A little off-subject, but still felt this experience was worth sharing. I'll get back on track next post.
My smart phone is an iPhone 5. My carrier is ATT. It's been a great relationship since the iPhone first came out. Sadly, I think it's coming to an end.
My two-year contract expired on June 1st...ATT informed me immediately that I was eligible for a phone upgrade and a new contract. Exciting news, as I've had my eye on an iPhone 6-Plus.
Last week, I decided it was time to grab that new iPhone and renew my contract. My wife came with...we're on the same plan and she is also upgrade eligible right now. The local AT&T store is right around the corner, so we dropped by on the way out to lunch, figuring this would be about a 20-minute deal: cool new phones, new contract, and then off to lunch.
The experience did not quite work out as planned. As you're probably aware, subsidized phones and 2-year contracts are on the way out with the wireless phone carriers. More on that here. So we were hit square between the eyes with sticker shock. We were told we could buy new phones outright or pay in installments (including about $100 in fees...aka interest...over a two-year period). Pretty significant bump in hardware out-of-pocket costs.
To add insult to injury, the price of carrier service has gone up around 33% for the same service levels as our own contract. Regardless of whether we opted for a "Next" plan or not, the monthly outlay came out to the same amount. And I thought data access was getting less expensive...
We left ATT in pretty short order and decided to try the Verizon store next door. No help there...the numbers played out exactly the same. The only difference was the branding of "Edge" rather than "Next".
Sprint tried to do better...they actually matched the level of service and price of our old plan. For the first year. Then they recovered that cost in the 2nd year. So, over a 24-month period, the three major providers came out with the same price for service. Contract, no contract, "Edge", "Next", or whatever...prices up 33% regardless.
We checked out Best Buy's $1 phone deal too. I won't bore you with the details, other than to mention that the deal would not have saved us a dime on hardware or service over a two-year period.
Where I live, we have two more options. T-Mobile and Boost Mobile. Having checked T-Mobile, I've learned that they're leading this trend in higher service costs. And their coverage map for my area is really spotty. Boost Mobile, on the other hand, is offering substantially better pricing on service...which leaves me wondering how they do that, considering that they're leasing infrastructure and air time from Sprint in order to provide those services?
So, to sum up, I've learned two important things: 1) subsidized phones are now a thing of the past, and that smart phones (especially Apple smart phones) are expensive; 2) carrier providers are raising costs pretty substantially. I suppose this is the cost to the consumer of finally converting perceptions of smart phones from a "cool new thing" to a necessity of modern life.
A few days have passed and I've now managed to talk my wallet down from jumping off a ledge. We've made the decision in our house to hold the line on cell phone costs.
The sticker shock has made my old iPhone 5 look much, much better in my eyes. I may just keep it until it dies. Or perhaps switch to the much lower-priced 'Droid-based OnePlus?
As far as increased provider costs, I imagine I'll be lowering my data plan and depending on the ever-increasing availability of free wifi. Once that becomes less practical, I'll have to consider options...maybe switch back to a "dumb phone" and reconsider carrying a wifi-enabled tablet? Yuk, that even sounds ugly :(
I suppose I've known for years that cell phone sticker shock was coming...but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with now that it's here.