The problem was that it wasn't clear at all from the emails I received how and when I needed to claim for the cashback from Mobiles.co.uk. Their website back then was a lot worse than it is now. I certainly don't remember clear and easy-to-find cashback instructions, like they have now. And I didn't receive a welcome letter explaining how to claim when my phone arrived, nor was there anything like the welcome pack, which you can now download from your account area.
Looking back through the terms and conditions I downloaded at the time of my purchase (16 June 2010), I notice a link to http://www.mobiles.co.uk/claiming at the very end, which I must have missed. At the time I was still settling in to a new job and didn't have the time or energy to read through everything properly. I was their perfect customer: stupid.
I was reminded of my failure to claim the cashback when Mobiles.co.uk phoned me up on 30 April to inform me that I was eligible to upgrade. The salesperson became quite defensive when I complained that it wasn't at all clear how I should have claimed my cashback. At any rate, it's too late to do anything about it now because I needed to claim within the first 18 months of my contract and within 60 days of the bill in question. And I'm not sure it's worth the effort to submit a proper complaint. My free time is more valuable.
Lesson learned: don't buy a deal with cashback offers unless you're prepared to read all the small print and follow the claims procedures precisely.
My view now is that the money I'd save is worth less to me than the time and effort it would take me to reclaim it.
Mobiles.co.uk can also rest assured that I won't be buying from them again. And, yes, those links above are "nofollow".
So, what next? I've tried Android. Now I'd like to experience an iPhone. I do love my iPad and carry it around with me all over the house as an iPod. I like the idea of having my podcasts synced between devices and being able to listen to them seamlessly in the car. I could probably do that now, but I don't have the space on my Android for the necessary apps.
Lack of space is the main reason I'm moving away from Android. It's really tiresome having to clear caches and uninstall apps when it runs out of memory. I've also been unable to upgrade the software since I rooted my phone. The performance has noticeably started to decline: apps hang and crash more frequently.
I'd also just like to try The Shiny to see what all the fuss is about. I'm tempted to wait for the iPhone 5 to be released (which would be anytime between June and October 2012, according to rumours on Mashable and TechCrunch), but then I'd have to pay through the nose and it might not be as good anyway. Might stick with Steve Jobs's last iPhone: the 4S. This guy makes a pretty good case for the iPhone 4S vs iPhone 5.
I'll be using the excellent billmonitor to help me find the best deal and will ask @vodafoneukdeals what they can do for me, too. Looks like it's cheaper to buy the handset up front than to get it "free" with a more expensive monthly contract. (There's no such thing as "free" and I resent the fact they call it that when you're paying more overall.)
tl;dr lessons learned
- Don't buy from Mobiles.co.uk.
- Avoid cashback offers if you can't be bothered (or don't have the time and energy) to read the small print. Is the money you'd save really worth the time and effort it takes to get it? I'm in the fortunate position that I can now afford to be a bit lazy about this and buy for convenience over cost.
- Don't be tempted by more expensive contracts with "free" phones.
- Be realistic about the minutes and texts you will use. My usage hasn't changed much since I was on Orange Pay As You Go, even though I've got 600 minutes a month, unlimited texts, and 512 MB of data on my current contract. My recent monthly usage has been 65 minutes, 66 texts, and 69 MB of data. That's why billmonitor is recommending entry-level 100 minutes, 500 texts, and 250 MB of data.
- Go easy on the data! I was over-cautious when I bought my contract, having no clue about how much I would use it. But I mostly use my phone at home and at work, where I have wi-fi access. I only really use my data when I'm out and travelling to London.