Why I Switched to Windows Phone, Part One

After three and a half years, I’ve parted ways with my iPhone and taken up a Windows Phone. There are a lot of reasons — two posts’ worth, in fact. Today we discuss the big motivation: cost.

It’s no secret that Canada is one of the most expensive places in the world to own a smartphone. That’s why, when my iPhone 3G broke down not long ago, my first thought was: “Great. How much is this going to cost me to replace?”

Well, by my calculations, $2836.98.

The up-front cost for a 16GB iPhone 4S, on contract, is $219.22. $159 for the phone + $35 activation fee + applicable taxes. (I’m doing all these calculations with Rogers, but the numbers vary only slightly with the other iOS-friendly Canadian carriers.)

The monthly plans are the real killers. Unless you think you can get by on 100MB of data per month, you’re looking at a base price of $52.35. That nets you 500MB (not great, but enough for my needs) with 200 minutes, and unlimited SMS. However, that doesn’t include such luxuries as caller ID and voicemail.

These features are sold as add-ons, either à la carte, or through “value packs”. The only sensible option through Rogers is their iPhone Value Pack, which adds:

  • call display,
  • name display, (how are those separate things?)
  • visual voicemail,
  • and ringbacks. (A fluff feature nobody uses.)

This will run an additional $12/month, bringing our monthly bill to a total of $72.72 after tax. Add that up over the course of the three-year contract, and we hit a total of $2617.76. With the initial phone costs, we’re back up to $2836.98.

This is outrageous! Keep in mind that that’s a very low-end plan (500MB data, 200 minutes). There’s no way I’m going to commit to that. I have a mortgage.

Enter Wind

Wind Mobile is a new(ish) carrier in Canada. They offer much better packages at much cheaper rates than the big carriers. The tradeoff here is that they have much less network coverage; their network only exists in five Canadian cities. (I’m fortunate enough to live in one of them.)

They have a 12-month contract promotion on right now for their Oh Canada plan. Unlimited voice, SMS, and data, for $29/month. Yes, you read that right, and yes, it includes caller ID. (Voicemail is an extra, to the tune of $5/month.)

After tax, that’s a monthly bill of $38.42. Over three years, that’s a grand total of $1383.12. (This assumes I can find a similar promotion when this one ends, or dial back my plan to keep roughly the same costs — easy, since this promotion’s features far exceed my needs.)

This is great, but Wind uses a fancy new network protocol that isn’t compatible with the iPhone. In fact, they only sell Blackberry and Android devices, which I just can’t seem to like.

What’s a geek to do?

Enter Windows Phone

I’d used a Windows Phone before, and it was one of those fish-to-water things (more on that in part two). When I was in Vegas for MIX, my workplace was kind enough to loan me an LG Optimus 7. The OS offers much of the polish that BB/Android lacks, the kind of polish you can’t give up after 44 months of iOS.

The features are close enough for my needs. It’s an easy transition.

Unfortunately, not very many Windows Phones are compatible with Wind’s network, and they’re hard to find in Canada. It turned out my only options were the Dell Venture Pro and the HTC HD7. The HD7 is a newer model, and we had one at work that I could try out for a week, so that became my target.

The only Canadian carrier to have ever sold the HD7 was Bell. Bell and Wind use completely different networking technology, so even if I could track one down, I’d still be stuck with unreasonably expensive plans.

I needed the version of the HD7 sold by T-Mobile, and American carrier whose network is compatible with Wind’s.

I found a seller on eBay with a new, still-in-the-box HD7. He would only ship to the US. Not a deal breaker, but definitely an added cost.

Including the price of the auction, the fee to unlock the phone from T-Mobile, the conversion from USD to CAD, the pick-up fee at the American UPS store, tax coming back into Canada, and the toll booth in between, my new phone cost me $366.64.

How did we do overall?

Setting my new HD7 up on Wind was relatively painless, though there is a one-time $25 fee for the SIM card. All in all, the phone, setup charges, and plan for three years totals $1749.76.

That’s a savings of $1087.22 over the iPhone package outlined above.

I like Apple’s devices. The hardware is well-designed, iOS is beautiful, and I was very, very happy all those years with my 3G. But to me, there is no way that an iPhone is worth nearly $1100 more than a Windows Phone.


Stay tuned for part two, where I discuss why it felt like the right time to leave iOS.

10 replies on “Why I Switched to Windows Phone, Part One”

Why not buy the iPhone unlocked? You’ve been with Rogers for a long time, so I’d think you could get a much better retension plan than what’s offered on their website. I pay $58.60 (with tax) for a plan I’ve never exceeded, and more than half is data. That’s $703.20 / year. It’s more expensive than WIND, but roaming never needs to enter the equation. I guess if you’re well within Ottawa city limits, you’ll survive. :-)

Also to clarify: AWS is nothing new or fancy: it’s just different bands of HSPA. WIND (as well as Bell and Telus) lack 2G GSM to fall back on as well. Due to the higher AWS frequencies, deeper coverage inside buildings can also be an issue.

Thanks for the details about AWS! I researched it a little, but probably not as much as I should have.

Looking at eBay, a new, unlocked iPhone 4S would have set me back at least $500 USD. Assuming a best-case of $510 CAD for the device, and that I manage to negotiate Rogers down to something like $59/month for the plan, I would still be paying $2634 over 3 years — 50% more than the 3-year total for my HD7.

Any way I sliced it, the iPhone always came out as the much more expensive option.

Most of my travel these days is to the states anyway, so I’m hoping the roaming won’t be much of an issue. It’s a trade I’m willing to make for now, we’ll see how long I can stick to it :)

A new Blackberry Torch on a 3 yr term at Rogers is $50 plus $43/month which gives you 200 mins and 100 megs/month data, Canada wide my10 calling, unlimited messaging etc. The key difference here is that you will never use close to a 100megs on a blackberry. Everything is compressed and very efficient. On the Torch you get a touch screen phone and the best keyboard. Rogers also has better coverage across Canada than Wind(except in Yellowknife for some reason). All in all I am very happy with my Blackberry.

I can’t seem to find any actual benchmarks for how good BB’s compression is, but the few sources I’ve found online promise it’s about twice as good for most tasks and up to 4x as good for email (which is tiny anyway).

I was routinely breaking 300MB/month with my iPhone, there’s definitely a chance I’d break 100 on a BB plan.

It all comes down to what you do with your phone. More and more I find I’m streaming music online, which is absolutely killer. I’m sure my data needs will only go up this year.

There are 4 of us on our family plan sharing 1 gig/mth and we have never gone over 120 megs in the past 3 years. That includes tethering to my laptop and playbook. We do not stream music , however, since with a 32 gig micros sd on board I carry my whole music library and many movies with me.

BTW, I just had a chance to compare a Rogers Nokia rocket stick with a LTE Aircard for a project I am doing at work. The Nokia was very slow when I connected at home even though it said it was 3G. The max download speed I could get was 70kps. I got a better 3.5G connection at work and got sustained download speeds of 300kps. The Aircard LTE was way better and had a sustained download speed of 1.1mps. I was very impressed with LTE and I will seriously consider a LTE Blackberry for my next phone.

LTE is awesome! It’s a better technology than 3G/3.5G, hands down.

The downside of LTE so far in Ottawa is that you’re stuck on Rogers, and their plans for LTE are even more expensive than their normal plans. Still, this is a case where you’re paying for a top-tier service, so the higher price point is more forgivable.

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