How Much Will Your Smart Phone Really Cost?

by Emily Guy Birken · 59 comments

When the iPhone first came out several years ago, my husband decided that he needed a single device to streamline his life. Since we are dyed-in-the-wool Apple users, we looked into what it would take to get him set up with an iPhone. After one horrified look at the price of changing service (we were not with AT&T), plus the price of the phone, plus the price of the data plan, we backed away slowly and figured out how to make do with a Blackberry even though it was still ridiculously more expensive than the previous phone and plan that my husband had.

Smart Phones are incredibly convenient, a lot of fun, and a great way to stay connected. What they are not is cheap. However, since you end up paying for them in bits and pieces, it can be hard to know exactly how tough your constant connectivity is on your budget. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for your Smart Phone:

Initial Cost

Back in the bad old days, when cell phones supplemented home phones, I made a decision that I would never personally pay for a cell phone. At the time, every single provider would give you a decent free phone as long as you signed up for a two-year plan. In recent years, it’s been harder and harder for me to stick by my decision.

While all four of the major services providers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) have Smart Phones available for basically free with a contract, many of the more desirable phone types will cost you in addition to the contract—anywhere from $19.99 to over $500. Most Smart Phone users think of this purchase cost as the “only” cost for their phone, so there aren’t as many surprises here.


For all four of the major providers, it makes the most sense financially to sign up for a two-year plan. Unfortunately, that means you will be hit with a steep fee if you choose to end your association with the provider. Each provider offers its own version of unlimited talking, texting, surfing, etc. For T-Mobile and Sprint, there are plans that cover unlimited everything including data, while Verizon and AT&T offer talk plans with data plans on top. The least you can expect to pay per month for all of the data you need will be $80/month (and that is the T-Mobile price). Remember, too, that on top of your monthly plan you will pay surcharges, taxes and fees.

Data Specific Charges

For AT&T and Verizon, data charges are levied on top of the plan you sign up for. While each of them offer unlimited data plans, AT&T also offers pay-as-you-go data options, and Verizon will discontinue their unlimited plan later this year in favor of pay-as-you-go. These plans (unlimited and à la carte) will add an additional $15-$80 per month to your cellular bill.

The bottom line is that your connectivity can cost you an additional $20-$500 initially, and an additional $15-$80 per month. For me, it’s not worth it to always be able to stay online anywhere—but then my career doesn’t depend on it. Even if yours does, make sure you’re absolutely clear on how much your Smart Phone will cost you. Because spending this kind of money so that you’re always able to update your Facebook status just might not be worth it.

David’s Note: I have an iPhone, and though I managed to come up with a few good reasons (excuses!) on why I need one, the fact of the matter is that the $100 dollar monthly cell phone bill that my family pays for is a lifestyle choice that is coming out from other parts of our budget.

Don’t get me wrong. The connectivity of my phone enables me to essentially take care of my business wherever I am, but don’t make a mistake thinking that all this convenience comes free. You are paying for a smart phone one way or another.

You never needed the smart phone before, so if you want one now, simply pay for it.

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Stefan says:

    Good blog post. I absolutely love this site. Keep writing!

  • Logan says:

    Steve jobs did a wonderful job of creating the illusion that one needs a smartphone. Sadly he is gone and the reality is…I have a flip phone and iphone for work. the ihone doesnt even last a day without charge. I have used it for 6 months and hate it by comparison. I would never own one personally. Between the phone and the data plan your looking at upwards of $1500 for a 2 year plan!!! That is insane.

  • Evans k says:

    It’s really different for different people. For example, my brother only uses his to call and absolutely nothing else-a really waste of a smart phone. But he got one anyway cause that’s what people seem to be getting. For me, I use it to keep track of thing I need to do and it has been very helpful. I also love the Google maps as it helps me get around without the need for a GPS whether it be on foot, public transportation or driving. I also use an app that tells me when the next bus is arriving and its very accurate. That way I never waste time at the bus stop when I do take the bus. I use flip it flashcards to study for my classes and I have access to the web anytime. Its awesome yet I don’t let it get in the way of other things. Unless I need it its always in my pocket. Those who get consumed by it must not have much on their plate.

  • Jim says:

    My wife has a smart phone. She loves it. Does she need it? Probably not, but that is her choice. I have dumb phone. Am I happy with it? Yes. Observation: It seems that some people, for various reasons, really need a smart phone. But, most folks seem to have them mainly because they are whats happening; cutting edge, gotta keep up, everyone’s got one, and they are fun. Of course, the producers are happy with this, but, what I’ve noticed, from my wife as well as others, is that folks with smart phones seem to be on them all of the time, and they seem to be out of touch with the world around them when they are on them. I once read a comment where someone said that they love their smart phone because they can talk to friends while walking their dog, and I thought, what about enjoying your dog and the environment around you while you are walking? This is the real reason why I don’t have a smart phone: not only don’t I need it, but I don’t want it to interfere with my experience of the realtime life around me. I fear that we are losing touch with the real world and entering a cyber world, unnecessarily. Even the simple act of communicating voice to ear has been replaced by the retro experience of texting. It’s as if the cyber experience is somehow safer than the real world. Where all of this is going I cannot say, but, if we are not careful, we may lose the ability to function in the real world without our tech devices, and, if we ever lose them, for whatever reason, we may find ourselves to be as helpless as new born babes.

