It’s weird for me to even be discussing this topic, because just a few short years ago, purchasing anything at full-price was either out of most people's reach or a bad idea because a cheap smartphone was a bad smartphone. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” was pretty accurate. In a lot of cases it still is today, but these days the risk of getting what one might consider an “awful” phone for a decent price is considerably lower.
Take the Moto G for example. This phone costs just $179.99. It looks high quality, it gives good performance, has great battery life, features a 5-inch 1280 x 720 HD display, 4G LTE, and it even features a microSD card slot. Despite its drawbacks (microSD card slot only expandable up to 32GB, camera isn’t all that great) it’s still a great phone for the price. The Moto G is very appropriately priced at less than $200.
You also have the Moto E, which is even cheaper than the Moto G. This phone starts at just $129.99, and again has a good build, offers splash protection, Android Lollipop, and great battery life. Again, you’re not getting the best of the best but you’re getting a pretty great deal for the money that you have to pay.
Even people who prefer to pay full price aren’t stuck with low to mid-range specs. Google’s Nexus (well, before the Nexus 6) was actually a very good deal. “Flagship hardware for half the price,” read one article from Ars Technica. “The best phone $350 can buy,” reads another from Engadget. “Dollar-for-Dollar, the best Android phone you can buy,” wrote Popular Mechanics. As we can see, even Google catered to the “reasonably priced smartphone” once upon a time (and here’s to hoping they head that way again).
Even without Nexus, though, the list goes on for decent full-priced smartphones. On the flip side, you still have the option that has pretty much been the “go to” option since the beginning: the contract discount.
It’s hard to avoid the temptation of the contract discount – you know, the super crazy awesome discount you get when you sign up with a carrier for only two years’ time. It’s great! You walk in with nothing, you walk out with the latest flagship for a mere $199 or so, and you slowly but surely end up paying the full amount for the phone over the course of your contract, conveniently included in your monthly bill. Honestly, it’s not the worst deal considering a lot of people aren’t going to be able to just fork over $800 some odd dollars for an iPhone or a Galaxy S at one time, so as long as you plan on sticking with your carrier for that full amount of time then it’s really not that big of a problem. But if you decide to cut ties with your carrier early, then you might run into some trouble at the expense of your initial savings.
Even if you consider the fact that every carrier seems to be throwing it in your face that they’ll take care of that pesky ETF that those other carriers charge you (even though most of them charge you the ETF themselves) you still have to consider that, should you decide not to stick with the carrier you purchased the device from, you’ll still have to pay for the rest of the device even if you leave. On the plus side, at least you know what you’re paying for. And you’re getting a more powerful phone out of the deal than if you were to buy the more modestly priced alternatives, so there’s that too.
Both options are good for their own reasons. I’ve found that I like to buy phones full price rather than the contracted discount, simply because I like knowing that I’ve already paid for the whole thing and I won’t have any surprise expenses later. It’s mine, I own it, and I will take it wherever I please, thank you very much. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still look at the sweet flagships that come out and wish that I could just bring them all home with me without having to worry about the investment. Like I said, both have their pros and cons. And, if you’re fortunate enough, you could have the best of both worlds by purchasing the more expensive flagships at full price, so there’s that as well.
Readers, when it comes to purchasing your phones what do you prefer? Do you prefer to go for the full price or for the contract discount? Let us know in the comments below!