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August 25, 2008

Tip of the Day : AT&T Contracts & Nokia NSeries

by Ms. Jen

Hi, my name is Ms. Jen and I am a moblogger*.  If you want to be specific, a mo-pho-blogger (mobile photo blogger).  Darla and Matthew have kindly invited me on board here as a guest blogger. 

I will keep my first post short & sweet, but giving you my tip of the day: How to sign up for a plan without a 24 month contract with AT&T Wireless in the US. 

How? Easy.  Buy your own Nokia Nseries phone and let the Sales Human at the AT&T store that you just want to get a sim chip and plan for it with no contract. 

Ok, maybe not so easy.  The sales human may try to sell you an AT&T branded phone from the store on top of your desired call & data plan. Resist.  Bless AT&T, but at current time they are not carrying any Nokia Nseries phones due to the fact that Nokia will not back down on disabling the GPS & Mapping features (go Nokia!).  AT&T would like to sell their own navigation/mapping solution for an extra $30 a month. 

As an aside, let's do the math here (as of Aug. 2008):

Cheapest Apple iPhone is $199 with the mandatory 24 month AT&T contract (in the US).  But you also have to pay AT&T $30 extra dollars per month for their GPS/Maps feature beyond one's phone & data plan, which is an additional $720 over the course of the 24 months.  $199 + $720 = $919 (real price of iPhone with GPS)

Cheapest Nokia N82 purchased on Amazon.com at the beginnging of August during a sale is/was $379**.  A Nokia purchased outside of AT&T does not have disabled features, thus the GPS and mapping is free. 
Thus the real price over the course of the device's lifetime is $379. 

In my world as a photographer a Nokia with a 5 megapixel camera for $379 is a much better deal than a 2 megapixel iPhone for $919.

Now to get back to my point, if you show up at the AT&T store (or T-Mobile) with your own unlocked device, then you don't need to be in a contract. Multiple month contracts are a way for the carrier/operator to make their money back from subsidizing the cost of the mobile device.  Last week, when my Mom and I went into the local AT&T store to purchase a sim chip and get a plan for her new Nokia N82 the sales support representative was very helpful and pointed out to us that he was taking off the 24 month contract requirement before I had to mention it.

If the AT&T sales human that you are purchasing a plan from does not rightly see the above logic, then find the manager to eliminate any contract requirement for a person with their own phone.  The sales human will still get their commission regardless if you are in a contract or not, appeal to their finer nature.

* By trade I am a web designer & developer, educator and writer, by love I am a professional art weirdo.

** If you gasped at the cheap price for the Nokia N82, start watching Amazon's prices on Friday through Saturdays, that is when they seem to drop significantly.  If I wanted to switch my Mom over from an evil little flip phone on Verizon, I had to find a similar price to what Verizon charged her two years ago.  Now she is free.


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See TabletBlog today? ;)

Ms. Jen

Hi Thoughtfix,

Read your post on the iPhone. I have a lot of Apple fanboy friends who are determined to think the problem with dropped calls lies with AT&T and not the iPhone, but I am on AT&T and I don't have the same problems in the same network area (south LA county & north Orange County).

I suggested to a few of them that maybe it was with the Apple hardware and I was called a heretic. But I am also the same person who likes to wait for the 2nd or 3rd iteration of a device before I buy. I waited over a year before getting my MacBook Pro and have not had any of the problems that the first year folk had.

Though I did purchase my N95 as the first version and over a year later the N95-1 is still ticking along happily with a few DIY repairs.

smiles, jen ;o)


Welcome Jen. Looks like you're another that can play the networks. One thing I've found in the UK is that custom firmware on phones usually plays a big hand in the networks tracking their "fair usage" limits on so called unlimited data so a non-branded phone comes in handy there too.

PS - you ever described yourself as a "mo-pho" for short? LOL

Robert H

I personally own an N95, but am a bit confused about what you were saying regarding the iPhone cost. The $30/month is for the 3G data plan for the iPhone 3G, I thought - not for the mapping program. The only current mapping program is Google Maps, which is on both the original and 3G iPhone. And the $30/month is on top of your voice plan.
I know a few people looking at getting the iPhone, so if there really is some extra $30/month to use the GPS/Google Maps, please show me where that is, since I thought that it was now the same $30/month you would pay for data on anything else, like an N95.


Another AT&T Tip:

Replacement SIM cards are free at corporate stores. Franchise stores will charge prices varying from as little as $5 to as much as $25, at least from what I have seen. Also, equipment purchased at corporate stores can be exchanged if defective at any other corporate store. Equipment purchased at a franchise location will typically only be exchangeable at that specific location.

The lesson here is, corporate stores will tend to be more consistent. Not necessarily more friendly, cheaper, or even more helpful, just more consistent.

Bob Kaneko

I too am curious about the extra $30 mentioned for maps/GPS use "beyond one's phone & data plan." I have not seen this charge mentioned anywhere beyond this blog entry. GPS doesn't cost anything to use. Google maps doesn't have a charge beyond the data it uses and that data is included in the iPhone's data plan.

I also don't know that the comments about the N82 are entirely accurate. Nokias purchased outside AT&T do have disabled features. You don't have turn-by-turn voice unless you subscribe to it. (As an owner of an N95, that irritates me. I can get turn-by-turn voice for free from my $100 Garmin, but not from my $500 Nokia.)In addition, there are limitations to Maps 2.0 if you don't have a data plan. If you do, then you are paying the data rates just as you would with the iPhone. Of course, you can get a data rate at $15/month instead of $30/month, so I guess that is a savings.

A better comparison would be $199+$720=$919 for iPhone and data. $379+$360=$739 for N82 and data. The N82 advantages are that you can terminate the data (or voice) at any time you want without penalty and you can use Maps 2.0, Google Maps, and AmazeGPS for navigation. It's not quite as easy to use, but you have a lot more choice at a lower cost.


The charges for Nokia Maps only applies if you want voice guidance or turn by turn directions while driving. Maps 2 implies you need it more than the previous version but it is still option.

Bob Kaneko

Both Maps 2 and Maps 1 require the charge if you want voice guidance, so it doesn't really matter which version you are using. Either way, I still think it's wrong to have to pay for that feature on a $500 device when I can get it for free on a $150 device from another manufacturer.

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