Checklist – frugality – The cell phone

In this post, I’m going to talk about a subject that concerns a lot of people whatever your age, job or social class: The cell phones.

Indeed, it is very rare to find people who do not have a smartphone, and who says “smartphone” says “Internet” and therefore “mobile data”. In order to benefit from all the features of a smartphone, you need to be able to connect it to the Internet at all times, and for that you need a mobile subscription. I think I’m not teaching you anything yet…

I’m dedicating a post to this topic anyway, because Switzerland is known to be very expensive regarding telecommunications. Although the purchasing power of the Swiss is relatively high compared to the European average, this is not a reason to accept anything and everything in terms of subscription for your cell phone.

The players in Switzerland

Switzerland has been dominated for a long time by the blue giant Swisscom, but for many years now, Salt and Sunrise have become strong competitors! Although competition has increased in recent years with the arrival of third party offers from companies such as Migros, Coop, Lidl, Yallo, Lebara, etc., the big players are still very present and aggressive from a marketing point of view which allows them to still have a large market share despite higher prices.

Personal situation

The GP family is very happy with our situation in this area, as we have very low telephone costs! But this was not always the case! Here is the evolution of the situation.

Years 2015 – 2016 – All at Swisscom

Mr. and Mrs. GP were both with Swisscom. I don’t remember very well the rates we paid, but it seems to me that it must have been around 59.- CHF/month each, because we were still considered as “Young”. For this amount, we had an unlimited Internet package and free telephony and SMS in Switzerland and with all operators. 

Years 2016 – 2019 – Mr. GP moves to Salt

At one point, I remember that my Swisscom subscription was increased to 89.- CHF/month, because I was no longer a ” young ” person. Thanks Swisscom. Overnight, my bill was increased by 30.- CHF for the same service. Nothing like that to make me angry. Without a second thought, I started looking for an alternative solution. I had a friend who was responsible for a Salt shop in Fribourg. I went to see her and I could get a great offer at 19.- CHF/month instead of 39.- CHF for the same service that Swisscom was offering me. I was very happy with my deal. Indeed, the network coverage was a bit worse in some places, but it never hurt me. Result of the operation: – 70.- CHF/month for an almost identical service!

At the beginning of March 2016, I started my job at an IT company and I had gotten a business phone with a dedicated subscription. At that time, I didn’t want to mix a private and business subscription let alone the phone! I was still walking around with both of my phones.

Year 2019 – 2021 – Mr. GP at Swisscom and Mrs. GP at “Das Abo”

The great period ! Just like me, one day Mrs. GP saw her subscription increase from 59.- CHF/month to 89.-… I started to look for a great offer. Luckily, her contract expired during the BlackFriday. We found a great offer at 19.95 CHF/month at Das Abo, a subdivision of Salt. For this price, she had unlimited Internet and free calls in Switzerland. No need for more and she never noticed a problem with coverage, loss of network or anything else.

For my case, I got tired of carrying two phones and my employer allowed me to switch my private number to Swisscom Business. For 2 years now, I don’t pay any phone subscription and I’m with Swisscom. Thank you my employer who pays me this subscription while having been able to keep my number.

Results: currently, the GP family pays 19.95 CHF/month for their phone costs. Who does better?

If we had been a bit lazy and had stayed with Swisscom at 89.00 CHF/month each, we would pay 2’178.00 CHF/year for our subscriptions! When I see this number written on my computer, I can’t believe it. I can’t even imagine the people who pay even more than that… After it is true that today, the combined offers allow to reduce this amount a little, but I do not advise the combined offers for two reasons: 

  • It is often still too much and more expensive than competitors like DasAbo or Yallo.
  • You are “linked” to a company, because you will have all your family + Internet at the same provider.

Roaming and all-inclusive subscription abroad

I’m not going to beat around the bush: if you go on holidays twice a year, IT IS USELESS !

This subject annoys me a bit, because I’ve heard too many times people complaining that life is expensive, that they can’t save money, etc., but they have no problem taking out data subscriptions abroad because it’s necessary, even vital, because they go on holidays twice a year. 

