I posted an amazing deal I got on a brand new android smart phone in my latest How To Save Money Radar. But, since this is such a smoking hot deal, I thought I should write a separate post with a step by step guide on how to get one yourself before this offer expires on March 31st, 2011 along with answering some common questions!
First things first, I want to make sure everyone understands that modern smart phones do not really cost between $0 and $100, which is what you see them typically advertised for. They actually cost more than $500 if you don’t want to be tied down with a 3 year contract. Some people don’t look at a 3 year contract as a big deal, but it is a big deal and here’s why:
- Contracts eliminate your negotiating power and you can usually negotiate with retentions to save an enormous amount off your monthly bill if you aren’t under contract.
- Contracts with smartphones often force you into an expensive monthly plan in addition to an expensive data plan totalling more than $50/month to get the cheap phone price.
- Contracts stop you from switching to another provider that better meets your needs or that has better prices.
- This is especially bad when a great promotion comes along and you want to switch.
- Many prepaid companies offer outstanding value for savvy consumers and light users ($8.50 per month or less).
- Contracts stop you from changing your phone whenever you want if you don’t like it or a newer model comes out that you really want.
- If your phone dies out of warranty or you drop it, lose it, or otherwise break it then you are on the hook for the full cost of replacing it!
- Contracts have huge cancellation fees (up to $400) if you need to get out of it because you are moving out of the country or to a place that doesn’t have service from your provider.
The Phone: LG Optimus One
The LG Optimus One is an Android smartphone that ships with Android 2.2 installed right out of the box. Many smartphones are still shipping with Android 2.1 or earlier and it also has a scheduled upgrade to Android 2.3 to be released in May of this year. At first, I was skeptical about the phone because I didn’t think it had the horsepower and specs to perform well compared to the higher end android phones that are out there, but after using it for a few days, I admit I was dead wrong. This phone is amazing!
What Exactly Is The Phone Missing?
There are only a few small differences between the LG Optimus One and other smart phones that would cost you up to $600 if you were to buy them without a contract.
- The processor is 600MHz. Higher end phones typically having a 1GHz processor.
- The included camera is only 3.2 megapixel with no LED flash. Higher end phones may have a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash.
- The screen is only 3.2” big with a 320x480 resolution. Higher end phones are up to 4” with a 480x800 resolution.
- Data speeds are a bit slower but still very fast 3G HSDPA.
- The processor doesn’t support flash but the amount of scenarios where this is required are minimal.
- Unfortunately, no track ball or optical mouse is included.
So those 6 things may sound like a big deal, but in practice they really aren’t. I personally prefer the smaller screen size because it fits in the pocket nicely and with the fluid pinch and zoom it makes browsing the web very easy. I’m accustomed to a 2.7” screen myself on my old HTC Touch so it is actually a nice improvement for me. I also don’t find the camera to be a big deal because no one has made a phone with a truly capable camera in it to date. Until that happens, phones are only good for the odd snapshot when you don’t have your real digicam with you.
Moreover, I find the phone to be very snappy with no noticeable lag, even with lots of applications running in the background, so the 400MHz in lacking processor power isn’t much of an issue either. The 3G data capabilities of the phone allow it to stream music and video just fine as well, so I also find that to be a non-issue.
The only thing in the above list that I find truly important is the lack of a track ball or optical mouse. 90% of the time you don’t need it, but 10% of the time when you are typing a message and you need to quickly jump around to make an edit, it can be very frustrating to try and squeeze between letters with your finger. If the word you are trying to get at is off screen, forget about scrolling there with your finger – you might as well just start over. This could easily be fixed by having arrow keys on the keyboard, which the default android keyboard lacks. However, I’m sure there are 3rd party keyboards downloadable from the app store that can easily solve this problem.
These small sacrifices are definitely worth it to be free of a contract without having to paid more than $500 for the phone!
Extremely Positive Reviews
I am not the only one that gives this phone extremely positive reviews, but professional critics also rate the phone very highly and, even better, other consumers tend to rank it higher than the vast majority of the more expensive smart phones out there. It just works and performs well all around.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the battery life, it is fantastic for a smart phone! The smaller screen and slower processor really help with this too. Today, I was streaming music for a good 2 hours after having used the phone moderately during the morning and it was still showing 76% battery after all of that! My last phone would have already chewed through 100% of its battery and probably part of a second one doing the same activities in that timeframe!
If you want to read some reviews yourself, here are some good ones:
The Amazing Koodo Deal
So, by now, you’re probably dying to know exactly how the deal works! Here’s how:
Koodo Has No Contracts
Koodo is a budget cell phone provider owned by Telus that has no contracts on any phone you buy from them. Normally their phones are slightly cheaper than the no contract price found at other providers and in additional to that you can cut the price down even further by adding a “tab” of up to $150. A tab is an IOU put on your account that you have to pay back when you cancel your service. 10% of the amount you spend on your monthly bill goes toward paying down your tab, so if you stay with Koodo long enough your tab will eventually get paid off and you will owe nothing.
This is the foundation of this deal because it means you can sign up with them, get a brand new phone, pay for one month of service, and then cancel your plan and walk away owning the phone. You could even cancel your plan immediately if you can talk a CSR into doing it for you.
LG Optimus One Goes On Sale
Koodo’s regular price of the Optimus One is $250, which is already a fantastic price! However, they put it on sale for $200 recently and then as of March 18th they launched an even better sale dropping the price to $150. If you apply the $150 tab, that brings the phone down to $0 – but that is optional and will have to be paid back if and when you cancel.