  • Sean says:

    I think your concern is not so much about the “cost”, but the way in which cell phones are sold. We are all told that price should eb a measure of the value added that something provides, and meets some need or want we have that overcomes our reluctance to part with our money.

    The problem with cell phones, much like any financial product, utility, food, or housing, is neither accurately priced, nor is the price accurately disclosed. Take for example the iPhone. Apple sets the price of the iPhone to rise incrementally with each semi annual release …. at which point the last generation drops to the price of the old one? The problem is that for what is the same phone, the price not only rises without any real change in cost to produce, the older model (whihc has about the same production cost as the new new and the old new one) is now cheaper for no reason other than marketing.

    Now, we are trained by Madison ave to expect inflation …. but is there really inflation in the price of the phone? The services are another scam – the cost of providing data and voice is basically an aggregate of the total cost to provide services in the service area – pricing is equally arbitrary – basically, we will charge $80 for the 5, cause we used to charge $70 for the 4s – you do see how this works?

    Now the problem is if we are living in a “free market” economy, prices must reflect value, particularly that this is the intersection between where I will pay for something, and the cheapest they will let it go for …. This is important because for such an economy to work, the allocation of resources is optimal when this is the case – when it starts to fail, we get 2008.

    Prices of houses, interest, utilities, useless gadgets like iphones and xboxes now eat up most of our income – food and other requirements are artificially subsidized so banks, car companies, Apple and phone companies can make lots of money – the question is do we have a real economy, or is this just a symptom of living in Orwells 1984?

  • Brock says:

    Smart phones are for busy business people and dumb people, but definitely not for the average consumer.

    Most utility apps have a website. If a feature phone can browse the internet all such apps would be covered. For the rest, use your Laptop / Desktop better(most people who have a phone , do have a computer as well along with internet on it). Better to use the big screen for such and other needs.

    The smartphones and the cheaper feature phones have the capacity to make lives easier. With respect to average consumer, difference lies in smart people who know how to exploit a cheap feature phone and dumb people who need everything ready to use.

    If social networking sites weren’t enough to distract people, smartphones have just given them a big boost.

  • mia says:

    I have thought about investing yet I know very little about the whole thing and with the economy being so shaky, its kind of scary (I have two young kids). I know NADA about the stock market and things of that nature although I am learning about it now in my Intro to Finance class. Yes, I am also a student and when I got lost a few times at the new campus I wished I had that ‘app’ that everyone was looking at while trying to find their building.
    Anyway, I have to find out more about ways to invest my money then I will decide if i still want the iPhone 😉 thanks!

  • mia says:

    I do not have a smartphone… yet! and was doing some research about it. I would like to get an iPhone 4s w/vrz but I am thinking about it hard first because I dont really need it but its so nice and siri reminds you things (I am very forgetful). I CAN afford the bill but I am not sure if I want to. Right now I have a ‘dumb’ phone with unlimited text and calls.
    At 36 yr old my house is paid off, I have about $130k in the bank cash. I dont get paid a whole lot, I just made some good choices back when the Real Estate was at its best and made some cash. I am not sure if I want to pay $100+ a month for the iPhone (and thats with the 19% discount I would get from work). I really think that I want it bc everyone else has it (sisters, friends, cats etc) and I am due for an upgrade since March but have been devating the idea, I do tend to make good choices and although the iPhone is so cool and has so many good features, I really dont need it. I dont have to be attached to my email (although I check it every 10 mins at work) and I dont even have FB anymore.
    Not sure on what I will do! Maybe I’ll save

    • Chris says:

      Hi Mia,
      don’t sweat the small stuff. You have pointed out some big things in your life: your paid-off house, cash in the bank and good turns with the property market a while ago, so congratulations to you. Now think big! Who cares if everybody else got a smart phone? Who cares about FB? You want a smart phone but don’t need it? It seems it does not matter much how you decide, you got more important stuff to think about: $130k cash in the bank will loose you around $13k a year at current inflation levels of around 10% (that is equiv. to ten I-phone contracts). Not that I would recommend the bond or stock market, but keeping cash is also an investment choice, and a bad one. Checking emails every 10 mins at work shows lack of ambition and focus and a bad choice for any future career. And getting something because everybody else has it? Sorry, totally irrelevant! In ten years time those decisions, choices and peer pressures will have hurt you much more than that smart phone decision today. Good luck.

