October 9, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Confessions of a cell phone junkie

Jeffrey Gordon is a cell phone addict, spending nearly $2,000 over the past year and a half to fuel what seems like an insatiable urge to have the latest and greatest in cellular technology.

Since May of 2005, he has switched carriers twice just to get the phone he wanted. First, he dumped Sprint Nextel for Cingular Wireless so he could get the Audiovox SMT 5600, a small candybar-style smart phone running the Windows Mobile operating system.

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Less than a year later, he jumped to T-Mobile to get his hands on the JasJar QTEK 9000. This foreign phone came equipped with high-end screen resolution, video calling, a Qwerty keyboard, stereo external speakers, 3G and Wi-Fi capability, and Bluetooth wireless.

The new phone cost the New York City resident $929 plus the $160 fee to break his contract with Cingular.

Four months later, the bug hit him again when a smaller, sleeker foreign phone hit the market called the HTC Prophet (aka the i-mate JAMin). It cost $575. Again, the price didn't matter to Gordon. But this time he was already a T-Mobile customer, so he didn't have to jump carriers. He bought the new phone the first day it went on sale.

"My girlfriend is furious at me for spending so much money on phones," the 27-year-old Gordon wrote in an e-mail. "Am I an addict? Yes, and I love it. This is phone geek lust in its purest form."

For many people, cell phones have become an essential accessory that expresses who they are. Some, like Gordon, want the latest and greatest technology. Others, like the millions of consumers who went nuts for Motorola's ultrathin Razr phones, want the hippest designs.

But how many consumers are actually willing to choose their cell phone provider based on the phones that are offered? Analysts say the number of people who would switch providers and eat the cost of breaking contracts to get a cool new phone is relatively small. Still, a phone's design and features are becoming important factors in deciding to stay with a carrier once a contract expires.

"Historically in the U.S. market, phones haven't played a big factor in a customer's decision to subscribe to a certain service," said Iain Gillott, an analyst with iGillott Research. "But it's becoming a consideration. Still, the main reason consumers choose an operator is usually network coverage, reliability and price."

"If you want the coolest phones, but don't have a great network, you might as well go to a toy store and pick up a plastic phone."
--Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon Wireless spokesman

According to a survey conducted by The Yankee Group in April 2006, 20 percent of respondents indicated that network quality was the most important factor in determining which provider they chose when purchasing their plans. Only 3 percent said the model of mobile phone offered by the carrier influenced their purchasing decision.

But when consumers were asked what would keep them loyal to their current provider, 28 percent said more frequent handset upgrades would prevent them from jumping ship.

"While the phone may not be the main reason a consumer chooses a carrier's service, once they are with a particular carrier they want the opportunity to get better handsets more frequently," said Linda Barrabee, an analyst with The Yankee Group. "And if they don't get what they want, they can look elsewhere when the contract expires."

That's exactly what John Papadopoulos, a 25-year-old sales associate in Boston, is doing. Papadopoulos, who has been a Verizon Wireless customer since 1999, said he plans to switch to Cingular in November when his contract expires so he can get the Samsung SGH-D807, a small, slim phone he says has all the "fixin's" including a camera and MP3 music player. The phone Papadopoulos uses now is the Samsung SCH-A670, a 2-year-old model that he says is too big and renders poor picture quality with its built-in camera.

Papadopoulos, who said he is perfectly happy with the quality of Verizon's network, could get a new phone when his contract runs out. But he said even the new LG Chocolate, which has many of the same features as the Samsung phone from Cingular, is too bulky for his taste.

"I want something that can fit in my pocket so it's not uncomfortable or noticeable," he said. "It just seems like Verizon has a policy to sell the ugliest, most nonfunctional phones."

CONTINUED: Lessons from the Razr…
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13 comments

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The other side
I'm on the other end, I still have my Audovox CDM8600, it has color but no pictures. What I love about it is that it was replaced 3 times on warrenty and during the time it was broken I got to go back to my old monocrome flip phone which booted up fast and had nice big buttons. I get to upgrade in a couple of weeks, I'm sure I'll pick up whatever they have free.
Posted by timcoyote (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Me, too.
We have two one-year-old LGs. We'd still have two-year-old Kyoceras if my two-year-old hadn't baptized one in a hotel bathroom a year ago. For me, it's still the network.

Which is ironic because we're leaving Verizon Wireless when our contract ends in 11 months because their technicians describe our new home's coverage as "weak-to-adequate" and "a known trouble spot" and "no plans in improve coverage" and my new work location as "a known trouble spot" with "no plans to improve coverage."
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Link Flag
I USED to be a junkie....
I was spending $500 on phones just to have the latest model. The problem is that IT NEVER ENDS.

There is always a latest model and it's always much better than what you have now. At some point you have to decide if you want to continue dropping a percent or two of your annual income on new cell phones.

I decided it wasn't worth it and have had the same phone for two years. It works fine, and I use the savings to refill my kegerator.
Posted by jerseyrich (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not a junkie but
I used to be very feature driven. I wanted to make sure my phone had sufficient features to keep me satisfied, usually that comes with a high price tag. I'll never forget getting the $500 Samsung that Sprint had way back yonder - that was right before the invent of PCS Vision. At the time it was the best phone on the market for what it offered and the price reflected that.

Then there was Boost/Nextel and the i95cl, which was the best it had at the time, but what I really liked on that phone was being able to customize it with that program and the clear case. Again, thought it was the coolest. $400.

