savemoneywithiphoneMost of us fall into one of two categories: those who desperately want a smartphone and those who have become dependent on the many wonderful features their smartphone has offered them. The bad news is that, while the wonders of smartphones are nearly undeniable, so is the high cost. Purchasing and maintaining a smartphone is not cheap! Fortunately, there are some ways to beat the system, and I managed to get myself a shiny new iPhone and unlimited talk, text, and data plan for a price that’s hard to believe! And I did it all without locking myself into a two-year contract, a.k.a. death trap.

iPhones have become somewhat synonymous with AT&T and Verizon, the wireless powerhouses of our generation, but iPhones (as well as other high-end smartphones) have started to become available from other well-known service providers, including T-Mobile, Sprint, and Virgin Mobile. Two-year contracts are required for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, which is a real pain when you find yourself needing to cut off your phone service because you’re moving out of the country or you have discovered that you are paying about double what you could be paying (which you are about to). It turns out that 2-year contracts are a subsidy system. The cost of the phone seems cheap at first, but you pay the full price through the high cost of your plan over the two years you’re locked in. Here is a very simplified breakdown of what these services will cost you by the end of your contract with an iPhone 4S (getting a slightly older version will save you money right there – and I promise, there’s not much difference!):

AT&T:

Cost of phone: $99.99

Plan: $80

    • Talk: 450 minutes
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: 300 MB

Activation: $36

Cost over two years: $2055.99

Cost of unlimited everything option over two years: $3015.99

 

Verizon:

Cost of phone: $99.99

Plan: $80

    • Talk: Unlimited
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: 300 MB

Activation: $35

Cost over two years: $2054.99

Cost of unlimited everything option over two years: $2534.99

 

T-Mobile:

Cost of phone: $22 per month

Plan: $50

    • Talk: Unlimited
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: 500 MB

SIM Starter: $10

Cost over two years: $1738.00

Cost of unlimited everything option over two years: $2218.00

 

Sprint:

Cost of phone: $99.99

Plan: $80

    • Talk: Unlimited
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: Unlimited

Activation: $36

Cost over two years: $2055.99 

So, spending up to $3,000 AND being locked into a contract is NOT awesome. What is awesome is that there are alternatives that will save you bundles of money. You can buy your choice of iPhone unlocked from Walmart or the Apple Store for what may seem like a high price ($549 for an iPhone 4S), but there are ways to knock that down. First of all, you can get discounts for Walmart, the Apple Store ($50 gift card if you buy an iPhone), Amazon Prime (great for buying accessories), and iTunes through StudentUniverse. You can also sell your old phone (Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist are great sites for that). Or, if you think ahead, you can get gift cards or cash back from a rewards credit card – some great options for students are the Citi Forward for College Students card and the Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card. Credit card rewards are fantastic because you earn them by spending money you would anyway, and my points covered the majority of the cost of my iPhone.

So, now that you have an unlocked iPhone, you can pop in a SIM card from Walmart’s Straight Talk and save all kinds of money without compromising service!

 

Straight Talk:

Plan: $45

    • Talk: Unlimited
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: Unlimited

SIM card: $15

*You can also get discounts for purchasing service for more than 30 days at a time.

Cost over two years (for $150 spent on iPhone) = $1245.00

Cost over two years (for $549 spent on iPhone) = $1644.00

That comes out to a savings of $1770.99 compared to AT&T’s unlimited plan for a discounted phone and $1371.99 compared to AT&T for a regular priced phone.

Seems like a no-brainer to me! And there are even more options for cheap phone service if you aren’t married to an iPhone or live in a specific service area.

 

MetroPCS does not offer iPhones but has several smartphone options:

Cost of phone: $399.99 (Samsung Galaxy S III – comparable to iPhone)

Plan: $60 (cheaper options available)

    • Talk: Unlimited
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: Unlimited

Cost over two years: $1839.99

 

Virgin Mobile has more limited coverage (be sure to check the map) but offers no-contract iPhones and cheap plan options:

Cost of phone: $382.49

Plan: $55 (cheaper options available)

    • Talk: Unlimited
    • Text: Unlimited
    • Data: Unlimited

Cost over two years: $1704.49

 

So, don’t waste your time with an expensive phone contract, and don’t let yourself believe that a smartphone is out of reach! You can save money AND enjoy the wonderful world of a smartphone.

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    About Rayanne Beaudry