Two years is too long for upgrades, but there are ways around it

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| September 18, 2013

We're all here at this website because, simply put, we love or want to learn about all things mobile. At this point, it's rare to find somebody around who doesn't have some sort of cell phone on their person; they're just too important now-a-days. They're easily accessible and easy to obtain, and of course are a lot more convenient than alternative methods of contacting somebody from outside the home, such as office or pay phones. With our cell phones going with us wherever we go and being used quite often in many cases, these are the kind of phones that get worn down and broken all too easily sometimes. Which kind of sucks, considering a lot of people are stuck on two-year contracts, which often leads to them only being able to upgrade once every two years or so.

Fortunately, there are several ways of being able to "upgrade" your phone without having to pay out the rear to your carrier for a full price phone before your upgrade is due.

Now, I use the term "upgrade" here loosely, because what it really means is "getting a different phone". Although three out of four of the major U.S. carriers have plans in motion now where you can opt-in to upgrade early, and with the fourth one (Sprint) following shortly behind, not everybody has the means to be able to opt-in to such programs. After all, most of them come with extra charges and eventually end up costing more than you would just dealing with the whole "waiting two years" bit. On the other hand, although it might be cheaper in the long run just to deal with the whole two-year contract, it can still be hard to stick with one phone for two, or close to two years. Not only do cell phones damage quickly, but they also become outdated rather quickly as well.

So what do you when you're jonesin' for a new phone and your upgrade is months, possibly even more than a year away?

Well, fortunately there are a couple of options. They might not be the most ideal, and you're probably not going to walk out of a deal with a (better) brand new phone for free, but you can still score some pretty good deals.

The first one is Craigslist. I know that Craigslist has a bad stigma around it, and can sometimes be kind of scary to use, but I've had some of my best swaps come from Craigslist. I've used Craigslist at least four time for phone swaps, and I've found as long as you meet at a carrier's retail store that things usually go over smoothly. First and foremost, you're meeting in a public setting. Secondly, at least for carriers like Sprint, it's a good way to make sure that the phone is at least able to be activated before actually handing over your hard earned cash to some person you've never met before. Of course, you do run risks with this method as well - it's not foolproof. Like buying a used car, buying a phone from somebody else probably means they're not going to tell you about that time that their phone fell in the sink, or that other time they dropped it in a mud puddle. Although you'll probably get a moment to look over the device for any damages (at least, I would recommend it) all issues aren't always physical. And unfortunately, Craigslist doesn't have a return policy in play. It's all very much a gamble.

But for a more organized (and arguably) safer means of switching it up, you can always check eBay or Amazon for used (or sometimes even new) devices for a much cheaper price than you would find at a retail store. You can also find refurbished devices, which gives you a hefty discount as well for many phones. The nice thing about using eBay or Amazon means that you can file complaints and have a much better chance at being reimbursed for any damaged devices, or if the previous owner failed to document any important details that you should have known about (bad ESN, liquid damage, broken, or even sent a bar of soap instead of a phone - things like that). With Craigslist, you can attempt to contact the person who sold you a bad device, but odds are that if somebody had the integrity of a cardboard box and sold you a lemon, you're probably not going to get very far with them.

You can also ask around with friends, especially if you're friends with a lot of them on social networks. If you are lucky enough to find a friend who wants to swap you, hopefully they don't jip you and ruin a perfectly good friendship. Although this works in the same way that Craigslist would in the fact that you wouldn't be able to get your money back by any legal means, you can still stick it to them by unfriending them on any social network you're associated with them on. That'll learn 'em.

I've found that once you get tired of a device and are ready to switch it up that it's a 50/50 chance you come out ahead. Sometimes you trade it up for the better, and sometimes you find out that your last phone wasn't really all that bad when compared with a new device. If you're looking to change up your daily driver, but don't necessarily need a brand spankin' new phone, I would suggest purchasing a used or refurbished device and keeping your old device - at least until you know that the "new" phone won't give you any problems.

Readers, how do you go about switching your phones once you get tired of your old oe? Do you purchase a brand new device, or do you hunt around for deals on used phones and refurbished devices? What's the best swap you've ever made? Let us know your stories in the comments below!

Images via Techaron, Forbes