Carriers are expensive, and they’re only getting worse. Two-year contracts are on their way out in favor of device payment plans, thanks to revolutionary initiatives from T-Mobile. These payment plans, however, are essentially the same thing as the two-year contract options, only more expensive.
It looks cheaper on surface level, but carriers are making up for those lower prices through additional charges, upgrade fees, and so on. That begs the question: how can you ditch your carrier and save thousands of dollars on your phone bill?
It’s common knowledge that we’re paying out thousands of dollars for our smartphones over the course of a two-year contract, but, unfortunately, it’s hard to break way from that since many off-contract phones just don’t offer a premium package similar to that of the Galaxy S6 Edge+ or LG G4.
While that may be true, there’re now some devices out there that do offer that same premium quality.
Google Nexus 6
Google’s Nexus 6 features a 6-inch 2560 x 1440 AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 805 chipset, a 2.7GHz quad-core Krait 450 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel camera, and it comes in 32/64GB storage sizes. As with all Nexus devices, it’s running the latest version of Android Lollipop, and will receive quick and timely updates.
Starting at $499, it’s a steep price, but that’s the only price you’ll be paying for this premium package. No contracts, no device fees, and so on. It’s 100% yours and you can take it to any of the big four carriers in the United States to find yourself the cheapest data package.
Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3
Alcatel OneTouch’s Idol 3 features a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display, a Snapdragon 615 chipset, a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 and quad-core 1GHz Cortex-A53 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and it comes in 16/32GB storage options with microSD support up to 128GB.
As far as performance goes, it’s definitely up there with the Google Nexus 6, especially with how clean Alcatel OneTouch left the software on this device. It’s also significantly cheaper at $249 while still offering a premium package.
Be sure to check out our review here.
Motorola Moto G
The Motorola Moto G (2015) features a 5-inch 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display, has a Snapdragon 410 chipset, a quad-core 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera and comes in two options: 8GB of storage with 1GB of RAM or 16GB of storage with 2GB of RAM. The device also supports microSD cards up to 128GB.
Prices start at a meager $179.99 for this mid-range unlocked device, and while it may not have the sheer processing power of a higher-end phone, do you really need all that power for your basic smartphone tasks?
Be sure to check out our review here.
Making the leap
Making the leap to the off-contract life can be difficult, especially if you’re in the process of a two-year contract or device payment plan. Early termination fees or paying off the remainder of your balance can be expensive all in one chunk, especially if you want to purchase a new, unlocked smartphone immediately after.
You have two options: wait your contract out or bite the bullet and pay that lump sum. In doing the latter, you’ll save a lot of money on all sorts of fees, interest, and so on, but you won’t notice the affects of this saving for a few months down the road.
If contracts or device payment plans aren’t an issue for you, the obvious first step is to pick out and buy a smartphone.
Setting up your new smartphone
Setting up an unlocked device is extremely easy. In most cases, if you have a SIM card already, you can just pop your old one into your new smartphone, given that it’s the same size. On AT&T, I swapped the SIM out of my LG G3 and put it in the Idol 3–it worked right away, no setup involved.
If you don’t have the correct size SIM card, it’s as simple as heading to your chosen carrier’s website and ordering one of the correct size.
It may be a bit trickier to get it to work on a CDMA carrier like Verizon, however, the company has recently made it an easier process. Unfortunately, you still have to be cautious when bringing your own device to Verizon, as many phones don’t have all the necessary CDMA and LTE radios to work properly with the carrier. The same goes for Sprint.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that the average household spends $1226 annually on smartphone plans, and that’s no doubt increased in the past three years. I personally spend around $350/mo on my smartphone plan with AT&T, and by going off-contract, you could be spending as little as $30 per line, no matter what carrier you choose.
Prices do vary depending on how much data you need, but it still ends up being cheaper than a contract or device payment plan, as most prepaid plans for smartphones are without all of the added fees.
While it doesn’t look like much, over the next few years you could see thousands of dollars in savings. And for many of us, that couple thousand could go to things much more important.