Phones cheaper than cake; good or bad?


Should something like a mobile phone be sold for less than £10, or is this just the way of the world?

I was wandering around my local ASDA the other night, hunting down any sneaky bargains and generally killing time, when I came across a startling sight. There was a giant heap of boxed Samsung E1120’s, for a jaw dropping £10 each! OK, the E1120 is only the most basic of basic phones, and it’s on Orange PAYG (with £5 free talk time, mind!) but nonetheless, it’s still a fully functioning mobile phone for a tenner. That’s cheaper than some cakes!

But this got me thinking; does this stack of dirt-cheap handsets devalue the mobile phone as a product? Although it was amazing to see such a cheap phone, it was a slightly sad sight to see such a pioneering item being flogged like a crate of overly ripe bananas. The mobile phone is a magnificent piece of design, that has saved, made and improved lives all over the world, and although it’s a very common piece of equipment these days, it’s still classed as a luxury item. So, is this dirt-cheap phone a bad thing?

Well, starting with the negatives, there’s a whole host of reasons to argue the case for yes. As I’ve said, the mobile phone is a magnificent piece of design, and an iconic piece of engineering. To see one being sold for less than a cheese cake or a small bottle of liquor is frankly upsetting. Other electrical items, such as the calculator, the kettle, the iron, have all been around for many years, so to see them being sold for a handful of coppers isn’t a major thing. The iron has been around for over 100 years for crying out loud, so you’d expect a significant price-drop. But the mobile phone has been around in the form we know it as today, for less than 15 years. In a way, it’s gone from executive toy to grocery bag afterthought in less than a decade; that’s just not right.

Another negative regards the quality of the phone. For £10, you’re not going to get a 3G touch-screen smartphone (no, they’re £30 in ASDA!). To put it simply, the Samsung E1120 is a piece of junk, with flimsy controls, an empty bucket of features and a build quality British Leyland would turn their noses up at. In a way, it’s a smear on the market, and a disgrace to it counterparts. It’s like all the items in a pound shop, like the USB Desk-top fans that explode after 10 minutes; a cheap and depressing version of an otherwise excellent product.

But what about the positives, surely there must be some. Well the main reason must be the affordability. Not everyone can afford a standard mobile, and although pre-owned handsets can be brought via ebay, the buyer is taking a blind risk on the quality. But now, for a tenner, anyone can wander in and buy a brand-new mobile, with a guarantee and all the necessary components. I know I just spat in the Samsung E1120’s face a moment ago, taking a casual dagger to its open heart of quality, but despite its flaws the Samsung E1120 is still a mobile phone, albeit a basic one; and a lot of buyers (probably the elderly who have never owned a mobile before) will just appreciate it for what it is.

Also, if you’re in a pickle, and in desperate need to make a phone call but your phone has died, the £10 phone is a saviour. There’s no need to hunt around for a phone-box (which has probably been internally coated in effluence) or beg a shop-keeper for use of his line. Now you can rush in, grab a phone and a KitKat, and use the built in fiver to make that emergency call. That may not sound like a big deal, but when it happens to you, you’ll drop to your knees and thank the Samsung E1120 and its tiny price tag.

So, to finally finish this piece of pointless and irregular drivel; is the £10 mobile a good thing? Well, it’s a horrible piece of equipment that devalues the market, devalues the product, feels nasty to the touch and is as flimsy as a soggy Rich Tea. If we at Phonica were reviewing it, it would barely get a plus point. But, regardless of its negatives and flaws, on a cold rainy night when you need to make that decisive call, it could be a life-saver, and that should never be forgotten.

Scott Tierney


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