  • Nicole says:

    I decided as a 11 year old that I would buy the iPhone but with everything at 8 GB. But guess what? Even though I picked and ordered the stuff online and didn’t pay immediately, my real total came to $180.00. Per month it was only going to be $50.00 and they said it was $1,000 at the store.

  • Smart and Cheap says:

    I think that the initial cost of phone is hidden from a lot of people in the form of subsidies. The phone company gives you a $500 device for $150 and then ropes you into a long contract. If you do the math you’ll find that you end up paying the difference many times over. I purchased my smartphone outright (unlocked). It cost $550 up front but not having a long term contract has paid for itself many times over. I ended up doing a prepaid monthly service with no contract.

    My point is that people need to stop going for the subsidized price on smart phones. Save up the money and buy it outright. If you add up the monthly cost over 2 years you’ll see how much you’re actually saving.

  • Mr Koolaid says:

    Can someone help me out here?

    I want to buy an Android smartphone, around $200-$250 for Verizon.

    I want to know the costs of owning a smartphone. Right now, I have around $2500 in my account which I will use for the sole purpose of paying off the 2-year plan.

    Can someone recommend a data plan for me and tell me how much it will cost?

    I like to surf a lot on the Web. I like to go on Youtube and Google and such. I don’t text a lot (I send around 60-80 messages a month and I barely use minutes (I’d say I use around 20-40 minutes out of 300) I don’t buy music (I can transfer music from my PC which I download off from Youtube )

    The monthly plan (w/ taxes and fees) would have to be around $100, annual costs would be around $1200 and in 2 years, $2400-$2500

    And if possible (at the costs that I’m providing), it would have to be 4G (I can’t stand the slowness of 3G)

    Thank you, and if you are going to ridicule me like some of the trolls I have seen here, you can kindly f@&k off for all I care.

    Also, does anyone know any good smartphones w/ dual-core processors that read flash? (Samsung would be nice)

    Thank you in advance!

  • billorly says:

    and ben. do you really need ‘top of the line’ cameras? for what exactly? do you make films? do you intend to print your photographs in absurdly huge wall-choking sizes? I’m not going to assume you don’t… but you just sound as miserly and whiny as the rest of these people.

    • Ben says:

      Yes, I do art, music, and photography. Yes, I also do business work as a consultant and have no time for ‘games’. Those ‘games’ are on my super duper laptop connected to a 60+ inch HDTV 3D after hours.

      My keyboard is a CP300 and a yamaha clavinova (I’ll let you research those). I don’t think you can compare those sounds to those ‘silly’ free apps… can’t. Besides, being a musician, I usually just hum the tune and record it on a simple mp3 player or even the blackberry, which has that feature also. Take it home, record it on my keyboard to a multitrack and I’m done..that’s it. So yes, I do professional work and I enjoy it.

      Measuring tool? For what? Don’t need it. Look, I’m not whiny…I just don’t need it; Seems to work for you and that’s great. But we can’t deny the majority of teens and the ‘like-minded’ use it as a toy..that’s a reality. Could I be, maybe..

  • billorly says:

    I have an application on my ‘smartphone’ that cost 20 dollars. a hand held version of just ONE of the measurement tools in the app of the same level of accuracy will cost $350. another app was free, where a tool of same accuracy would cost $100. I can record two channels of audio into my phone. a similar device to record two channels of audio into a computer costs >$100. I also have a few musical instrument apps for sketching out ideas required in the composition of music for theatrical plays. all free. to buy a keyboard loaded with basic sounds again, would be more than $100. some of you people really need to understand it’s not just children posting to Facebook. that true professionals are saving a LOT of money and time with our ‘silly’ smart phones.

    • Flying Scot says:

      I have to agree with you billorly. But most people don’t take advantage of the technology. Let’s face it. For most people it is a waste of money and they are only buying into the marketing.

      I remember when the iPod came out. I was living in Vancouver. One of my businesses was selling MP3 players to large chain stores. We were doing really great business. I’ll never forget the day I had a meeting with one of my big customers to introduce them to our latest product. It came with 16GB of storage, had a 4.5″ touch-screen, could automatically convert any audio stream to mp3 on the fly, record a video signal i.e your favorite TV show or movies…and was plug and play on any television. The cost? $299 with a retail price of $499. They told me that the new Apple iPod was going to be what they were focusing on because Apple bought the market with paybacks, coop marketing etc. Apple literally bought the market before you even saw one advertisement. The reason people sucked it up was because of the relentless lifestyle marketing approach that Apple paid for. It literally killed much better products overnight that couldn’t compete behind closed doors. Our product was light years better than Apples but we could not pay the retailers to compete with Apple.

