Frugal Fone (or how to get an Android without being extorted)

28 09 2012

I really love the concept of “smart” phones.  But wireless vendors have taken this great idea and used it as an excuse to extort their customers. Recently I had to upgrade my daughter’s broken phone and Verizon gave us a paltry selection of three phones that did not require a data plan. They were ugly and expensive phones at that ($30 was the cheapest) . However they had an excellent selection of “smart” phones, eleven of which were offered free of charge, and all of which REQUIRED an expensive data plan.

“Not a problem,” you say, “I’ll just get a nice smart phone from ebay or some other third party, join it to their network as a regular phone and just not use 3G/4G.  But our gracious providers will detect that it is a smart phone and will automatically enroll you in a data plan. I guess they couldn’t bare the thought of you possibly facing data overage charges. Isn’t that great?

But here’s a revolutionary idea, and the point of this post, get a smart phone and skip the cell provider. Consider how much of your day you spend in WiFi coverage.   If you’re like me, its probably upwards of 90-95% of your day. There are wireless networks everywhere; at home, at work, on campus, at restaurants and hotels.

With WiFi access, I can do pretty much everything on my Frugal Fone; including sending and receiving email, phone calls and text messages (talkatone), video conferencing (skype), watching Netflix and of course web browsing. And even offline it can still do some pretty cool stuff like turn-by-turn GPS navigation (CoPilot), play music and movies, listen to audio books (LibriVox), read eBooks (Moon+ Reader), and play games (Angry Birds of course).

I am assuming you are frugal as well or you wouldn’t still be here, so lets talk dollars and cents. A shiny new Galaxy S III will set you back $200 up front and $720 minimum in data charges over the next two years that you just committed yourself to. (That DOESN’T include the cost of regular cell phone service that will cost you at least $50 a month, $1200 for the contract.) But $920 is really the price tag on that shiny new Android phone from your cell provider. Not at all “smart” in my book.

If we were to buy pieces of Android phone functionality individually it might look something like this:

  • GPS navigation system – $150
  • Camera/Camcorder – $90
  • 32GB MP3/Video Player – $140
  • 5″ eBook Reader – $80
  • Handheld Gaming System – $125

That totals $585 if you were to buy them all. But again, being well beyond the threshold of being frugal, it is unlikely that we would go this route either.

Enter the Frugal Fone, and ebay or craigslist. The truth is you can buy a used Android phone and NOT connect it to your provider’s network. And because we don’t need to connect it to the cell provider, we can buy phones that have been black-listed. When a customer doesn’t fulfill their contract, cell providers will black-list their phone so it can never again join their network. And the major carriers will not allow you to use a phone sold by another carrier on their network. As such, these black-listed phones sell for much less but suit our purposes just fine. You should be able to pick up a nice one for less than it would cost you for a month or two worth of data charges.

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2 responses

29 10 2012
Frugal Plan « Flex and Specs()

[…] my last post, I talked about using an Andriod smartphone as a WiFi device . But that still leaves us carrying […]

24 02 2013

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