That Free Phone Isn’t!

I’ve been researching new phones to replace my aging Samsung slider.  I’ve been fine with it for a long time, but I’ve been dragged into the texting world by my workmates and a QUERTY keypad would be great.  So I’ve been going back and forth between T-Mobile’s web site and their company store at the mall trying to find a nice phone. 

If you haven’t noticed, smartphones are the rage right now.  Touchscreens, video playback, GPS navigation, web browsing, everything a geek could want.  These devices are amazing – they can practically style your hair.  And with a renewed contract they can be as cheap as free.  The phone by itself, they tell you, can be around $200 so you think you’re getting a fantastic deal.

However 95% of these phones require a 3G data plan, which for T-Mobile is about $25-30. If you’re planning on using web features and data on a daily basis, you’ll probably get use out of the plan.  However if the phone is Wi-Fi enabled and you can access any of the free wireless networks in your travels, why do you need your carrier’s data plan?  Also, if you’re not using your data plan much or at all, you’re still paying for the full service regardless of what you use.

Consider the cost of a Blackberry Curve on T-Mobile.  If you renew your plan the phone is free but you pay $30 a month for the data service.  Try to buy the phone outright without a new contract and you’ll pay around $280.  Which sounds crazy.

However, over 2 years that phone will cost $720 factoring the cost of the data service.  That $280 now doesn’t seem quite as bad. 

There are lots of places that sell legitimate unlocked cell phones (I say “legitimate” because a lot of these places seemed a bit shady) including  These phones can often be used across networks which they previously hadn’t, hence the “unlocked” feature.  Some carrier-specific features may not work, but if you’re comfortable with that then that expensive-looking phone may end up being your best deal.


Posted on August 16, 2010, in tech myths. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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