Save On Your Smartphone

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You may notice my trend of articles on mobile phones due to the fact that I have been researching new phones for various family members over the past several months. Here are my latest finds.  It’s now much easier to get your carrier to unlock your phone when it’s paid for.  It’s easier than I thought to replace your old phone and avoid paying full price.  

The four big American mobile phone carriers and several smaller ones have agreed to new voluntary guidelines that make it easier to request that they unlock your phone.  Carriers lock your phone to keep you from taking it to a competitor.  You may want it unlocked so you can sell it or take it to a different carrier.  See this GIGAOM article for more information and instructions on how to request it.  There are catches of course, the biggest one being that few phones can be switched to or from Verizon or Sprint due to their differing technology.  You can generally switch phones between AT&T and T-Mobile because they both use “GSM” phone technology.

Secondly, I discovered that it is possible to follow our principle to “avoid paying full price” when replacing your phone, meaning you can buy good phones and save money, too.  Remember that even when you get a good deal on a new phone from your carrier, you are often still paying full price, but stretched out over the next two years.  I suggest you buy your own phone so you know you are paying less than full price.  Top of the line smartphones now cost over $600 which is more than good tablets, low-end laptops, and decent PCs. Since I’m definitely not paying that, I first asked each family member whether they wanted a new, average phone or a great, used phone since the price will be about the same, but 1/3 – 1/2 the latest and greatest name brand phones.  Then I start comparison shopping at eBay, Amazon’s used deals, and “refurbished” and “open box” deals from other online retailers.  I like eBay and Amazon because you can read details about the condition of used items and they have good buyer-protection policies.  Look for phones for your specific carrier or “unlocked GSM” phones for either AT&T or T-Moble.  If it makes you feel safer, you can also buy warrantees from places like

Here is my most exciting tip to avoid paying full price for a top-of-the-line phone.  You can now get a NEW phone equal to the latest and greatest from the big name guys for HALF the price.  The catch is that it is from a Chinese company most people have never heard of, One Plus.   Nevertheless, it has been getting great reviews from tech enthusiasts.  The main complaint is that you could only order the phone if an existing customer sent you an invitation.  But starting in February 2015, manufacturing capability increased and they opened sales up on TUESDAYs only thru their website.  So now you can get a little known brand with equal specs for $300/$350 versus $650 for the name brand phones!  Do you need help with that math?  When I got mine, I couldn’t be happier with it or stop beaming at combining two of my passions:  getting great tech and paying a great price.

So now you have two good ways to avoid paying full price while getting a great replacement smartphone:  buying a name-brand, used or a little known brand, new.  To relate this real world buying example to our “avoid paying full price” principles, let me summarize.  Do your research, comparison shop, consider generic brands, review used and refurbished options, and enjoy your purchase twice as much when you paid half as much.


About John Kimball

Over the past few decades, I have experienced most of these financial issues with both mistakes and successes. I sure wish someone had told me these things when I was first starting out. So many times I have cried out, "I want a do over!" when I learned a new financial lesson or tip. I aim to pass along to you the financial insights I have gained from experience, reading, analysis, and living the financial aspects of managing, saving, investing, and spending your money. I am an analyst with a large organization and happily married with two children on their way to an expensive college, no doubt. I read numerous financial blogs, websites, newsletters, magazines, newspapers, and books to bring you the latest news, insights, tips, and lessons combined with decades of experience.

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