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Mobile deals: how to buy a smartphone for less | Mobile phones

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Shop around

Prices for the same model regularly fluctuate between retailers. While manufacturers typically only sell their phones at the recommended retail price, third-party retailers can discount them depending on stock levels and age, so shop around and check multiple price comparison tools such as Google Shopping, Kelkoo, PriceRunner or Price Spy.

Beware of deals that look particularly cheap as they may not be UK models or not sold from the UK, which can have an impact on the warranty or after-sales support.

Compare contract or outright deals

Paying for a phone upfront usually works out the cheapest way of owning it over the long term, but not always. Just-released models may be cheaper if bought on a contract with a phone operator, particularly if it is running a deal or if it includes other services, such as Spotify or Netflix, at a discount.

It is worth doing the calculations based on the total cost over the length of the plan versus the cost of the phone outright plus that of an equivalent, cheaper sim-only deal. Bear in mind that if you break the phone you will still be paying for it every month until your contract ends.

Time it right

People standing in front of a Black Friday deals sign on a shop window.
You can often grab a bargain on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the many other yearly sales, but compare prices to make sure a ‘sale’ is really a deal. Photograph: Jonathan Cherry/Reuters

Buying a phone at the right time of the year can mean big savings. Bargains can usually be had in the traditional sales such as Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day, around Easter and during the back to school period in the run-up to September.

But individual manufacturers also discount their smartphones at different times depending on their yearly release cycles of new devices. Some manufacturers, including Samsung and Google, offer discounts and free gifts with very early preorders for their new phones before release, which can be worthwhile.

Samsung typically releases its top-of-the-range S-series smartphones in January, which are then discounted in summer sales. Apple’s iPhones are rarely deeply discounted but tend to be cheapest in August in the run-up to the release of a new version in September, with savings of up to £150 depending on the model, according to data from the price-tracking site CamelCamelCamel.

Trade in or sell your old one

Trading in your old phone is an excellent way of recouping some of its value or getting a discount on a new model. Apple and Samsung offer up to £470 off their new phones and Google up to £676 depending on the model, brand and condition of the phone you trade in.

Alternatively, you can sell your phone to a refurbisher for cash. There are a number of retailers that buy old tech including phones on the high street and online, including CeX, MusicMagpie, Envirofone and many others. Mobile operators including EE, Giffgaff, O2, Three, Vodafone and others also buy used phones, as do Carphone Warehouse and other phone retailers.

Comparison sites can help you find the best price. They include SellMyMobile, Compare and Recycle and Compare My Mobile. And as with buying a new phone, timing matters for trade-in if you want to maximise your return.

“We are predicting that across the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 range the price will depreciate by about 22% between now and the launch of a new model in October 2022,” says Denise Timmis, the brand manager for Envirofone. “That means trade-in values up to £157 less for the iPhone 13 Pro Max and up to £125 for iPhone 12 Pro.”

If your phone is in good condition and you are prepared to do a bit of work, you could get more money selling it privately on eBay or other marketplaces. Check recently sold prices on the sites to see how much similar phones are going for.

Buy refurbished

This isn’t just better for the planet, it can be great for your wallet, too. Recent data from Giffgaff showed that you can save about 50kg of carbon and £200 on average by buying refurbished compared with new. While the biggest bargains can be had on older devices, top recent models can frequently be found refurbished from both manufacturers and third parties after about six months from release. They typically cost £50-100 less than RRP.

“At a time when lots of people are really feeling the rising cost of living, refurbished devices can be a great option,” says Ash Schofield, the Giffgaff chief executive. “You still get that new phone feeling, without breaking the bank. Our research shows that while a number of people see refurb tech as a viable option, quite a few are still missing out on the savings.”

There are plenty of places to buy refurbished models. Those straight from the manufacturer are often the best being fully reconditioned to as-new standards, but most phone or tech shops, mobile operators and specialist refurbishers sell models in varying conditions and prices from nearly new to worn but still functional.

Pick up older models with long software support

The newest models are the most expensive, so buying a phone a year or two old, either new or refurbished can save your a packet – but only if you choose the right model.

