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With the recent announcement and release of the iPhone 6s, there’s the usual rush to buy the latest and greatest device. But there’s an easy way to save yourself a bit of money off the list price.
The 128gb iPhone 6s costs £699 if you buy it direct from Apple. But did you know that other retailers are also selling it for that price too?
Well, if you sign up for and use TopCashback and search for Very (the UK online retailer), at the time of writing you can secure between 7% and 8% cashback. On a £699 phone, that’s close to £50.
It’s exactly the same phone that you would have ordered from Apple or other retailers, and is completely brand new – only it’ll cost you less using this route. Simple! The only slight drawback is that they have slightly longer delivery times than going direct to Apple – but that’s to be expected with a phone that only began retailing last week.
Note: TopCashback isn’t the only cashback site offering these high cashback rates. QuidCo offers something similar – so it’s worth checking between the two to see which one offers the best rate.
UPDATE – actually, I’ve just had it pointed out to me that Quidco don’t pay cashback on VAT, so the actual price would be more like: £658.26
It’s hard to argue with the detractors of the BBC licence fee because of the arbitrary way it has been made mandatory for everyone watching live TV in the UK, regardless of whether they actually watch any BBC programming.
Personally, I watch BBC news and a smattering of other live BBC programmes. If I have the time for TV these days, I take advantage of Netflix or catchup TV from any of the free-to-air channels (no Sky TV in this household!). I highly rate most of the programming the BBC make, however, even though not all of its to my personal tastes, as the stuff I do watch – like news, dramas and documentaries – are such high quality and genuinely entertaining.
But what I do find outdated in today’s world is to have a mandatory licence fee enforced on everyone. Yes, it’s a British institution, but in a free market economy if individuals had the choice of spending around £7 per month on Netflix or Amazon Prime, or around £14 per month on the BBC (which is roughly what the licence fee equates to now), I would imagine a large part of the population would opt to avoid the licence fee and just choose the channel package that best fits their viewing tastes. And that’s they key concept, isn’t it – we should have the option to choose.
Now the Conservatives have unfettered power since winning the election and ditching the Liberal Democrats, John Whittingdale (the Conservative culture, media and sport secretary) has the BBC licence fee firmly in his sights (source: Guardian). But whilst Whittingdale may have a personal dislike for the either the BBC or its licence fee, there’s no public mandate for the attacks of this nature. If the Conservatives think they’re doing the British public a service by pushing this challenge, I think they’re mistaken. Perhaps more should be done to reduce the country’s foreign aid budget, which last year topped £11.7bn (source: Telegraph), particularly when we see some truly absurd ways in which they budget is spent. (Don’t even get me started on why we’re still funding India… a country with its own space programme!)
But, I still feel it would be a shame to see such a great British institution as the BBC, disappear. That’s not to say that reform wouldn’t be welcome though – see the solution below, for my suggestion options as to what could be better options.
Whilst writing about the BBC, its also worth mentioning the reported change that now sees the BBC ‘paying’ for licence fees for over 75s (source: BBC). I object to it being termed in this way, because there’s no incremental cost for another person watching BBC TV. This is effectively just an accounting term because it was previously money received from the government and now they (the BBC) are being told that they’re not going to be receiving it any more. So, they’re not paying for these licences, they’re just not receiving money for them – which means there’s a gap in the finances. Perhaps it might prompt the BBC to reduce some of its bloat and stop commissioning some of its more popular culture programming (I’m thinking of the X-Factor challenger, the Voice – which I’ve seen reported as costing around £19m)?
The BBC should also look at how they can limit overseas viewers freely accessing their programming via iPlayer and VPNs. The scale of the problem can’t be truly known, but with some BBC programming being incredibly popular overseas (e.g. Top Gear and Downton Abbey), surely the corporation owes us, the fee paying public, to do more to commercialise it internationally.
The key issue here is that the online services are only restricted based on the IP address where the viewer is based, and as I mentioned earlier, a simple DNS change or use of a VPN can enable anyone overseas to watch this – without a single penny being contributed to the corporation. A subscription only service, despite its technological obstacles and cultural reluctance at home in the UK, might be a better option to limit this sort of activity. It’d be interesting to see any stats from the BBC or other bodies that might be able to estimate the scale of this freeloading and whether any projections have been made as to what the income could be from making this a subscription service.
