If you’ve been refraining from buying a smartphone so far, Apple’s announcements on Tuesday give a simple price list: iPhone 13 mini starts at $ 699, iPhone 13 starts at $ 799, iPhone 13 Pro. at $ 999 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max at $ 1,099. .
For everyone else, the take-back deals announced by mobile operators on Tuesday afternoon leave you with a cloud of cost probabilities.
Consider, for example, what you would pay for an iPhone 13 if you wanted to trade in a two-year-old iPhone 11 for Apple, then claim the incentive from each carrier:
- At AT&T, you would get the new phone for free, in the sense that installment payments would show up as zero on your bill for the next 36 months.
- At T-Mobile, you would pay $ 259 after getting $ 340 in Apple credit, then $ 200 in billing credits for its $ 70 Magenta plan. Signing up for T-Mobile’s $ 85 inflated Magenta Max increases that billing credit to $ 500.
- At Verizon, you would pay $ 98.88 as $ 4.12 in monthly installments for 24 months.
Since these agreements – which also cover the trade of many older iPhones and Android phones – are structured as installment payment plans with set terms, they can bind you to your carrier like the two-year contracts carriers once enforced. .
“It’s no different than the contracts were,” said Carolina Milanesi, president and senior analyst at Creative Strategies.
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Specifically, at AT&T and T-Mobile, phones receiving these discounts remain blocked for those carriers until you end the term or pay off any remaining balances. (Verizon unlocks phones, even with installments, after 60 days.) Until then, you can’t switch to another carrier or insert a prepaid SIM card for temporary use.
Mark Vena, senior director, Smart Home Research Practice, Parks Associates, noted that this risk of foreclosure is higher with the discounted wireless services that cable companies like Comcast now offer – tied to the cable broadband service which is not available nationwide.
“If you move to another area that doesn’t have this cable provider, it’s probably not a very wonderful customer experience when you have to pay for that phone,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, Apple is offering installment payment plans for new iPhones that keep phones unlocked, as well as its own trade-in discounts. Milanesi said: “Sometimes you get a little less money, but it can be a little more relaxed.”
But for subscribers who are content with their wireless service, the operators’ offers now seem exceptionally generous.
“AT&T is literally giving it away: the iPhone 13 Pro is free and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is just $ 100,” wrote Avi Greengart, president and senior analyst at Techsponential. He attributed AT&T’s thirst to the Dallas-based company needing to consolidate subscriber numbers as it extricated itself from such expensive and unfortunate media deals as its 2018 Time Warner purchase.
T-Mobile, meanwhile, touts a “permanent upgrade” deal that promises up to $ 800 in trade-in credits on a new iPhone every two years. But that does require Magenta Max, which equates to an annual single-line premium of $ 180 over Magenta for bonus features like 40GB of mobile hotspot usage.
Meanwhile, buyers who aren’t obsessed with the latest model should remember that last year’s iPhone 12 just cost $ 100 less.
Jeffrey Moore, director of Wave7 Research, suggested that the new features in the iPhone 13 might not make up for these savings for non-techies: 12 at a lower price of $ 100.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.