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Google's Nexus One, a Steal At $49 Unlocked? 311

gjt writes "I initially posted a piece ragging on the Nexus One. But then a commenter pointed out a problem with my initial logic, and after doing some math I concluded that the $529 unlocked/unsubsidized Google Nexus One gPhone is much cheaper than it appears to be. In fact it's only $49 over two years — and that's unlocked! Google likes to say that the Nexus One represents 'Our new approach to buying a mobile phone.' But it actually seems as though T-Mobile deserves most of the credit by providing a $20/month discount to customers who purchase an unsubsidized phone, a fact that didn't seem to get much attention when T-Mobile created the plan last October."
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Google's Nexus One, a Steal At $49 Unlocked?

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  • Oh god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:47PM (#31049844) Journal

    So, the real cost of an unlimited everything plan is $99.99/mo for subsidized phone buyers. Compare that to the $79.99/mo plan for unsubsidized buyers and that’s a $20/mo savings. Over two years, that’s a whopping $480 savings.

    So, $529 – $480 yields a final purchase price of just $49!

    Except that the phone is still $529! You're just buying the most expensive package available and think you're saving money, which makes no sense.

    Everything in Europe has been traditionally unlocked and unsubsidized phones. You buy the phone and then you get a subscription from your favorite operator. They have added the subsidized option but almost no one buys his/her phone like that. It's just stupid, which the article writer seems to have "discovered" here.

    • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:52PM (#31049872)
      Married men understand the principal better. They are constantly saving money, thanks to their wives buying things they don't need and won't wear at 20% off.
      • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Funny)

        by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:01PM (#31049912)

        Sounds like we are married to the same woman.

      • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Funny)

        by CrashandDie ( 1114135 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @03:39AM (#31050944)

        Married men understand the principal better.

        Indeed, that's why I've stopped asking my wife to come to parent-teacher conferences.

    • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Informative)

      by santax ( 1541065 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:56PM (#31049886)
      I have no clue in what country you life but I assure that everything in the Benelux + Germany is locked. You get the phone for 'free' and a laptop or in some cases even a car.... but the phone is locked and your contract too. Almost nobody buys a phone here (unlocked for the full price) and then goes to see which provider is best. Wouldn't make sense either, all the providers have equal coverage and price difference's are small.
      • If the phone is locked can you use it in a different country without restrictions? Can you buy a SIM in a different country and use that SIM while you are away? If not, there are good reasons to buy an unlocked phone.

        • by Macrat ( 638047 )
          Or even in the same country.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by obarthelemy ( 160321 )

          No. Locked phone = no SIM swapping, neither at home nor abroad. One exception: MVNO that use your original provider's network, but that's not very interesting.

          I don't know about the rest of Europe, but the law in France forces the operator to unlock your phone for free after 6 months (or for a fee up to € 65 before). So the locked phone issue only exists for the first 6 months of a contract (you've got to request the unlock, though). I always keep a previous phone, just in case.

      • I have no clue in what country you life but I assure that everything in the Benelux + Germany is locked. You get the phone for 'free' and a laptop or in some cases even a car.... but the phone is locked and your contract too. Almost nobody buys a phone here (unlocked for the full price) and then goes to see which provider is best. Wouldn't make sense either, all the providers have equal coverage and price difference's are small.

        Things must have changed since 2001 when I (and most soldiers I knew) bought cell phones at full price and then got SIM cards for D2, etc.

        I moved to italy and it was the same deal. I really liked the european cell-phone system... I miss it...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        BS, I am using Vodafone pre-paid cards on an unlocked phone without a contract in Germany...

      • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Informative)

        by TBoon ( 1381891 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @12:45AM (#31050402)
        Here in Norway you can easily get both locked and unlocked phones, though pretty much all advertised products are locked. Typically for 1 year, after which unlocking is a phonecall away. Done this myself twice, never any hassle. However, with the exception of the phone I got 4 years ago (locked a single month, at a 150 euro discount), taking the bundled contracts seem to always come out more expensive than getting an unlocked phone and choosing another contract that suites your usage pattern. No idea how the sales-ratio between locked/unlocked phones are.
      • "I have no clue in what country you life but I assure that everything in the Benelux + Germany is locked."

        I live in Benelux (the lux part) and I had never any locked phone.
        Actually I bought my unlocked iPhone in Belgium where you could get them before I could get them at home. (locked or unlocked)

        All the phones in the shops have both prices displayed, locked and unlocked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teun ( 17872 )
        When you buy a phone including a plan it'll no doubt be locked, but it's real easy to get the same phone without a plan.

        Especially in the larger cities it's easy to find a small shop that for a small fee will unlock just about any phone and there's nothing illegal about it.

        Because I feel it's giving me more software freedom than a Droid I'm looking at a Nokia N900 right now, not as a phone but purely as a mini computer with the option of VOIP, it's all over the place, unlocked and for about €550.00.

    • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Informative)

      by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:56PM (#31049888)

      Yeah, the more sensible comparison is $2,579 for the subsidized phone+contract, and $2,449 for the unsubsidized phone+contract.

    • by Jurily ( 900488 )

      Everything in Europe has been traditionally unlocked and unsubsidized phones.

      For a long time, I didn't even understand why /. is so hung up about phone plans. "Why don't you just buy a prepay one?"

      • Feature phones (Score:3, Informative)

        by tepples ( 727027 )

        For a long time, I didn't even understand why /. is so hung up about phone plans. "Why don't you just buy a prepay one?"

        I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with the fact that Slashdot is hosted and operated in the United States for the primary benefit of readers in the United States []. The handsets sold in big-box stores in the United States for use with prepaid plans in the United States are still locked to one provider, and they're feature phones rather than smartphones. Feature phones tend to have fewer apps because 1. there isn't a lot of CPU power, and 2. BREW is even more restrictive than Apple's App Store.

        • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) *

          I don't think that's his point. The first time I heard how mobile stuff is done in US I was really surprise too, actually I'm still even a bit.

          Another thing that the separation of phone devices and service establishes is that in case I have multiple devices, be that either multiple phones or for example phone+3G dongle, I can just go to my phone company's site and click a button to request additional sim card for free. I can use them all at the same time and they're all under same contract (and for example

      • by Macrat ( 638047 )

        "Why don't you just buy a prepay one?"

        Prepay doesn't have data.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Dahan ( 130247 )

          Prepay doesn't have data.

          AT&T GoPhone. A ludicrous $0.01/KB if you don't buy a block of data, but you can buy a 100MB block that lasts up to 30 days for $19.99 (and if you buy another block of data before the 30 days is up, any unused amount from your previous block will roll over), as well as a 1MB block for $4.99. I use it with my unlocked Nokia E71, and it works great. While 100MB isn't much, I don't use my phone's data connection as if it were my primary internet connection; 100MB typically lasts me 2 or 3 months.

      • In the US "prepay" is synonymous with "I have bad credit so real companies wont deal with me" or "I don't use my phone". The prices for prepaid phone service are frequently twice per minute what it would cost under contract.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LordKronos ( 470910 )

          I have prepaid, I have excellent credit, and I do use my phone (though I suppose by a lot of people's standards it's barely using it). Over the course of 4 years, my highest monthly usage has been about 130 minutes and my lowest is about 25 minutes, so my monthly "bill" ranges from $2.50 to $13.00, with $4-6 being typical. My wife also has the same setup, and her typical usage is around $13-$15 a month. Our highest combined monthly usage over the 4 years was about $26/month total.