Is there a best case scenario for the future for the BBC? Whatever happens, there’ll be groups of people that aren’t going to be pleased.
My personal view is that we should see a reduction in the licence fee to reflect a core set of public-service channels that avoid the populist programming the BBC seem to focus on more these days. On top of this, we should have the ability to subscribe to additional BBC channels, with an additional fee for iPlayer.
In doing this, it gives consumers the option of picking the package of programming and distribution channels that best suits them.
If the online service was subscription only, that should surely also help address the international freeloaders. And who knows, perhaps in doing so, the corporation could recoup some of their lost funding.
So, something like this structure might work:
- BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News, BBC Radio 1 – 4 – Base level mandatory licence fee – £7 per month
- BBC Three – £3 per month
- BBC Four – £3 per month
- BBC iPlayer – £5 per month
- BBC Radio other/all channels (online only) – £2 per month
A full package could cost more than the current licence fee, but equally many could pay less by choosing the services that are relevant only to them. This solution obviously doesn’t take into account the mechanics of how such a system could be introduced, but from a pricing perspective, I think it’s inevitably fairer.
NB: I’ve not mentioned the BBC Parliament channel, as I honestly can’t believe anyone ever watches this! I’ve also not gone over the widely covered fat cat salaries, golden handcuffs/parachutes that are offered to BBC execs, as that’s old news and seemingly happening less these days?!
With all the focus on the recent budget from George Osborne and the welfare cuts about to be imposed, it still surprises me that one of the UKs big benefits issues persists and remains undiscussed and untackled.
Simply put, why are people on benefits able to have Sky TV subscriptions? If they’re rich enough to pay for Sky TV – with minimum subscriptions starting at over £20 per month and top tier packages over £80 per month – then they should arguably have their benefits reduced by this amount.
It confuses the hell out of me why the taxpayer funded benefits are allowed to support Sky TV subscriptions. Pay TV is a luxury, not a basic human right or utility, and certainly not one that should be paid for by the UK taxpayers. This benefit cut is much more logical than the bedroom tax that’s come about recently and would, in my opinion, have much wider acceptance by the general public.
I know many people, gainfully in employment, with good jobs, decent salaries and families to support – and they’ve made a careful decision not to have Sky TV because it’s too expensive for them. They pay their taxes, out of hard earned income, to – among other things – support the needy. And Sky TV should not be funded by these taxes. It’s just wrong.
With Freeview, or even Freesat, offering such a good range of completely free programming I can’t think of any genuine reason why Sky TV should ever be considered a necessity, and certainly not one that people on benefits should be able to pay for.
So, it might be a controversial statement – and it is entirely my personal opinion – but I believe that anyone on benefits that has Sky TV, should have their benefits reduced by the amount they pay for their subscription. That’s surely a fairer way of redistributing taxes and supporting those genuinely in need, isn’t it?
Every time there are reports in the media about the woefully low annuity rates or the recently implemented pension freedoms, I wonder why there aren’t more flexible or state-backed options for annuities. As much as the pension freedoms might have kickstarted a more flexible approach to retirement planning, annuities will still have a place in many people’s financial scenario planning because the security they offer is something many people will desire in their twilight years.
Given that the companies providing the annuities are effectively profit focused organisations, the fact they still offer these products means there must be money in it for them to do so. But if they’re basing their calculations of an annuity’s viability on historic mortality data, it’s no wonder that the returns they’re expecting will be lower as we’re all supposedly living longer these days. So in order to retain their operating margins, inevitably the value of annuities to consumers falls.
What I wonder though, is why the government doesn’t offer a state-backed annuity, accepting lower returns than the incumbent organisations but basing those returns over a longer period. In doing so , they’d be able to offer individuals higher rates and make the option of an annuity a much more attractive proposition. And because the government has the comparative luxury of basing their calculations over a longer time frame, it could result in a long term revenue source for a future government.
Maybe the concept is too alien for any government, thinking about future generations – and future governments – but as a concept, I think this could definitely be a good move for both individual and the broader country finances.
