Hung Up To Dry

29 Jan 2007

It is impossible to buy a new phone.

I do not wish to rent a phone. I wish to buy one.

I require the ability to reach Lyn at any time at which she wishes to be reachable[1]. I require the equipment to be reliable. I require it to be interoperable with my library of SIM cards.

I do not require an additional camera, an additional PDA, an additional mp3 player, an additional games machine, or an additional television[5].

I am aware of the real value of phones. I am willing to pay a substantial amount of money to satisfy this critical operational need[2].

It is not possible to do so.

I've long been familiar with the phone-on-contract scams. We give you a shiny device for a dollar now, and you buy our overpriced network access for two years. It's a high-interest high-risk loan and I don't have a major problem with it. At least, I didn't while I could select my preferred network provider, select my preferred phone, buy one SIM card and one phone, and put them together. Leave the suckers to their game; I've got mine.

That's not possible here. Pay-as-you-go phones now come with a contract. You cannot physically buy a mobile phone without also buying a network subscription. A given model of phone will typically be available only on a single network. It will be locked to that network. Thanks to advances in phone DRM[6], it is no longer possible to unlock them[3]. You cannot simply buy the phone and then pay the network to unlock it; T-Mobile demands that you have owned the phone for three months before they will sell you the unlock code. Non-affiliated phone stores are actually multi-affiliated phone stores - the first question they'll ask is which network you wish to be shackled to.

Ebay is not a satisfactory option because reliability is paramount. Li-Ion batteries deteriorate fast, especially when they're driving overpowered playstation-wannabes. I need to buy a new phone.

The market has failed.

fn1. Technically, she needs a phone, not me[4].

fn2. Last Sunday I bailed early from an Infiltration meetup and ran to St Pauls to meet Lyn for a scheduled tour.. but her phone had failed and it took us 40 minutes to unscramble ourselves. If you don't have a phone, you have to have a plan. If you have to have a plan, you've lost your flexibility.

fn3. I found this out after I bought a phone. Fuck. It's a brick.

fn4. You can have my Nokia 6100 when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. I've had this thing three years, and if it failed I would replace it with exactly the same model.

fn5. has three sections under phones: "For Gaming", "For Music", "For Office". It does not have a section "For Calls".

fn6. Digital Restrictions Management. While everyone's busy freaking out about iTunes and Vista, Vodafone's gone and screwed us all even harder than they're planning to.

I invite readers to submit examples of situations where bundling is not evil.