That picture is of my very first smartphone: the T-Mobile G1. Weeks before it even came out (two years ago) I knew every single thing there was to know about it.
I told myself I was being thorough with my research, but honestly? I was obsessed and I had a case of the gimmes.
Two Years Later
phones that blow my creaky old G1 out of the water. Again: I know every little detail about each phone…I can almost taste it.
I recognized the feeling right away—I’m reading up every article/post/tweet/review I can find and my wife can already tell this is only going to end with me buying a new phone.
That was a month ago and I still have my trusty/rusty G1 and I’m not switching to a new phone anytime soon. Why? It’s not because I can’t afford it. It’s not because I realized I don’t need a newer phone. It’s not because I’ve become a monk that can control his impulse buying and can live on rice and prayer.
No: it’s a combination of some strategies I tested to overcome a purchase I really wanted to make, a mixup with my plan, and hacking.
I wanted to write a post about the different tactics people could use to overcome that feeling you get when you really want something (what I call the gimmes). Stuff like:
- Obsess early: The sooner you obsess, the faster it will fade. I obsessed over the G2 so long before it came out that by the time it did, I wasn’t as excited. It was old news.
- Test it out…a lot: I went into T-Mobile’s stores a TON to test the two phones out. The first time I had to wipe my drool of the shiny new screen. But after the fourth time, I walked out feeling a little “eh.” As in, “what’s the big deal with these phones? Mine does most of it…just slower.”
- Time Machine: I imagined myself with any one of the new phones and asked myself: how would me life/day-to-day be different/better with this new phone? And honestly, I couldn’t come up with a good answer. Things would be a little faster, but nothing major or groundbreaking. That kind of took the wind out of my sails. Why was I so obsessed again?
How come I never wrote the article? The tactics had failed—the gimmes prevailed.
I wanted a new phone.
So I called T-Mobile to see what my upgrade status was (I was ready to buy the G2 for $99 on Costco’s site—a sweet deal), and the rep came back with “Sorry sir, but the plan you’re on isn’t eligible for an upgrade. Technically, you’re not even on a contract.”
Turns out I had switched my plan many months ago to a cheaper version with the same minutes and unlimited text/data, but the catch was that you had to buy your own phone…at retail. I must’ve missed the fine print on that one.
That meant if I wanted a new phone, I’d have to pay full price ($500) or try buying a used one somewhere.
I love me some technology, but there was no way I was dropping $500 on a new phone.
I could try to go back to the upgrade plan, but the math didn’t add up. I was paying $20 less than everyone else for the same service—only they were getting a subsidy on their new phones. If I wanted a G2, I’d have to pay $99 (via Costco) for a $500 phone. That’s a subsidy/savings of $400.
But after two years on my current plan I’d have saved $480 ($20 * 24 months). So technically my plan is the better deal. Not only that, I’m not tied to a contract and if I use my phone for three years, I have even more money saved up ($20 * 36 months = $720) for when I really do want a new phone.
And since I’m not on a contract I can run to Verizon whenever they finally decide to release the iPhone on their network.
That’s all well and good, but what do I do about my phone envy? There are a bunch of other new phones out there that have a bunch of cool new features I don’t have.
What’s a tech nut to do?
I decided to turn to the phone-hacking community over at cyanogenmod.com and xda-developers.com, and boy did they ever deliver. If you follow their instructions, take time to read them all very closely, and ask questions politely, they will help you make your phone a lot cooler.
All for free.
So here’s what I managed to add to my “new” phone (and these are all features that the G1 doesn’t get since it’s old, has been officially forgotten, and has limited memory):
- Exchange email (I can tap into my work email now without using Web Mail)
- I can use my phone as a modem for my laptop
- The phone’s processor is overlocked (which means it’s faster)
- Better camera controls for sharper pictures
- Overall much cooler interface
This is all on a phone that was never meant to have any of these features, which is why I’m so proud of myself.
How long will it take for my phone envy to eventually rear its ugly head and demand a new phone? Probably a few months—a new gadget is still a new gadget and hacking a two-year old phone will never compare to that new-gadget smell.
But still—I’ve managed to get some new stuff without spending any money, and I’m proud of myself for that.
For those of you interested in saving some money by hacking your phone, a few suggestions:
- Read the instructions carefully
- Ask questions on the forums, but make sure no one has asked them before (unlikely)
- Follow the instructions carefully
If anyone else out there has some good phone-hack stories, I’d love to hear them!