    • Perhaps, but T-Mobile is, as far I know, the only US carrier which gives any discount for unsubsidized buyers

      Thank our lobbyist fueled legislature for that

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      really? do people not realize that some of us on Tmobile have been grandfathered into amazingly cheap data plans such as the Tzones $5.99 unlimited data plan?
      unlocked phones in the USA are always expensive. nothing new there.

      lets see...
      $5.99 x 12 = $71.88 / year for full data
      $39.99 x 12 = $479,88 / year for full data

      sure, i save a few hundred on teh cost of the device via subsidization but in that year i just increased my overall data service charges by $400. and we wonder why america is hurt

      • Same deal here. I had that crappy T-Zones plan for my old RAZR which I barely used, but now that I got a Nexus One I'm suddenly glad I had it for all these years!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LingNoi ( 1066278 )

      Where exactly in Europe are you talking about because it's the complete opposite in the UK where everyone gets a phone with their 1 or 2 year contract. Another person mentioned it is the same in Germany too. This would seem to invalidate your "everything in Europe claim".

      The only place I know where people buy the Phone and then a contract is in my homeland of Thailand.

    • by f1vlad ( 1253784 ) Works for Slashdot

      And in EU you pay full price of the device. If you buy it without contract that is. What is this novice concept in USA that everyone's so freaked out about? You buy a phone, you pay its retail price. It's normal.

      I do realise it'll take years for people (of USA) to realise that their phones cost much more than they paid [when they renewed the contract].

      There are two plans at T-Mobile. One is when you get cheap phone, you pay $99 all unlimited. Or (!) you get identical T-Mobile plan for only $79 ($20 less

      • by socsoc ( 1116769 )
        And this was talked about quite a bit upon release, so it did get a lot of attention on tech sites. gjt just wasn't paying attention and was too busy blogging. Then a commenter calls him out for being wrong and he submits to /. that he was wrong? What the Hell?
    • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <<deleted> <at> <>> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:55PM (#31050202)

      Speak for yourself.

      In Germany, almost everybody bought subsidized phones until maybe 1-2 years ago. But you always had the option to buy a unsubsidized phone. Which still was unlocked. (I have yet so see a single locked phone or offer in Germany.)

      Luckily, nowadays, the prepaid options available are so great (e.h. blau), that there is no point in buying a subsidized one with a plan, unless you need one of those flat-rate deals where you pay nothing to call others in the same net (usually BASE & re-branded clones of it, or a local dealer like Alice).

      And with even the “candybar” Nokia 5800 costing only than 250€, it’s possible to buy a phone just like that.

      By the way: Wouldn’t you get a N900 for $529? With keyboard, Debian Linux / Maemo, etc?

      • Re:Oh god (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @11:49AM (#31052666) Journal

        By the way: Wouldn’t you get a N900 for $529? With keyboard, Debian Linux / Maemo, etc?

        I would if I didn't mind carrying around a brick in my pocket all day. For that matter, for $529 I can get a decent 15" laptop. As-is, I'm very happy with my unlocked Nexus One. It's the only phone out there that's better than an iPhone, IMO. Of course, if you require a keyboard, the Motorola Droid is the way to go.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      I don't know from which European country you come, but in the Netherlands in has always been locked and subsidized phones.

      The first mobile phone I ever bought back in 1998, back when GSM was brand new, was locked and subsidized and so has every other new mobile phone since then.

      You can buy unsubsidized and unlocked in the Netherlands too, but it's pretty much the same deal as in the US; pay more. The norm is still subsidized and locked.

    • Actually depends on where you live in europe...

  • Crock (Score:5, Informative)

    by mother_reincarnated ( 1099781 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:55PM (#31049884)

    $49 as in "$529 + $1680 is only $2160 +$49."

    That's not quite $49, and not even getting into the issue of NPV (net present value).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JoeMerchant ( 803320 )

      $49 as in "$529 + $1680 is only $2160 +$49."

      That's not quite $49, and not even getting into the issue of NPV (net present value).