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers provide lasting software support for their smartphones. Many provide as little as two or three years of updates from a handset’s release date. Regular security updates are crucial to the safe usage of a smartphone, so once a model is no longer supported you should not use it.

Only Apple and Samsung provide as much as five or more years of software support for their recent smartphones, making their older models such as the iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20 still worth buying. Google recently committed to supporting its Pixel phones for five years, but only from this year’s Pixel 6 onwards.

The home button on the iPhone SE (2022).
Apple’s iPhone SE (2022) is particularly good value, offering the firm’s top chip, 5G and more than six years of software support. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

While top-end phones are the most exciting, mid-range smartphones have improved dramatically in recent years and can be had for significantly less. Not all mid-tier phones are made equally, however, with many lacking long-term software support.

Highlights include Apple’s iPhone SE (£470) and Samsung’s Galaxy A series (from £129), which receive four to seven years of software support depending on the model.

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Meditation app Calm sacks one-fifth of staff | Meditation

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The US-based meditation app Calm has laid off 20% of its workforce, becoming the latest US tech startup to announce job cuts.

The firm’s boss, David Ko, said the company, which has now axed about 90 people from its 400-person staff, was “not immune” to the economic climate. “In building out our strategic and financial plan, we revisited the investment thesis behind every project and it became clear that we need to make changes,” he said in a memo to staff.

“I can assure you that this was not an easy decision, but it is especially difficult for a company like ours whose mission is focused on workplace mental health and wellness.”

The Calm app, founded in 2012, offers guided meditation and bedtime stories for people of all ages. It received a surge of downloads triggered by the 2020 Covid lockdowns. By the end of that year, the software company said the app had been downloaded more than 100 million times globally and had amassed over 4 million paying subscribers.

Investors valued the firm, which said it had been profitable since 2016, at $2bn.

In the memo, Ko went on: “We did not come to this decision lightly, but are confident that these changes will help us prioritize the future, focus on growth and become a more efficient organization.”

More than 500 startups have laid off staff this year, according to layoffs.fyi, a website that tracks such announcements.

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Let there be ambient light sensing, without data theft • The Register

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Six years after web security and privacy concerns surfaced about ambient light sensors in mobile phones and notebooks, browser boffins have finally implemented defenses.

The W3C, everyone’s favorite web standards body, began formulating an Ambient Light Events API specification back in 2012 to define how web browsers should handle data and events from ambient light sensors (ALS). Section 4 of the draft spec, “Security and privacy considerations,” was blank. It was a more carefree time.

Come 2015, the spec evolved to include acknowledgement of the possibility that ALS might allow data correlation and device fingerprinting, to the detriment of people’s privacy. And it suggested that browser makers might consider event rate limiting as a potential mitigation.

By 2016, it became clear that allowing web code to interact with device light sensors entailed privacy and security risks beyond fingerprinting. Dr Lukasz Olejnik, an independent privacy researcher and consultant, explored the possibilities in a 2016 blog post.

Olejnik cited a number of ways in which ambient light sensor readings might be abused, including data leakage, profiling, behavioral analysis, and various forms of cross-device communication.

He described a few proof-of-concept attacks, devised with the help of security researcher Artur Janc, in a 2017 post and delved into more detail in a 2020 paper [PDF].

“The attack we devised was a side-channel leak, conceptually very simple, taking advantage of the optical properties of human skin and its reflective properties,” Olejnik explained in his paper.

“Skin reflectance only accounts for the 4-7 percent emitted light but modern display screens emit light with significant luminance. We exploited these facts of nature to craft an attack that reasoned about the website content via information encoded in the light level and conveyed via the user skin, back to the browsing context tracking the light sensor readings.”

It was this technique that enabled the proof-of-concept attacks like stealing web history through inferences made from CSS changes and stealing cross origin resources, such as images or the contents of iframes.

Snail-like speed

Browser vendors responded in various ways. In May 2018, with the release of Firefox 60, Mozilla moved access to the W3C proximity and ambient light APIs behind flags, and applied further limitations in subsequent Firefox releases.

Apple simply declined to implement the API in WebKit, along with a number of other capabilities. Both Apple and Mozilla currently oppose a proposal for a generic sensor API.

