On the Dangers of Buying a Mobile Phone

I purchased a new mobile phone last October, an HTC 5800 smartphone from Bell Mobility.

When I walked out of the Bell Store with my new device, I was in love.

Over the past 6 months, however, I’ve learned to despise the thing. Because, the sad fact is, this phone is crap.

How did this happen? I’m a pretty smart guy, how could I possibly pick out such a dud?

I spent hours reading reviews and examining the specs of the product. I coddled the retail fakes at more than one Bell Store.

Unfortunately, what makes a mobile device good on paper is rarely what might eventually endear it to you.

A mobile device only reveals its true qualities over time, as it weaves itself into the fibre of your very being.

Words on a page and the mere heft of a plastic replica in a retail outlet aren’t enough to understand the essence of a device that will become intrinsic to one’s social and business lifestyle.

Yet that’s how people make mobile phone buying decisions every day.

And, indeed, that’s how I made mine.

So I could never have known how the phone worked, or how extensively it would frustrate me in day-to-day use.

The inconvenience of a proprietary connection adapter. The instability of the software. The abysmal call quality. The insanely short battery life. The unresponsiveness of its buttons and keys. The annoying noises that can’t be turned off.

These are the things that I learned to hate about the HTC 5800 only by actually using the device.

I now believe that many mobile phones, such as the HTC 5800, are designed just for the retail experience.

They are designed to look pretty and feel good in all their non-functioning glory on the salesroom floor.

What happens after the charge is on a customer’s credit card is another matter.

When I was considering the HTC 5800, I asked a salesperson in the West Edmonton Mall Bell Store why I couldn’t play with the phone for a while before I purchased it.

He motioned around the store and looked at me like I was some kind of idiot.

“Look at all these phones!” he said.

“Bell would go out of business if they let everybody play with real ones.”

So the onus is on consumers to take the financial leap of faith on new mobile devices.

Yet we can play with much more high-cost technologies, such as laptops and video game systems, at many retail outlets.

We can even test-drive cars and trucks.

But we can’t try a mobile device without laying out some cash.

Interestingly, I was at the Apple Store in Seattle last August. There were about 2 dozen iPhones on display.

I played with one for about an hour. I made three or four long distance calls. I downloaded countless web pages and checked my email.

The Apple Store demonstrated to me what purchasing a mobile device should be like: it’s as much about experience as look and feel.

Of course, as most of us know, the problem mobile devices suffer from is that they generally offer a negative user experience.

It says a lot about Apple’s confidence in the iPhone that they allow customers unsupervised play time.

Very few people at the Apple Store that day needed any help, that’s how easy the device is to use and understand.

The same can’t be said for most other devices, like my HTC 5800. And that’s probably why I couldn’t play with it in a Bell Store.

After all, a lot fewer mobile devices would be sold were customers permitted to experience the frustration of actually using one prior to plunking down their Visa cards.

So it may not be Bell’s fault that I invested in a crummy piece of technology.

Mobile device manufacturers like HTC need to improve the quality of their devices and the software they run.

Only then can Bell feel confident enough to let me play with a device before I buy it.

Until that time, however, customers must continue to instead play the odds with any prospective new mobile device.

So do your research and ask around. Phonescoop.com is a great place to get mobile phone reviews from other consumers.

Don’t be shy if you see someone on the street using a device you’re interested in. Ask them what they think. That’s how I avoided being suckered into the the super-slick yet über-lame Motorola Q when it first came out.

And visit a few stores before you buy. If you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon that super-helpful salesperson at one who will unbox a device and let you play for a little while. But they’re apparently not supposed to do that, so these folks are hard to find.

Of course, there’s always the good old return policy. Bell Mobility gives you up to 15 minutes to return your phone (seriously: 15 minutes. Read their Wireless Terms of Service.).

Somehow, though, that just doesn’t seem like a heck of a lot of time to get to know your cell-mate.

2 thoughts on “On the Dangers of Buying a Mobile Phone

  1. That’s 15 minutes of talk time and then you’re basically locked into the phone for the duration of your (usually) 3 year contract and if you have issues with the phone, be prepared to pay and huge.I so can’t wait for this spectrum auction to end and some new carriers to enter the scene and give the country some real wireless SERVICE.Jon

  2. I agree> Buying a phone now, isn’t just buying a device. In fact, I would say purchasing your first cellphone is very much a rite of passage. I didn’t pick my first cellphone, it was picked for me, and I hated it almost immediately. It was a grey, flat, Qualcomm with keys that were hard to push. It was indestructible. Trust me, I tried everything.

    Choosing your cellphone is not the same as adorning yourself with jewelry. You don’t really care how it looks. It’s more that it serves your individual needs and suits you. I store my life on my phone, so losing it and everything inside was devastating.

    We all have different purposes for our phones. Someone who texts and rarely talks won’t care how hard it is to hold a phone to their ear, while someone who talks more than they text will care less about the type of keyboard.

    If the HTC model your talking about is the one I am thinking, then I agree it’s terrible. You had to open the phone first to use the keys on the front. Unless you got a text message. This made it dangerous if the phone was in your pocket when you got a message, because it would auto-dial the number back, which was sometimes in the middle of the night.

    Perhaps I should seek your advice in picking my next phone. 🙂

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