Are you a deal-hunter when it comes to buying smartphones?

Marc Flores
 from San Francisco, CA
Published: June 23, 2013

Do smartphone deals or discounts matter to you when purchasing a new smartphone? Right now, AT&T, Walmart, RadioShack and Best Buy are all offering deals, discounts and trade-in options on smartphones. Many of those deals include the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, both of which are quickly aging as far as the smartphone world is concerned. Are you going to take advantage of any of those deals, or are you more concerned with getting the latest and greatest devices? Is money no object when considering a new smartphone purchase?

In my first post for PhoneDog, I mentioned that I used to be an active member of the Howard Forums community -- especially as far as buying and selling unlocked, imported devices were concerned. At the time, it didn't matter to me whether my phone was two weeks old or two months old: I was always on the lookout for something new, something better. The problem with doing that, obviously, is that when you're selling or trading, it still gets expensive. You're often losing a little bit of money on each transaction because you could never sell a device for the price you paid for it, and then there were shipping costs. It was a pricey obsession. 

I've even known some folks who took it beyond the buying, selling and trading online. Many of my tech-obsessed friends would often open second or third lines with their carriers, or new carriers, just to be able to nab a new handset without a single care about the price of a monthly data plan. 

On the flip side, I have many friends who are using phones that make me cringe. I have a friend with an iPhone 3GS inside a big Otterbox case, and it has a cracked screen, too. In bars, restaurants, and in other public places, I often see phones that are antiquated by today's standards (two years old or more). Those smartphone users clearly don't care about rolling with all the bells and whistles that today's smartphones have to offer, nor do they care about the latest Android or iOS versions. 

Having been in this business for some time, I'll often ask them what has prevented them from trading up. I understand that some folks don't want to upgrade until they're eligible with their carrier, but when you see an iPhone 3GS or a T-Mobile G2, you know they've been due for an upgrade for years. Here are some of the responses I'll get:

  • "The phone works just fine, and the battery life is OK, so I see no reason to upgrade"
  • "New phones seem expensive, so I'm just going to keep using the one I have until it dies"
  • "I hardly use my phone, anyway, so buying a new one seems a little pointless"
  • "I'm just waiting on a really good deal when I'm ready to buy a new phone so I save some money"
  • "The sales rep told me that I can't upgrade my phone without upgrading my plan and I don't want to lose my unlimited data"

These are all legitimate reasons that keep people from upgrading, and I often wonder if we'd all be better off finding some kind of happy medium. Or perhaps it would be nicer if carriers and manufacturers gave us more incentive to upgrade so that we wouldn't have to carry cracked smartphones with grandfathered unlimited data plans. 

A few years ago, a website called Last Year's Model launched with the goal of getting people to hang onto their gadgets a little longer, instead of upgrading often. The site says, "It's totally normal to lust after the hottest new geeky gadgets. It's also cool to put some into what we buy, and what we throw away. So this is a place to show the world that a lot of us are choosing to use Last Year's Model."

Of course, choosing to hang onto a perfectly working gadget over buying a new one for the sake of owning the latest model has obvious benefits. You're saving money and you're also saving the environment by creating less waste. You may also contribute to the better treatment of workers in other countries -- the countries where your gadgets are made, the same gadgets that are too expensive to own for the people actually assembling them in factories. Hanging onto your shiny new gadget a little longer seems like a win/win situation then, right? 

If you're the type who just has to have a new smartphone every one to three months or so, would you consider hanging onto your device just a little longer and maybe finding new uses for it so you don't get so bored? And if you're the type who hangs onto smartphones for two or more years, you have my blessing to upgrade. New displays look so much better, greater app support will make you happy, faster performance makes life easier and I'm sure that your ancient battery might not be getting you through the day anymore.

Please share your thoughts! I'd love to hear your take on this and where we agree or disagree on certain things.