I published an original article back in 2010 about the Job Aggregators that were available online, explaining what they were and including links to the main players at the time. You can read that article here, if you want… but time has moved on and many/some of those aggregators have now closed their doors, shut down for business or merged with other operators, so the job aggregating landscape has changed somewhat. So it’s time for me to revisit the topic and lay out the best aggregators as I see them now in 2015. (Please note that these links will be UK oriented)
I was going to write that these are in no particular order, although over the previous years I’ve had more experience with Indeed, SimplyHired, Trovit and Adzuna and although there’s a huge amount of cross-over between all of these, I would argue that these are probably the major players in this field. In all likelihood they’re probably looking at mostly the same sources. The key difference comes from any working partnerships with direct employers and recruitment agencies, as they’ll typically be providing a feed of their jobs directly to one or more of the aggregators below.
One of the main job aggregators in the UK, they also have an international arm too. They have a simple interface that’s easy to use, uncluttered and pulls in jobs from across a wide variety of online media – including not just regular job boards, but publishing houses and newspapers too. Indeed also offer helpful mobile and tablet apps, so you can save vacancies while you’re on the move to review at a later time and date.
So Google announced earlier this year that they’d be introducing further changes to their algorithm to penalise sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, leading many to adopt the phrase Mobilegeddon, in the run up to the implementation on the 21st April. But I can’t help thinking that for all the fanfare and the massess of online discussions about how this could ruin many online businesses, it all ended up being a bit of a damp squib or a latter day Y2K-style issue.
Yes, it was probably more important for high-traffic B2C sites, particularly social media, news and ecommerce platforms that naturally lend themselves to their content being digested on the move via mobile devices. But for B2B sites or even lower traffic blogs (like mine!) I can’t help thinking that the whole impact was over-egged and resulted in significant discussion, research and reworking of websites in the run up to the change.
Having said that, of course it makes sense from a UX perspective to have a website that works in all contexts, orientations and for all screen sizes, but my issue is that the urgency with which many were promoting changes to be made was excessive.
The key issue
But more importantly than that, when you start considering your website traffic in more detail, you’ll see why this mobile-friendly issue may not have been such a big issue after all.
If you think that a typical B2B website, or indeed this blog, may receive anywhere from 5-20% of its traffic via a mobile device. Of that proportion, when you look at Google Analytics, I’ve often seen it further split between tablet devices and mobile devices fairly evenly – so at any one time, a maximum of 10% of web visitors are arriving on the site via a mobile device.
Depending on the design of the platform, it may or may not be a good experience for them – but that’s not the issue here. The key issue is whether an individual has actually searched for your site using Google. Because if they have, and your site isn’t mobile-optimised or responsively designed, then your position in the Google search results may suffer. But remember that the maximum of 10% of web visitors on a mobile device may not be arriving via Google search. They may have bookmarked your site, they may arrive from other inbound links or social referrals – so my contention with ‘Mobilegeddon’ is that the true impact is arguably less than was suggested initially and we’ve been the victim of online scaremongering.
Of course, if your site is based on WordPress (as this one is) then it’s relatively quick and easy to identify a replacement theme that is mobile-friendly or responsive-designed, upload and activate it – and then you’re compliant with the Google algorithm.
But if you’re managing your site using a different CMS or system, then you might need bit more help and direction. And that’s where Google’s Webmaster Tools come in handy. Once you’ve registered your site with the platform, it’ll be analysed and a report on where any issues (from Google’s perspective) will be made available to you – along with a list of fixes and further advice that you may want to implement. Whether that’s easy or not to implement will depend on your technical ability or the ability of the team or person working on your site, but at least you know where you should be focusing your efforts.
Free test of mobile-friendly status
You can test your site, or any of your competitor sites, using this free Google tool here.
They’re often heralded as consumer champions, giving individuals access to the whole (or a much larger proportion) of the market than they would have been able to access independently. But I wonder how much the presence of the comparison sites has actually inflated the costs we all pay as a result of the fees that they charge (to the insurers and other financial services companies).
