Using Mobile Phone Contracts To Your Advantage

Finance, Mobile 2 Comments »

A freak accident occurred this weekend which left me without the use of a mobile phone. For the past five years or so I have mulled along with my present phone provider 02 which by and large has been more than satisfactory, collecting annual handset upgrade as and when they are available to me. Thanks to my handset being rendered useless however I was now in a position where I would be paying a monthly line rental fee for the remaining 7 months without actually being able to use my included minutes. Not only this, but the thought of seven months without mobile was not an option, being that it is essentially my only point of contact.

I did have the option of claiming off my mobile insurance, but with a £20 excess and lengthy claims process, I was looking down other avenues. It was then that somebody told me of the recent trend of third party mobile operators buying existing contracts out in order to get you to switch mobile phone networks.

After hearing about this option I popped into my local Jag shop at around 5.00pm on a Saturday and was quickly approached by two sales assistants attempting to make their last sale of the day. It is worth pointing out that I am very much a sceptic with scenarios like this, and in the past have mainly sorted out similar contracts online, allowing me to make a decision somewhat impartially without the sale banter that is thrown around in store.

As the friendly formalities passed I explained my situation and was promptly passed a sequence of four handsets, the Sony Ericsson K850i, W910i, a newer Nokia offering and the Samsung U700, pretty much the latest models currently available. I hadn’t recently looked at the latest offerings but they are newer models of popular handsets that I had previously come across, including my own the Sony Ericsson W850i.

Having seven months left on my contract the next step was to make a quick call to my existing mobile network provider. Currently on a the Online 30, a £30 monthly contract providing 400 talk minutes and 1150 texts, I was offered each handset on an Orange 18 month contract at a cost of £35 providing 500 minutes and up to 3,000 text messages. How anybody could go through the required 100 text messages a day and use 3,000 texts a month however bemused me.

So the drawback so far was entering into another contract, but as mentioned I would be likely to do so in seven months time anyway. Second my existing line rental still had to be paid. The next step was informing me that I would have to downgrade my current 02 contract to the Online 20, £20 a month, and they would give me the £140 cash up front to pay the remainder of the contract.

By including an up to date handset free of charge, and £140 cash back I couldn’t help but wonder where the money was for them. The entire contract would cost £630, minus the cash back leaves £390. Take the handset that retails for £299.95 on Pay as you Go, that leaves £90 for an 18 month contract. In terms of profit for the Orange this is more likely to take around the £340 mark over the 18 months as they possibly pay £50 a handset.

This still means that I receive an enhanced package for under £18 a month, which goes to Orange and for that they have to provide 500 talk minutes and near unlimited texts on my service. If text messages are deemed free this means for every anytime talk minute included on the package Orange will receive 0.27 pence. This doesn’t seem a lot to me.

To make things even better value three months insurance and a range of handset extras are also thrown in.

Add on top my existing insured handset retails for £100, and when the eventual claim came through if sold for £50 it would be the equivalent of nearly three months free line rental. Not stopping there the figures look even further out of Orange’s favour when you consider the option of reducing my contract after 12 months to £20 in a similar fashion, and moving to another network in tweleve months being bought yet out again.

After mulling this over I did ask the shop assistants where they make their money, not that I would believe their answer but having done my fair share of sales I find it interesting to see their response to such an awkward question. The response I got was that it was better to make a little profit than nothing at all, and at the moment it is more a numbers game with a drive to get people on to Orange in the hope of contract renewals in the future as opposed to short term profits. :|

I am interested to gage people’s opinions and similar experiences, as even as a sceptic, this deal looks very much in favour of the consumer.

Reality TV : Get Me Out Of Here!

TV & Film 1 Comment »

I don’t mind admitting when I have been suckered in to a television show, as was the case in the summer with an alternative show One Tree Hill, after all there are prices to pay to keep the peace. Although I find the endless fight for control of the evening TV schedule more tiresome than actually watching shows that I detest, there is a hidden reason to fight on, and that is you actually end up liking shows you previously thought of as trashy. An embarrassing dilemma.

This was the case with the latest series of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, another reality television show that in my opinion has run its course and is just a cheap way of guarantying high ratings. Unfortunately there are far too many similar reality TV programs dominating program listings that in my opinion stifle creative programming. For me seeing these programs scheduled day in day out only boosts the appeal of the government funded broadcasting agency we have in BBC that can afford to sacrifice (or rather risk) guaranteed viewing figures in return for quality programming.

That said, (and I say this bowing my head), I experienced first hand how easy it can be to become engrossed in these programs. After giving up the fight for the remote on no more than two occasions I found myself strangely curious about the background of these ‘celebrities’ that I had never heard of.

My next step was Google and a quick search for Janice Dickinson (eventually finishing runner up), an America ex-supermodel who had returned to fame allegedly on another reality TV series in the State ‘Americas Next Supermodel’. My how her ‘Oh Man!’ American catchphrase sent chills down my spine but still I found myself reading articles about her claims of over 1000 one night stands, paternity tests for Sly Stallone and rumblings with Dulf Lundren. I couldn’t help but think whether this is what made Rocky V such a good film :)

Next up was Cerys Matthews, who only after hearing her sing a acoustic song in the jungle did I recognise her voice, non other than the lead singer of Catatonia. Cerys then went on to develop a close relationship with Marc Bannerman, who again I had no idea who he was but looked somewhat familiar. A Google query later and I found it was that guy who played Gianni di Marco in EastEnders in the days the Italian brother him and Bepe ruled the square in mafia gangster style.

