Smartphone: Upgrade, or Not?
Bill Quick

Your carrier wants you to buy into early upgrades, but should you take the bait?

We get it. It’s been a year since you got a new phone, and it doesn’t have a Super Ultra HD screen, 80MP camera or fancy pants 50-core processor. You pine for the latest and greatest mobile toy, but it’s probably going to cost you a lot, right? Well, yes. But in the past year, every major US network has eased the pain by introducing device installment plans, many of which allow you to trade in your current phone for a newer, hipper model. Most of these plans, which are designed to let you pay off your device over several months, are still more expensive than the average two-year contract, regardless of who you sign it with. But whether you like it or not, they’re here to stay.

Depends on what you want to do with your phone.  If it’s going to be your primary computer, then you might want the latest and greatest.  But if you just use it for calls and texting, spend $60-$100 for a Nokia Windows phone and buy a cheap call plan to go with it.  I’ve got a Nokia 520 I paid $60 for, and bought a 1000 minute phone package that runs for a year to fuel it, which cost another $100.  So I’ve got a nice little phone that does just about anything your smartphone can do if it can connect to wifi, and make and receive calls from anywhere it gets a T-Mobile 4G connection.

One thing I can guarantee you – handset prices are going to start coming down – precipitately.

Posted in Technology permalink
Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Smartphone: Upgrade, or Not? — 4 Comments

  1. Since I hate my carrier with a white-hot passion (who doesn’t?), I only recently was in a store for the first time in five years. My three year old Samsung Windows Phone has been acting a bit glitchy, so I was checking out options.

    AT&T will still do the “cheap phone with two year contract” thing, but they now have a $40 surcharge on a smartphone PER MONTH. Meaning they don’t really want to sell you a contract anymore.

    As the article says, what they now want to do is get you to buy an expensive phone on the installment plan. Except, with the automatic upgrade plans, the installments never end. Kind of a reverse on consol bonds.

    Bottom line is that even if you want to use AT&T (and I have some other reasons I grind my teeth and do so), it now no longer makes any sense at all to buy phones from them. Buy from Amazon, or the Microsoft store, or discount places, or whatever, and just stick the SIM card in. As Bill noted, you can get last-generation phones incredibly cheap, and they’re fine for anyone who doesn’t choose their phone for status purposes.

    • One of the reasons that the big carriers hate the notion of universal wifi is that if you’ve got a good, cheap smartphone (my Nokia is excellent) it can do anything any other smartphone can do via wifi. The only advantage in having a carrier’s data plan is so you can use it when you’re out of wifi range. I don’t have a data plan on the Nokia, just a bunch of minutes for calling or texting. If I use it for data, I have to be connected to wifi. Which means the more wifi there is around, the happier I am.

      • Yes, if you don’t travel a lot, and are not totally addicted to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat, that’s quite feasible, and a great value.

        With travel, especially to smaller places in flyover country, ubiquitous data is a higher value add. It has saved my bacon dozens of times. My phone is effectively my GPS – not as accurate as a real one, but good enough and it’s always with me. The maps module is sometimes indispensable. I may need to call up the address I need from an email message. Etc.

        But I find I rarely use data on the phone when I’m in Nashville. I’m not one of those people who runs into streetlight poles because they’ve got their nose buried in their phone even when they’re walking down the street.