Saturday, 17 August 2013

Phone Home. Cheap smartphone solution

As I have a wife and four children the business of providing the family with phones and computers which dates back to about 1998 is a fairly expensive one and I have, over the past few years bought various duff lumps of technology, learnt some lessons that may be worth passing on.

The result of this, is that every so often I do a post for those blog readers who don’t get the experience and have to get their technology on a budget. I guess one of the great problems with new personal technology is that you can’t try it before you buy it.

Smartphones now have, for the most part replaced the technology that we carry round with us all the time, camera, walkman, calculator, torch and mobile phone if you go back to 1998.

I think I have had some sort of internet mobile phone for about ten years, some of the early one weren’t very smart, I think this one that I turned into an artistic joke, was the first to be smart enough for the accolade.

My smartphone, at the moment, is a fairly old one now, a Samsung Galaxy Note 1, you can buy these new for about £250 and secondhand for a little over £100, it suites me well as it has a large screen and a reasonable camera, I think when I got it, nearly two years ago it was the best phone for what I do and for me, that I could have got.

It is highly suitable for the older man with large fingers and reading glasses, it is big enough to manage this blog with when I am out and about, dealing with inappropriate comment isn’t as easy as on a conventional computer.

My previous post about this shows the kit I carry around, that allows me to blog, paint watercolours and so on, see

The Note has never gone wrong and is far and away the best smartphone I have had so far, the snags are, short battery life and fairly weak wifi, this boils down to, I have to charge it every night and when I take a cuppa back to bed and watch the morning news on the phone, Iplayer sometimes cuts out.

We have, or have had, in the family, several other makes of smartphone designed in about the same period as the Note, I phone 4, Sony and HTC, the Note has been the best of the bunch. As an example here the Iphone has no bluetooth and very limited memory with no memory card slot and no sim slot, also difficult charging connection if you leave the charger behind. I am only saying this to emphasise the point that they all have snags.

Anyway this week the old problem of replacing one of the family member’s phones came up, and yes budget was an issue. For the most part I wouldn’t recommend buying a secondhand phone. Partly because you get a year’s warranty with a new phone and partly because the majority of people sell smartphones when they become not so smart.

We all use the T-Mobile pay as you go with the 6 months internet access for £20, mostly using WhatsApp for texting and Skype we don’t actually make many paid for calls. To those who can’t follow me here, by owning the phone myself and being a bit savvy with use of the phone’s internet, I use a large amount texts and video calls, including international calls from my mobile, but only pay the service provider about £5 per month. This charge includes managing the blog, watching TV and so on.

Anyway after various false starts and buying another make of phone that is off on its fourth visit to the makers for repairs, we went into the EE shop, which is the new name for the t-mobile shop in Canterbury and bought Samsung Galaxy Fame.

It cost about £95 and does all the business very well, amazingly good camera, very stable wifi connection, allowing one to watch TV, listen to the radio or browse the internet in bed, on trains, cafés etc, well anywhere really, within the data constraints of around £1 per week.    

The acid test for me is could I manage with it and the answer is. Yes. I have also tried to find any snags without success, so am recommending it. 


  1. I want a Smart Phone, I really do. But the trouble is I know that I do not need one, and that it would just be a toy to keep me amused.

    With EE I get Broadband and free calls 24/7 to UK geo numbers and 71 International numbers, plus 1000 hrs per month to all UK mobiles and USA mobiles.

    I have no need for the internet when I'm out and about.

    So I don't need a Smart phone, but this does not stop me wanting one.

  2. The telephone calls mentioned above only apply to my landline.

  3. I'm the weirdo who sits on a train reading a BOOK while everyone else is connected to an electronic device of some sort (phone, internet, personal music player, reader, etc), and this is just the way I like it. The only gadget I carry around with me is a camera. Ironically all of this is making people far more anti-social in that few people chat to strangers.

  4. I have a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader which I enjoy because it enables me to carry around an entire library, especially abroad. But for me it will never truly replace the feel and smell of a real book.

  5. Frankly the smartphone is an essential for my work, so I have to have one to maintain a competitive edge. Knowing the current value of a given secondhand book is essential to me as my main competitor is Amazon, I have to price the books I sell cheaper than you could buy them on Amazon or I wouldn’t be in business.

    Another side of this is this blog, I couldn’t manage it properly without a smart phone and during periods when I am busy, like at the moment, using the camera in the phone, where the Google+ app automatically publishes them online, means you get pictures that I wouldn’t otherwise have time to publish.

    Personally I get on much better reading from paper, partly because I have to use a screen for a large part of my working day and my brain seems to need a rest from screens, partly because I do a fair amount of historical research which seems to work out best using a mixture of medias.

    With books though the main imperative for many people is that a secondhand book is much cheaper than a download.

    Finally with children still at school, some sort of mobile phone is essential so that the school or your children can contact you and as much essential information comes by email it really has to be a smartphone.

  6. I have resisted getting an Ipad but gave in to getting a Sumvision Cyclone Voyager 10.1 tablet recently. It was £130 on Ebuyer instead of at least £350 for an Ipad. Yes it only has a 2mb camera but IPS screen, blue tooth, 32gb memory.7 inch version is ony £70. So far so good.

    1. Anon it isn’t really possible for any of us to go down the tablet road, we have to mostly use laptops when it comes to personal computing that isn’t a phone.

      The phones can be used a wifi hubs enabling one get online with a laptop almost anywhere, the secondhand booktrade is windows orientated when it comes to selling anything online and due to the nature of the best software, which is old the easiest way is XP, although the more technologically minded can just about get away with Win7.

      Three of my children are still in full time education, secondary school and phd and once again this is all fairly windows orientated. Although it is a bit hard to say what the future direction will be, my guess is that touch typing on a conventional keyboard will be the main method for book cataloguing, gcses and academic papers for the foreseeable future.

    2. Sometimes the laptop is to big and heavy to lug around. You can always connect a tablet to your smart phone hub as you do a laptop although there are tablets around that take a sim card for the purpose of getting online. If you need windows then there are windows tablets around too although for free you can get android aps for processing word and excel documents.
      With children Michael, there are now schools in Kent that require all pupils to have an Ipad and their use is integrated in the teaching methods.

    3. Anon I think the issue here is understanding what a smartphone will do, my note and this new fame are running Android Jellybean, although Android Ice Cream Sandwich will support the features as well.

      The phone allows one to do word processing and spreadsheet tasks and this I would normally do using google docs. Eg. It’s a lazy Sunday morning here, I am working on various documents partly on my laptop and partly on my phone, writing your reply here and trying to explain how this works, mostly for the benefit of people who are using non cloud technology, I have just gone out into the garden and am continuing this comment with my phone. I am using a google doc so I can access and edit the same document either on phone or my pc.

      As I type on my phone the document changes word by word on my laptop and vice versa, the same would work with a spreadsheet. A tablet wouldn’t fit in my shirt pocket so I would have to find somewhere to put it while drinking my coffee and amusing next door’s cat.

      Not sure about the school issue as my children school and uni use pretty much the same method as I do with MS Word being the standard for docs and Excel the standard for spreadsheets. I guess this would be different for different for different institutions.

  7. Can I have a Samsung Galaxy Fame please


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