This said they were not all the so called celebrities were completely foreign to me, and I did recognise Gemma Atkinson for one, Rodney Marsh two and thirdly Anna Ryder Richardson for some strange reason.

With all this said it wasn’t the celebrity status of these people I found interesting, but more my inquisitive nature of finding out who these supposedly well known people actually were that got in me tuning in each night. It turns out I’m not the only one either with over 10 million viewers regularly tuning in.

I am however relieved the series has finished with Christopher Biggins the eventual winner as I feared I may be stuck wasting 45mins a day forever. I shall put up a stronger fight for the remote when the eighth series comes round.

Blu-ray and HD : A Microsoft Conspiracy Theory?

TV & Film No Comments »

On Monday The Shelf posted about plans to launch a new lower cost HD player in the New Year. It seems that the race to find a superior format is heating up again after The Shelf posted about the rival DVD formats in August.

Today Michael Bay has once again expressed his support for the Blu-ray format after announcing on his blog that a Transformers 2 movie would not be in the pipeline due to Paramount signing exclusively to its rival HD. Mr Bay later swiftly u-turned after apparent pressure from Paramount regarding its decision to back HD.

The latest criticism from the Transformers director it not so much expressing his opinions on either format, instead he launches into a conspiracy theory detailing how Microsoft is doing its utmost to ensure neither format comes to dominate, instead paving the way for digital downloads.

On a quote from his website Bay said “What you don’t understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about.”

He goes further to say “That is why Microsoft is handing out $100m checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu-ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth”

Bay clearly has an allegiance to Blu-ray, but besides the fact that a little more data can be held with this format, we are yet to see an offering from either format that looks better in hi-def. If anything the Transformers in HD actually booted the appeal of HD, with superb built in interactivity.

Although the allegations of HD payoffs are unfounded, both formats do make funds being available to boost their appeal. It is true however that Microsoft support downloading as a preferred alternative. Apple has a similar stance although they do back Blu-ray as a studio format.

I definitely think that movie downloading has a future, and as mentioned in yesterdays post is and industry estimated to grow to 350 million euros by 2012. As yet however bandwidth limitations are playing their part restricting the download industry for now, especially considering one HD movie is enough to use up a month’s download allowance on some UK ISPs.

It’s my opinion that one day data storage discs will become obsolete, where we will view movies on demand in our preferred formats, not the studios. For now however Blu-ray and HD have a very real battle to resolve, and my concern is that if a dominant format doesn’t come through both format, as well as consumers, will miss out.

Xbox launches video on demand service

Gaming No Comments »

Microsoft have announced that as of Tuesday 11th of December 2007, UK Xbox gamers will be able to buy films through their Xbox consoles, a move which puts the Xbox in direct competition with everything from television to internet download services.

This move makes the Xbox the first games console to offer a video on demand service, although the PS3 is intending to launch a PlayTV service in 2008 which will provide a similar function to SkyPlus.

Each film will cost gamers from £2 to £4.50 with the download then remaining on the games console for two weeks. Launched in the States in November, as well as the UK the service will be rolled out in Canada, Ireland, France and Germany, with an initial offering of 40 titles available in HD format.

The movie download market is growing at an exceptional rate, and as domestic broadband speeds mature the industry will continue to grow. It is estimated that by 2012 the film download market could be worth 350 million euros in Europe alone.

Data compiled by vgchartz.com indicates that there are 1.6m Xbox consoles in the UK, which would give Microsoft a healthy market to build on as a download distribution platform. However, the Xbox still trails the Nintendo Wii in sales by two to one, and the PS3 has already shifted 4.8 million units in the UK, providing Sony too with a healthy download distribution platform after the launch of its own video on demand service.

This to me seems very much like a pre-emptive strike, trying to establish the Xbox as the dominant video on demand gaming platform before Sony’s offering early next year. I have the feeling with three times as many UK units sold, the PS3 will get a healthy share of the movie downloads market in due course.

HD DVD Player

Technology 1 Comment »

Following on from a post on the difference between Blu-Ray and HD on The Shelf back in August, it seems the heat has been turned up further in the battle for the dominant format with news of the upcoming launch of a cut price HD-DVD player.

In response to the growing success of the PS3, primarily due to a cut price model that still comes equipped with Blu-ray player which trippled sales in North America over the thanks giving holiday season, HD had said it will launch a similar cut price player after Christmas in an attempt to level the playing field.

The new SHD7001 standalone High Definition DVD player from Venturer offers 1080i video output via a direct HDMI connection to your HD ready TV. It also comes with Dolby TrueHD (5.1channel) sound completes the SHD7001 HD experience.

As well as providing a less costly HD player for HD ready TV’s, the SHD7001 is also backwards compatible, meaning existing DVDs can also be played. It goes even further stating that this HD offering will actually enhance the viewing experience of normal DVDs.

Bonus features can be accessed through broadband via an Ethernet connection, as well as a range of other broadband enhanced features such as access to viewer forums and other interactive offerings.

There are no fixed prices released for the player yet but the SHD7001 is thought to break the magic $200 barrier, the price that would undercut any Blu-ray offering as a result of cheaper manufacturing methods. It will be available exclusively on the QVC shopping channel on the 29th December.

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