Why Cell Phone Insurance Is A Must Have In Our House

There’s a lot of back and forth on whether purchasing insurance for electronic items is a worthwhile deal.  We have several things with insurance in our house, specifically our flat screen TVs, an exercise bike, and a dehumidifier.  All of these were purchased after careful consideration.  The exercise bike was a replacement of a treadmill that had gone bad and was covered under warranty, so it worked.

One thing we never even question is our cell phones.  Since I switched to a work provided phone, I receive cell phone protection automatically, as I was directed to sign up for it when choosing my plan and such.

But, the ‘must have’ rule applies for my wife.  Why? Well, to put it kindly, things don’t usually end well with her and her phones!

She has the best of intentions, but every insurance we’ve place on her phones has been used at least once.  In the few years we’ve been on a shared plan, she’s had three different phones, and all have been replaced.

Phone 1: Blackberry

In 2010, my wife and I both got Blackberries, literally a month or two before the bottom fell out on their usage.  Nonetheless, we decided to purchase protection through SquareTrade.  About a year later, my wife’s went south.  It got extremely hot to the touch and wouldn’t hold a charge or do anything.  Since we had the same model, I even swapped out the battery, to no avail.  It was shot.

SquareTrade has us send in the phone, and their terms were that they paid us the purchase value of the phone.

Phone 2.0, and 2.1: HTC Junk

So, with $350, my wife went to get a replacement phone.  She chose an Android device, an HTC to be exact.  We got a good deal at the Sprint store, as they had ‘extra’ in stock of a new device that they could discount for us since it was out of contract.  The deal was pretty good, though I had my suspicions on whether it was a new phone (as they said it was).

For this phone, we signed up for the protection offered through Sprint.  They charged $7 or so per month.

It wasn’t more than a few months and the phone started having some serious problems.  The touch pad wouldn’t work, and Sprint replaced some components and re-flashed it.  This worked for a short time, but the phone started acting up again, so they replaced it (this time with a refurb). The new phone did the same thing after awhile, and Sprint acknowledged that the phone…well, it sucked.  It had a slide-out and the slide-out often caused things to get mis-aligned.

It might have been replaced one more time.  I can’t even remember.  All I know is that this thing was ‘in the shop’ more often than a 1980’s GM lemon.   Sprint was starting to get annoyed, since at this point my wife had completed her contract, and with each repair they tried to get her into a new phone with a two year re-up.  We were trying to stick it out to get in sync with other members on the plan, so we kept refusing.

Then, my wife’s phone met my in-laws tile floor and the screen went into a million pieces.  Since this was not a mechanical failure, a deductible would apply.  Since she was now ready to get a new phone anyways and the phone was so out of date that she probably wouldn’t have been able to sell it to recoup the deductible cost, she ended up just getting a new phone.

Phone 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2: iPhone 5

mb-201310phoneBy this point, she was enamored with Apple products and wanted an iPhone.  We looked around and the best deal was to get the phone through Best Buy.  It was $50 cheaper than Sprint could offer at any of their stores or online.

While we purchased the phone, they offered the ‘Best Buy’ protection plan.  It seemed like a lot of money, around $229 for the duration of the plan, but we ended up going with it.  The plan included things like water damage protection (this is important in a minute), no deductibles, unlimited replacements (SquareTrade, for example, limits you to essentially one), and even included price guarantees for trade-in at the end of your contract.  Plus, the cost per month spread out over 24 months was less than the $11 offered on Apple products through Spint.

So, we purchased it.

And luckily we did.

My wife didn’t have the phone more than a couple of months when we went to a concert.  She had a drink in one hand, her phone in the other, and well, it’s pretty easy to imagine what happened.  Ker-sploosh.

She grabbed the phone out an instant after it went in, and everything actually seemed to work great.  It never went out, the data kept working, texting was working, it accepted a charge, and it seemed she had skirted danger.

Until the next day.  When she went to make a call.  And she could barely hear.

This was actually kind of funny because the speaker was on top, where the phone went bottom first, yet the part that never got submerged was what stopped working.