      If your bank is paying 0.4% apr like mine, NPV is pretty flat these days.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:59PM (#31049904)

    Dear poster,

    Your math is unlike my math. I have concluded that your math sounds like something a statistician would produce to justify something completely ass backwards.

    John Q Public

  • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:08PM (#31049942) Journal
    the most interesting: []

    So, Google/HTC could have very easily made this one phone model compatible with not only T-Mobile and AT&T, but pretty much any 3GSM network worldwide if they only included the right combination of power amplifiers. According to iSuppli’s teardown of the Nexus One, [] the four small power amplifiers that are in the Nexus One only account for $2.20 in manufacturing costs. $2.20! How much more could a different combination of power amplifiers have cost? Maybe another $2 (at most)?!

    It just sounds like a deliberate decision to aid the wireless carrier oligopoly. Given that we’ve seen HTC’s FCC documents to introduce an AT&T oriented version of the Nexus One, you’d think that overall engineering, manufacturing, warehousing, and sales expenses would be lowered enough by offering a single model that could replace two.

    The deliberate lack of network compatibility is simply bewildering.

    What was that about not being evil again?

    • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:27PM (#31050056)

      In other news, in the real world, adding chips to a design doesn't just cost component + assembly costs. It also increases the size of the device, and possibly the power consumption (though these can probably be put into a low enough power mode that it doesn't matter).

      Making the device larger and heavier isn't something that's done lightly. Sure, this would only add a little bit, but *any* individual feature only adds a little bit. You have to draw a line somewhere.

      That said, I'd like it better if it supported more networks, too...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by marcmerlin ( 48598 )

      since you're not a radio and hardware engineer, I guess it's not obvious to you that putting antennas and electronics for different frequencies does cost board space. It's not impossible but it's hard on a small phone and definitely more money.
      Yes, I'd also love a phone that does it all, but they aren't exactly common. It's not just HTC, it's pretty much everyone.

    • Especially if you look at the HTC Imagio on Verizon it is a worldwide phone that can use both CDMA and GSM bands. The GSM bands are locked in the US but if you call verizon and tell them you are going traveling you can get an unlock code so you can use it with pretty much any provider. So the only reason the nexus is locked down is insistence from T-mobile or Google.

      • Adding support for these extra bands costs something. Either higher price, heavier, bigger, or some other feature was left out to accommodate the extra radio hardware. There are entirely legitimate reasons for HTC and Google to leave this feature out.

  • How does this work? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:09PM (#31049950) Homepage Journal
    To me the math is simple, unless T-Mobile and Android is engaging in false advertising. The price is $179 which seems high for an HTC smart phone. Monthly is about $85. Two year cost is around $2200.

    On the other hand one can buy the phone and the same two year cost will be about the same. This would be the reasonable thing to do as you would not incur the wrath of the Google termination fee.

    I don't even know why anyone would by a Nexus 1, since one can get a no contract phone from T-Mobile for much less and have the same fee.

    I wonder if Google is setting such high prices to keep the cell companies happy, or if they are actually so inefficient that they can't market the phone for less.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      the other phones that tmobile offer do not come close to the power the nexus one has. there's a reason why i don't own a mytouch or cliq. too slow of a cpu for AR based apps.

      if people really were looking to save money, they'd:

      1. call tmobile and get the tzone's $5.99 plan (some social hacking is involved since they claim it does not exist but it does.. you just gotta push).
      2. buy the phone unlocked
      3. have an unlimited data plan that works on an unlocked iPhone, Blackberry and any Android phone

      • the other phones that tmobile offer do not come close to the power the nexus one has.

        The Touch Pro 2 is comparable to the Nexus.

        • So the ancient 528MHz chip (with a few small modifications, IIRC) that's been in use since the HTC Diamond is supposed to be comparable to the Snapdragon in the Nexus? What have you been smoking?

