Every couple of years the modern American must embark on two equally futile tasks: attempting to influence representative government by voting for the least criminal thug(s) in his district, and picking his pocket pal that will see him through to the next botched abortion of national self rule. As it turns out, both of these delightful projects occur in sequence for me on even years.
This time, after my head had cleared of both the notion of a country who consistently polls liberal and votes ultra-conservative, and the sundry stimulants and depressants needed to overcome the cognitive dissonance of an entire continent, I stepped into the cold light of a whole new crop of digital leashes or, if you prefer, “smartphones.”
Since the last time I’d run this game the major carriers have upped their antics, scheming for a new way to extract even more from people who already skipped meals for weeks at a time and would sit for hours or days in the elements, indistinguishable from the derelicts save for the 5″ slab of glass in their hands, just to be the first on their block with the newest and hottest way to turn their attention ever inward. The carriers had determined that performing this bi-annual Apple Store Hajj was too infrequent for many of their customers, the lemmings wanted all things newer, faster and damn any fiscal responsibilities that got in the way.
They were only to happy to provide. “Early upgrade” plans suddenly appeared everywhere, with exciting and inticing names like Jump, Edge, Next. Interslice failed to make the cut, but only just barely. Now you can lease a phone — yes, just like a fucking car — for little to no money down, then you make your payments, and trade up in as little as 10 months! The big twist now being, when you do decide to trade up, just like with your car, you have to turn in the old model first. And when I sat down and compared the options, both for the leasing programs and the traditional plans (for which you’re still making payments on the phone, unless you cough up the full price of the phone up front) my eyes crossed, the headache came on and in short order I was drunk again.
No matter what, you’re paying full price for your phone eventually. If you go with one of these leasing plans, you’ll be paying enough extra per month to pay off the phone in 20-24 months — if you keep it that long. If you go with traditional, you’ll pay about 25-35% of the phone’s cost up front, and then paying off the rest in monthly installments for the length of your contract. But that’s where it gets fucked up. If you satisfy your contract terms and don’t change your plan or go in and get a new phone, you’re STILL MAKING MONTHLY PAYMENTS ON THE PHONE. That should be fucking criminal. Imagine if you finished paying off your car, and Toyota said, “ok cool, so you can either come get a new car or, if you want to keep using that one, you need to continue making the payments or we’ll disable the starter”. One way or another, you keep paying, you dirty little pricks.
I wanted off that train. I’d paid my shot and next time, no fucking thank you sir, I will not have another. It was high time to get off that deranged auto-pay merry-go-round, grab that brass ring and shove it straight down their collective fucking throats. It was time to go Unlocked.
So I started hunting for newish phones I could buy free and clear. I found a few on second hand markets and almost pulled the trigger on one, but the whole time I kept seeing drips and drabs about this crazy new monster from an upstart Chinese manufacturer, OnePlus. The whole time all our electronics manufacturing has been going on behind the Great Red Wall I’ve been saying it to anyone close enough to hear me — they’re going to learn their shit, get their supply chains together and undercut the shit out of us, and ho ho, I fucking told you, and here it is. Their first and thus far only model, the OnePlus One, a 5.5″ full HD, 2.5Ghz quad-core CPU-toting, 3GB RAM little iPhone 6-smashing fucker, for sale without any carrier obligation contract bloatware bullshit for $300, $350 with 64GB of storage on board. I did my reading, made sure I knew the ups and downs, started bargaining for one of their oh-too-precious invites and surprise, they had an open sale on their first birthday (isn’t that just fucking adorable?)
So there it is. The story of how one man came to throw off a couple of the shackles of his faceless uberlord wireless carrier and dive in to the brave new world where China starts to hoist us on our own collective petards. Phones first, cars second, and soon enough Joss Whedon’s ideas of a Sino-American dominated future start looking abso-fucking-lutely prophetic. Ni hao, Shenzhen.
I’ll have more useful shit to share on this little fucker soon. My ploy hasn’t gone super smoothly, and I landed one with one of the more well known niggling cosmetic manufacturing defects and I have to decide how badly that’s going to piss me off. But I’ve spent a busy forty-eight hours dicking around with it and I think I’ve got some handy tips for anyone thinking about dipping their toes in the Pearl River.
(Don’t dip any part of your body that you’re fond of into the Pearl River… it’s a euphemism for christ’s sake… I don’t even want to imagine the state of the Pearl River.)