First, when you’re on holidays, it’s probably a good thing to unplug from your cell phone for a bit. Secondly, in any hotel or Airbnb, you have a high chance of having free Wi-Fi. And finally, if you want to send 10 WhatsApp during the week, you can always order a data pack from your operator when the time comes.  

Yeeeeessss but the problem is the GPS… We use GoogleMap to organize our roadtrip and we absolutely need data…” : Wrong ! I use GoogleMap just like you, but when I know I’m going to go to such or such region, I download locally the map in advance and you can use it without problems when you’re there without needing to consume mobile data.

Personally, that’s what we do. During our last trip to Corsica, we had Wi-Fi at the hotel and we each ordered a data pack. For my part at Swisscom, it cost me 14.90 CHF for 1 GB and 19.90 CHF at Salt for 1 GB too. To avoid using this data pack stupidly with GoogleMap, we had also downloaded locally the whole map of Corsica.

Find the best deal

For me, as long as my employer pays for my subscription, I have no reason to search. However, if you are not so lucky, I strongly advise you to follow the following rules:

  • Never subscribe for more than 1 year.
  • Compare the offers of all the players every year.
  • Do not be trapped by combined offers (phone at a reduced price under the condition of a 24-month subscription…).
  • Negotiate your subscription! All operators, especially the expensive ones, can make you the price they want.

Personally, I always start my research with the help of Comparis which has a section dedicated to mobile subscriptions. Thanks to Arturo for introducing me to the comparison site which also allows you to quickly find the subscription that best suits your needs. By comparing the results of the two sites, you can surely have a very precise idea of which provider to choose.

The website also has a search section dedicated to cell phones!

A phone adapted to your real needs

Once you have your subscription that suits you and that doesn’t cost you 100.00 CHF/month, you can also ask yourself a similar question regarding your cell phone. Personally, I once had a “high-end” phone, a Samsung Galaxy S9, because my work provided it to me and I was not particularly delighted by this model. For 3 years now, I’ve only been using entry-level phones (in theory) that have the important features for my use. Currently, I would never spend more than 300 CHF for a new phone!

The false “exclusive” innovations

In my case, the most important feature is the battery. I always laugh when I see ads for the Samsung S21 Ultra 5G which has a “big battery” of 5000 mAh… It’s not a revolution at all especially since it costs about 1’200.- CHF ! For those who bought this phone believing that the battery was a big innovation, well, you’ve been fooled 🙂 I had for 2 years, an Umidigi at 159.- $ which had a battery of 5500 mAh and that I had to recharge only every 2 or 3 days.

The power of marketing

Marketing is a very powerful tool. I’m really convinced when I see that people are able to spend more than 1’000.00 CHF for the new iPhone when their model was fine. Personally, I don’t understand this need to change for something new when the device you have works perfectly! Every time I discuss this with people who regularly change their phone, the same arguments come out:

  • Yeah but the new iPhone has a 40 MP front camera” -> Mr. GP: Hum ok and with that you’ll make better selfies? Are you planning to make posters of them?ne caméra frontale de 40 MP” -> Mr. GP : Hum ok et avec ça tu vas faire de meilleurs selfies ?
  • I had to change because my screen had a scratch!” -> Mr. GP: Does it prevent you from calling? To write a WhatsApp? You could have fixed the screen too, couldn’t you?
  • Yeah, but it only cost me 850.00 CHF because I had a great offer at Swisscom!” -> Mr. GP : Only 850.- CHF instead of 1’200.- ? Ha yes you made a hell of a deal (ironic and demonic laughter…)
  • Yes but it costs me only 39.50 CHF/month and without interest so I could as well change it!” -> Mr. GP : Yeah, in the end you’ll still pay 1’200.- CHF for a new phone…

Anyway, I’ll stop here, but we see how much we are drowned and influenced by advertising, offers and other powerful marketing tools. 

