The UK mobile phone market is simply uninspiring at the moment. I’ve been looking to get a new phone and calling plan, but having investigated the options I’m deeply disappointed.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the poor current choice of phones and payment plans (in the UK at least) are the result of hollow marketing and greedy market distortion.
I need to upgrade my phone as I’m still using an ancient Sony Ericsson P900 that’s on its last legs. But having visited London’s biggest mobile phone shop (and also reviewed several dealer websites), I’ve come away with the view that the current market’s range of phones leave a lot to be desired.
Range of handsets
For a start, there simply aren’t many phones to choose from at the moment. Nokia and Sony Ericsson each seem to have about 4 main phones out at the moment. Combined with a few others from the secondary manufactures (like Motorola, LG, Samsung, etc) you’re left with a realistic choice of abut 15 different phones that are less than a year old. That doesn’t seem too many to me.
Come on, we all know that the likes of Nokia and SE know exactly what phones they’ll be shipping between now and Christmas 2006. What we are seeing on the high street today is the net result of handset manufactures sitting on new models, holding back innovation, whilst they squeeze the last drops from their current ranges.
The other thing that strikes me is most of the current ‘hot phones’ are simply iterations of older models. We’re not even talking evolutions – just iterations:
What’s the point of releasing a new RAZR in hot pink months after the original launch of the phone in black and silver? (It’s been a failure too, shops are discounting them heavily)
Call me a cynic (or naive), but the biggest disappointment was discovering Sony Ericsson’s “Walkman Phone,” the W800i, was nothing more than ‘pimped up’ case for the Sony Ericsson K750i, bundled with a 512MB Memory Stick Duo card (a £20/$40 value). For that you seem to pay the equivalent of twice the street price of the K750i.
The guy in Car Phone Warehouse described it as a “Lifestyle choice”. You can either have the (deliberately designed) ‘boring’ black K750i or go for the “up sell” swinging orange and white W800i. Apparently it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’ as to which suites you best.
And what’s the genuine difference between the Nokia 6680 and the Nokia N70 – other than a minor difference to the case and a better camera (whoo!)?
Really expensive plans
Competition in the market should mean constantly cheaper mobile phone plans. But I’m shocked at how much mobile phone plans have gone up in the past 18 months or so. It seems to me that carriers are not interested in providing plans that cost less than £30 ($60) a month.
They also now want to push you into an 18 month contract, rather than the traditional 12 months. I don’t want to locked down to the same contract for one and a half years – the mobile landscape (hopefully) will look very different in that time and my needs might change between now and then.
I’m also disappointed about the complete lack of viable mobile web tariffs. Paying £2($4) a MB to download data to your phone is still prohibitively expensive (and on 3G that could get dangerous – potentially 50p ($1) a second if you’re streaming something!).
With the announcement of city-wide WiFi coming to London, I think the mobile phone companies are really going to shoot themselves in the foot if they don’t start offering their customers mobile web options very soon.
Some smart phones already have wifi in them (it’s a £10 part to add) and there’s no reason to assume other phones won’t go this way too. Plus, if you carry around a laptop or PSP with you then you arguably already have a better browsing option with you than a mobile phone anyway.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that I am going to opt for the most heavily discounted, shitty basic phone I can find – and use it just for calling and sms. So far that seems to be this deal from Chatterbox – a Nokia 3120 for the equivalent of £2.99 a month on Orange. But don’t take that as a recommendation!