She tried a few tricks, like drying it out in rice, but the damage was done.  So, off to Best Buy we went.

She was truthful about what happened.  They tried to troubleshoot it insomuch as they turned it off and on, and tried it themselves, and agreed to order her a new phone.  The only downside was that it is a re-furb.

But, really, since the protection continues through the life of your two year agreement, it’s a pretty minor inconvenience.

A couple of days later her replacement showed up.  She got everything transferred over and left the store, everything appearing to work fine.

Until we drove away, and the data stopped working.

Sprint is currently working to upgrade the Detroit area from 3G to 4G LTE.  Around our house, it’s about half transitioned.  The store had 4G LTE, but other areas are still only on 3G.  As it turns out, the phone would not connect to 3G.  I spent a long time on the phone with Sprint, and they tried a whole host of things, but confirmed that it was two different antennas within the phone, and speculated that the initial problem with the phone could have in fact been the 3G antenna.

Back to Best Buy. The tech tried a little more advanced troubleshooting, but ended up agreeing that the phone was not right.

Another order was placed, another couple of days went by, and another phone arrived.

This one worked great on all accounts.

Still, we’re in our third month and on the third phone.  The protection plan, I would say, has already paid for itself.

Readers, do you get cell phone protection?  Has not having it ever burned you?

How Much Do I Love My Samsung Galaxy S3?

It’s been awhile since I talked about getting my new cell phone from work.  As you may remember, I chose to get the Samsung Galaxy GS3 over the Apple iPhone 4S, which was what was offered at the time.

I felt that the S3 offered a bigger screen, the same amount and quality of apps, and ran an OS (Android) which I’m more familiar since I’ve yet to become an Apple guy.

So far, I have to say I love it.  Here is my mini-review of the Samsung Galaxy S3 (aka Samsung Galaxy S III)

  • Service – The company provides service on the AT&T network, which is vastly superior to the Sprint network, where I was previously based.  Sprint has not yet rolled out 4G, let alone LTE, in our area, so the difference in download and data speeds is remarkable.  Not to mention, our house required a data booster to even work adequately with Sprint, but AT&T has so far given me no connection problems.
  • Screen – Oh, the screen.  I remember when my wife got her HTC phone after her Blackberry died (the phone I had the same model of).  I thought hers was so big.  Then, my S3 came and it’s practically double the screen viewing area.  I love it and it has great resolution and color depth as well.
  • Size – With the screen comes a phone that is much bigger across and up/down than the Blackberry I had.  But, it’s quite a bit thinner and doesn’t weigh any more (at least to the touch).  I typically don’t carrying things in my pocket, so I was afraid that the S3 would be hard to deal with, but so far it doesn’t bother me at all.
  • Applications – I love the applications that I can download and use so easily.  Pandora was available on the Blackberry but with the unwieldy interface (no touch screen), the slow service, and the spotty coverage, I barely used it or any streaming music coverage.  Now, when things get loud at work, it’s easy to pop in the buds and get some music.  I also love some of the standbys like Gas Buddy and Angry Birds 🙂
  • E-mail – Even though Blackberry was designed for the enterprise, it would constantly truncate e-mails.  Longer e-mails simply couldn’t be downloaded.  This was a point of major frustration for me.  This is no longer an issue with my S3.  E-mails come through right away, and more importantly, in full.
  • Swipe – I love that you can type or you can swipe between characters on the keypad.
  • Commercial – I love the commercial that aired all the time last month where everybody in the Apple line was talking about all the features that the new iPhone was going to have, only to hear that the S3 had even more built in.  There’s one guy that’s talking about the earphone jack getting moved to the bottom, and he motions that it blows his mind.  I’m not one to buy into marketing, but that kills me every time.

There are a few things I wish were a little bit better that are somewhat steps back:

  • Spell check – Blackberry had a built in spell checker that would (like Microsoft Word) keep words highlighted that might be spelled incorrectly.  With my S3, if you don’t correct the word immediately, it doesn’t keep it highlighted. I’ve yet to find a third party app that works to my satisfaction.
  • Touch keypad – Having the buttons on the Blackberry took a lot of room, but they made for faster and easier typing than the touchpad.  Even though the keys are ‘big’ since the screen is so big, I still make frequent mistakes, more so than with the buttons.  Hopefully this is something I can get used to.

