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Christmas mobile? Don't buy a turkey


A phone is for 18 months, not just for Christmas

Up to a million unwary Christmas shoppers risk committing themselves to hundreds of pounds of payments for new mobile phones which will be obsolete within months.

Although figures show that most people in the UK that want a mobile phone already own one, they remain one of the most popular Christmas presents - and anywhere up to a million will be bought in the UK in the run-up to Christmas.  In particular this year, operators have promoted the idea of the 'mobile Internet', which means people can use their mobile to surf the web, download music, use Facebook, watch television programmes and make cheap mobile calls via the Internet.

But experts at mobile Internet calls company Truphone warned today that up to 75% of shoppers will buy a phone that won't let them do all these things.  Hundreds of thousands will lock themselves out of the coming mobile Internet revolution until the middle of 2009 by locking themselves into an 18 month contract for a handset that is not fully Internet-ready.

By contrast, a new breed of handsets known as 'smartphones' are more like handheld, Internet-powered, Wi-Fi-equipped computers than simple mobile phones and make the mobile Internet a reality.  Disastrously, however, less than 25% of mobile phones sold in the UK are smartphones, despite the fact that they are widely available at subsidised prices with a contract.

James Tagg, chief executive of Truphone, advises shoppers both to add up the lifetime cost of their contract and to choose a phone that won't be obsolete within a few months.

"The mobile Internet is amazing - watching TV on your mobile on the bus and making free mobile calls over Wi-Fi from a coffee shop are both things you can do today.  But these are going to remain out of reach of most people for the next two years unless they're encouraged to buy the phones that can actually use the mobile Internet to its potential.  Yes, many people will spend hard-earned money on uncomplicated pay-as-you-go phone models because they're not interested in anything except phone calls, but many others will commit to paying £20, £30 or even more per month for the next 18 months for a phone that means they'll still be left out of the fun and cut out of the savings," he said.

"Our advice is clear: get yourself one of the latest cool breeds of smartphone.  You wouldn't buy a TV that isn't HD-ready these days, so don't buy a mobile phone that isn't Internet-ready.  Remind yourself that you'll almost inevitably want to use it to do 'cool' things over the 18 months you'll be paying for it."

Truphone's top tips

1. Don't buy a phone that isn't Internet-ready.  You wouldn't buy a TV that isn't HD-ready.
2. Consider the lifetime cost of your phone and shop around.  It's possible to get a fully Internet-ready smartphone for the same outlay as an ordinary phone
3. Remember that contracts are now usually 18 months long, not 12
4. Ask about the cool things you can already do with the mobile Internet today
5. Consider buying SIM-free if you don't want to be locked in to a new 18-month contract with your operator and for the widest choice of handsets

Notes to editors

1. One million mobile phones are expected to be sold in the UK in Q4 2007 (source: PocketPicks), giving an annualised total for 2007 of 4m phones.  Total volume of smartphone sales in the UK in 2007 is predicted to be 920,000 units (source: GfK).  Therefore, approximately 23% of handsets sold in the UK during 2007 will be smartphone; 77% will not.
2. The new Nokia N81 smartphone is available from O2 at three different prices: for free with a £50/month, 18 month contract; for £19.99 with a £35/month, 18 month contract; or for £89.99 with a £25/month, 18 month contract (source: O2 website, as at 30/11/07).
3. There is no industry-standard definition of a smartphone.  Wikipedia says that "a smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities beyond a typical mobile phone, often with PC-like functionality."
4. Worldwide, 289.1m handsets were shipped between July and September 2007 (source: IDC).  Of that 289.1m, 20.4m handsets were Symbian-based smartphones (source: Symbian).  Symbian has a smartphone market share of approximately 70% (source: Symbian).  Therefore approximately 28m of the 289.1m handsets shipped - less than 10% - were smartphones.
5. Photo to accompany this story
6. Truphone pictures
7. Truphone videos

About Truphone

Truphone is the mobile operator for the Internet age.  Its service provides free and low-cost calls for customers by routing their mobile phone calls via Wi-Fi and the Internet.  For more information visit and