Magazine article Working Mother

The Real Cost. of Smartphones

Magazine article Working Mother

The Real Cost. of Smartphones

Article excerpt

Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Ah, the ubiquitous smartphone. And then there's the plan-oy. Used to be you decided how many minutes you needed and which carrier you liked, and signed up for a two-year contract. Done deal. But now that contracts are heading toward extinction (along with flip phones and long-distance charges), there seem to be more choices than ever. You can share data plans, bring your own device, choose an installment plan and more. All of these costs are worth reviewing, since the average cellphone user now invests $90 per line per month ($111 for iPhone users). With a little research, you can get some great deals on smartphones and plans for you and your family. Here's how to dial in to the savings.

The Phone

It seems like buying an actual phone should be simpler now that carriers are transparent about the phone's cost. But the process has actually gotten more confusing, says Jeff Trachsel, chief marketing officer for NextWorth, a company that buys used electronics. Taking the phone subsidy as part of a cell plan is probably worth it only if you're still stuck in a carrier contract, he says. Better bets:

If you upgrade annually, buy your phone outright and sell it around month 12, when it still has a generous resale value. Use the proceeds to upgrade to your next phone.

If you keep your phone more than two years and plan to stay with your carrier, use its 24-month installment plan-basically free financing.

If you're a bargain hunter, you can buy a phone up to four years old (two generations back) and probably not feel like you're missing out on the latest features, says Trachsel. Buy from someone you trust, or from a retailer that inspects and restores phones to factory settings and can guarantee that the phone isn't lost or stolen.

The Plans and Carriers

Long-term contracts with your cellphone company are so 2012- mostly. You can now pay month-to-month for phone use and data with almost every carrier, notes Galen Gruman, executive editor at infoworld .com. One caveat: If you buy your phone through a monthly installment plan, you're stuck with the company for 24 months unless you pay its early-termination fee (around $175) or get a new carrier to reimburse you for it. To save, check phone and plan prices at least once a year. You could score big savings by shopping around.

Look beyond the Big 4. Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T aren't your only choices. Companies like Virgin Mobile, Net10, Ting, Straight Talk and Republic Wireless are often subsidiaries of the bigger companies- or buy excess network space from them-and tend to offer less-expensive monthly plans. …

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