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#249 February 12, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings, Technology.
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I.

A little after New Year’s I had the misfortune of dropping my celphone.

I’m usually more careful when it comes to these things, and when it happened I already knew it was going to be bad. Indeed, despite the fact that the unit was otherwise intact — it was, previously, a very serviceable Nokia 7610 — it quite stubbornly refused to turn on. There were no new scratches on the casing nor cracks on the screen, yet all that remained was a lifeless husk.

These things happen, of course, so while waiting to have the damage assessed I began mulling over the prospect of buying a new one. Quite a few have caught my eye and it’s really about time I got a better model (I’ve even toyed with the idea of jailbreaking an iPhone), so I thought that if there were an upside to this unfortunate occurence this would be it. In the end, however, I decided to just roll with the punches and put off buying another one, opting instead to swap out the Cingular sim card in my US “utility phone” — a weathered clamshell Nokia 6101 — with my Manila-based Globe sim, in the hope of maybe holding out for a celphone I would really want.

Recently, however, I became the victim of yet another spate of celphone-related misfortune: as I was navigating through some furniture, a table edge caught my pocket and damaged the outer screen of the utility unit. As with the first instance, I knew the phone was irrevocably damaged as I felt more than heard the scrunch of the screen. In truth, beyond the all-too-visible crack and an area of damaged pixels the phone still works just as well (or badly) as it did previously; yet seeing the damage each time I look at the phone reminds me of how uncharacteristically careless I’ve been in the span of a month, and in that regard I’ve been inconsolable.

So I find myself in an unusual situation: armed with one-and-a-half damaged phones. Yet I still can’t find it in myself to invest in a new one, even a bargain unit, despite the fact I definitely need one now more than when I broke the first one. With the sheer bad luck I’ve been having with celphones lately, who’s to say what’ll happen if I do decide to take the plunge?

II.

Alas, celphone misfortune seems to run in the family: my brother, who’s had his phone longer than I can remember, has either misplaced his phone or was the victim of a pickpocket.

Misery truly loves company.

III.

A few months ago, I had to replace my Powerbook’s AC Adapter becaue some cable fraying ultimately resulted in sparks flying each time I’d plug it in. In theory, this could have been remedied by simply using some electrical tape to secure the damaged area, which was really very small. Yet I didn’t want to risk it, so I ended up making my first purchase at the New York Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.

Fast forward to this past weekend. For no apparent reason, the AC Adapter for my brother’s laptop, a.k.a. our dad’s older Powerbook, decided to call it quits on him, too. Since he had a bunch of papers due for his class, we discussed the matter and decided that he should just bring my adapter with him until I could drop by the local Power Mac Center to get a replacement. I did so the very next day and was absolutely scandalized by the price I had to pay.

In New York, the adapter cost $79, plus tax.

In Manila, the same adapter cost Php6,500. Depending on the exchange rate one uses, that’s equivalent to anywhere between $130 to $180.

It boggles the mind how anyone can get away with such a markup. Given that these things are manufactured in China, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Philippines, shouldn’t they actually be cheaper here than in the West? I am fairly certain that Philippine commercial tariffs have something to do with this, and that there’s a sad commentary just waiting to be written in this regard. At the same time, the scholar in me can’t help but point out that there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here about market segmentation and price discrimination. I just wish the lesson didn’t have to cost so much.

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