Buying a New Smartphone Without Extending Your Contract
Buying a new phone is great, especially since most carriers will give you a hefty discount ($199 vs. $529 for retail) in exchange for extending your contract for two years.
Why would anyone hesitate to trade two years for a $329 discount? There are lots of reasons:
- They hate their service but love their phone (iPhone anyone?)
- They're waiting for the phone they want to become available on a "better" carrier (Verizon-cough-cough)
- They don't like being tied down
I was recently forced to go this route because I am on a sweet plan that is so heavily discounted, I had to pay retail.
I upgraded to a newer, better, faster phone without extending my contract and only paid $215. If you include the taxes and activation fees that come with extending your contract for two years, I actually paid less than most people would!
Here are four tips I followed to buy a new phone without giving those evil carriers what they want:
It all starts with research. The carriers will tout the newest phones with the latest features, but they aren't necessarily that much better. When a carrier says stuff like "this phone will keep you connected to your friends via Facebook," you know they're talking crap. Most smartphones can do most tasks, so don't fall for carriers' marketing spin.
You have to rely on yourself to know the facts. Read reviews on sites like Engadget and Gizmodo. See what Consumer Reports has to say. Ask your friends what features they use and like. Ask the people who follow you on Twitter.
Just don't walk into a carrier's store and ask the person behind the counter what the best phone is...it isn't in your best interest.
Hold the Phone
After you've done your research and narrowed it down to two or three phones, it's essential that you actually hold them in your hand and test them out.
You're trying to answer crucial questions like:
- How does it feel in your hand?
- Do you need a keyboard?
- How is the screen's responsiveness?
- How does the interface work for you?
- Will other people think you're cool if you have this phone?
I went into two different T-Mobile stores a couple of times to play with two different phones: the Samsung Vibrant and the HTC G2. The screen on the Vibrant was amazing, but the G2 had a keyboard. They were two totally different phones with their own pluses and minuses.
Reviews help, but the best way to know if a phone works for you is by holding it and testing it.
Buying It: Use Craigslist and eBay
Craigslist and eBay are a great way to find phones that are in great condition at heavy discounts.
Ideally you'll find a phone that has been well taken care of. That means you may have to buy a phone that has been out there for a few months already. Nobody said this was going to be a free ride.
Also, make sure to ask your local carrier's store if they have any refurbished or returned phones. These are practically new but have to be sold for less because they've been opened and used.
I was lucky enough to find a guy online selling a Nexus One for $365 that looked brand new. He had put a screen protector and body glove on it from day one so it was almost like I was buying a new phone at a used price.
Sell Your Old Phone
Selling your old phone will help you offset the price of the phone you just bought. Lots of people sell their old phones on eBay and Craigslist, so making yours stand out is important if you want to get top dollar. Some things you can do to make your listing stand out:
- Include any extra chargers, car chargers, docks, or batteries you have
- Include the original box and manual if you have them
- Lots of close-up, quality pictures
- Upgrade the software on your own
- Use spell-check so you don't come off like a psycho
See what other people are selling the phone for, and if you can make your listing stand out, you might get top dollar to offset the purchase of your new phone.
I sold my two-and-a-half-year-old G1 for $150 because I included every accessory I had, took time to craft a good listing, and upgraded it to the latest Android version. That made my phone stand out, and I listed it for a relatively high price.
Enjoy Your New Phone!
Now you have a new(ish) phone and you don't have to commit to another two years with your carrier. So when Verizon finally comes out with the iPhone, you'll be ready to jump ship and enjoy the latest iPhone without being on the worst network, according to Consumer Reports.
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