      Personally, when I do buy a “smartphone” it will be an android model like the one my friend has complete with the app that he has that gives him FREE internet connectivity wherever he goes. His phone automatically hacks into the strongest available WiFi signal. He hasn’t paid for Internet access in over a year at home or on the road since he got his first Smartphone. Now THAT is a smartphone.

  • Ben says:

    Well…lol..I guess if it really, REALLY increases your income two-fold, go ahead and pay 100+ a month, more or less, even it’s 60 per month with restrictions. No matter what, it’s still just a toy. Nothing more. I have a GPS standalone device, stand-alone camera (top of the line) and HD camcorder (top-of the line). I now have a blackberry and guess works! Wow.

    Gimmicks….that’s all it is. You’re fools to buy into these iPhone and wannabe clones. Suckers, more like it.

  • Evans says:

    I pay over $120 a month for my family of 5 for the -dumb- phone.

  • Kathy says:

    I’m happy with my Tracfone, which I rarely even turn on. $7/mo – works for me.

  • Matt says:

    I understand some business owners or people that run fleet vehicles can use the gas app, but to the average single car owner if you save $0.05 per gallon of gas and you get 20 gallons, congratulations you saved a buck. You fill up 4 times a month? Congratulations, you save 4 dollars.

    I bet the taxes alone on a smart phone bill are more than that. I understand people with important jobs need to be able to communicate in a lot of different ways. Doctors can discuss a problem with colleagues on FB.

    But those are doctors, and my job does not pay me enough to be at their beck and call. I am what you call a normie nobody and to me a smart phone is not worth it to me. Get the droid on a firm $30 including taxes and fees with unlimited talk/text/data plan and I may reconsider.

  • Scholastica8 says:

    To all folks who can’t do w/o their Smart Phones & think that they are using them to save money: Be prepared for Phase 2 of Connectivity Poverty.

    With the new data caps that ATT & Verizon are imposing (on Broadband, 3G, 4G, WiFi), a person who uses the phone judiciously & gets the cheapest plan will max out the data with little more than middle of the night app & phone updates being downloaded. Overage charges will bite. Even if you get the max plan, if you are a gamer or if you download a lot of music or films, you’ll max out & go into overage. Ultimately, all the things that you don’t really want will be what will cost you: all the commercials that you endure at websites, all the app updates will subtract from the data you’ve paid for.

    In the end, the real goal is to not just have people pay for plans, but to pay for everything they do on the internet. Every site they touch, on purpose or not, will cost a fraction of a cent.

    Also, the real problem with the data caps is that they are going to run smack into the business models of companies like Netflix, even Walmart & Amazon, who envision offering movies downloaded at a very cheap price. The real price will not just be the cost of the film, but the additional costs of the data plan or the overage charges. People will end up being very suprised at how much those movies cost.

    • Dan says:

      3G data caps by the wireless carriers are only an issue for data that you access while on the go. It’s not that difficult to download the music, movies, and app updates using the internet connection at your home. Granted, it’s not the most convenient thing to think about downloading all of your updates while at home, but downloading via wifi at home is still significantly faster and better on your battery life than using 3G to update while on the go. Overall, just keep an eye on your 3G data usage, which you can easily do by texting *3282# (for at&t) to get the current MB used.

      I agree that 3G data caps have the potential to become an issue, but this isn’t an issue for users who mainly want email and light data access by apps on the go . If you really are going to consume that much 3G data on your smartphone by watching Netflix, then perhaps you should be willing to pay for it.

  • lynne knudsen says:

    Hi Folks,
    I’m now paying $40 a mo. to Verizon for my landline, in a bundle that is about $100 a mo for TV, phone, & computer. If I drop the land line, would it be even to get a smart phone?

  • Marcia says:

    I have a dumb phone. I think that having a smart phone can be very useful for some. I have coworkers who use it as their only phone. They take pictures/screen shots of tools to email when something is wrong. They answer email. They can restart a tool. They can contact people more easily when on travel and their flight is delayed or canceled.

    They can find alternate routes on road trips when roads are closed. They can book hotel rooms on the road.

    There are many many ways that smart phones can be incredibly helpful to get EVERYTHING that you do in one place, if you actually use it.

    I probably wouldn’t. I don’t need 24 hr/7 day access to anything like that, especially at $150/month for a family plan. (Our dumb phones cost us $100 a year per piece.)

    And my spouse would LOVE a smart phone. My boss WANTS me to get a smart phone. And I told him that I would be happy to carry a company-purchased smart phone. If you want THAT much access to me, then you buy it and pay for the data plan. Same thing with the spouse…coworkers have company-purchased phones. They want you to have one, they can provide it.

    When I was on a pager (yes, I am dating myself), it was company owned, and I found a pay phone to call in. I refused to get a cell phone so work could use up my minutes and contact me.

