Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saving Money With Smartphones

When our twin boys were born in 2009, we did not have smartphones. Our phones were with AT&T and while we would have loved to have iPhones, our 2-line shared family plan only cost us around $75 each month and we did not want to almost double our bill by adding $60 plus taxes and fees for two data plans that would rarely be used. The boys were born at 28 weeks (three months early) - J was in the NICU for 6 weeks and it was 4 months before L was able to come home.

The hospital had free wifi Internet access and we also had wifi at home and work. We slept at home and when not working, spent most of our time at the hospital with the boys. We were updating our blog for family and friends, and it would be so much easier to be able to post quick updates and check email while at the hospital. I was close to buying an iPod Touch, which would be a one-time expense and give us access to the web and apps anywhere there was wifi without making any changes to our AT&T wireless bill (we were already out of contract but just did not want to spend more).

My brother had the best solution. The iPhone 3GS had been out a few months. He found a great deal and was able to get a used iPhone 3G for each of us! We put our AT&T SIM cards in the iPhones and did a factory reset using iTunes. This was perfect for us - we had fully-functioning iPhones using our same $75 2-line family calling plan. The iPhones worked anywhere, anytime for phone calls and texts - the only limitation was that we only had Internet access where wifi was available (exactly like an iPod Touch). The iPod Touch would have been my solution, but I really didn't want to carry around my phone and and iPod everywhere.

Yes - the fine print in AT&T service contracts says that you must have an iPhone data plan (or smartphone data plan) when using an iPhone or any other smartphone. This is because they subsidize the cost of the phone in exchange for a contract. You "save" money now by paying around $200 for a top-of-the-line smartphone instead of its actual $600-$700 price. The cost of your data plan throughout your contract more than makes up for the savings you receive... Fortunately this worked for us because we did not buy the iPhones from AT&T or Apple, so we were not required to add data plans or get new contracts. Yes, AT&T could tell that we were using iPhones instead of our old phones, but the only hassle was an occasional text message every few months saying "iPhone 3G requires a data plan. Please call 1-800-... to add data to your plan."

AT&T never did anything and we used those iPhones for two years. Yes, it was a hassle not having Internet while in the car or in places without wifi, but for us it was well worth the savings.

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