Why you should never sign another carrier contract


hands tied

Walking into a Verizon store to buy a new phone may seem like a pretty normal thing to do here in the US, but in other countries that’s not the case. An easy way to look at the carrier situation is with the example of roads and cars. When you buy a new car from a dealership they don’t also get to decide what roads you can drive it on. You buy the car and decide to drive wherever you want.

US carriers sell you a phone that can only work on their network. They essentially lock the car down to certain roads. In many other countries you simply buy a phone and then decide what carrier to use with it. These are called “unlocked” phones. In the US it isn’t as easy because carriers like Verizon and Sprint don’t support many unlocked devices. Still, there is a way to take some control away from your carriers: buy phones without signing a contract. Here’s why you should do it.


When you sign a contract from a carrier you are locking yourself to that network and device for 2 years (or however long the contract is). Up front that may not seem like a big deal, but down the road you may regret it. If you want to get a new phone or switch carriers there are pricey fees that you will have to pay. Several carriers have started promotions where they pay the ETF from your old carrier, but this is just another ploy to get you to sign their contract. Don’t do it.

If you can buy an unlocked phone you get even more freedom. When you travel to another country you can easily swap in a different SIM card and be good to go. You’ll also be able to switch to a new carrier here in the US whenever you would like, assuming they support SIM cards. Unlocked devices offer a new level of freedom and choice.

Cheaper Monthly Bill

The biggest reason that signing contracts with phones has become so popular is the price of devices. Most people think that the average smartphone costs around $200. We know that this isn’t true. The HTC One M8, for example, costs $600 off-contract. This is the real price of the device. Verizon takes $400 off the price if you sign a contract because they know they will make it back in the long run.

When you buy a subsidized phone you are paying for it every month. It may be cheaper up front, but in the long run you end up paying more. You can avoid this by simply buying the device at full price right from the start. The money you save every month will quickly add up to pay for the full cost of the device. Plus, some carriers even offer special plans for people who bring their own device.

More Control

We already mentioned that you will have more control to switch phones or carriers by not signing a contract, but there is even more you can do. When you sign that contract you are like a lobster in a tank. They’ve already got you. By not signing a contract they will do a lot more to keep you as a customer. You will have more power in negotiating to get discounts and deals. Just call them up and tell them you’re thinking about switching. You’d be surprised what they’ll do to keep you.

The moral of the story is very clear. If you want control of your device and service don’t sign a contract. Look at the big picture and don’t let them hook you in with the cheap initial cost. They want your money more than anything. If the carrier situation in the US is every going to get better we have to stop giving them control. T-Mobile has done a pretty good job at shaking things up, but it’s not enough. When you buy your next phone consider buying it off-contract. You’ll thank me later.

What about you? Do you buy phones off-contract? Would you consider it in the future? What is holding you back?

Joe Fedewa
Ever since I flipped open my first phone I've been obsessed with the devices. I've dabbled in other platforms, but Android is where I feel most at home.

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  1. I find this article shockingly uninformative in a few ways:

    1) Freedom? I have the Sprint HTC M8, and just like my M7, I popped in SIM card when I was going to be overseas for a long period of time, I’m an air force dude, so this happens fairly regularly in my position. The only thing I’m locked to is paying Sprint month to month for 2 years.

    2) Cheaper monthly bill? Maybe for the plans that subsidize the cost of the phone over 2 years. Every other year I get a $600 phone for $200. If I chose to not be in a contract, my monthly bill is exactly the same as when I’m in contract. For those of us in traditional contracts, the bill doesn’t really change (mine doesn’t).

    3) More Control? The cancellation fees have always been cheaper than the subsidized discount if Sprint pissed me off enough, and as a long time customer, the one time I was going to drop Sprint (when they didn’t support LTE and didn’t look like they were), they gave me a decent discount over the new few months.

    Sometimes, contracts are best for some of us. I get a new phone every year ish, and sell my old one on craigslist locally. One year, I pay $550-600 for the subsidized phone, and the next year, I pay $200. My bill runs the exact same amount, regardless of my contract status.

    1. You’re wrong about what you’re paying, I save $50 a month over a contract with all the fees and taxes they throw in (my no contract simply includes sales tax) …..$50 x 24 = $1200, I can buy a lot of phone for that….

      1. You’ll have to explain how you are able to save $50 a month over contract rates. I pay $72/month for Verizon 450min+unlimited lte on contract. Are you telling me you can comparable data and coverage for $22/month somewhere?

        1. 72 a month on Verizon? Damn that’s cheap for Big Red. I pay 30 dollars a month for unlimited data and text and 100 minutes (10 cents after that, although I never go over 100 minutes). When I switched from Verizon, the change saved me over 60 dollars a month. My bill was never lower than 90 bucks a month on Verizon.

          1. I personally pay Verizon $50 a month with unlimited talk, text and a pool of shared 12gb data.

            and that is with 3 of us on the plan

          2. Yup, this is true. I’m paying $30/month on T-mobile. Last year when I was on Verizon they were hiking fees (forcing everyone into Share Everything plans), so my $70/month unlimited VZ plan would have gone to $100/month for LTE with a data cap.

          3. If I was paying what you’re paying for wireless services I’d be bankrupt several times over right now. Not even kidding. You need to change your services ASAP.

          4. you said that you pay $31.50, he is paying $30…

        2. i pay $130 a month (total) for two smart phones on VZ; 750mins (unlimited to VZ phones) Unlimited data, 1000txts ( unlimited within VZ network). One phone is on contract, the other is not. There was no price difference when the contract ends and would actually be cheaper per month if i signed a new contract, but I want to keep unlimited data.

          1. Thats obscene. On TMo, I pay $140 for unlimited talk/text/data for 2 phones w/ 3GB tethering, the other two phones are unlimited talk/text w 1GB data and (I think) another GB tethering. Granted, as others have said, I can’t go deep into the boonies, but I’m a city girl all the way and it hasn’t failed me in any of my trips so far.

          2. how is that obscene?, i pay less than you, and have UNLIMITED data…unlimited talk/text is a pointless feature in 2014. Everything can be sent over data.

          3. Even for two devices that’s insane. Minutes and limited messages? What is this, 2006?

          4. not really, think we use 50 of those minutes a month and never come close to going over text limits. Everyone has VZ that we know, and with all the apps that use data to text, having unlimited minutes/text is pointless (in my situation). Unlimited data is the most important feature.

        3. I have a similar deal.

          We pay about $120 a month for one phone unlimited and another phone on the 2GB plan (wife’s phone that doesn’t use more than 600MB a month.)

          Every year we update one of the phones (with discount) through the 2GB plan.

          Plus I actually get coverage everywhere I want to use it.

          Some people think that the contract they can sign today is the only contract that every other person has. That’s silly thinking.

        4. I bought my S3 for $630 two years ago in Calgary in Canada. I’m on a small carrier that is quite reliable in the city I live for calls, texts and data (on the few occasions when I use data). I work and study in the city so I rarely leave the city, which is why I am with a carrier that roams when I’m outside the city (I have virtually no need for service outside the city). I now pay $31.50 per month for service that is more than adequate for my needs. All the other carriers (major ones) charge a minimum of $75/month even on one-year- old devices on a 2-year contract. Screw contracts, and screw all the carriers that charge more than $55/month for services only (not including subsidised phone costs on contracts that may be the case for some people).

        5. $30 T-Mobile 100/5GB lte/unlimited……if I go over on talk, which I usually do by an hour, it’s only 10 cents per minute…..so $36… When you say $72, does that include all taxes and fees? I only pay state sales tax on my prepaid.

      2. I don’t think I’m wrong, considering I look at my bill every month. This is just specific to me, not all carriers.

      3. yes but your mileage may vary. Hey i’m on tmobile myself, and benefited from buying a nexus and going prepaid, however that benefit shrinks dramatically if i want to go post paid.