    In the end, our house is in a dead zone, and we have zero cell coverage there, so why bother? If a smart phone is so awesome that it takes the place of everything else, then it better darned well do it. And in my house, it can’t.

  • James says:

    **public anger. ahem.

    I think spell check changed it. Pubic anger is a whole other set of problems.

  • James says:

    Thanks M.B. I appreciate that. I totally agree with you too in terms of personal value. I haven’t met anybody yet who isn’t willing to spend the extra money on something because they value that particular thing very highly whereas other people don’t. Perhaps they should pass a law that just the old folks get all the rad phones and the young kids are forced to save their money: ) I guess that would offset pubic anger/fear at the lack of SS. “Well, your going to be working your whole life till you die, but at age 65 you get a droid”

    • M.B. says:

      LOL. Wonderful suggestion about the Droid. Unfortunately, I had to pay for mine, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s my luxurious necessity.

  • M.B. says:


    Your suggestions are great, and I hope someone does the comparisons you suggest in your post. Although I am a somewhat analytical person who likes to do cost-savings comparisons, I probably won’t do this one. I consider my Droid to be a luxurious necessity. It is one of the few luxuries I enjoy in retirement.

  • James says:

    It would be interesting if someone took the difference in monthly savings from having a regular phone vs smart phone over the course of the two year contract and regularly invested it into something like a high yield dividend stock. If someone on here could get exact numbers thats would be awesome, but from what I know most of my friends pay an initial 200-400 for the phone then an additional 30-50.00 a month to have all the data etc. If you just took that money and opened a sharebuilder account or something similar and set up a monthly reoccurring investment plan, just like a monthly cell bill, you could have 2k in there by the time your 24 month phone contract would be up. It would also be interesting if someone who has a smart phone and claims to save enough money to cover the added costs of the phone by using the various cost saving apps, took all of the money saved and invested it over the course of the phone contract. Has anybody done this yet?

  • M.B. says:

    I am a frugal person and love my expensive Droid phone. Since I have lived without a land line for years, a quality cell phone is a necessity in my busy, traveling lifestyle. Setting financial priorities is important to me. I shop at discount and thrift stores so I can afford things I want, like a smart phone.

    Finally, I am an over-65 woman who doesn’t like to be told that she needs a phone designed for senior citizens. However, that is a rant for another day..

  • Bonnie says:

    What’s up w/ Chris the troll?

  • Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey says:

    Good point here. I think it just serves as a reminder for everyone that we all need to sit back and really figure out if having a smart phone is worth the money. Also, I’ve found that it helps to calculate the yearly cost of the added data plan. When people see that it could cost $400 per year, it might change their mind.

  • Ben Estate says:

    It may still be wise for everyone to just use the classic ways of getting connected with friends and co-workers. As long as it is not that badly needed or required to live a healthy and happy life, why not settle for the classic ones , Right?

  • Brian says:

    The Coupon App on the Driod platform more than pays for the data plan each month with one or two usages. In addition, applications that save you money on gas, clothing, vehicles, free codes for shopping, etc on Blackberry, iPhone, and Droid platforms can also be efficient enough to PAY for the initial $199 (new or renewal two-year plan with Verizon) within a month.

    Want to get rid of a bill? get rid of the home line.

  • Jerry says:

    I think they are ridiculously expensive and it leads to people spending way too much time on these gadgets than is probably actually necessary. I think your insurance for saving money is to stay away and make do with what you have already.

  • Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I have a Blackberry and have been thinking about jumping ship to the Android. The thing that is killing me is the fact that the Android I want costs more than an iPhone now. For some reason that just seems crazy to me.

  • retirebyforty says:

    I only have a dumb phone and I’m fine with that.

  • Lynn says:

    I love my smartphone, I do, and I use it enough to justify the cost. My husband is the same with his (a Droid). I have an iPhone because I had an iPod Touch ad I wanted it to make phone calls. That’s all. I had no idea how much I’d really use the data plan, so it worked out. (Plus, I sold my iPod for $250, which nearly paid for all of the $300 iPhone initial cost.)

  • Chris says:

    You don’t need them. They only suck your money from your pockets and make things complicated. Looking for a restaurant using your smart phone? Most likely overpriced. Plus, you only make the advertising firms richer, and the restaurant of course. Instead, spend quality time with your family, kids, girl friend etc. cooking at home, then go out invite everybody for a coffee (much cheaper). Looking for a cheap gas station? Unnecessary also. Just pay the damn gas prices, but fill up half only and do not buy anything else at the station. Saved money twice. Then skip some lousy trips to xyz renting movies, saving money again. Smart phone manufacturing cost is less than 50% of retail price. A simple entry level phone is enough. Instead, buy a simple prepaid 3G/WiFi netbook for $300. No 2 years data plan.