All in all, there are a few minor issues but I suppose that’s going to happen with any piece of technology.  I don’t think anything is perfect when it comes to a gadget, especially when everybody just works to make their next product better than the competition and their old one.  I’m sure in two years or so, I’ll be sick of the S3 and itching for the next big thing.  Whatever that will be 🙂  Until then, the S3 is definitely for me!

Why I’ll Hold Off On A New Phone For Now

We have been customers of Sprint cell phone service for quite some time now.  My wife and I last renewed in August 2010 when we both got new Blackberries.

This was, of course, within days of the world deciding that they hated Blackberries and weren’t going to buy them anymore.  Everybody officially switched to either iPhone or Android based machines within days.

But, I digress.

Sprint’s program basically gives you their ‘best pricing’ on phones if you sign a two year agreement.  Two months shy of the end of your agreement, they once again offer you the best pricing they have, so that you’ll extend with them.   I guess they figure that those last couple of months are the time that you’ll use to start shopping around, so they entice you with a good deal and try to keep your wandering eyes off other carriers.

June 1st was the day that Sprint said I was eligible, so I looked around to see what the deals were.

What I noticed were:

  • They have definitely cut back on the deals – I’ve never gotten cutting edge phones, but I’ve always been able to snag a phone somewhere in the middle of the pack for relatively cheap.  After discounts and promotions and such, I’ve gotten the phones for free or paid around $50 at the high end.  The mid-range phones I see nowadays will likely cost $150.
  • It will increase my plan cost – Shortly around the time we renewed in 2010, Sprint started charging an extra $10 per month for 4G capable phones.  I guess they didn’t hear too much squawking, because they then switched this to $10 per month for all smartphones.  If you already had a smartphone prior to this, which we did with our Blackberries, you didn’t have to pay.  But, as soon as you activated any other smartphone, the $10/month per line kicked in.  This hit us when my wife’s Blackberry died last summer and we had to replace it.
  • I’m still warranty covered – My phone has never had any problems, so I’m still covered under my Squaretrade warranty until my actual two year agreement.  I believe if I were to get a new phone, I could get another Squaretrade and transfer my unused time to covering that phone, but the way I look at it, the two months I have left are bonus time….I could get $350 from the warranty plus the $150 discount from Sprint.
  • My work has offered to get me a smartphone.  They don’t do reimbursements, but they’ve recently offered to provide a phone.  Even though this would save money, I’m hesitant because I don’t know what security/monitoring I would be ‘agreeing’ to, plus I feel that this obligates you to be available 24×7.  Oh, and it’s on the AT&T network.  Which is pretty awful around here.
  • The unknown – Sprint’s 4G coverage is a joke, yet they are apparently upgrading it.  Still, the lack of upgrades is puzzling though they keep promising better days ahead.  I guess I’d like to see it before I believe it, as cell phone companies tend to oversell things and underdeliver on them down the road.

I guess long and short, I see myself as in a pretty good spot.  I could upgrade at any time, though right now I am fine with the Blackberry.  When my wife’s phone died, we actually used the Squaretrade money and bought an off-the-floor model from the Sprint store, which was a slightly higher price, but kept us from having to extend her contract, meaning that we have the flexibility to renew or switch carriers, or look for the best deal, pretty much at any point.

I’ve never been one to rush out and get the latest and greatest cell phone, pretty much because I can’t stand spending that kind of money on things that are designed to become obsolete way before the contract extends that you sign up for (I similarly dislike spending money on computers and such, but at least you’re not locked into a two year anything when buying a PC, laptop, or tablet).  So, for now, I’m in absolutely no hurry!

UPDATE: I ended up taking advantage of the offer from my employer to get a work provided cell phone, so I no longer have to deal with Sprint, though my wife is still stuck on the Sprint plan.