Why I Didn’t Get the Free iPhone (AKA How a Tightwad Makes Decisions)

Remember when I posted about the free iPhone 3Gs that Best Buy was giving away a few weeks ago? The catch was that you had to sign up for a two-year contract with AT&T.

I was really tempted by this offer. REALLY TEMPTED. I had already been toying with the idea of getting a smart phone for a few weeks. And most new iPhone users have to sign up for a two-year contract anyway, but they don’t get the phone for free, so it seemed like a win-win.

And yet, I didn’t end up going for it.

Since a couple of you had asked me to update you on my decision, I thought I’d share a little insight into how I — AKA the over-thinking tightwad — make big-ticket decisions.

1. I got onto Google right after I posted that deal to find out more about the particular phone. I learned that the technology was a year and a half old, and a bunch of techie message boards were hypothesizing about how Apple was going to phase it out altogether once the 4G stuff was fully deployed. Or something like that. I have ZERO knowledge about technology but this seemed to make sense.

2. Next, I figured out EXACTLY how much the contract was going to cost me on a monthly basis. This post from About.com’s Guide to Cellphones was helpful. I realized that we were probably talking about a minimum of $65 a month above and beyond what we were already spending for our current service (which is phone only – no data nor texting).

For us, $65 a month is a lot of money – especially for a non-essential. We don’t even have cable, so blowing that much on my having a fun little phone? It seemed crazy.

Plus, I really feel itchy about contracts. Anything that locks me into payments feels too much like debt. So, being locked into 24 months of $65 a month suddenly made that phone feel like a ball and chain.

3. Based on #1 and #2, I was clearly thinking that the phone was a no. And yet, there was something bugging me still. When we traveled for Thanksgiving, it drove me nuts to be in the car for 10 hours and not be connected. (Yes, I realize that may not paint me in such a positive light. What can I say? Other than Shabbat, I find being unplugged unnerving.)

I don’t need to check emails at the post office or update my Facebook page at the dentist office. I’ll leave that stuff to the Gen Yers. What I do need is to NOT waste 10 hours in the car, when I could be writing for my freelance gigs or posting to KOAB. In this day in age, I can’t write without being online. I need to quick check facts, link to coupons or just email a finished article to a client.

And maybe I’m just too old, but I find that I need an actual, full-sized keyboard to do my writing. A 140-character Tweet I can do with those itty bitty keys. But an actual 500-word post? No way.

I borrowed my dad’s 3G iPad for a day, to see how that would work for me. At first it seemed like a good option, since once you buy the iPad itself, you can sign up for service on an as-needed basis. When I know we’re going to be traveling, I can get a month’s worth of 3G. But the rest of the time, I can skip the service and just use free WiFi.

But after using the iPad — which admittedly, is a VERY cool gadget! — for a few hours, I realized that I still felt it was too limiting with the lack of a real keyboard. Yes, I really am that old school.

4. It finally dawned on me that what I really want and need is something that will make my MacBook wireless. Kazaam! There actually is something that will do that!  And it’s not going to cost me $65 a month.

I am now in the process of talking to companies like Cricket, Clear and Verizon about getting wireless 3G (or 4G – although it doesn’t seem to extend to my area yet, at least according to Clear) connectivity for my MacBook. I may have a service contract, although I won’t be locked in and it won’t cost nearly as much as the iPhone.

Hooray! I get to be online wherever and whenever I want, without having to adapt to all these new fangled gadgets ;-).

Well there you have it: How an over-thinking, tightwad who’s mildly phobic about new technology decides not to get an iPhone.

I’d love to hear from you now: How do you make decisions about adapting new technology? What premium are you willing to pay for being connected? Do you like being unplugged or do you also find it unnerving?


  1. Mara, I’ve had a Verizon wireless card for about 6 years b/c I used to travel a lot. Although I don’t travel as much I’ve kept the card so that my Mac would always be able to get online. Now that there is more free WiFi I don’t use it as much but I keep it because there are times when we travel that I’d rather not pay $15/day for internet and in just a few days my card pays for itself each month.

    I just switched over to the Verizon MiFi because we now have 2 Macs, 2 iPads and 2 iPhones and 1 Blackberry when we travel. The MiFi gets 5 devices connected at the same time, which in just one day traveling saves me more than the monthly fee.

    If you have multiple devices, get the MiFi. If you have just one laptop, the broadband 3G/4G from Verizon. Both are AWESOME!!!

    • Thank you so much, Sara. I think we aren’t quite ready for the MiFi – just two devices (laptops)… but this information was very helpful (and your tweets the other day).

  2. I am looking at the same thing (note that I am currently at an airport with free wireless). No more wifi, only pure clean 3G/4G wireless. Make sure you keep the rest of us informed when you figure out who is king of this mighty little hill.

  3. As a technical support person, I’m glad you made the decision you did. You determined what your needs REALLY are, and made a rational decision based on that. If only more people would make those types of decisions.

    I’m also really glad that those options exist today. Thanks to companies like Apple and Google, the one-size-fits-most-and-everyone-else-can-go-soak mentality is disappearing. Real wireless options have existed in Europe and Asia for over a decade, but North America has taken a very long time to catch up.

    • Thanks so much, Beilah – I really appreciate your kind words! Very much appreciate the innovation, but agree that it can’t be one-size-fits-all.

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