Very good new phones for 300.00 CHF

In the so-called entry level, you can find a little bit of everything, that’s true. There are really some phones that are not good and that you should not buy. Sometimes you can find acceptable phones. I had two experiences with the Chinese brand Umidigi which offered very interesting phones on paper for the price. I had two models in 3 years: 

  • Umidigi S2 red, 5100 mAh battery, bought in action for 210 CHF -> Not a single problem, but I broke it when I dropped it
  • Umidigi F2, 5150 mAh battery, bought in action for 250 CHF -> Great battery, but I had a problem with the speakers out of warranty

This brand is not very well known, but after testing two of their products, I don’t recommend them anymore, because the after-sales support is very bad and they don’t release many updates. So the software is quickly obsolete and I don’t like it in terms of security.

Currently, I switched to the Xiaomi which is already more popular and the phones have real support after purchase. I chose the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC model. It has a very good 5160 mAh battery which allows me to use it quite extensively for 2 days. The only thing it doesn’t have, which can be useful, is induction charging. But this feature is not blocking at all.

The Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC with 64 GB internal memory (additional SD possible) is sold from 230.00 CHF at ! For me, the choice was quickly made and I am really happy with this device! Here is a picture of the beast that was delivered to me with a protective case. For the price, there is nothing to complain about.

Insurance for cell phones

Personally, this is an area I am not too familiar with, as I have never subscribed to an insurance for my cell phone. Indeed, as I take cheap phones, I don’t see the need to insure it. With a good protective case, a protective film for the screen and a little care, it is very rare that I have broken a phone to the point of making it unusable. If you’re into high-end phones at 800 CHF or more, thinking about insurance for your phone would be different. 

For the purpose of this post, I was interested in calculating the premium for my phone at CHF 230.

  • Axa : It is not possible to do for a specific equipment. It is an insurance that protects all the electronic equipment of a home. You have to choose the sum insured and the deductible. The insurance sum goes from 1’000 CHF to 30’000 CHF and the deductible from 50 CHF to 500 CHF. For my phone, I take 1’000 and 50. Under these circumstances, the annual premium amounts to 298.80 CHF, which is almost 70.00 CHF more expensive than my new phone and in addition, in case of damage, I have to pay 50.00 CHF. Not the right product for me.

While browsing through the different offers, I noticed that the big players in the cell phone market, such as Swisscom, Salt, Sunrise and also brands specializing in electronics such as MobileZone, Digitec or even Interdiscount sell insurance for cell phones. The main insurers I found are :

  • Axa
  • Allianz
  • Zurich
  • i-surance

The common points are that all insurances seem to offer a deductible ranging from 30 to 120 CHF if it is only for one device. Other products exist, but are valid for all the electronics of a home and therefore the deductible can go up to 500.00 CHF. 

The coverage offered is also very variable. To make it simple, I advise you to read the whole contract of each insurance and especially what is written in small letters. You can find surprising things apparently 😉 Another novelty that I didn’t know is the service that covers the abusive use of the phone by a third party. This can be useful in case of theft where the person has used value-added services or made purchases with your phone. Again, you should read the terms and conditions carefully before signing such a contract. 

From my point of view, the majority of insurance benefits are too expensive. The only exception that I find interesting is the possibility to insure the phone for a short period of time (1 month for example) when you know that you are going to increase the risk during an adventurous vacation or other similar activities. Not all insurances offer very short term contracts, but it does exist. 


Smartphones have become almost indispensable for the Swiss. Indeed, more and more everyday services are accessible via this channel (e-banking, messaging, professional services, etc.). When you lose or break your phone, you are rarely enthusiastic about the idea of changing it and having to reconfigure a large number of applications (I’m thinking especially of two-factor authentication applications). Theft is also a potential source of worry and damage, because depending on the security applied to the phone, the thief would be able to access sensitive information such as passwords, e-banking applications, private messaging, etc. 

For my part, I can not live without a smartphone because I use it every day, both professionally and personally, but I do not think that anyone can really justify the need (and not the desire) to own a smartphone at 800, 1,000 or even 1,200 CHF when we see that known brands like Xiaomi can release fully functional devices for about 300 CHF.

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