I get asked – almost on a daily basis – what mobile phone and plans I recommend. There seem to be two camps emerging in the mobile phone world – those who love iPhones and those that don’t. I am firmly in the second camp. I know I have raved about Mac OS X recently but I still have a problem with the manner in which iPhones have seemingly taken over the world.
Granted, they were revolutionary when they first came out. With one product, Apple have all but killed RIM (the makers of the Blackberry) and Nokia. Now though the market has caught up and the Android phones are smarter, cheaper and more “open”. One thing that I deplore about the iPhone is its insistence to connect to iTunes before they can be used. This is just plain stupid. The arrogance of Apple to assume everyone has a computer and that that computer will run iTunes! A smartphone is a wireless device by its very nature – why does it have to connect to anything? Turn on an Android phone and you are asked for a google account and password and away you go. No cables and no software – the way it should be.
The other thing I hate is the price. The iPhone 4S retails for $799 and that’s the same price everywhere. Android phones are at all price points and a decent one costs less than $150 now. How many $799 iPhones get dropped/lost/stolen? If you are on a plan – too bad – you have to pay it back regardless. Paying for a phone you don’t have – priceless.
The HTC Wildfire S is a fantastic alternative – especially on a prepaid plan from Telstra. My wife and I purchased two in November last year and we both love them. We also moved from post-paid plans with other carriers to Telstra pre-paid. Telstra have the best 3G network coverage by far and we were just getting sick of the poor reception and dropouts with our other carriers. I was with Three/Vodafone and between home and work my phone would invariably lose coverage and then never re-connect to the network. This would leave me offline and un-contactable for hours at a time. For my wife, she had continual drop outs and reception issues from inside and was forced to go outside to take a call. All this has gone now we are on Telstra. And the best thing is that it costs us less than the old plans we were on.
Telstra used to charge a premium for their premium network. It got worse if you wanted data on pre-paid. This has all changed with their new Pre-paid Cap Encore plans. Now for as little as $30/month you can get some calls and text and 400MB of 3G data. Pay more per month, get more calls and more data to use. You can pick your price point. With pre-paid you can leave or move plans (up or down) at any time at no cost. You can change handsets whenever you want. Lose your phone, no problem, buy a new one and port your number across. You can even setup a monthly direct debit or BPay so you never really run out of credit. But best of all you do not run the risk of anyone running up huge bills since once the credit is gone, it’s gone and the phone stops working.
Telstra’s activation process is a little wierd. Firstly the phone number they use can only be dialled from a Telstra phone. Duh! So if you have a land line from another provider – or VOIP like me – too bad you can’t use it. Why oh why do they have to make this so hard? What is wrong with a boring 1300 number? Fortunately (and contrary to the sales person in the Telstra shop) you can use the pre-paid phone – you just have to charge the battery first. Porting is painless and took less than an hour.
The other weird thing about Telstra pre-paid mobile is they have a limit on the number of phone accounts for which a single credit card can be used. The limit is secret but must be around 2 or 3 as I was unable to use my credit card to recharge my phone as I had already used the same card for the kids. This is a hard limit too. Pleading with the Telstra help desk does not work – I tried. Again I can understand why Telstra have done this but they need to be more flexible and allow for exceptions for situations like families. To this day I am unable to use my credit card to recharge my own phone. I found a way around this by scheduling monthly BPay payments to each phone account. You can also use Paypal but thats a little hard to schedule.
The HTC Wildfire S is considerably smaller than the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S2. To me, this is really important. If I cannot comfortably put my phone in my pocket, I am not interested. The big screens are cool for media and games but there is a big price to pay for that extra real estate and for me it’s just too much. The Wildfile S has a very bright screen and runs Android 2.3 so has all the neat features built-into that release like Wifi hotspot – using your phone as a portable WIFI access point – very cool when you are on the road with kids who regard bandwidth as a personal right equivalent to oxygen. The touch screen is very responsive and the touch buttons and keyboard work well. The screen has “gorilla glass” so does not scratch, thus no need for a protector. With a 5MP flash camera and loud hands free speaker, this phone has the lot.
For those iPhone users who are unfamiliar with the Android/Google environment: it’s just the same but better! Setup a gmail account, move all your contacts and calendar to gmail and simply sign into your Android phone with your gmail account and all your email, contacts and calendar will be synced in real time. Share a calendar with your wife and kids and everyone knows what’s going on.
The HTC Wildfire S is retailing at $149 outright. $650 less than the iPhone 4s. Buy one for everyone in the family and still be better off!