An Unexpected Lesson Learned

The difference between US and UK phone companies.
May 17, 2016

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When I woke up this morning, I expected that I would end writing about our morning trip to the Belfast Titanic museum, just as everyone else. However, I ended up learning so much more about the differences in the UK’s and US’ mass media  when I visited Three UK, a local mobile phone company. What I learned has completely changed the way I see American phone companies, and has given me an extreme determination to outsmart them.

As most of you are probably aware, it is common practice in the United States to purchase a smartphone on a payment plan; you pay a smaller fee upfront and then pay off the remaining balance over a two-year contract. When you do this, you are bound to your carrier either until your two years are up or until you choose to pay some nasty early termination fees. You could buy your phone unlocked to begin with, but this is a much more expensive option, and it doesn’t seem to have any advertised benefits anyways, so you go with the two-year contract plan. For many, this contract deal isn’t a problem; who needs to change their carrier more than every two years anyway? That is the only benefit of buying an unlocked phone, right?

Wrong. When you sign up for a two-year contract with a carrier, you are not only locked in to using their service and their service only, but you also don’t own your phone until all fees are paid.

What? You mean my iPhone is actually theirPhone?

If you still have a payable balance on your device, you are basically just renting your phone from your carrier. And even when two years are up and you’ve paid for the device in full, your carrier could still hold your phone hostage.

Fortunately, some carriers are more compassionate than others (I’m looking at you, Verizon 😘) and will unlock phones by request for no charge. Unfortunately, some carriers are money mongers and will act like they’re helping you by offering alternatives to unlocking your phone (yeah AT&T, this one’s about you). They’ll offer you 300MB of international data for $60 (£41.51) and international calls for $0.50/minute. To the uninformed, it may seem like they’re helping you and giving you a good deal. To those who have done their research, they’ll see that AT&T is ripping you off, not only on this plan, but on everything else.

Three, a mobile phone company here in the UK, offers all-you-can-eat data and 200 minutes (local) to be used in a one-month time frame for only $33.25 (£23). Seem like a deal that’s too good to be true?

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Wrong again. Most carriers in the UK offer deals like this for a low price. And their service can be accessed in different countries around the world for no extra charge at all!

From what I’ve seen today, US cell phone carriers work together to rip us off. There is no reason that mobile service should be as high as it is per month in the US. And there is no reason that AT&T should be preventing me from taking advantage of the great deals here. I will find a way around this buffoonery if it’s the last thing I do. And on that note, I leave you with one parting message: don’t do business with AT&T. Ever.

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