too many words by laura lemay

notes on a new toy, part 3.5: pay up for the nokia E70

I’ve been sent a couple emails about my E70 posts asking how much the darn phone cost. And I realize I forgot to write up that part of the whole thing.

When you normally get a phone from a cell company you get a cheap or free phone and the company subsidizes the cost of that phone. What they want you to do is sign up for a long-term contract, typically two years. If you want a hot phone they don’t give you much of a subsidy at all but they STILL lock you in for two years. And even if your contract is up and you upgrade to a new phone? Surprise! You may find yourself with a new contract and another two year lock-in. I’ve heard stories of people calling up cell support to, say, reset their voice mail password and accidentally walking away with a new two year contract because they answered a confusing question from the support rep in the wrong way.

Have I mentioned I don’t like cell carriers?

When you buy an unlocked phone you use it with your existing phone service, so you’re not tied into a contract. That’s the advantage. The disadvantage is that you’ll end up paying full price for the phone. When you buy an unlocked phone you basically can shop on price. If an Ebay seller from china has the phone cheapest, then there you go. Watch out for the shipping costs.

I bought my Nokia 6600 two years ago under contract, and with t-mobile subsidies and rebates I got it pretty cheap. I’m still with t-mobile but not under contract. I could have switched to Cingular for my service just by buying a free phone, and I considered doing that before I bought the E70 — Cingular is rolling out faster data access (UMTS) and has better coverage in the bay area, in general — but then I would have had to restart the two year lock-in, and Cingular is more expensive than t-mobile. Plus I can’t really complain about T-mobile. They’re not great but they don’t actively suck that badly. (that’s almost a compliment.)

With shipping I paid just under $500 for the E70. I could make a lot of weak justifications here about how treos are nearly that much money with subsidy, or that if I amortize it over two or three years its not so bad, or that since I spend $3.50 on latte every day that the cost of the phone is less than five months worth of espresso. But really, I admit its a lot of money for a phone. Don’t judge me. I freaking adore this phone.