Last week, telecom operator Airtel announced a special offer — free Facebook access for two months, presumably aiming to attract loads of youngsters for whom the mobile phone is no longer about voice talk or text messages but hanging out on Internet social networks.
So what does Airtel gain from this two-month offer? The fact is that new subscribers who come in for this offer are likely to stay on with Airtel, subsequently paying every month a subscription fee that should keep the company happy for a long time.
This has implications for consumer behaviour. Let’s get some basics right to become smart customers.
Smartphones — the ones that help you connect to the Net and access social networks, among other things — now cost less than Rs 5,000 at the entry level. Netbooks, the lean laptop computers mainly used to access the Internet, are tantalisingly close to Rs 10,000 at the entry level.
These machines are increasingly affordable, but the money you pay for Internet access matters that much more, because connectivity is what makes these devices cool. So, it would make sense for you to look at the overall budget in planning your purchases.
This phenomenon is not new in corporate information technology — in which people speak of TCO (total cost of ownership). Here are a few tips — based on TCO principles — for making value-for-money purchases:
* Buy a smartphone that has enough features not to make you want to upgrade it for at least 18 months (my preferred time is three years)
* Don’t buy a netbook or smartphone that has many features that you may not use. Make a list of things you want to do with the device and buy the one that has just enough. The money saved can be used for data plans and content.
* Weigh the data plans (speed, access and downloads offered) and blend the Internet access price from this into your device purchase.
* The total cost should also include the likely bills of software applications and content that you may want to buy online or load from CDs.
* Avoid falling for fancy frills written in advertisements or spewed by sales executives. Your needs matter the most.