          Don't get me wrong, the TP2 is a great device with a decent keyboard and pretty much _the_ WinMo work phone right now, but in terms of processing power, the Nexus won't even blink before throwing the TP2 off a cliff...

      • What are "AR" based apps?

        And I see what you mean by the power of the Nexus. I didn't realize it had a 1ghz CPU.

    • Most of your post doesn't make sense. You can buy the phone full price and get on an unsubsidized plan for about $65 a month. $20 * 24 months = $480. full price of phone - $480 $180 (subsidized price) with contract
  • boo, advertising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lazy Jones ( 8403 )
    Google getting desperate [] and subtly spamming slashdot now? Hey, perhaps people just don't want a phone made by the "maybeyou shouldn't be doing it in the first place" guys?
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @12:02AM (#31050228) Homepage

    Not possible. T-Mobile is a cellphone company and therefor irredeemably evil. They cannot possibly deserve any credit for anything. I'm sure someone will explain how it is all really a plot to deprive you of your inalienable human right to unlimited free downloads and uncapped infinite bandwidth.

    The RIAA is behind it. Mark my words.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gaelfx ( 1111115 )
      No, the real monster in the closet here is that the savings are still tied to buying a 2 year contract. So the phone is unlocked, but you're still stuck with crummy cell phone contracts in order to avoid dumping a bunch of money into the phone, which is what the contract will cause you to do in the long run. This is just sleight of hand taken to a new level.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gad_zuki! ( 70830 )

        If you buy the phone for 529 you do not get on a contract. You simply pay a monthly fee and quit when you want to. There can be no ETF as nothing is subsidized.

  • ... even here at SlashDot, society is infested with the innumerates! Arrrrh!

    A DISCOUNT cannot be applied to a purchase price until/unless it is clear of other conditions. In this case, a 24 month service "contract".

    The $20/mo can only be considered if the contract price is fully competitive with the offer you would otherwise take. Personally, I consider $60-75/mo utterly outrageous. The $20/mo makes them slightly less outrageous, but still usurous. I have a nice grandfathered sweet deal at $2-4/mo, bu

  • by GPLHost-Thomas ( 1330431 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @12:59AM (#31050462)
    Aren't you guys tired of reading all the time the same big-brother phone-add "news" on slashdot? Since when this site started covering a 4 months old price as a news? What exactly do we learn here? Are moderators sold to google? Aren't the adds on google itself enough? If this was mobile phone dot com why not, but I (and I believe, the vast majority of readers here) are reading to learn about new stuffs in the IT world.
    I'm getting sick of so much promotion for a device that doesn't deserves it and that is taking so much space and time on the web.
    • by bnenning ( 58349 )

      If this was mobile phone dot com why not, but I (and I believe, the vast majority of readers here) are reading to learn about new stuffs in the IT world.

      Phones are the new stuff in the IT world. In 10 years, traditional desktops and laptops will be much less common, and most people will use phones (really, handheld computers that also make phone calls) and tablets. And hopefully glasses with heads-up displays.

    • You must be new here.

      There's a unwritten, unspoken rule that everyday on slashdot, there has to be at a bare minimum:

      1 Microsoft story about how bad it is.
      1 Google story about how great it is.
      1 Linux story about how this year will be its year on the desktop.
      1 Apple story about how lame their newest product is.

      These are the four tenets of Slashdot if you will, the four pillars upon which all else stands. As for T-Mobile, AT&T, Amazon, and everybody else, they're all just along for the ride.

    • Aren't you guys tired of reading all the time the same big-brother phone-ad "news" on slashdot?

      I'm not.

      I'm in fact really happy that there were good discussions about the Nokia N900 phone---otherwise I wouldn't have known about the existence of a smartphone which (supposedly) delivers exactly what I want: a pocket computer I can tinker with.

      Being told that the thing I've been wanting for ten years finally exists is something I'm actually happy about. Was Nokia involved behind the scenes? Were they trying to push their product? Why would I care---I want the product at the price it's offered at.

