Do you really need the latest phone?

It’s September and that means new phones are on their way from Apple. The company will be bringing out a new line late this month and, if the past is any indication, expect to see all sorts of aimless coverage in the media. For some reason, when Apple introduces its new phones, it fills up the tech news cycle, unlike any other product, phones or otherwise. It must really irk their their competitors!

If you’re in the market for a new phone, it might pay to wait to see what they announce. Not so much for buying their new phones, but for the drop in prices of the older models. From my experience, there’s little to distinguish in terms of basic functionality between the four year old iPhone 6 and one year old iPhone 8.

Phones have become very expensive, with Apple increasing its top of the line phone, the iPhone X, to over $1000. Based on recent sales data, the higher price didn’t stifle sales.

Combined with a cellular service plan, owning a phone costs anywhere between $1000 and $2000 a year,  But there are options. You can buy a perfectly good smartphone for $250-$350 instead of spending $800-$1000 for the latest models. What you get will be something that’s as good as the best models that were available 1 to 2 years ago. If it’s Android you want, look at some of the Motorola phones made by Lenovo or some of the older models now available at big discounts. Phones from HTC, the excellent, but struggling manufacturer were top rated two years ago, particularly for audio, and some of their models cost about $300.

If you’re looking for a bargain in iPhones look at the iPhone 7 on Apple’s refurbished site here. But Apple is Apple so their 2 year old refurbished phones still cost about $500.

One cautionary note. While most of these phones will come unlocked and designated to work on one or more carriers, be sure you can try the phone out and return it if that’s not the case.  My friend Joe Brancatelli bought a new HTC phone off of eBay only to find out that the supposedly unlocked T-Mobile compatible model didn’t work on T-Mobile.  He got his money back but learned a lesson.

Phones are poorly marked and their compatibility is rarely shown on the phones or on the phone companies’ packaging. And the cellular companies make it difficult for those that want to bring their own phone and, instead, try to steer sales through their online or walk-in stores.

Many of the phones have no visible model number to check what bands are inside. And most phones don’t have one model that works on all carriers.  Apple is the exception. Their unlocked phones will work on all networks.  But even if you get past this hurdle, the carriers still are less than welcoming with your new phone..

They charge a “connection fee” of $20 to $40 when you add or replace one phone for another. And in my case, with Verizon, my “generic” Apple iPhone 6 showed up on their network as an unrecognized phone. Apparently Verizon considered me a second class citizen. As for the connection fee, do what I did. I called Verizon and told them I didn’t want to pay the connection fees and they removed them “because of my many years of loyalty.” There still is a little competition out there that gives us some negotiating opportunities, but it won’t last for long.

Check out these articles for some inexpensive options:







by Phil Baker