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Choosing the wrong iPhone 12 plan could cost consumers hundreds extra per year

A study finds that researching plan variations could save consumers thousands over two years

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Photo (c) AdrianHancu - Getty Images
When the new iPhone 12 hits the streets on October 23, it will be met with a throng of consumers wanting to take one home. 

According to WalletHub’s new 2020 iPhone Survey, 44 percent more Americans are planning to buy a new iPhone compared to 2019 -- and 73 percent more think the new iPhone is worth going into debt for.

Finding the perfect plan for each and every consumer’s pocketbook can be a maddening experience. But the personal finance website found that consumers who spend a little time researching all the plan variations can actually save $933 (or $2,280 over two years), simply by picking the right one.

The best plans

Using its own cell phone calculator, WalletHub did a fair amount of number crunching on what special plans and bonuses providers are dangling in front of a consumer. Here are two of the more impressive differentiators:

  • The best way to get the new iPhone: WalletHub found that the no-contract individual plan from Visible is the best way to get the new iPhone, beating plans from all three major carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, Verizon).

  • Bonus savings: For even more savings, WalletHub’s advice is to keep your old phone. Individuals can save up to $1,690 and families can save up to $2,663.

Words of caution

WalletHub asked technology watchers about some of the pitfalls that consumers should take into consideration when buying a new phone. Here are two that ConsumerAffairs found to be particularly interesting:

How much cheaper must a 2-year agreement be for a cell phone user to sacrifice the flexibility of not having a contract?

“With a 2-year plan, the consumer loses flexibility, for example, in terms of cell phone service plans. The contract may dictate a plan which they wouldn't otherwise choose,” said Qihong Liu, Ph.D., a professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma.

Liu went on to say that the benefits will likely vary from consumer to consumer. 

“Some choose the contract because they get to have the latest phone without paying the whole cost right away. Others like the contract because it is cheaper,” Liu said. 

To what extent does the secondary market for cell phones (e.g. eBay) alter the price comparison for no-contract plans?

When that question was put to Hemant Bhargava, Ph.D., a professor of Technology Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, he had this to say: “Contract plans that provide (or force) a smartphone usually have a price premium to cover the seller’s risk of giving you the phone upfront. So, you’re better off if you can bring your own phone - even if you buy from a secondary source like eBay.”

Rather than worrying about the authenticity and quality of the phone, Bhargava suggests that consumers look for a reliable seller with a high rating history and good reputation. 

“Alternately, there are very high-quality budget phones that cost the same as a used flagship phone and will be just fine for most buyers,” he concluded.

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