Inside Look into a Guy's Mind when Shopping for a Smartphone

Galaxy 3.5mm jack closeup
Source: Kai Hendry

I don't know if you've ever bought an item which took you ages to pick, that's special to you and that even the day you bought it you distinctly remember? Well, I recently bought a smart phone and my experience was a bit of everything: I was excited, it was cool, the staff were fun and friendly, and to cap it all off, I still feel pretty good about the whole purchase. Well, kind of. But let's do this in the proper way; let me tell you the story.

Well, before I entered the VirginMobile store in Sydney on an overcast day, I had been thinking about getting a new phone. I had been looking for a phone which would do simple things like organise contact info nicely, send group SMS smoothly and have internet access-- the last detail being something which, until recently, hadn't been on my priority list. I was feeling adventurous, relaxed (on holiday, having just arrived back in Down Under from France) and calculating. I actually generally don't walk into a store unless I have a pretty good idea what I want and if the price is right (*Cymbal clash* if you got the reference). I guess you could say that I'm the stereotypical Aussie guy when it comes to shopping. Sorry to those who like stereotypes, this wasn't my day to shine, at least not very brightly where you'd expect an average 'guy transaction' from hey-to-pay to last 2.13 minutes. No kidding!

If you've ever been into a typical phone store, vaguely shopping for something to do the job, you'll know the feeling of being overwhelmed. There is so much choice! Wouldn't it be simpler if they just sold 3 options? No,oh, no. That would be too simple. No, I'd imagine that it's possible to buy at least 100 different models from an average phone store, albeit not all of the models are on the shelves. Want a phone that looks nice? Well, nowadays with smartphones, graphics has come a long way. So have phone shapes! Remember the old days of 'the brick'? No one? Me neither. Wrong generation. But OK, remember the days of monochrome Nokia screens? Those were the days...

But you most probably won't see one of those in a Sydney central phone store these days. No way hosey. Sleek, rounded phone shells; displays of Apps (applications) which at the flick of a finger scroll down the screen; customisable Android interfaces (sorry iPhone users, one day, one day...); ridiculous polyphonic ringtones; an App market which, upon clicking, leads you to the wonderful world of bonus features to your phone. If you get a smartphone, you can update your friends on your every movement, feeling, idea, luxury purchase,etc. through Twitter, Facebook and other Apps which encourage 'on-the-move updates'. Or you can just catch up on the blogs or news headlines which tickle your fancy. It's all wrapped up in this little package called a smart phone.

Blue Jay Fluff
The blue jay which inspired the Twitter logo maybe? Source: Dawn Huczek

So I was asking myself the question, sub-consciously, while shopping, 'Is this really that smart, to buy this phone?' I wanted to pick one which did the job, for sure, but also made it easier and faster. And more fun? More personalised? What features do I need and what can I do without? It's a very subjective question, these days. It seemed to me that this is how the uni-age staff that I bumped into that day talk about phones, and frankly, about life in general. Get lots of experiences under you arm early--who know when it will all end? Have an attitude, a persona. Buy things which 'are you'.  Be yourself. The personalisation and upgrading of your phone is like an extension of those two ideas.

Well, I knew what I needed. At least, I thought I did. I didn't want the post-paid plan to be too pricey, so probably about a 29 Cap ($29/month). This would allow me to practically make as many SMS as I liked and a bit more chilled about phone calls, within reason. With the plans I started looking at quite closely, a data usage allowance was given which seemed like a really attractive bonus. What a great deal for only $29/month! (But we all know there's always a catch. If you just so happen to go over your data limit without any data plan add-ons, you could be paying $2 every MB that you download. That's seriously expensive. I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say, the phone companies know what they're doing. They've crunched their numbers. For the record, I accidentally exceeded my limit the first month I got my phone and I got pinged $140 on top of my plan. Ouch! Won't do that again. )

Asking the question 'do I really need this' has often resulting in avoiding impulse buying on my part, one of the many lessons which my mum has taught me, bless 'er heart. But this was, well, different. Or so I began telling myself. I wanted a phone that felt good, slid into my palm, that looked good, was fast with running Apps, internet search as well as my other perceived needs. And so after a good 3 hours of shopping, I finally settled on the Samsung Galaxy S1. It's a beauty. And so the questions I ended up asking weren't the questions I initially had.

I can describe the excitement with which I opened the box a day after, glee written across my face. I delicately lifted out the manual, the cables and other miscellaneous pieces after having popped out the main show, the Galaxy. Often when it comes to things we anticipate there's more than a smattering of waiting involved. This was no different. I needed to charge the phone before starting to use it. Also, many of my contacts were on my old SIM card. In addition to that, I'm the personality type which actually reads the manual (hard to believe anyone does this, I know!) I waited quite a while before I started actually using the thing. It was worth it. Nevertheless, like the opening of my phone box, often in life our grand expectations don't quite match up with the reality check.

We expect that the product will be amazing, incredible--even...dare I say it...change our lives! But it isn't and it doesn't. Sure, it saves time, but we lose interest or it has problems or it gets a scratch on the screen--all things which do happen eventually and do act as a bit of a damper to our fine hopes. Mind you, the Galaxy S1 is a sweet phone. I was feeling quite pleased about my purchase for ages after, actually. Well, until a staff worker at Vodaphone asked me nonchalantly what plan I had got with Virgin. I said the 29 Cap with the Galaxy S1. He said, 'Oh shame. Vodaphone has just release the S2 for 29 Cap. But oh well, the S1 is still a good phone.' Thanks Mr. Vodaphone. Thanks very much for validating my purchase. Just after telling me that I had been sold short! Haha. Actually, I was fine about it--it was more bemusement and reflection that a staffer would actually say that. And then cover it up with nice sounding comments, hiding that fact that dissatifaction is built into the industry. Into our cultural pysche.

In summary, Samsung Galaxy S1 is a great phone for those into organising events, sending lots of SMS, surfing on internet as well as having a pretty interface to work with. As a reflection, it seems a good question to ask ourselves why we are buying something--is it because of status or hype? Or is it actually the best item I can buy, given my budget and time limitations,etc?

Firmware Flash of Android Smartphone Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9000 with Odin
Source: Fraencko

Fun facts

1. Nowadays, I am way more observant about what people are sayin about their phones, who has smartphones (usually iPhones mind you) and generally have normalised smart phones in my mind, now that I have one! I've observed the same phenomenon with cars (buy a Toyota and you start seeing Toyotas...) and other bits of tech--weird! You experienced that too?

2. I've found that it's often useful to go online to show a friend something such as a pic on Facebook using my smartphone--it's convenient! But hey, it's not a necessity though. It's a bonus, something I need to remind myself. Actually, dare I say it, aren't mobile phones  bonuses too, rather than necessities?

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