(with apologies to the RSPCA)

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or just enjoy the public holidays – this is the time for giving (either to yourself or someone else).

And hot on the “giving” list are mobile phones – be they on prepaid, outright purchase, replace an existing, older handset, or on a 24 month contract.

The Decision

Okay, so you are going to buy a new phone. The burning question is which phone?

Do you need (remember “need” and “want” are ALWAYS interchangeable when talking about technology!) a smartphone or will a regular handset do the job for you?

How big are your fingers and how good is your eyesight? I’m not getting personal, just being realistic. If you buy a small phone, make sure you can a) push the buttons easily, and b) read the screen content.

Fashions change, and so do your tastes. I’m yet to meet anyone who can predict the future two years out, so again I suggest caution when buying a phone based on colour.  (Don’t laugh – I used to see at least 10 colour variants for some handsets in my previous role as a product manager). The safe option is to go conservative, and dress the phone up with either a protective cover or some stick-on bling (saw that last week in a store!).

Cost of ownership

Before purchasing a new phone, take the time to check you can afford it. Unless you are looking at a prepaid phone, the upfront (often $0) purchase price is not where it ends. If signing up on a plan (contract), don’t be shy in asking exactly what is included, and what is extra. It can be a simple calculation: $30 per month over 24 months = $720. The questions to ask include:

  • How many calls does the monthly fee equate to?
  • Does it include text messages?
  • If I access the internet or Foxtel from my phone, will I be charged extra?
  • I want to use my phone as a modem – do I need a data pack in addition to my monthly fee? Should I be buying a modem card as well as the handset?
  • Can I save money by combining several of my services (eg BigPond, Foxtel and home phone) with my mobile account onto a single bill?


I recommend you get insurance for your phone. It’s a big investment, and you never want to have that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach as you realise your new toy is either missing, broken or worse still, stolen, and you don’t have any insurance. Talk to the sales staff when you purchase your phone, or call your insurance broker.

Safe driving – it’s the law

Over the coming months, (already in place in Victoria), State Governments are changing the road rules to limit the way we use our mobile phones whilst driving. Make sure your phone is secured, and never send text messages or read emails whilst driving.

Making the most of your new phone

Most of us will never use all the feature packed into phones these days – but give yourself a fighting chance and find out exactly what your handset is capable of. Then you have the choice of using it or not.

There are many ways to do this – have the salesperson show you what it can do; ask a friend; or, to be really radical – read the manual (something I rarely do unless I am reviewing a product). You can even go online now and use YouTube and get quick tutorials.

Remember the environment – Mobile Muster

When you buy a new phone, the obvious question is what to do with the old one. Whilst you are in the act of giving (either to yourself or others), remember that MobileMuster is a great way to help the environment. This year (until 31 December, 2009), MobileMuster  will donate an Oxfam Unwrapped chicken for every mobile sent in for recycling. (The phone must be posted by 31 December 2009). For more details take a look at www.oxfamunwrapped.com.au.

If you are giving, or have received a new mobile phone over the holiday period, please let us know of your experiences – either in selecting or receiving it, or trying to master it during your summer vacation.