        Sure contracts are more expensive, however they arent always $25-$30/mo more expensive. And you can often times get great deals like buy one get one free or flagship device thats 3 months old thats still full retail when bought in full but $50 on contract.

      4. I agree with Troy. That seems implausible unless you clearly explain how you’ve managed that

    2. If you are off contract, why would you be with sprint?
      EDIT: And why would you buy a CDMA phone off contract AND if you expect to travel?

      1. The Phones have the ability to do GSM or CDMA. They’ve performed well in Europe, Japan, Guam, South America, and the Middle East.

        I live in Overland Park, about a mile from Sprint World HQ, so Sprint works for me. If I lived anywhere else, I doubt I would have it.

    3. As with most things, there are exceptions. If that works for you then by all means keep doing it.

    4. You lost me at “I have the Sprint!!…” lol

      1. Works great in their backyard.

        1. Someone would have bombed their HQ if it didn’t (not that I’d approve of such action).

    5. You do know you can take the phone to one of many Sprint MVNO’s and get much cheaper service.

      1. About 10 or 20 million people should leave the big 4 carriers and threaten to go to MVNO’s. I think they’ll lower their prices enough to be reasonable and make a decent profit then.

    6. The freedom to be as crazy as you want is probably what is meant. Whether you want to pay $90/month or $55/month is entirely up to you.

    7. I find your lack of faith (and shortsightedness) disturbing.

    8. Not sure if everyone but you’re most likely still paying for the subsidized device(even though you didn’t buy it from them). It’s a little trick they use to charge you extra.

  2. I never have signed a contract and I never will….

    1. Thats because Mommy and Daddy do it for you

      1. Troll somewhere else or take a cyanide capsule. Your choice.

      2. Ha! Both my parents have been dead since I was a teenager, over 20 years ago asshat, but thanks for your insight!

  3. As long a high end phones are $600 and up these contracts will always look better to consumers. OEMs can create devices quality phones like an Nexus 5 which is reasonable price off contract then contract plans will remain to stay.

  4. I mostly agree with your article. Except that if you consider subsidies are worth about $15-$20/month, it doesn’t seem like you are going to save anywhere near that by paying full price for your phone. I hope the whole subsidized model disappears, and I love what Motorola and the Nexus line are doing by selling at competitive off-contract prices. But as of now, it still makes sense to keep renewing my contract and pay subsidized pricing.

    1. It depends on the plans. As an extreme example, I switched from AT&T 2 year contract with 200 dollars down for a phone which cost me about 2400 dollars over two years to the t-mobile 30 dollar internet only plan with unlimited data and text and 100 minutes. I bought a 350 dollar Nexus device and will spend 1070 over the same two year period. That’s a difference of 1300 dollars. That’s tough to beat.

      1. You sir just gave me an awesome idea. This will be my next plan.

  5. When the Nexus4 was discounted to $250 on Google Play I bought it and switched from Verizon to T-mobile. Best decision I ever made. I’m saving $70/month so the phone paid for itself in ~4 months.

    1. Same here. Made the jump over a year ago and I save over 60 dollars a month. I bought a 32gb Moto X with the teak backplate, and I’ll still save over 1300 dollars over a two year period.

      1. That’s awesome. How are your data speeds? T-mobile HSPA+ is faster than Verizon LTE for me so I don’t miss it.

        1. I’m on T-Mobile, so the speeds are crazy fast, with the usual T-mobile caveats of crappy service when I’m out in rural areas (rarely for me) or deep inside of a building. That being said, I get 9mbs down both at home and work, so it’s kind of hard to beat.

          1. Last week I got 27mbps down on T-mobile… it’s really fast. On Verizon I would usually get between 3-10.

  6. Absolutely agree, but you have to be careful what you buy. For example, the unlocked and GPE edition of the HTC One (M8) does not work with Tmobile LTE. and neither Google or HTC mentions this on their page

    1. Not to stray too far from the topic, but, what exactly is the GPE M8 lacking for T-Mobile LTE compatibility.

      I’ve been trying to get clarification on this, even had a couple responses in the T-Mobile forum @ A/F stating otherwise as recent as this week.

      Any input/clarification would be welcome.


      1. it works on TMO HSPA+ but not LTE verified by HTC phone rep. HSPA+ speeds in South Florida are better than Verizon LTE, but paying 649.00 for a phone, I expect LTE

        1. No doubt. THX for the information. Then the same is probably true for the unlocked &/or developers edition as well (I believe the radio specs are identical).

  7. Yeah, excpet Verizon is the only carrier with coverage where I live.

    1. I feel your pain :(

    2. Agreed.

      We were talking about Serious satellite radio a while back, and some of the guys were talking about how nice it was when making frequent road trips to outlying factories in the Mid West.

      I commented that I just use my phone to stream through the car’s radio. They looked at me like I had three heads and couldn’t understand how that would work once you got 2 miles outside of town…

    3. First world large country/borderline empire problems.

    4. Ever considered Page Plus?

  8. i am about to switch from tombile to att. I am looking at their family plan and it says I can do a 2 year contract or go month to month. With the 2 year i can buy a phone for the subsidized price with month to month I am paying full price for it in payments. Either way though it doesn’t seem like the price of the plan goes up. So it seems like the only constraint is you have to stay with att for 2 years if you sign the contract, it doesn’t seem like you are paying more on your plan by getting a subsidized phone unless I am missing something.

    1. scratch that, the price does go up if I do a 2 year plan. Their website just wasn’t working right.

      1. I am also in a family plan. Right now I’m off contract but still paying. My sister is on contract for about one more year. So it looks to me that buying a phone with contract seems good. What would be the advantage of buying an off contract if I’m staying in ATT anyway?.. For example if I go with another carrier, lets say Tmobile, then my sister would pay more bc then she wouldnt be on family plan. What do people recommend?

        1. I said family plan but I meant shared plan. If you look at the shared plan, if you already have a phone the price for the second+ lines are only $15 a month. If you sign a 2 year agreement and buy a subsidized phone the price is $40 a month. You are probably much better off switching to the shared plans.

          1. what would be this plan? could you be more specific? So even though she is in contract, I can save money with an off contract device?
            edit: we are only 2 in the family/shared plan

          2. My guess is that if you sign up for the shared plan they could add her to it as well, but she would have to pay the $40 a month price until her contract ends. Now that is a complete guess but that seems like it would make sense. Go on to att website and look at the mobile share plans. You pay a certain amount a month depending how much data you use, then you pay $15 for a line that doesn’t need a subsidized phone or $40 a line if you do buy a subsidized phone.

  9. I have one major problem in that (for me at least) Verizon really does have far better coverage both at my home and my office. I managed to avoid a contract, recently by using a phone from the office. I’d love nothing more than to drop Verizon like the horrible company they are. Slowest to get new phones.. lock them down ridiculously.. devices are incompatible with other networks.. but they have that all important signal. I want to move badly but my phone has to function in my own home.

  10. There is no difference between an installment phone and buying off-contract in some cases; in fact, it is slightly less in real dollar terms to go with the installment.

    Using your example of the HTC M8 on Verizon Edge compared to paying full price up-front: Edge cost is $25.22 per month x 24 months or $605.28 total compared to $600 up-front. Slightly more in absolute terms, but the inflation run rate is certainly higher than 0.44% per annum so in real terms you’re (slightly) better off in real dollar terms. The dollar cost for monthly plans is the same for phone paid for 100% up-front and on the Edge program. All of the same holds true for AT&T Next and I’ve run several phones through the same analysis on both programs with the same result; I haven’t dug through the details on Sprint and T-Mobile’s options. Obviously, there are other advantages an installment phone plan has over buying up-front.

    The point is, everyone needs to do their own research about what makes the most sense for them.

    1. I would agree when you compare Jump/Next/Edge to traditional 2-year plans offered by the same carrier. Instead compare either of those plans to a month-to-month plan by the same carrier. I think, there, you will find significant savings.

      1. can you get insurance for your phone on a pay as you go/monthly customer? I’m not sure, but if not, I would say maybe you won’t be saving money if you break your phone. Investing in a ruggedized phone and a monthly plan may be the cheapest option out there.

        1. I’m not sure. I’m generally buy Android phones and usually spend 350 dollars. Even if I bought two over the two year period, I would still come out ahead.

        2. I don’t find insurance plans all that helpful when I can buy a Nexus for $350. For example, you pay around $8/mo. for insurance. Over 2 years, that’s $192–best case scenario, nothing happens to your phone. If you do happen to damage your phone, you also get to pay $99 for them to give you a refurbished model. So, best case scenario, nothing happens to your phone, you still lose almost $200. Worst case scenario and you bust your phone, you lose almost $300 to get an insurance replacement. Or, you could just skip insurance and potentially shell out $350 for a brand new phone in the unfortunate even that you break yours, and keep the change if nothing happens. The caveat here is if you are prone to breaking your phone multiple times, in which case insurance is probably a good deal for you.

      2. Yeah, they’re absolutely identical for AT&T and Verizon. That’s what I’m saying.

        1. I’m not sure on Verizon, but AT&T monthly unlimited plan is 50 bucks. Add a 600 dollar phone on and over two years, that’s 1800 dollars. Compared to paying 80 dollars a month with a 200 dollar subsidy on a traditional 2 year plan, that’s 2120, or about 320 dollars if you make it the 2 year span without breaking a phone or jumping contract.

          1. I’m referring to the Edge/Next plans being the same as the full-retail plans.

            I agree, you’re nuts to go subsidized anymore.

    2. Good point. I think most of these new carrier plans are good upgrades to the old models /edit/ only because you arent needed to pay it all up front, but have the option to if you wish and they don’t cost more for the phone (barely). /end edit/

      But not all contracts are created equally. This is slightly off the main topic, but still relevant. Verizon’s plan is just screwy: My sister tried to jump onto the new Edge plan, upgrading her extremely broken iphone 4s. They were trying to force her to turn in her old phone, after they had already mailed and charged her for a shiny new 5S.

      Maybe that doesn’t sound so awful, but here’s the kicker. The phone you HAVE TO turn in MUST work. AKA pay $200 for insurance to FIX the old phone + $600 over time. For this reason STAY OFF CONTRACTS, especially verizons.

      And then they wouldnt give her a refund. ended up taking verizon credit because she couldnt stay on the phone with those guys all day YELLING at them at work AGAIN. Managers conveniently not being available when asking for a cancellation, and the poor phone operator panicking. What a scumbag organization.

      Verizon plan is not for those who need a new phone and are “eligible” for an upgrade. Its for people who need a new service contract, and thus a phone.

      I understand this whole turn in your phone nonsense when it comes to the NEXT upgrade, as many of the new plans do, like ATT. Fine. Whatever. But not the initial time! First of all, That’s MY (read: HER) phone! And second, ATT’s Next program is so much better because they don’t do this (among other reasons).

  11. Just a thought here, you are suggesting a person pay full price for a phone, likely over $600, to avoid being locked in to a contract. However, ETFs are usually far less than $600 even when you include the cost you paid for the subsidized phone. So, that’s not much of an argument. Additionally, not many people have the funds to pay full price for a phone. In the US, given the different technologies used by carriers, it is more difficult to buy an unlocked phone that would work with any carrier. So, there really isn’t much freedom. This article is an idealized view, but not very practical.

    1. Most phones are not over $600. Many are far under, like the Moto X or G or the N5.
      If you don’t have $600, you need to not have a smartphone plan.

      1. Most new phones are right around the $600 price point. The Moto G and Nexus 5 don’t work with Verizon’s network, so you are limited right away.

        As for not having $600 and, therefore, don’t need to have a smartphone plan, that is just a dumb statement. Only people with a spare $600 should have smartphones? That is a completely dumb statement.

        1. What are you talking about? The Moto G is available directly from Verizon’s prepaid service. $100 for the Moto G: http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/devices/moto-g.html

          Nexus 5, another story. You could get it flashed if you have the Sprint version, but that’s a long shot.

        2. VZW should not even be an option if you want no contract.

          If you can’t come up with $600, you need to be saving money not wasting it on a smartphone. You could add a zero to that number and I would still agree. Smartphones are an expensive luxury that should come far behind having enough money for something bad happening in your life.

          1. I’m guessing you are a Republican. Smartphones bring more access of information, etc. to the general public. It is not an elitist device that only those with an extra $600 should be able to afford. Smartphones enrich our lives giving people access to information and mobility of communications. Offering subsidized phones at little or no upfront cost allows people access to this information.

          2. On the american spectrum I am practically a communist.
            Computers, tablets all provide that same access. It is not elitist to think that folks who have trouble coming up with $600 should be the most interested in saving money.
            Subsidized phones are not offered for that reason at all. They are offered to charge more for plans. It is that simple.
            There is no reason someone who can’t come up with $600 should be getting ripped off like that. I could easily spend $600, on a smartphone but since a $400 device does the job just as well I stick to those.
            You are really grasping at straws to justify wasteful spending by those who can least afford it.

    2. It’s hardly the writer’s fault that American companies are often run by obsessed, moral-deprived lunatics.

  12. Now that AT&T, Verizon, et al have some sort of Framily or Family plan, it doesn’t make sense for me to change. They all offer unlimited voice + text + a reasonable amount of data for $40/month per person. Whether I’m on contract or off, I have to pay the same amount. But now I have to pay for the full price of the phone. No change really. When some carrier can give me unlimited everything for $30/month per person then I’ll switch. I prefer a SIM based phone in case I travel but that’s it.

  13. Problem is, if you need the coverage of a Verizon or ATT plan, your monthly bill is the same, whether you pay full price for your phone, or get the phone for $200 subsidized with a 2-year contract.
    And now, for the REALLY dumb people, you can elect to pay full price for the phone split over 24 monthly payments, instead of paying a 1 time payment of $200, and still pay the exact same thing every month.

    1. look at the new att shared plans, if you already have a phone its $15 a line, if you sign a 2 year contract and get a subsidized phone it’s $40 a line.

      1. I didn’t know that about the new shared plans. Are those prices only available if you do an “ATT Next” phone plan (pay $25-$35 a month for the phone, on top of your monthly bill), or could I buy a nexus 5 and pay $15 a month?

        1. You can bring your own phone. My prices are off though. It’s $15 a month of you get a 10gb or higher shared plan it’s $25 if you get a plan that is below 10gb. It’s $40 either way though if you sign up for a 2 year plan with subsidized phone.

    2. AIO or Straighttalk gets you access to AT&T for much cheaper.

    3. I’m on TMo and am paying for my phone over time. I’m not sure how that’s dumb. I can pay it off whenever I like and get a new phone. Or even better, sell it for more than I owe a year later and get whatever is new.

      I’m also getting Unlimited EVERYthing plus a few GBs of Hotspot data thrown in. In addition, I don’t have to share data with anybody.

      1. not sure how the Tmobile plans work, but I know when ATT and Verizon jumped onto the “no money down, upgrade whenever you want to” bandwagon, I compared the plans.
        I could pay $200, sign a contract, and pay $70 a month for service, and have a $350 early termination fee.
        or I could pay $0 down, and pay $70 a month for service and $35 a month for the phone for 20 months, with no termination fee and the “right” to get a new phone whenever I wanted, as long as I paid off the first phone. I could also cancel my contract anytime I wanted, as long as I paid off the phone.
        Problem is, I would pay the exact same every month for service, and if I kept the service through the life of the contract/payment plan, I would either pay $1880 over 24 months on contract, or $2100 over 20 months, contract free.

        There was no actual financial benefit, other than not having to pay $200 in one lump payment, to the new “Next” plan, or whatever they called it

        1. That was true. AT&T’s first effort at “upgrade when you want” actually was more expesnive….But in Feb (2nd?) or so, the family share plans got updated and dropped in price if you bring your own phone. So you DO now get a discount if you bring your own phone. What was really cool for us is that you can get in on this plan at the cheaper $15 per line (bring your own phone) rate even if you had just upgraded – as long as it was before 2/2(?)/2014. All 3 of my lines were updated to Note 3’s (Prior to 2/2/2014)…but I get to pay at the lower (BYOP $15) rate….so I got subsidized phones and now no longer have the built in contract price bump to pay for them….granted I am still under contract for 2 years. If I wanted to add another line now and get a subsidized phone it would $40/month rather than the $15 I am paying now….Just a neat grandfathered deal. Anyone on AT&T family plan, that upgraded prior to 2/2/2014 should look into it. I went from 550 minutes shared (NO texts) to Unlimited texts and Minutes…also from 3 GB/per phone to 10GB combined/shared…AND dropped my bill by $40/month. Part of this is due to the employee discount only being applied to the first base line….it used to be 20% of $50…now it is 20% of $100.

      2. They’ve upped the free tethering to 3GB. I’m like “Okay”. =.D

  14. The only problem with buying a unlocked device is in the US certain unlocked devices will only work on certain Carriers. The iPhone and very few Android phones are the only devices that work on all Carriers. I think ??

    1. Most of us that hop around use unlocked GSM phones which allow you to hop between T-Mo, AT&T, and a handful of regional carriers. An unlocked gsm phone is not hard to find. iPhone, Nexus, Moto X, GS5, etc.

    2. you have to be careful even then. I am not positive about the current generations of each phone, but I know in the past, even though a phone would be available on all carriers, each carrier had it’s own special model with the specific “bands” of GSM, LTE, or CDMA radios that they operate built in.
      so a quad band gsm variant of a particular phone would work on either Tmobile or ATT, but would not work at all on sprint or verizon.
      not sure if they make phones now with all possible bands built in, or if they still make carrier specific versions.

    3. Switch to a gsm carrier like t-mobile or att. The idea is to send a message to the proprietary monopolies like Verizon that we’re sick of you owning our phones and keeping us locked to you. They are the worst. You want a phone where you can remove the sim and put a different sim from anotehr carrier and not miss a beat.

      1. Good luck with that when vzw crushes those 2

      2. Verizon is a pox on the mobile service Earth. Companies that don’t change die.

  15. I couldn’t agree more with this article. My current wireless service is using my Nexus 5 on AIO Wireless, and it’s pretty hard to beat. I have AT&T LTE pretty much everywhere I go (including rural areas) and it’s only $55 for unlimited everything including all taxes and fees. They do throttle the speed at 8 GBit, but that’s completely irrelevant for all practical purposes, since that speed is more than enough for absolutely everything I use my mobile for, including bandwidth heavy applications like Slingbox TV streaming. I cannot image ever signing another mobile contract. IMHO, a Nexus phone directly from Google paired with a low cost no-contract carrier is the most sensible and financially efficient way to stay connected on the go.

    1. Agreed. I understand what some people say about the high initial cost of an unlocked phone. It will cost me, too, but I am determined to leave Verizon and go contract-free. I almost went without a contact two years ago, but wanted unlimited data with a subsidized phone cost. But for me, unlimited data was just not worth it. My bad. My very, very bad! Now, I want a GSM phone, so my next carrier will either be ATT (holds nose) or T-Mobile. My next phone candidates are HTC M8 or the Nexus 6 (if there is one)…

  16. If everyone does this then the price of phones will drop like a rock. A $600 phone will become a $400 phone. There is inflated pricing because the carriers are willing to subsidize and actually want the higher price to lock you into them. A typical high end phone cost less than $200 to make so go figure how they can mark them up 300%.

    1. it doesnt take less than $200 to make. The parts cost $200 combined. You arent accounting for software costs, licensing fees, 12 months of R&D, the salary of the employees assembling the phones, the salary of the employees designing and programming the phone, insurance, health benefits for their employees, the costs of rent for the facilities (manufacturing and corporate and creative buildings), taxes, advertising costs, replacement device costs, quality control, etc.

      None of those things are free.

      1. That argument would hold true except in general, tablets cost less than phones. I’m not buying that a cell radio group is another $450. In addition you see the Moto G and X along with the Nexus line for less than $350. I’m not saying the HTC One doesn’t have better hardware; but is its hardware really $350-$450 better?

        1. This is true, however often times one can only offer other products at low margins because they are bringing in cash flow from other outlets. For example, the only reason google can offer the Nexus line for $350 is because it makes its money else where. The Moto G is offered at such a low price point because it doesn’t have the highest end of specs (processor, camera, LTE) and part of is price is subsidized by the also “under spec’d” Moto X which was about $500? at launch. Same goes for tablets, they are often offered at lowered margins because of the margins of the mobile phone sales allows for such. Also many times they offer last years processors and lower res displays. When a tablet maxes out all of the technology it can… you end up getting things like the Note 10.1 that costs $600. Or the Note pro LTE that costs $800.

      2. The iphone costs $293 to be built including labor and other overhead costs. Not sure how much software comes in at but when you sell millions that number I’m sure gets lower. When you run Android it’s free minus your mods you make to it. Here is the link http://www.asymco.com/2012/02/22/the-iphone-manufacturing-cost-structure/
        This is a numbers games obviously or HTC wouldn’t be struggling.

        1. I read the article and yes that seems to cover all of manufacturing costs…. but again, there are tons of costs that arent manufacturing costs that have to be accounted for. R&D specifically costs a crapton of money (R&D including the creation and perfecting of software as well as new hardware and new features and design etc.)… marketing costs a crap ton of money, lawyers to pay off apple costs a crapton of money. Ontop of that salaries of the big whigs and financial and business and creative and coding departments (the kids in china arent the only ones with a pay check)

          Also selling android is not free. Although small, they do have to pay google a chump change for access to the play-store, and i believe also licensing fees to Microsoft as well as for LTE.

          Plus OEM’s do need to make a profit to stay in business. I’m not saying they couldnt afford to shave off a little bit, but its unrealistic to expect everyone who relies on profits strictly from hardware sales to sell nexus-like priced devices. Even the Nexus line over the years has had to cut a few corners from time to time to get its price down.

        2. The profit margin per device on iPhones even after taking every expense into account is downright horrifying. There’s greed and then there’s maniacal greed and then there’s Apple.

  17. My next phone will be. So far the options are N5, Moto X or OnePlus One.

    1. I’ve been a diehard Nexus fan, but this time around I bought a Moto X. That teak back with a white front and silver buttons… swoon. I couldn’t resist. Now that I’ve switched I don’t know how I lived without Active Display. I love it.

  18. I’ve been buying my phones outright for three years. While that may not seem like much it has allowed me to use two different carriers here in Canada, three carriers overseas while living in London, and enjoy three different handsets in that time. After living with that type of cellular/mobile freedom I can’t understand why everyone isn’t doing it. Even if they plan to keep the same device for a couple of years and are, for the time being at least, happy with their carrier/plan.

  19. I’ve done the math and signing another 2 year contract with Sprint was cheaper than any other option.

    1. I guess it depends what plan you have and what kind of phone you get. I pay about 60 a month after discounts with sprint. I will be paying 35 a month for better service with the amount of data that I use. Thats $25 less a month times a 2 year contract which is $600. I bought a nexus so I would save $250 there and I wouldn’t have to pay for the $100-200 up front for another phone saving me as much as $450 over 2 years if I stayed with sprint. And in a few months, I wont be on sprint so I have that going for me.

    2. With all due respect (and based on what some of the commentors apparently pay for wireless services off-contract after buying a device outright) your math is flawed.

  20. I went from $90/month on VZW to $30 on T-Mobile. That’s $60 a month or $720 a year. I’ve paid for my Nexus 4 twice now in the money I’ve saved. I have absolutely no qualms buying unlocked anymore. I just feel so much more free. No carrier bloat, logos, or bills. Next phone will be a LG G3….unlocked.

    1. that model isnt for everyone though, i did the same, went from sprint to tmobile to $30 a month, but i couldnt survive on 100 minutes and constantly had to buy more. Then i had to go postpaid because my girlfriend makes a ton of conference calls from her phone so having my go prepaid and spending $20/mo in extra minutes, + her postpaid means it just made sense for us both to go postpaid, and after her getting her new phone, and whenever i decide to upgrade from my nexus 4, the difference in bills from the other carriers will pretty much by very minimal and non existent once i lose employer discount.

      Happy for you though, but these articles cant be blanket statements.

      1. There are ways to VOIP and save minutes though, maybe MagicJack or something. Lots of options out there.

        1. yeah i know, i’ve tried a couple of them (groove IP, vonage, and another one i dont remember). However the reliability of them left a lot to be desired. When i was at home on wifii it worked mostly ok, although it wasnt uncommon that i couldnt be heard for seconds at a time. On using data however, it was highly inconsistent. Sometimes it would work, sometimes my calls just wouldnt connect, sometimes people calling me would just go straight to voicemail. It was incredibly frustrating, especially when trying to meet up with people. It was easier for me to just consider it a $50/mo plan and buy extra minutes every month.

    2. But what about manufacturer bloat? Isn’t a Nexus 6 a better option than the G3?

  21. Bad analogy.

    Buy a car in the States, ship it over to Ireland (or Briton) and start driving it without getting it homologated… Then enjoy getting your car impounded and getting fined.

    1. What is the point you’re trying to make with your analogy?

      1. Re-read the first two paragraphs of the article. Where the author makes an analogy to cars and how you’re free to take them wherever you want. Where phones are like cars in other countries (people can take them where they want.)

        That was the analogy I was talking about. It is a bad one because a person can’t freely take a car anywhere they want.

  22. I pay Sprint $76 for unlimited everything after tax and 20% employee discount. Doesn’t seem like the savings would be enough for me to switch networks but I understand why people do. I’ve had sprint since 2003 and the service here in Chicago has been solid. There was one bad stretch a couple years ago due to rebuilding the towers but I got some discounts as we went through it.

    1. And I thought Canadian carriers were greedy. Minimum is $75/month on contract (no discounts).

    2. You must not venture out of Chicago much. I went to Disneyland and Waikiki and had no data connection at all on my Sprint HTC One M7. Not to mention my 50-200 Kbps download speed all over Seattle my home town. Sprint is a waste of money; their “national” network is really just hypothetical. Their coverage maps are incorrect and their network upgrades are all just empty promises. We paid $1300 in ETFs just to leave them because their network was unusable at our new place even though their coverage map said full coverage. When their data network wouldn’t work reliably at our new place we had to buy home internet. When I talked to them about an Airrave to fix the dropped calls they said it would be $130. So I get to pay Sprint for service that isn’t there, I have to pay for home internet because their data isn’t fast or reliable, then I get to buy an Airrave to provide voice coverage too? Screw you Sprint. I just moved us to AT&T where we pay $160/mo for 4 lines, a 20 Mbps connection and a reliable network.

      1. You must live in the middle of nowhere if you don’t get good service on Sprint. That’s the only time I’ve ever been without signal in my 10 years on Sprint.

  23. Such a naive article.

    1. According to who?

    2. Such a shallow statement.

    3. I believe you were trying to say you don’t agree because you don’t feel like it.

  24. Buy the Oneplus phone when it’s released. It will have everything that truly matters for a mobile device and it’s 25-35% cheaper than comparable devices from different companies. Make a reasonable and smart choice by doing so (or get a Nexus 6) later this year.

    1. No offense meant. But One Plus is a brand new company. I’ll believe it when I see it.

      The unlocked phone I’m most excited about is the $199 Asus Zenfone 6 or the $149 Zenfone 5. Those are screaming deals!

    2. So far, and I admit I can be wrong, the OnePlus is vaporware, all I read are spec sheets posted on techblogs. Right now I like the Oppo Find 7

  25. I bought a full price Moto X and a Nexus 5 on Sprint. Where is this lower monthly price you speak of? You’re delusional!

    1. He’s not saying the current plans give you this benefit. The article is saying eventually it will. I’ve been bought and sold on this concept for a long time and the benefits have gotten better every year, but I’m on t-mobile. I have 5 phones with 5 2GB data plans for $130/month. My friends are paying 200+ on ATT. You’re on Sprint so the resell value of those phones will also be less because you can’t use them elsewhere without hassles. Sprint and Verizon are the biggest example of the problem, more so Verizon.

  26. There are lots of benefits to buying unlocked devices. I have not been locked into a contract for about 3 years and couldnt be happier. When you sign the contract the phone companies know no matter what you arent going anywhere. They will lie in store on the phone or wherever to get you into that contract. Before I went contractless, I cant count how many times Sprint claimed that 4g was coming or that it was in my area when I knew it wasnt. Once you sign if you leave you are gonna have to pay and they know that. When you are unlocked. I’m leaving actually means something so they will do more to keep you aboard. Plus this article didn’t even talk about the resale of unlocked devices, which is much higher. I paid $500 for my S4 I believe, and when I got my nexus 5 I was able to get $425 for it.

    1. How bout relative to when I sold my Sprint HTC One on Craigslist which was in 9.9/10 condition for only $260 when it was 6 months old. I cannot believe how Sprint phones plummet in value. When looking at it now 6 months later T-Mobile HTC Ones are still $400 on Craigslist here in Seattle. Just one more way how Sprint sucks!

      1. GSM phones in general hold value better because of the international market. It has nothing to do with CDMA vs GSM or Sprint vs T-Mobile.

  27. Dumping my contract was the best financial move I ever made. I was paying roughly $160 a month for two lines on VZW about two years ago, but now I pay $30 – 65 a month (varies with referral credits and usage) after switching to a pre-paid MVNO. Overall I’m happy with the savings, but I still get annoyed that the phones I want usually aren’t available with my providers.

  28. I don’t know about the US, but in the UK I don’t see any problem. Assuming I top-up £10/month, it will be £240 + unlocked phone price (almost £600 for flagships at their release price). This is usually only slightly less than the net cost of the £35/month for 24 months that I pay for the contract, but the benefit of being able to pay in monthly instalments is worth it IMO.

    Carriers seem to be a lot more aggressive over there… there’s no branding or exclusivity on my S4 with Three, and I get truly unlimited Internet, 500 minutes and 5000 texts. I can also use any SIM card I want.

    1. Of course you don’t see a problem in the UK. You don’t have a population of 350 million with about 10% of it suffering from serious mental illnesses (in positions ranging from the homeless to CEO’s who’s conditions range from religious fervor to maniacal megalomania). Many of them are responsible for way worse things than the way business is conducted (and how wireless contracts work), of course, but that’s the main reason behind a small part of the frightening level of chaos and irrationality that is so prevalent there.

  29. The Nexus 5 works on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, all the same version. If Verizon wasn’t so butthurt about people keeping their unlimited data, I’m sure it would have been made compatible with their network too.

  30. I would drop Verizon in a heartbeat. My T-Mobile bill would be HALF of my Verizon bill, but I can’t get ANY reception at my house in Oakland let alone any data bandwidth.

    1. Just a note, T-Mobile has devices which use your wifi for phone calls, and it works quite well. I have the HTC One and get zero reception at my apartment in Alameda, but I enjoy excellent call quality, because its all over wifi. Good stuff, I don’t know why every carrier doesn’t do this (of course I don’t really know how it works).

      1. I agree, in my area I get great reception. However my apartment complex, no body gets good service. However, being a T-Mobile customer, I get that WiFi calling and its crystal clear…a family member moved to a rural area..She dropped Verizon , yes Verizon, in favor for T-Mobile’s WiFi calling….

    2. Just setup WiFi calling….all you have to do is set up an emergency contact number… and T-Mobile allows you to use your WiFi for calls…and also text messages…so its faster sending picture and video messages….

  31. Great article and all true. Been using an unlocked phone and cheaper contractless service since uh… 2010!

  32. I’ve been doing this for the past 3 years. GiffGaff anyone?

  33. i got rid of verizon a year ago. i was not out of contract at the time so they charged me a $500 termination fee for 2 phones. i switched to a prepaid carrier called republic wireless. my phone bill went from $170 a month for 2 phones to $70 a month for 2 phones. my wife has the 3g plan for $25 and i have the LTE plan for $40 after discounts for being beta users our bill after tax is $70. they even give you 5GB’s of data per phone. i’m trying not to advertise, but its a really good deal. they have moto maker for the moto x now. Tmobile has wifi calling and their plans are a little cheaper, but they don’t discount you for using more wifi. i think their bill is still higher than what it could be. i feel absolutely terrible for anyone who is in a contract and is not happy with their service. my heart goes out to you.

  34. On Verizon you do not get a discount if your off contract. If you want a new $600 phone it makes some sense to get a discount on contract. Your monthly bill will be the same either way.

    I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile, bought a Nexus 5, and ended up saving some money on my monthly bill. If you don’t live in a big city, Verizon and its contracts maybe the best option.

    1. Your point has been invalidated by the pointless dog picture.

    2. For those who still have unlimited data plans makes no sense in getting a phone from vzw on contract. I bought the Note 3 in Jan with no money down, $0 interest for 12 months and no contract (which ended at the end of Dec) and kept my unlimited data. I had Best Buy price match the vzw price since they has it for $800 and vzw has it for $700. My bill didn’t go down but I’m still saving a ton of money by paying full price for the device and keeping my unlimited data plan. If I would have to get a data plan I would have to get a 20GB+ plan and that would sky rocket my bill to more than $200/month for one line. I would say that in about 3 months or so I have recovered the full price of the Note 3 only on the data plan savings. I stick with vzw because of their service. Everywhere I go I have service unlike my family and friends who have other carriers, like T-mobile.

  35. I agree with everything said but now a days who has the money to drop 600+ on a phone outright? most people are at a point where they live pay check to pay check which sucks, but the discount on a phone helps. even though on no contract the bill is way less, its definitely a catch 22. Im currently in a “no contract” situation with Tmobile where I am paying for the phone outright over installments but thats only because I dont have the 600 to shell out for the device that A: I Want… B: Suits my lifestyle and C: Adapts to what I’ve grown accustomed to out of a smart phone. its a shitty situation really.

    1. Large part of my reasoning behind getting the Oneplus is that right there.

    2. I’m sure you could buy it with a credit card and use the money saved being out of contract to pay for the phone over a handful of months. I’ve done that a bunch of times myself, plus selling the previous device offsets that quite a bit too.

  36. Not a whole lot of facts to back these statements up. Some numbers showing how we could save money would have been nice.

  37. I’m sorry but $600 $750 for an unlocked Note 3 (which is the phone I want to purchase) doesn’t suit my budget. I get it you recoup that money down the road with the cheaper bill. The screen on my G Nexus is cracked as of 4 days ago and i refuse to claim the insurance. My contract ends with Sprint at the end of this month. Suggestions?

    1. I financed my Note 3 with TMobile on day one. Around 25 dollars a month with no down payment. Not to mention pretty much at the same time I sold my Note 2 for $250. Do the math. :)

      1. Is that on or off contract? How much is you bill if thats not being to nosy. I dont see how paying monthly for the phone as well as service is saving any money except for the initial purchase.

        1. It’s off contract. I pay 200 dollars after taxes for 4 lines with unlimited talk text and data (10GB LTE) mobile hot spot, 200 MB International Data each line and wifi calling. Including the NOTE 3 financing and with no contract. If it wasn’t for the financed phone the bill would be around 25 bucks less each month. Of course my service has no contract HOWEVER I’m committed to pay all the 24 installments for the Note 3 regardless of keeping the service or not.

          1. Hmm interesting but…..No T-Mobile here in Charleston, WV

          2. You can do the same concept with ATT as well if you don’t mind paying extra but you can 12 or 18 payments

  38. What a poorly written article.

    1. What a narrow-minded comment.

      1. What an ignorant reply.

        I didn’t say I disagreed with the article, or the sentiment, or anything at all that could give you a basis to judge that I was prejudice or biased or any of the other negative things you implied.

        I merely said it was poorly written. Which it was.

  39. Taking the leap to prepaid next month.Very excited. I’ve been talking about it for about a year. I was on a family plan on VZW, but am moving out on my own. Should be saving about $20. Still, the freedom is worth it to me

  40. As much as I hate knowing I’m overpaying, I think the current system works best for the tech enthusiast. The average consumer isn’t going to pay $600 every two years for a new phone, they’ll either stick with their phone a while longer or get a cheaper low end phone. When phone manufacturers figure that out, they’ll focus on phones that cost $100 to make rather than ones that cost $400 to make. It would be just like the early 70s oil embargo when car manufacturers had to change their focus from horsepower to gas mileage.

    1. U can buy a 700 phone, take good care of it and sell it after a year for around 60% of what you paid for it… remember that by doing that you save around 20 to 30 dollars a month for bringing your own device depending of your carrier. So it’s not that hard, now of course that’s easier said than done but it’s totally possible.

    2. Quick bit of math. I pay $30 a month for my cell coverage (prepaid). Before that I was paying $90 a month for similar coverage (post paid). I paid $350 two years ago for my galaxy nexus ($150 more than I would have spent on an on contract phone). Each month I save $60 on my bill. That comes out to $720 a year, and $1440 over the life of a cell contract.
      Even if you want to go buy the latest and greatest each year, that $720 plus the $400 you can sell your old phone for more than make up for it.

  41. I ditched Verizon and went the no-contract route on AT&T when the Nexus 4 dropped in price as they cleared inventory for the 5. Up until that point I had been on my parent’s family plan (college student), but seeing as I’m a senior and it was time to start paying my own cell phone bill, the Nexus 4 price drop couldn’t have come at a better time. It nicely dovetailed with the end of my Verizon contract (no ETF) and I wasn’t about to sign a contract with Verizon due to their high monthly price. I transferred my number and service to the $60/month GoPhone plan. Ran that plan up until last month when AT&T dropped the price on their Mobile Share 2GB plan to $65/month contract-free with BYOD. Almost went to Aio, but I stuck with AT&T for full speed data and their new worldwide free texting (going to Australia on my honeymoon in a month). It’s nice being able to switch when I want to whomever I want and also nice knowing that I can buy a new phone whenever I like because my Nexus 4 is already paid off from the savings I’ve netted over signing a contract. I’ll never go back to contract wireless.