$100 Promotional Visa Gift Card
To sweeten things even more, Koodo is running a concurrent gift card offer where they will give you $100 in Visa gift cards if you buy and activate this phone before March 31, 2011. That bring the final price down to $150 + tax = $169.50 - $100 = $69.50 (13% HST was used in this calculation). You have to calculate the tax on the $150 because you don’t save any tax with the $100 Visa gift card.
It’s also useful to note that some people have been successful in getting the store reps to use the $100 visa gift cards to pay down the remaining cost of the phone if you don’t use the tab. Your mileage may vary here as some people have also been refused. Personally, I plan to use the $100 to simply buy gas for my car so it didn’t matter to me either way.
The only way to get the $100 Visa gift card is by buying at a Koodo kiosk or buying online from Koodomobile.com. If you buy online, you won’t get the Visa gift card immediately, but after 4-6 weeks so you may have to remain a customer for a few months before leaving if you plan to move the phone to another provider.
$25 Referral Credit
The title of this post says $50, but you can actually save even more money by getting an existing Koodo customer to refer you. If you sign up using a referral, your account and the referrer’s account will be given a $25 credit that can be used towards paying off your tab after 4-6 weeks.
If you would like to take this extra step, then I would be happy to refer you. Please email me your First Name, Last Name, and email address so I can send you a referral email which you can use to sign up either online or in-store at a kiosk.
What do I need to know about cancelling my Koodo service?
First of all, you need to give 30 days notice upon cancelling your service. Some people have been able to get around this by cancelling within 14 days under the satisfaction guarantee, but if you try to do this they will probably try to get you to return the phone along with the Visa gift card. So, if you wish to cancel, remember to call them and give them your notice as soon as possible. If you are under 14 days as a customer, they may give you increased hassle. To avoid this, wait 15 days and then call and give your cancellation notice. That means you will have service with them for about 45 days.
Note: I've actually read now that they prorate your bill so you may only end up paying for the number of days of service you actually use (15 in the example above) even though their terms say you need to give 30 days cancellation notice. When talking to one of their CSRs, he told me a similar story. I wouldn't count on them not enforcing the 30 days cancellation policy, but you could very well get lucky.
Do I absolutely need to have a credit check done?
Yes. Even if you opt not to use the tab and pay for the phone upfront, you need to have a credit check done. The reason for this is that Koodo is a postpaid cell phone service provider, which means they provide you the service first and then they bill you later. They need to make sure you are credit worthy and capable of paying before they will provide a service to you without making you pay anything upfront.
You also have to actually activate the phone to get the $100 Visa gift card and to get the phone at the advertised price. There is actually a difference between the month-to-month (no contract) price and just buying the phone outright. Koodo might not even be willing to sell you the phone outright without activating it on their network first.
Can I and do I need to port my number to Koodo?
Yes you can, and no you don’t need to. If you wish, you can continue on with your existing service with your old provider and just create a brand new number with Koodo even if you don’t intend to use it. You can then unlock the phone and put in the SIM card for whatever provider you want immediately and it should work. If you plan to use it for internet, you may need to program the APN settings. Call your service provider for more details on this if it doesn’t work immediately.
How do I unlock the phone? Is it difficult? How much does it cost?
First, unlocking a phone simply means removing a software restriction that prevents the phone from being used with another service provider. Once the phone is unlocked, it can be used with any service provider that offers SIM cards and uses one of the wireless frequencies offered by the LG Optimums One. Fortunately, almost all Canadian providers now offers SIM cards and support the wireless bands that the phone offers. The two notable exceptions are Mobilicity and Wind, which use a special radio frequency that most phone do not support.
Unlocking a phone is dead easy and simply involved entering a special number into the phone. These numbers are calculated based on the IMEI (like a serial number) of your unique phone. Many people offer unlocking services that can give your the correct number for your phone. Here are two sources I’ve seen referenced:
- Unlock for $10 via Ebay seller
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org and give them your phone model (LG P500H) and your IMEI number (usually found on the box or under the battery).
- This should also be about $10.
Will I get in trouble for doing this?
You shouldn’t get in trouble at all for doing this. Koodo may not be very happy with you if you decide to cancel, but it is perfectly within your rights to do so because you are not under any obligation to continue with them without having signed a contract.
What are some cheap cell phone providers I can use this phone with?
Everyone’s needs are different. However, I would say the best bang for your buck is to sign up for prepaid service with either 7-11 Speakout Wireless, Petro Canada Mobility, or President’s Choice Telecom.
The reason I recommend these three is they all offer $100 top up cards with a 365 days (1 year) expiry. This means that you can have cell phone service for only $8.50 per month! The all comes with caller ID and voicemail included and you only pay for what you use. Calls usually cost about $0.25 per minute. Incoming texts are usually free and outgoing texts are as lows as $0.10. President’s Choice may actually be the best choice because I believe they allow you to purchase a SIM card without purchasing an actual phone, which is much cheaper.
The other two Petro Canada forces you to buy the phone to get the SIM card, which you can take out and then resell the phone through Kijiji. There is also a rumour that you can get the $7 unlimited mobile browser data plan offered by President’s Choice to work on this phone, but proceed with that at your own risk.
If you are a heavy talker or want a full blown internet plan, then you may need to go with a postpaid provider, but at least you won’t need to sign up for a contract!
Update: Jeff in comment #5 points out that it is now possible to buy just a SIM card with Speakout Wireless as well.
How did I discover this deal?
I found out about this deal through a couple of threads in the RedFlagDeals hot deals forum. If you want all the details you can read through the lengthy threads yourself. The provide lots of useful tips, most of which I have tried to summarize in this post. If you are trying to do something extra tricky, it would likely help you to read through them:
If you have any questions, please post in the comments and I will do my best to promptly respond with an answer!