    • Lynn says:

      Just because it does not work for you does not mean other people are not happy with them. Before judging others for having a smartphone they are happy with, take a look at your own life and see if you have any unnecessary expense that is just a want. It doesn’t matter how much it is; the principle is the same.

    • KM says:

      I am sorry, but some of your comments are just flat out ignorant, and even angry (not sure at what though). How exactly does filling up half way save you money? You are still paying the same amount per gallon, whether you make two trips to the gas station or just one and fill up all the way (actually saving you more because you eliminate a drive/stop and since the prices only go up, you actually get more at a cheaper rate than constantly paying for the higher one). I never even go inside the actual shop at the gas station, so I never buy anything extra.

      You seem to be assuming a lot of things about people just because they have a smart phone. How do you know anything about anyone, who spends how much quality time with family and how often they go out?

      And I don’t have a contract, and never did with my smart phone. I have a flex account, which means I prepay for the month I want to use, and I can stop or downgrade anytime I want to. Don’t go around making assumptions when you don’t know the truth.

    • Boing says:

      Chris you’re right. ALL the people who got suckered are going to show up and tell you why you’re wrong, it’s a great choice for them. Guess what? Out of every hundred that show up, 97 will have savings accounts less than $10,000 which is pathetic. Actually most don’t even have a thousand dollars to their name. Yet they will tell you, you’re wrong. They are idiots and will have nothing to show in ten years. No offense to the 1% of people who are rich, or have amazingly high paying jobs, or those who truly needed it. Otherwise, everyone else, you’re just buying your self a toy. And hey! Toys are good. But keep in mind it’s a toy for the most part to amuse your self with because you don’t need it. Or you don’t need your money. one of those two.

      • Dan says:

        Boing, if someone takes the time to read this blog and even more time to comment, do you think that perhaps they have an interest in personal finance and that they may not be “idiots” because they actually fund their 401ks, Roth IRAs, short term savings, and emergency savings accounts? By the way, these people also have probably minimized if not completely obliterated any personal debt as well. Again, your presumption does make you look like an ignorant ass.

  • KM says:

    I think like with anything, you have to be smart about how you buy it. For example, when I bought mine, I calculated that it was overall cheaper to pay the full price of the phone rather than a third of it and then still pay $20 extra per month because “they pay for your phone” – you end up overpaying by half of the price of the phone. I don’t know how many other companies do this, but my guess is all of them since it’s an easy trap for people who think they are saving money without thinking (and computing) things through.

    As far as the plan, the one that worked for me is the lowest number of minutes (I don’t talk that much) with unlimited data (because the data rates are insane and any decent amount of web use will skyrocket your bill…I don’t even want to know what GPS nav will do to it) and unlimited messages (not something I need, but it came with the unlimited data), and I am paying less than $70 per month (that would have been $90 if I didn’t pay for the phone up front).

    I resisted the smart phone fad for a long time and only had it for a few months, but I’ve loved it. Like Dan said, it’s not just email and browsing, but having a decent camera, being able to check gas prices, GPS is a big one, and even being able to find restaurants in the area, call them, and a ton of other things.

    • Chris says:

      There is nothing smart about buying a smart phone.
      It is an oxymoron per se. A full 99% of smart phone communication is empty chatter (aka social media) playing to our vanity.

      • KM says:

        Again, you are making unjust assumptions. You have no idea how people use their phones and if it’s actually for something productive.

        • Scholastica8 says:

          About using a Smart Phone to shop for cheaper gas: Stop & calculate how much gas you use getting to that cheaper gas. Odds are you’ll find that you are not saving very much, even at these high gas prices. You might save, if you find that you are within sight of the gas station & its signs, but then if you look, you’ll see it.

          As for having the camera. I prefer a separate camera, because when you have so many things rolled into one device, if one breaks, you lose all. It’s nice to be able to hit send, but then maybe you shouldn’t be hitting send. However the issue that I have with Smart Phones is that if you want your ID stolen, just lose that Smart Phone.

          A lot of this with Smart Phones is convincing people that they can’t live w/o the convenience. However, the convenience might actually be illusion based on novelty. They are out to create dependency & then other ways of doing the same thing.

          • Dan says:

            1) Actually, there are plenty of gas stations within one mile of me that tend to fluctuate on gas prices because I live near a city/county line. So, even though I can’t see them, it does help to know that the one a half mile away has gas for $.05 cheaper per gallon. All I have to do is open Gas Buddy and head to the nearest station with the cheapest price. It would be a completely different story if I was driving across town, but you don’t need to do that with Gas Buddy on your smartphone.

            2) I agree that the smartphone isn’t the best camera I’ve owned, but it does a good job for snapshots. Your smartphone won’t replace your dedicated camera, but it is far more convenient to use the camera on my phone because I always have my phone on me.