Google took what Olejnik described his paper as a “more nuanced” approach, limiting the precision of sensor data.

But those working on the W3C specification and on the browsers implementing the spec recognized that such privacy protections should be formalized, to increase the likelihood the API will be widely adopted and used.

So they voted to make the imprecision of ALS data normative (standard for browsers) and to require the camera access permission as part of the ALS spec.

Those changes finally landed in the ALS spec this week. As a result, Google and perhaps other browser makers may choose to make the ALS API available by default rather than hiding it behind a flag or ignoring it entirely. ®



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4 supports that can help employees outside of work

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Everyone has different situations to deal with outside of the workplace. But that doesn’t mean the workplace can’t be a source of support.

Employers and governments alike are often striving to make workplaces better for everyone, whether it’s workplace wellbeing programmes or gender pay gap reporting.

However, life is about more than just the hours that are spent in work, and how an employer supports those other life challenges can be a major help.

Family-friendly benefits

Several companies have been launching new benefits and policies that help families and those trying to have children.

Job site Indeed announced a new ‘family forming’ benefit package earlier this year, which is designed to provide employees with family planning and fertility-related assistance.

The programme includes access to virtual care and a network of providers who can guide employees through their family-forming journey.

Vodafone Ireland introduced a new fertility and pregnancy policy in February 2022 that includes extended leave for pregnancy loss, fertility treatment and surrogacy.

And as of the beginning of 2022, Pinterest employees around the world started receiving a host of new parental benefits, including a minimum of 20 weeks’ parental leave, monetary assistance of up to $10,000 or local equivalent for adoptive parents, and four weeks of paid leave to employees who experience a loss through miscarriage at any point in a pregnancy.

Helping those experiencing domestic abuse

There are also ways to support employees going through a difficult time. Bank of Ireland introduced a domestic abuse leave policy earlier this year, which provides a range of supports to colleagues who may be experiencing domestic abuse.

Under the policy, the bank will provide both financial and non-financial support to colleagues, such as paid leave and flexibility with the work environment or schedule.

In emergency situations where an employee needs to immediately leave an abusive partner, the bank will help through paid emergency hotel accommodation or a salary advance.

In partnership with Women’s Aid, the company is also rolling out training to colleagues to help recognise the symptoms of abuse and provide guidance on how to take appropriate action.

Commenting on the policy, Women’s Aid CEO Sarah Benson said employers who implement policies and procedures for employees subjected to domestic abuse can help reduce the risk of survivors giving up work and increase “feelings of solidarity and support at a time when they may feel completely isolated and alone”.

A menopause policy

In 2021, Vodafone created a policy to support workers after a survey it commissioned revealed that nearly two-thirds of women who experienced menopause symptoms said it impacted them at work. A third of those who had symptoms also said they hid this at work. Half of those surveyed felt there is a stigma around talking about menopause, which is something Vodafone is seeking to combat through education for all staff.

Speaking to SiliconRepublic.com last year, Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary said the company would roll out a training and awareness programme to all employees globally, including a toolkit to improve their understanding of menopause and provide guidance on how to support employees, colleagues and family members.

In Ireland, Vodafone employees are able to avail of leave for sickness and medical treatment, flexible working hours and additional care through the company’s employee assistance programme when going through the menopause.

Support hub for migrants

There are also initiatives to help people get their foot on the employment ladder.

Earlier this year, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD launched a new service with education and employment supports for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.

The Pathways to Progress platform is part of the Open Doors Initiative supporting marginalised groups to access further education, employment and entrepreneurship in Ireland.

As part of the initiative, member company Siro offered a paid 12-week internship programme for six people who are refugees. The internships include job preparation, interview skills and access to the company’s online learning portals.

Open Doors Initiative CEO Jeanne McDonagh said the chance to land a meaningful job or establish a new business is key to people’s integration into Ireland, no matter what route they took to get here.

“Some are refugees, some are living in direct provision, some will have their status newly regularised, and others will come directly for work,” she said. “Our new service aims to support all migrants in finding a decent job as they prepare to enter the Irish workforce, and to support employers as they seek to build an inclusive culture in their workplaces.”

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