The main comparison sites: Moneysupermarket.com, Compare the Market, Confused.com and Go Compare are all very profitable organisations in their own right. They must be making their money somewhere and since they don’t directly charge consumers for their custom, they must be making money from the insurers and other providers that they work with. And this cost must be funded somehow… so I believe this ‘cost of acquisition’ of a customer must be being passed on to the end user. It therefore has to be a false economy of some magnitude, arguably with inflated premiums for an end user to accommodate the extra costs the organisations are paying to the comparison sites. We may be getting access to a wider array of deals, so we can see the best rates in the market – but if the rates are all higher as a result, is that really benefiting anyone – other than the comparison sites?
To soften the impact of the inflated costs, there are different ways to benefit from the sales process that gives something back to the consumer. I’ve listed a couple of examples below that I’m aware of, where you’re additionally rewarded for using the services. I’ve used the cashback providers repeatedly and I’d highly recommend them.
The recently launched Meerkat Movies is a good example of one of the incentives these comparison sites offer to tempt consumers to use their services. On the surface, it seems like a great offer. Buy an insurance product after having compared through the comparison site Compare the Market and then you’re eligible to 2-for-1 cinema tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday for the following 12 months. It’s a better deal than the Orange 2-for-1 cinema deal that was only available on Wednesdays, and it’s valid for the whole year – but what’s the hidden cost?
My car insurance recently came up for renewal and we all know the advice is to shop around for a better deal than the one your insurer offers you, as you’re typically able to better it on the open market. However, having seen the Meerkat Movies deal and thinking I’d like to take advantage of it – my search on the Compare the Market website returned a deal that was over 16% more expensive than the renewal deal offered by my existing insurer. I guess this is how they’re able to fund the Meerkat Movies deal!
Having said that – Hot UK Deals – a money saving / deals website where individuals report back on the best offers, savings and deals they find in the UK as they come across them – has reported a workaround for the Meerkat Movies, whereby you can simply purchase a one day insurance policy for as little as £1.37 and therefore be eligible for the Meerkat Movies offer. If this works, it’s a great piece of advice. Check out the link here.
Alternatively, to claw back some of the money the comparison sites make out of you, consider using one of the cashback sites, like TopCashback. Depending on the policy that you’re looking for, you could save a lot of money! At the time of writing, More Than insurance is offering £106.05 cashback on Landlords insurance, for example. Quidco is the other main cashback site in the UK – and they offer similar, although not always the same, cashback deals on insurers and other online retailers. So it’s always worth checking both of them to see where you can get the best deal. Through Quidco, for example, take out a life insurance policy via the comparison site Confused.com and at the time of writing, you’re able to claim up to £127 in cashback. It’s free money, so you might as well claim it. All you’re doing is sharing the commission the insurer would typically pay to any referring organisation.
It would seem the comparison sites are here to stay – for better or worse. Going to the insurers direct offers no better rates than through the comparison sites, and in many instances you’re missing out on exclusive deals or incentives that are offered through those referral sites. Couple those incentives with various cashback offers (from the cashback sites) and it can soften the deal somewhat, but I just can’t help but wonder if the presence of the comparison sites is actually just costing us all more in the long run.
Although I’m a big fan of Calibre and use it to manage the bulk of my e-book collection, occasionally, I just want to quickly convert individual documents or ebooks. And for this purpose, I’ve come across a helpful free, online book converter tool – cunningly called “Online Converter Tool” – and you can access it here.
Just saying it’s an ebook converter tool is a little misleading though because it can do a lot more than that. It can convert to most of the main ebook and document formats – including ePub, mobi (for Kindles) and PDFs – but it will also convert audio files into different formats too, including to AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV and WMA (among others).
Similarly, there are video converters – think AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and WMV – as well as device-specific settings for iPhone, iPads, Android devices and others. And there are also free online converter tools for images (BMP, EPS, GIF, JPG, PNG, etc.), documents (DOC, DOCX, HTML, PDF, RTF, TXT, etc.) and even archive converters (7Z, ZIP, etc. – but no RAR).
Considering it’s a completely free resource, the few files I’ve thrown at it were dealt with quickly and produced flawless PDFs from ePubs, with no watermarking or other additions to my document. So it’s earned a place in my bookmarks and will no doubt be a tool I continue to use in the future.