Because I write for Mobile Magazine, I get exposed to a lot of crazy cell phones, most of which are not directly available in North America. The specs on some of these mobile phones are absolutely astounding and are completely unheard of around these parts. The Nokia N95, for example, comes equipped with built-in GPS and an incredible five megapixel camera… you’d be pretty hard pressed to find something like that offered by Sprint or Fido.
Perhaps they saw that I have a certain level of expertise in the area, but I’m still a little confused as to why The Phone Spot ordered this paid review from me. Why am I confused? Because they cater specifically to the UK market, and the UK market only.
Dem Brits Got A Lot of Choices
The first thing that hits you about The Phone Spot is that there are many, many cheap mobile phones available from a wide range of manufacturers. They’ve got slim flip phones from Motorola — like the ubiquitous RAZR — as well as fashionable musicphones from Sony Ericssson, trendy handsets from LG, and multimedia powerhouses from Nokia. All in all, you will be bombarded with no fewer 84 different phones. That’s a lot of choice.
The selection of wireless providers is also fairly impressive. If you’re a resident of London, you’re probably already pretty familiar with names like Orange, 3, and O2. They’ve also got T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile, not to be confused with their American counterparts.
Finding each of these cell phones is fairly easy, because you can search by mobile operator or cell phone manufacturer, and they’ll list off the different models available (complete with pictures, of course). If you’re not quite familiar with each of the phones and can’t tell the difference between a SLVR L6 and a SLVR L7, you’re also in luck. The handy Phone Finder tool recommends a phone and plan based on the criteria you select (like whether the phone is dual-, tri-, or quad-band). Yes, plans too.
Non-UK Residents Need Not Apply
This is easily the biggest weakness of The Phone Spot. While the selection is huge, navigation is easy, and the Phone Finder tool is useful, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a handset from them without signing some sort of contract with a local cellular service provider. I find this very strange, because here in Canada (as well as in the United States), it is at least possible for you to buy a cellular phone from any mobile operator without signing any sort of contract. The price is usually very inflated — $300 for a phone that is free with a 3-year contract — but it is at least within the realm of possibility. With The Phone Spot, this doesn’t appear to be the case. They also don’t sell unlocked phones, as far as I can tell, so you’d be stuck with that particular operator unless you get the handset unlocked yourself.
Naturally, an issue like this is very frustrating for any international customer. Because of this policy and the way the store is run, The Phone Spot is limiting themselves only to UK customers, and not only that, they’re limiting themselves to UK customers who are willing to sign some sort of contract.
The Spot to Buy UK Cell Phones
I can’t knock the people at The Phone Spot on very many things. The site layout is exactly what it needs to be, nothing more, nothing less. You can choose your handset based on the carrier, manufacturer, and feature set, and then it’s up to you to select the voice and data plan that best suits your needs. After agreeing to a contract of a certain length, you’ll find a lot of cheap phones to choose from, many of which can be had for free (assuming you sign an appropriate service agreement).
My biggest suggestion, if they would like to expand their business, is to open up shop to customers outside of the United Kingdom. There is a huge market for unlocked world phones — in the Vancouver area, a lot of people are interested in international handsets not available through the local providers — so they can rack in quite a bit of dough.
Who knows, if The Phone Spot started selling unlocked phones, I might get something from them. The high need for novelty is one of my greatest faults, after all.