The Worst Place to Buy a Mobile Phone?
72 year-old Gerry Soubly went to a Verizon store with a friend to buy a new phone. Shortly after they entered, the place was invaded by three armed men who shot out the glass front door. 'I felt helpless,' Soubly said, despite having the presence of mind to shield his friend and dial 911. The suspects were quickly captured, and then the real robbery began...
Where NOT to Buy a Mobile Phone
The retail stores of major carriers are the worst places to buy phones. Their prices are considerably higher than the same phones offered through other outlets with the same service. I experienced this the hard way when my wife’s phone broke and she went to a Verizon store. She wanted the popular Samsung Galaxy S III, with a MSRP of $599. Verizon offered it for $199; that seemed like a great deal, so we bought it.
The next day at the local mall, I found the same phone at Best Buy for $149. I strolled over to Radio Shack and there it was for $99. I returned the phone to Verizon and saved $100 by purchasing it at Radio Shack -- 50 per cent off that “great deal” at the Verizon store.
A few days later, I found the same brand new Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone on Amazon Wireless for $49! That deal required that you add a line to a family account, which I was unable to do. But wow, what a long way from the original price at the "official" store.
The moral of this story is that the obvious place to buy a phone is probably going to be the most expensive. Also, I was under the false impression that resellers could not replace the phone on my existing Verizon contract, so I was stuck buying through Verizon. That isn’t true, I was happy to learn. The third-party resellers can access your AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon account and make any changes necessary.
The Mobile Phone Food Chain
The phone hardware industry has three tiers: manufacturers who set artificially high MSRPs; carriers who give illusory discounts tied to contracts; and resellers who buy hardware and contracts in bulk. The last group is the most numerous, so competition lowers prices most effectively.
Some good places to shop for bargains on the latest smartphones include your local Best Buy, Staples, Radio Shack, Costco, and WalMart stores. Amazon Wireless and Wirefly are two online phone sellers that offer excellent deals. Amazon offers free two-day shipping on phones, and WireFly is currently offering a $50 Google Play credit with the purchase of selected Motorola Android phones.
Popular smartphones such as Samsung's Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2, the HTC Droid DNA, Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, and HTC One X+ are all available at prices much lower than you'll find at the carrier's company storefronts. One exception would be the iPhone 5, and that's because Apple keeps tight control over pricing, even at third-party stores. That'll cost you $200 in the Apple Store, or anywhere else you look. But if you're willing to settle for something other than the latest and greatest, you can find a refurbished iPhone 4S with 16GB Memory for $49.
I'm not trying to say that the carriers' stores are dishonest, they just don't offer the best deals, because they don't really have to. And in fairness, I should mention that the official Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile stores do offer deals on low-priced mobile phones. Sometimes you can find smartphones for $49, $29 or even for free, with a two-year contract. But these are almost never the popular models that everyone wants. They might be last year's model, refurbished units, or just poor sellers they want to move.
If you need a new phone, with or without a new contract, start shopping at the bottom of the food chain. You’ll find better prices and more information about your options than carriers will give you willingly.
Of course, by “bottom” I do not mean some guy selling out of his trunk in a parking lot. If some stranger accosts you with an elaborate tale about having to sell iPhones for $100 to avoid trouble with his boss for ordering too many, do not do him the favor that he requests. You’re likely to get your shrink-wrapped package home, open it, and find a piece of cardboard with the word “iPhone” taped to it.
Craigslist and eBay are risky places to buy phones, too, especially if they are advertised as “new in box.” One of my all-time favorite “Judge Judy” episodes involves an eBay scammer who got her comeuppance as only Her Honor can deliver it.
What's your favorite place to buy a mobile phone? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 1 Mar 2013
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved