The latest buzz suggests that Apple will announce the iPhone 5 on Sept. 12 and it will be available nine days later on Sept. 21 — not accounting for an inevitable sell-out and subsequent delay of a few weeks. |
An iPhone — or any smartphone — is a pricey proposition. You're likely to spend at least $200 up front for the device and around $100 a month on a traditional two-year contract.
But there are ways to save money.
In the last few months, carriers have begun offering smartphones, including iPhones, under no-contract plans. That means you'll pay more for the phone and less each month.
For instance, Virgin Mobile, which is owned by Sprint and runs on the same network, offers a 16GB iPhone 4S for $650, the same as if you bought it directly from Apple. For 1,200 talk minutes, unlimited text and 2.5GB of data, you'll pay $40 a month. (You can bring that down to $35 if you enroll in autopay.) At the end of two years, you will save around $1,000.
The big question is whether Virgin Mobile will join AT&T, Verizon and Sprint as iPhone 5 carriers, but neither Virgin or Apple will comment. My guess is no. And it may not really matter because so far, no big differences have emerged to make the new iPhone significantly different than the 4S.
We're hearing a slightly bigger display and a nine-pin dock, which to me just means it will require all new accessories. Once the new iPhone is released, we're sure to see a price drop on previous models, which will represent the best value, especially if you go the no-contract route.
But the iPhone is not the only great smartphone. Samsung, HTC and others have made very competitive Android phones. Among first-time smartphone buyers, three out of five chose an Android phone and among smartphone owners, 54 percent bought an Android phone over an iPhone, according to a survey from comScore.
With little difference between Android phones and iPhone hardware, a battle that Apple and Samsung continue in the courts, much of what makes a smartphone great is the apps.
In the past, iPhone had a huge advantage over Android-powered devices with a much larger pool of apps exclusively made for iOS. That's no longer the case. Must-have apps, including Facebook, Instagram, Skype and most Google products are available for both operating systems.
Samsung has two new notable smartphones. The Galaxy S III was released earlier this summer on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular. Samsung plans to release its Galaxy Note 2 later this month on AT&T and possibly on other carriers.
The Note sports the largest display available at 5.3 inches, compared to iPhone at 3.5 inches, and comes with a stylus to — you got it — to take notes. (The new iPhone is rumored to have a larger 4-inch display like most Android smartphones.) The Note's bigger screen and stylus can be a boon to people who struggle with deciphering smaller displays and typing on a virtual keyboard.
And here's how you can save: Samsung recently announced a new buyback program called Samsung Upgrade. Samsung will buy back your old phone for as much as $300 when you buy one of three Samsung smartphones, the Galaxy S II, the Galaxy S III or the Note.
It works the same as other third-party programs such as Gazelle, which offers cash for cell phones (Apple, BlackBerry, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung) and iPads, iPods and Macs. Go to samsungupgrade.com, fill out an online form describing your phone and its condition to receive a quote.
You must buy a new Samsung phone and send your old one back within 30 days. Samsung will send you a check for the agreed upon amount as long as your phone is in the condition you described and you include proof of purchase. The buy-back program is being run through Clover Wireless, a certified reseller and recycler of phones.
The value of the trade-in will vary by device. Samsung's list of qualifying devices includes almost every manufacturer from Acer to ZTE. Even the original iPhone made the list, but you'll only get $20 for it tops. The $300 limit has been reserved for 64GB AT&T iPhone 4S devices in good working order. Other top-of-the-line smartphones qualify for up to $250.
Assuming you're not after the new iPhone 5, the Samsung Upgrade could give you a pretty sweet deal on a very nice phone.
Ogden, Utah-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.
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