Scargill – Deal of the Century – the Orange Racoon 35 package

As a constant user of technology, demanding a decent connection pretty much wherever I go, I use one of the popular (in the UK) Vodafone dongles, flate rate, unlimited connectivity (except it never is, in Vodafone’s case it’s a 3 gigabyte monthly limit – but as long as you’re careful that’s quite reasonable).

There are times when the Vodafone broadband signal is no good because Vodafone don’t have a transmitter nearby.. so I occasionally use my Orange phone to get a connection. As you know, this can get relatively expensive as the normal setup with Orange and others is a pay-per-megabyte deal. Such deals are becoming increasingly useless in a wired world.

I was recently at a friend’s house and he showed me a piece of software that lets the Orange mobile phone look like a WIFI router (wmwifirouter) – very handy if there are a few people trying to use laptops in an area, say a hotel room with no WIFI. I queried the data cost of using this with my pal and he informed me that he got a deal with Orange to allow “unlimited broadband”.

Very sceptically I rang up Orange… the first lady of course said “no, we don’t do anything like that” – but when I got insistent – she put me onto an Indian fellow who immediately retorted “certainly – we can do a flat-rate job, no problem”.

Turns out this is newish with Orange – the package is called RACOON 35 if I’m not mistaken – the basic deal on the surface of it, at £35 you get “unlimited broadband” – by which they mean a similar cap to Vodafone plus unlimited calls to landline calls – plus 900 minutes to any mobile phone – plus a load of text messages. Not at all bad at that price.

As if that wasn’t good enough – if you order online you can have this same deal for £30 a month. My wife rang up and got the same deal to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

So far, so good….

I signed up, starting the contract from fresh at that point…. and that was that. 2 weeks ago I was due to get a new phone – the new HTC Touch Diamond. I checked and the first person said I could have it for free – but no stock.

A few days ago I rang up to complain about the delay – in stock this time – but £39 for the phone. I got annoyed and said I’d ring back – no way was I paying for that phone – and rang back on the assumption I’d get another operator – I did. This fellow also tried to get £39 – and I simply asked whatever happened to the bull that Orange show on TV about customer loyalty… so he went away – and came back with an offer of the phone for FREE – and £5.

I didn’t quite follow the £5 bit, but I was happy to get the phone for free – except by now there was no stock.

2 days ago they SMS’d me – phones were in stock and I could have it the next day – and the guy said he’d like to clarify the deal I’m on – £35 a month – minus £5 for ordering online – MINUS THE FIVER – not just one-off but PER MONTH – for being a regular customer… i.e. for £25 a month all-in, I’ve now got a hot new phone (typical price well over £400), (essentially) unlimited broadband, unlimited landline calls and 800 cross-network minutes as well as enough texts to keep me going (I’m not a fanatical texter – I find it just as easy to send an email).

The phone comes complete with 4 gigabytes of memory, easily enough for sat-nav and audio recording software with room to spare for the odd movie etc. Like the iPhone it has an accelerometer so it knows which way is up, not to mention making possible a game that could not exist without it. The phone also easily handles YouTube videos and the user interface makes everything I’ve used up to now look, well, historical.

It’s always a challenge with Orange to get from A to B – but I think this sets a benchmark as to what represents good value for money with phone providers.

Things I have working and tested up to now on the phone include: phone, web, youtube video, FM radio, internet radio (get Core Player for this), photo album. The sat nav works a treat (and with the broadband deal works a great with google maps). Is it an alternative to the iPhone – well, including the package – the overall deal… yes, IMHO most definitely.

Peter Scargill

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