            3) As for the stolen phone/lost ID issue, just setup and use Apple’s free Find my iPhone service to locate, lock, or remotely wipe all data from your phone using a web browser on any computer. In some respects, you may have a better chance of finding/retrieving your lost/stolen phone because you can track it. I’m not sure if Android phones have a similar free service.

            Convenience is not an illusion and a smartphone is more than just novelty. Not everyone needs or wants to have a smartphone, but there are quantifiable benefits for people who choose to own one. You can own a smartphone and the data package without destroying your budget.

  • Dan says:

    Once you’ve used a smartphone you will realize that there is value in having one beyond the idea that it is a tech toy. It isnt only just being connected to email, but the value of finding the cheapest gas near my location, price comparison shopping while at the store (Amazon & Redlaser apps do this well), managing all of my travel arrangements (Kayak app), managing calendars/contacts (Exchange accounts being the most useful), having GPS maps and driving directions, and having a decent point and shoot camera on me for the random life moments that I want to capture. For me, the initial cost of my phone plus the monthly data plan ($15/month) was and is the best money I’ve spent.

    • Bonnie says:

      I’m with you all the way. The most valuable app I have on my phone is called Spend and is an envelope budgeting app. I’d be completely lost without it and almost had a nervous breakdown the day I thought my iPhone crashed (turned out it just needed a hard reset). I also have all my grocery shopping lists on my phone, so I’ll never lose the little pieces I paper I used to write on. I also love Toodledo, Evernote, GPS and Google maps, Amazon and Barcode Scanner (so I never pay retail). I also have 5 translations of the bible, complete with highlights and all my notes, so I can finally keep up w/ the pastor in church since I’m no longer having to flip through pages and can just cut & paste scripture into my notes. I RUN MY LIFE on my iPHONE. So much so that I’m completely anal about backing up my phone every week and copying the backup from my main computer hard drive to an external drive so I’ll never lose it. The amount of money I’m able to save by keeping my envelope budget on my phone and checking prices of everything online before purchasing in a b&m store is worth well over the $100+ my husband and I spend each month on our cell phone bill.

    • Boing says:

      “but the value of finding the cheapest gas near my location, price comparison shopping while at the store (Amazon & Redlaser apps do this well), managing all of my travel arrangements (Kayak app)”

      Sorry, but that’s what I call a fantasy and as the OP mentions an “excuse”. I suppose it depends on the price of the device and plan, but most opt for $300 phones and spend an extra $80 a month on data to make it all worth it. Finding the cheapest gas price to shave pennies off the price is never going to come close to making up after being robbed on a high end smart phone. And if you are searching for the lowest gas prices, you can’t really afford a phone like that. Only a rare few truly need a phone like that and also end up saving or making money because they own one.

      Price comparison on an item inside the store sounds nice except again you’ve thrown away more money just to have that phone than you were going to save. Also not to mention surfing on a phone in a crowded store is not only a waste of time, but an annoyance. Getting into google, searching web pages on a tiny screen, waiting to scroll down the tiny screen and find it. Much easier to do from home BEFORE you go out shopping. It’s called shopping ONLINE, remember? If your idea of convince is that you get to use an expensive smartphone because you failed to remember to surf the web before you left, you’re a fool. Of course there’s that rare occasion when you’ve forgotten something, but again, it’s not going to make up for anything. If you are shopping for sales, you are again, someone who can’t afford a smart phone.

      By afford, I don’t mean you can pay for it. I mean someone who typically has a good job, over 40k a year, has few expenses and their house and car paid off, and also has a good savings account above perhaps 50 to 100k. Yes a savings. Remember those? I have all of these things, and yet have no smart phone. People with iphones and droids walk around all smug and think others are jealous because they can’t afford them. Meanwhile, over 95% of them have nearly empty savings accounts, big mortgages (if they can get them), loans, debts and more. They spend all they have week to week.

      Having a smart phone in many cases means burning up over $1200 a year extra, plus the price of the phone they try to upgrade every two years divided by two. Five years go by and the person has blown $6000 or more! Yet they are comparison shopping and hunting for the lowest price gas. Not that it’s bad to do that, but doing that while paying for an expensive data plan you don’t need is silly. But again, there are those less than 5% of people that really must have it. Look around. Everyone including teens and kids with expensive data plans. Very silly! The funniest thing is when some 17 year old girl (or guy) has an iphone and acts all smug like they are the sheeet and then walk across the parking lot to an old car, living in an apartment and making payments on everything. Silly, silly, silly!

      • Dan says:

        Boing, have you ever actually used a smartphone? Your judgmental comments suggest that you are fairly ignorant of how the devices work and you seem to be ignorant of how the cost structure of owning a device works as well.