    1. I bought the 16 GB Nexus 4 on the pre Nexus 5 discount, for $320 Aus, sold it for $200 months later, to get the 32 GB Nexus 5. Updated the N4 to Kit Kat 4.4.2, my purchaser was as happy as a clam. The whole upgrade from N4 to N5, only cost me $280 Aus, don’t blame purchaser for being as happy as a clam, $200 for a 2 GB RAM, quad core, latest software. Have a great time in Oz, nicest place in the world, you must be pretty happy, just married, Nexus 4, Kit Kat, holiday in the most laid back place on Earth.

  42. you’re gonna pay full price for a phone no matter what you do. you’ll either pay it outright, through installments, or have an inflated bill.

    T-mobile’s uncarrier plans did nothing more than change the ETF to RBD(remaining balance due). the financing is based on 2 years of service. in some cases an ETF is cheaper than having to pay up on the remainder of a phone’s pricetag.

    i don’t mess with any of these major carriers. there are too many good MVNOs working off the major’s towers to give these people all that money.

  43. I love Australia :)

  44. I’ll add my 2¢. My family and I have been on T-Mobile for over a decade I think, last 2 years contract free and before that we got a discount on service for paying full price on phones.

    We were on a grandfathered 5 lines for $150 plan. Then everyone decided they wanted data and unlimited taking, we then switched to 5 lines at $200. Now with the new increases in data we’ve dropped to the free 1GB data, 5 lines for $160. Simply amazing.

    I’m the only one that wants the latest and greatest in hardware so I’m upgrading and passing down my phone. Ultimately I personally balance out my full price phone purchases with the savings on service. My family members reap the benefit of free slightly older tech. Been all Nexus recently, and soon to go One+.

  45. I have 2 phones for me and 1 for my wife all unlocked on T-Mobile’s $30 a month plan. So much freedom it hurts.

  46. I never sign contracts anymore, for a couple reasons. One is if I do Verizon will take away my unlimited data, and two is because if I want to cancel my service I own the phone so they can’t make me pay any charges or fees for early termination. And yes it’s also a great negotiating tool

  47. While I am currently not on contract (for the 1st time ever), signing a contract has previously long been the best option for me, and still remains the best option for many. If you are happy with your carrier, are not grandfathered into an unlimited plan, know you will stay put, long term, geographically, and do not travel out of the country, there is really no reason for you to pay an astronomical amount upfront for a phone when you can get it so much cheaper.

  48. The main thing about what Joe said that I liked about off contract is that pretty much if everyone was off contract we’d have all carries p**so whipped they would never know when their customers would all of a sudden leave to another carrier which in turn would make every C.S. rep. For these companies your best friend. Marketing would be so caught up trying to match the other’s companies promos every month we would have nothing but great service from from… Shoot everyone, the fact that we’re stuck (not me btw) to them for 2 years makes them lazy and not work to keep you by providing an outstanding business model I mean if you add up the cancelation fees collected for just 1000 customers (which most companies charge average $200) in just one year alone average to about $2.4 mil. Frankly if you ask me that alone should be argument enough about how contracts deteriorate good quality product investment and customer service.

  49. Don’t buy a phone on contract because the nexus 5 is as nice as any flagship and half the cost, and no bloat, just pure android as it’s intended and pretty fast updates too

    1. Shoddy camera, mediocre battery life, questionable viewing angles, lack of SD card slot, and non-removable battery. Definitely not as nice as a GPE M8 and $400 is not half of $600.

      1. 1. 300$
        2. Not everyone cares about SD card and removable battery. I actually prefer without.
        3. Great viewing angles.
        4. The battery and camera- Have to agree on this one.

        1. Its $350 and $400 for 16gb/32gb respectively and 16gb w/o SD is a joke.

          And why would you prefer no SD and no removable battery? I can understand not caring but preferring? Don’t sent make sense

          1. 16gb is plenty for me, that’s what the cloud is for! I have an iPod for when I need physical music storage, its better to have a separate device for that anyway imo

      2. The nexus 5 has a nice camera, much better than the 4mp ultracrappypixel camera on the m8, and it doesn’t have a 6 inch bezel just to put the brand name on the front!

    2. And if I could get service on it where I live, I’d probably get one…

  50. When I go to buy a new phone, I’m like a kid in a candy store. So invariably I’ll choose the greatest and latest cuz my next few years are gonna be stuck with it. That is what the carriers are counting on. To avoid that trap I buy the phone outright from those stores which offer 12 month interest free deals. So I still get to walk out not feeling broke. The only downside I see in outright purchases is the lack of an insurance option.

    1. I bought my vzw Note 3 from Best Buy at full price with no contract, $0 down, interest free for 12 months and I still have insurance on the phone. I actually called vzw to verify that I’m still fully covered by assurance and I am.

  51. The thing that most people seem to not understand about contracts is you are not locked into a device. They assume they can’t upgrade for two years. This is not correct, you are only required to have service with them for two years, you can change phones as often as you like, you just won’t get a discount on those new phones for another two years. You can still do what I do and just sell your phone every 12 months and buy a new one. The sale of the old one usually offsets all but about $200 of the price of a new one, assuming the phone is under a year old and you bought a high end device. It’s shocking how many times I hear people say “I can’t get a new phone for another X months, I’m under contract” umm actually you can, you just don’t want to pay full price for it. Now with AT&T charging $15 to add an off contract line vs $40 a month to add a new contract line, signing a contract is pointless for me. You save money by not signing a contract, $200 over 24 months (about 20%)

    Let’s look at adding a line to at&t’s new value share plan:

    Contract: $200 up front (typically, depending on which device) + $40 x 24 = 960 making a total additional cost of $1160 over two years

    Off contract: $600 up front (again, typically) + $15 x 24 = $360 for a total additional cost of $960 over two years

    In both examples you can sell your device and buy a new one anytime you want. The longer you wait to upgrade the less you’ll get for your used device.

    You’d think you’d get some sort of a discount for agreeing to two years of service, but no, actually you pay more. So why so why does anyone do it? Well not everyone has $600 up front so they take advantage do that fact. You could always buy a Nexus or a Moto G though!

    1. you could also use an installment plan on a new phone without having to get under contract. So you would pay $15 per line plus whatever the phone costs per month.

  52. Sometimes they can be real dee-eye-see-kays about selling you a phone outright. I am with Rogers and reserved a Note 3 when it was available. I was in line to buy the device for a few weeks and when it finally came out and was delivered to my local dealer, they refused to sell it to me at full price because it’s only sold on contract. I jumped through hoops to get one shipped directly from Rogers HQ to me and even then it’s still locked. They want to charge another $50 to unlock it.

    My last phone was an S3 and that was also bought outright. After a year, I wanted it unlocked and that was also a $50 charge.

    There was nowhere else I could get the phone. No Samsung stores in Canada. +1 for Apple in this case.

    1. So this whole comment was just to say “+1 for Apple”? Are you kidding me? No way there are no stores in Canada. You don’t buy from a ‘Samsung Store’, you go to your local dealer. No dealers in Canada? Give me a break.

      1. Is that all you got from my post? Clearly you are not Canadian. If you can find a place to buy unlocked new release phones in Canada, please do enlighten me. If you can’t then keep your attitude to yourself. The fact is, there are no dealers in Canada that sell new release phones only. At least not in the first few months of release. It is always bundled with a contract. Your options are to buy from the carriers themselves, or go to best buy/futureshop costco, and buy them also under contract. They don’t even advertise the off-contract price until much later after release. Apple gets +1 because they have physical stores with the option to buy unlocked. They always have had the option and that’s where Android lacks at least in Canada. Sure you can buy the phone overseas, but then you deal with customs, insurance, warranty, shipping, additional wait time and in the end it is not worth it anymore. Show me a location in Canada where you can buy new release phones and then open your mouth. Otherwise, keep your wise cracks to yourself.

