or go for a contract? How many minutes do you want? I have found I can get special deals online at the same companies than you’d get at the high-street shops. For example, the cheapest I saw an N97 was for £35 a month but online on the three store site, you can get one for £15 a month. BEWARE: please be careful of cash-back schemes throughout the life of the contract. This usually entails sending back receipts at specific times to the company for a rebate. This process is dubious because those companies will often ‘lose’ your receipts and you will lose all entitlement for any rebate. Its often not worth the effort and worry.

How long do you want the phone for? More often than not nowadays you can’t get a high-end phone without signing up to a lengthy contract. Are you really happy to sign up for a 2 year contract, even if it is cheaper per month? How do you think phones will change in that times and what would you rather have in a year’s time?

In the end, you are the customer and you should have the ability to chose what you want in a phone. The range is ever-more increasing and so too the pitfalls to getting a bad, expensive phone. Just think about the compromises you are willing to make and be knowledgeable on what models exist and their pricing.

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