Q: I've been using a cell phone for a year now and I like my service, but I want a new phone to get some of the new services available, like e-mail and Internet browsing. Why can't I just get a new phone from a store? They tell me I have to spend a lot of money just for the phone if I don't get a new service. I don't want to get another account, just another phone. What can I do?
A: Cell phones are more than just a necessity -- these days, they're also an accessory. And wireless companies keep bringing out phones with new features, snazzier designs and add-ons that tech-savvy consumers want.
"Cool stuff comes out" and so the average user keeps a cell phone for just 18 months or so, said Alexa Graf of AT&T Wireless.
Sprint PCS, for example, has phones that offer full color screens and talking e-mail. Ericsson has a line of phones that can be used as MP3 players and provide small keyboards that hook on to easily type short messages.
Getting a new phone is usually a fairly expedient process, but it can be costly -- after all, the service provider is in this to make money and a portion of that comes from selling you an expensive phone with all the bells and whistles.
For example, if you go to a cellular provider's store, they'll show you the latest phones, but the prices differ, sometimes astronomically. Case in point: A Nokia 3390 costs $299 without service, but only $99 with.
So why the price difference? The dealers make their money off commissions from new service activations. There's no real incentive to sell the phone alone, because there's no profit in it for them.
What to do?
Graf has a few ideas. Her company, like others, lets existing customers upgrade their phones, sometimes at a discount. The longer you've been a member, the better the discount.
Other providers offer similar plans. VoiceStream, for example, lets some of its subscribers get a new phone for as low $40.
There are other options, too. EBay is a veritable treasure trove for would-be upgraders, and many sellers offer the latest models that are compatible with most every company. It's a good idea to call the company to be sure that the phone you want will work with your service.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.