        1. Sorry but it just doesn’t make sense, you must not be looking in the correct place.
          Every country has dealers, just search google and you ought to find something.

          1. I know exactly how that feels. It really doesn’t make sense to me too. It just seems like carriers are so up tight about leeching money off their customers. They have limited stock and they know they can make more money off people willing to sign contracts so they don’t sell them outright. On a bright note, all the Nexus phones can be purchased directly from Google unlocked without contract or hassle. I bought my 2013 nexus 7 LTE the day it was released and it was promptly delivered without problems. Google +1 too.

    2. I’m Canadian, and I agree with this guy.

  53. 1st Wold Country and the most democratic country in the world but with a Communist style of carrier locking!

  54. We have the same issues here in Canada. Most people buy phones on contract. Part of the reason is that it is not obvious and nontrivial to buy an unlocked phone. I walked into a Best Buy store and asked what phones they sell that are unlocked. They showed me two old crappy phones. None were the latest flagship models. The official way to buy an unlocked phone at a Bell store is to buy the phone, sign up for a monthly plan, cancel the plan and then pay Bell some more to unlock the phone. There is no obvious and easy way to walk into a store and buy an unlocked phone and then go to a carrier of your choice. Bring your own device plans for the major carriers are less expensive, but it is not obvious what they cost. You really have to look for them on their web sites as they really want you to buy a phone on contract.

  55. I’m off contract on vzw and loving it. I bought the Note 3 back in January at full price from Best Buy, $0 down, $0 interest for 12 months and kept my unlimited data plan. I still have vzw great service and everywhere I go I have service unlike other carriers that once you leave the city the phone ends up being close to useless.

    Nice article Joe.

    1. What benefit are you getting being off contract? Sounds like you love the VZW service. Why not commit to it for 20 months and get several hundred dollars off the price of that Note 3 you just bought? (You might not have had to pay for it yet, but you will)

      1. For one if I tie myself into a contract I would have to get into one of the share everything for more than 20GB/month plan which won’t do much for me. Right there We’re talking about a $200/month compared to $85/month. And yes I like the service I don’t have to worry about service or going over my data plan.

        1. Hmm, interesting. I’ve resigned a contract a couple of times now, and have been able to keep my unlimited data. I do have a family account with an extra, non-data-using account, and I’ve been able to benefit from that.

  56. I pay $90 a month for 2 lines. Only Primary is in contract with ATT. Its a 700 mins a month (with about 2000 mins additional rollover) with 300 Megs of data (data is only for primary line). Secondary does not have a data plan. Its been 5 months into contract. I would like to know if there is a better plan that saves a few bucks (prepaid or contract), I would be willing to switch.

    1. tmobile will give you unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data on 2 lines for $80 or step up your primary line to 3GB for $90.

      don’t know if they still have the 100 minutes, unlimited text and 5GB data for $30 deal.

      1. 100 mins is not enough for my usage. I can live with less data and no text. But I would need at least 600 mins a line.

        1. Looks like he said Unlimited Talk. I cant believe your on a contract in which you have limited minutes. Im on Sprint with 300min a month but I get unlimited during the weekends (7pm Fri – 12am Sun) and Unlimited every night after 7, on top of free cell phone to cell phone.
          So its pretty much unlimited all the time unless I’m calling businesses or weird people with house phones.

          1. Yes, I have unlimited nights and weekend as well. And I guess I have A list option as well. Where I can choose 5 numbers and minutes don’t count for those 5 numbers.

          2. Unlimited talk & text, 5 gb data a month with two forgiveness months a year. 3G on Sprint. $25.00 a month with my paid upfront $299.00 Moto X.

            Oh and I can change my plan from my phone up to two times a month to a $40.00 4G plan or to a $10 unlimited talk and text (data on wifi only) or a $5.00 wifi only unlimited everything plan.

            I LOVE Republic Wireless!!!

  57. For me a contract is currently my best option. I live outside of civilization, on a dirt road. Verizon is my only option for decent service. To my knowledge Verizon doesn’t offer a plan that makes it cheaper to buy a phone outright than buying the same phone subsidized. Why pay the extra $400 for a phone to be off contract when you’ll be paying the same amount every month? The only other option for me would be to switch to T-Mobile since they offer Wi-Fi calling and texting to your regular phone number. They also offer to pay my early termination fee, so being under contract before switching is still of no consequence. The major issue with T-Mo is that my phone would be worthless if I were out cutting grass, doing yard work, driving, camping, or anything else that I do outdoors.

  58. On VZW you do not save monthly by “bringing your own phone.” Plan pricing is the same for everyone, so VZW makes even more money if you buy your phone from them at full price and pay the monthly plan fees. Only thing you get is freedom to get a new phone (and pay another $600) or go to a different carrier. Maybe the FCC should legislate that carriers must provide lower rate plans for non-subsidized phone customers.

    1. Bingo, this is why I still will lock myself into a contract — I’m not saving any money if I don’t. It does give me “freedom”, but the only service I get at my house is VZW, and I don’t see that changing.

  59. Bought off contract Nexus 5 here and switched to T-Mobile. I’m happy as a clam for doing it too :D Unfortunately with most carriers you don’t save and I would probably have a little better coverage if I stuck with Verizon but I vote with my dollar and T-Mobile is getting better by the month, not looking back any time soon.

  60. This is specific to me in Australia, but I have a Nexus 5, pay $6 a month for $50 a month worth of calls. Sure I don’t use much Mobile data at 10¢ a megabyte, but I have a 100 GB a month landline contract. Which I upgraded to unlimited local, national and 100 minutes international for $10, for those long beurocracy calls, mostly people call me. Saves me $34 a month over what I used to spend on contract, because my phone got stolen and I needed one fast and cheap. Go along with everything, everyone says about not liking OEMs and carriers getting in the way of upgrades. Sold my discounted 16 GB Nexus 4 for $200, so 32 GB Nexus 5 upgrade only cost $280, carrier even got in the way of updates for Galaxy Nexus. Happy to be free and saving again, bricked the GNexus trying to unlock, update, was 2 updates behind, on a Nexus for freaks sakes. Wonder why hardly anyone outside of the US and Canada seems to comment, strange. Love that WiFi, hate that desktop (long story.)

  61. One of the very few moments when I’m happy that I’m not living in America. D:

  62. As most of the tech sites report on the US view of things it provides an interesting point of comparison to how we experience things in the UK.

    I’m currently rocking a fully unlocked galaxy note 3 on a Three 2 year contract. I never buy my phones direct from a carrier, always opt for a reseller as they are always unlocked this way.

    The phone cost me nothing at all and the contract is £30pm giving me 500mins, 5000texts and totally unlimited 4g data. Yes it’s Three and their 4g rollout just got underway so it’s spotty but the HSPA+ is rock solid wherever I go at 10-14mb/s so I’m happy.

    Also I just found out that under their Feel At Home program I can use all this allowance internationally too. Being able to use my phone when I visit the US in 3 weeks without fear of roaming charges is amazing.

    The contract I’m on can be bought SIM only for £15, so essentially my handset cost is £15 pm which doesn’t actually cover the cost of the handset after the 2 year period.

    US carriers seem to really screw you over in comparison. Is it also true that your calling minutes count for incoming calls as well?

  63. I haven’t had a contract since 2004, and I’ll never go back. Unlocked and free FTW!!

  64. $30/mo on T-Mobile Prepaid: Unl Data with 5gb 4G HSPA+, Unl Text, 100mins Talk

    So worth it.

  65. Signing a two year contract is no big deal to me. I get 2G of data , unlimited text and voice for $60 dollars a month from Verizon. That makes me happy.

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