        “Sorry, but that’s what I call a fantasy and as the OP mentions an “excuse”. I suppose it depends on the price of the device and plan, but most opt for $300 phones and spend an extra $80 a month on data to make it all worth it.”

        -My iPhone 4 only cost $199 plus $15 a month for data. I don’t plan on upgrading in 2 years nor will I be forced to. I don’t think you realize that you can add a smartphone to any existing cell phone plan with your carrier and the only increase in cost is the capital for the phone plus the cost for the 3G data access.

        “Price comparison on an item inside the store sounds nice except again you’ve thrown away more money just to have that phone than you were going to save. Also not to mention surfing on a phone in a crowded store is not only a waste of time, but an annoyance. Getting into google, searching web pages on a tiny screen, waiting to scroll down the tiny screen and find it. Much easier to do from home BEFORE you go out shopping. It’s called shopping ONLINE, remember? If your idea of convince is that you get to use an expensive smartphone because you failed to remember to surf the web before you left, you’re a fool. Of course there’s that rare occasion when you’ve forgotten something, but again, it’s not going to make up for anything. If you are shopping for sales, you are again, someone who can’t afford a smart phone.”

        -Again, Boing, you’ve clearly never used the Amazon app or the Redlaser app. I saved $200 on a new LCD TV by price shopping BestBuy models against amazon while I was in the store. I’ve saved at least $10 or more per book on the various books that I bought on the Amazon app while browsing at Barnes & Noble. The judgmental comment about whether or not I can afford something suggests ignorance as well since you know nothing about the health of my financial accounts. However, your presumption does make you look like an ignorant ass.

        “Having a smart phone in many cases means burning up over $1200 a year extra, plus the price of the phone they try to upgrade every two years divided by two. Five years go by and the person has blown $6000 or more!”

        -Again, you as the consumer can choose how much you are going to pay for the phone plus the data. The $1200 yearly cost argument is flawed since you are counting the cost of the regular cell phone plan as the part of the cost in owning a smartphone.

        Let’s do the math correctly this time:

        Regular phone:
        Free phone + $50 monthly plan for minutes etc. = $612 in year one, and $612 in year 2 and beyond.

        $199 for an iPhone 4 on AT&T + $15 for 200MB of 3G data access + $50 monthly plan for minutes etc. = $991 in year one, and $792 in year 2 and beyond. Now, you can choose to pay more for data, but you are an adult and you can make financial decisions on your own. Again, no one is forcing you to upgrade your smartphone after 2 years. You can run your smartphone in the ground after 5 years.

        “Everyone including teens and kids with expensive data plans. Very silly! The funniest thing is when some 17 year old girl (or guy) has an iphone and acts all smug like they are the sheeet and then walk across the parking lot to an old car, living in an apartment and making payments on everything. Silly, silly, silly!”

        -Boing, it seems like you have a bone to pick with the consumerism in our society and I agree with you that far too many people are living beyond their means in America. If you can’t afford the initial capital outlay for a smartphone (~$200) and the cost of 3G data ($15 and up), then you shouldn’t own one. However, for those of us who are fiscally responsible and fully fund our 401ks, Roth IRAs, and short term savings vehicles, then a smartphone can provide real and quantifiable value beyond the novelty of owning the device.

        • Chris says:

          I don’t think Boing is judgmental. That is just his opinion, and he has a point. Have you noticed that your reply is actually annoying? First you question the experience of people you criticise, then call them ‘ignorant’ and ‘judgmental’. Better stay objective and with the subject of the discussion. (Same pattern of putting down others were made by ‘KM’ below)
          Without going into every point you made, people don’t really need smart phones. They’ll do just fine without. Same for buying new LCD TV’s. Buy 1 year later, pices drop and people will save another 30%, here too no need for a smart phone, plus , children will watch less TV and study more. Using that year to study harder, work overtime, cook dinner for your wife etc. and the investment people make into themselves is priceless. The majority of american consumers are not fiscally responsible. Retirement savings are nearly not enough, a huge percentage of mortgages are underwater, and savings rates are way to low. Personally, I don’t care. But still, consumerism is a distraction, keeping people from reaching their goals in life (or worse, setting goals). I also see tons of kids in trains and buses playing with their Iphones they don’t need, even in the libraries seemingly studying for school exams (I moved to Asia) but instead of reading books they actually update facebook pages and send text messages. Pure distraction. The masses just get suckered by marketing strategies. The smart ones avoid that. The masses feel rich and consume, the wealthy live modest and invest first, consume later.

          • Edmund Wilberforce Tarquin Tremlling-Doherty says:

            My children had all of the technology available and graduated as valedictorians/student body presidents and all of my children have obtained at least a 2370 on the SAT’s and all go to Ivy League School’s and the Russell Group universities in England (Cambridge and Oxford).

            Don’t blame technology.

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