Then there was the NEC 515HDM. At the time, best quality screen money could buy, could upload pictures at will in total high definition. $400 (that phone was stolen from me).

Then it was the T-mobile MDA. $500. I used it for a couple of months before I realized I didn't really like it. It's quite possibly the most versatile of devices. Load anything you want via USB, any program, QWERTY, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth...but still I wasn't satisfied, mostly because I got frustrated with having to always connect to EDGE.

Now I have a BlackBerry Pearl. $450. Quite frankly I'm happy with this phone, but if that 8800 comes out....well...

All that said, one thing about me is that I refuse to purposely break contract just because another carrier has a phone that I might want. If I'm with a carrier, I'll wait until the contract is up to go with another. That part is stupid, forcing ETFs on yourself for a phone.
Posted by ReVeLaTeD (755 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"C "in Cingular stands for "Crap"
They may have the phones, but their customer service is downhill!!! I have Verizon Wireless and lovin' it!!!
Posted by tngu77 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Be objective
How do you know how good or bad Cingular is? You have Verizon, who lies to consumers in their commercials by making a claim of "best network" when in fact that claim comes a biased study done by Verizon.

I'll admit, Cingular does have its misgivings, like not telling me who did the independent study that judged them best. But at least they are smart enough to be GSM and don't have dropped calls. I can attest that they don't drop a call.

And be objective.
Posted by i_am_still_wade (250 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My Cell Phone
Well, Sprint WAS our carrier. Calling them everyday and having some kid tell us that Sprint is 'the best wireless cell phone company'. And maybe they are, who's to really know.

Our problem with Sprint was they turned our services off TWICE in less than an hour, stating that we're on the internet through our phones...Internet access we didn't even have access to. They put a block on it, so that we could not get on the internet, which was great...of course, after they applied the block to the phones we were charged 451!!!! dollars for internet usage.

Text messaging-Wonderful idea that someone came up with. We called Sprint, because 'due to charges of text messaging on our phones' they tell us Don't text people, we tell them we don't text because we have FREE PCS to PCS. They said 'no problem, we'll put a block on it.' We thanked them 349 dollars later in text messages.

We paid over ONE THOUSAND dollars within one months time for them charging us for B.S problems...but NEVER once went over out minutes.

SO the moral of my story is, always carry vasoline with you when they screw you.

Yours Truly,

1600 dollar sprint bill waiting to be paid.
Posted by mommy_2_lexus (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That reminds me
Wow.. You remind of of this poor single mom (I know, she made sure everyone in the store knew but like that was going to get her some support from other customers)... But anyway.. she was ranting and raving about her bill. Seems her 59.99 a month family plan turned into a 400.00 case of "gotcha". Couldn't help but move in close to listen.. She was telling this poor clerk her sob story and the clerk was being nice (as far as I'm concerned) saying "but mam, you went over your minutes by hundreds of minutes, you sent 300 or so text messages and downloaded lots of ringers. She then moaned about how it was her teenage girl who ran up all those charges. Like that was going to change anything. They gave her credit for the text messages and gave her some minutes off. Still, she was in hock for about 200 bucks. Saying she didn't have 200.00 to pay, the clerk gave her 10 days to pay or her phone would be shut off and she would be hit up for 200 buck ETF. She puffed out of the store yelling at people to dump sprint. blah blah blah.. Ok, I'm sure if Sprint gave people free service.. they would still find somthing to cry about. Sounds like you are making half your crap up. I've had ATT and Sprint for years and never had a problem. Maybe you should just buy a pay as you go and deal with it.... just a suggestion.. :-)
Posted by dlikens (3 comments )
Link Flag
Use as a PHONE only
I have a Cingular family plan to be used for voice only . The first thing I did was to diaable all internet and IM for the phones. You can do this at any Cingular store or over the phone with customer service. The phone buttons and menus are designed to get you on the net to generate revenue. Cut it off immediately and you will have no billing problems.
Posted by kdrobb2k (25 comments )
Link Flag
I will never understand&
I'm a young guy, 25, so I should be in this age group of people
that go for the "coolest" phones and stuff. And I have to admit
some of the new phones are really cool and can do a lot of stuff,
however, I don't see a point in buying a phone with all that
"stuff" on it. I normally get the "free" phone my carrier has
whenever its time to upgrade, and its not because thats all I can
afford. I could get the "cool new smart phone" but why??? Most
people I know end up carrying laptops with them now, I know I
do. So whats the point of having all the extra stuff on your
phone to slow down performance. I simply want my phone to
make a call when I need it to, thats all.
Posted by jones_8099 (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not just a Junkie but a retard
Papadopoulos is in real need of some meds. Talking smack about any company and not offering up proof to what the "problem" was just shows his credibility is ZERO. Come'on CNET.. you can do better then this. Give this guy a sucker and move on.
Posted by dlikens (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hello from The Cell Phone Junkie
Mickey here from "The Cell Phone Junkie" (www.thecellphonejunkie.com). Nice to see some confessions from other junkies out there. Maggie: Kudos to you for a great story!
Posted by gt2697 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hello from The Cell Phone Junkie
Mickey here from "The Cell Phone Junkie" (www.thecellphonejunkie.com). Nice to see some confessions from other junkies out there. Maggie: Kudos to you for a great story!
Posted by gt2697 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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