Our 12 days of perfect Christmas planning today tackles one of the more common present options: giving a mobile phone. It’s a popular and often welcome choice, but make sure it really is the gift that keeps on giving by working through this checklist.
Picture by Johan Larsson
We singled out some Android phones as part of our gift guide listings, but the principles that we’re outlining here would apply to an iPhone, a no-name cheapy or a shiny new Windows Phone 7 device.
For the most part, we’re assuming you’ll be looking at a standalone phone unless you’re so monumentally generous that you’re prepared to pay cap plan bills over a 12-month or 24-month period. (Parents of teenage children are the most obvious group for that kind of behaviour.) If you are thinking of a postpaid gift, check out our Planhacker guides for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry.
Match the phone to the recipient
You might love your touch-screen phone, but that doesn’t mean your grandmother will. Someone who hasn’t wanted a mobile phone at all before may fiercely resist the idea of a device that offers complex features. Conversely, a teenager given a dirt-cheap Symbian phone may also look at you in disgust. As you would with any gift, make sure it’s appropriate — and if the recipient isn’t tech-savvy, make sure you can spend some time helping them set it up.
Make sure you’re not setting up bill shock
One of the fastest ways to blow out your phone bill is to access data services at casual rates. If your recipient is moving from a basic text-and-MMS phone to something with Internet browsing, make sure they’re aware that using their shiny new browser is likely to be very expensive.
Check for network lock issues
An outright purchase phone shouldn’t be locked to a specific network, but it’s still not unheard of. Some devices can be unlocked for no cost; some impose a charge, either directly or by imposing a minimum recharge before unlocking is offered. Make sure you check before purchasing it, especially if your recipient will be transferring their existing SIM card into the new gift.
Consider network reception problems
If the recipient doesn’t have a phone already and you’re including a prepaid SIM, try and check that the network you have in mind works at the recipient’s home. Black spots happen with every network, so investigate ahead of time if at all possible.
Be careful with warranty, network and power issues
If you’ve travelled during the year, you may have been tempted to pick up a mobile device overseas — or you might just prefer the prices you can get a shiny new Android device for as a grey import. Make sure that the phone still has a reasonable warranty (though you might not worry about this if it’s a very cheap phone), that it works on the appropriate network bandwidths for Australia, and that your recipient doesn’t mind having to use an overseas power adaptor to charge their new gift.
Lifehacker’s weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.