      Just like the other day where I was shopping for a scarf. The sales clerk notified me they had socks for sale. I tried a pair on, liked it, found the price reasonable, and I needed more socks, so I bought some. Yes, he applied a sales technique on me, and it worked. So what? His pitch didn't artificially inflate my need for socks, it told me "you can get what you want, and here's how: [...]".

      And a while back I was looking for some stickers for my Rubik's cube. One of Google's advertisers had exactly what I wanted, at a price I liked.

      Advertisements aren't that bad. It's just that 99% give all the good ones a bad name ;-)

      That is to say: yeah, I see a lot of ads I'd rather be without. But every once in a while, someone seeks me out wanting to sell me something, and it just so happens that I, before engaging with them, have a desire to buy what I then discover they sell.

      If I like the transaction, why shouldn't I like being brought in contact with the other side of it?

      And hey, if you don't like the headlines, you don't have to read the summary. And if you don't like the summary, you don't have to read the discussion. And you never have to read the article (see, I'm not new here).

  • [] If you are happy with 2-3 times the speed of dialup then go for it. T-Mobile only has 3G in a few select large cities. Cripples the phone in my opinion. Even AT&T has much much better 3G coverage. And Verizon throws Rev-A (3G) on all their towers which is why they have been winning the "map wars" recently.
  • Not $49, but $2449 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @04:53AM (#31051134)
    Shouldn't we calculate the price in the same way as iPhone prices are usually calculated?

    According to the FTA, he is paying $529 for the phone, plus $80 per month for an unlimited plan = $1920 over two years, total = $2449. That is the cost of the phone.
  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @06:26AM (#31051386)

    This is bullshit. Not only do consumers prefer to pay later, fucking accountants prefer to pay later. Corporations prefer to pay later.

    Apple tried this with the iPhone, too. The original iPhone was unsubsidized. People HATED it.

    The subsidy is great because it makes it possible to buy an iPhone for $99 instead of a crappy feature phone. The extra $20 per month on the contract is offset by the fact that you're using a smartphone, it pays for itself. You make more sales or get a better job or save time or money compared to when you didn't have a smartphone.

    STOP APOLOGIZING FOR ANDROID. It sucks and it won't get better until the people who use it demand that it get better. Google bought Android in 2005. Where are the results? iPad is going to ship with a $15 data plan and Skype calls, that is what was promised from the Google Phone. And iPad with 3G and 16GB is only $50 more than Nexus One.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @07:52AM (#31051686)

    Now, that $480 savings is $130 more than the $350 savings you get by selecting the $179 subsidized purchase option.

    So, when you think about it, the $20/mo discount to unsubsidized phone buyers is effectively a rebate against the up front cost of the phone.

    Good Grid! Does this guy actually think I am going to try to follow this spaghetti of weird math? "If you think about it, subtracting THIS amount if you get THAT option is almost like you could think of it as though you were saving THIS much beyond the discount with THIS OTHER option..."

    Give me an effin' break!

    Here is a hint for the author of TFA: when comparing costs, you don't need to subract ANYTHING. All you do is add.

    Show me a simple chart:

    Phone A with plan A costs THIS MUCH over two years. (Upfront cost + monthly charge over 2 years = total. No need to get any fancier.)

    Phone B with plan A costs THIS MUCH over two years.

    Phone A with plan B costs THIS MUCH over two years.

    Phone B with plan B costs THIS MUCH over two years.

    And so on. That's all it takes. I don't need to subract anything from anything and I don't need to "think of it as though" I were saving anything. I can just look at the damned chart and see what everything costs.

    Jesus. Is this guy some kind of professional writer? Can I have his job?

  • by okmijnuhb ( 575581 ) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @08:25AM (#31051804)
    This article is symptomatic of the mobile phone business greed.
    The pricing plans are so convoluted, someone claiming to be an expert cannot even get the math right.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker