NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Most high-quality smartphones cost at least $200 when they first come out (and when paired with a new two-year service contract), but with a few notable exceptions, there’s no reason to ever pay that much for a new phone.
Louis Ramirez is a senior features writer for DealNews, a money-saving website that frequently gathers deals on new phones, and he shared his expertise with us to pass along the best strategies for finding a good deal on a new smartphone.
Wait a Few Weeks
It used to be that you needed to wait at least a few months before you saw any kind of deal on a new smartphone. But with the market flooded by so many new Android phones on a weekly basis, the timeframe for price reductions is much shorter than it used to be.
“The best way to save on a smartphone is not to buy it the day it’s released,” Ramirez says. “Now there’s so many smartphones out there that the market is saturated, and you begin to see deals a week to two weeks out.”
As an example, he points to the Motorola Droid Razr, which came out of the gate in November for $300 but dropped to $111 on Amazon after less than a week. An updated version of the phone, the Droid Razr Maxx, went on sale just a couple of weeks ago, and Verizon will offer a buy one, get one free deal on the new model starting Friday.
If you’re in the market for a new Android phone, don’t pre-order it and don’t buy it during the first couple of weeks it’s on sale. Chances are, your patience will be rewarded very quickly.
Waiting a few weeks may work for Android phones, but iPhones are a different beast. New iPhones come out generally only once a year, and the price on the newest models stay fixed until the next one comes out.
There’s one very good way to bypass this, though: Buy a refurbished phone. Ramirez says that he’s had good luck with a refurbished iPhone, calling it “just like new.” And it will certainly save you a bit of money: AT&T currently sells a refurbished 32 GB iPhone 4S for $249.99 with a new contract – a $50 discount on the price for a brand new one. Discounts for refurbished phones apply to other smartphone brands as well, according to Ramirez.
Ramirez says that he generally recommends checking online retailers before bricks-and-mortar stores to get the best price on a new phone. He points to Wirefly.com and Amazon.com as two that consistently offer great deals on phones – indeed, the latter made waves in November when it offered several phones for just a penny each. He says that if you do feel the need to shop in a physical store, carrier stores (for instance, a Verizon store) tend to offer better deals. (Once again, Apple is an exception to that rule: While you won’t find refurbished iPhones at carrier stores, the prices on new iPhones are identical to those on the online Apple store.)
As a final tip, Ramirez recommends checking out BlackBerry to take advantage of the floundering company’s desperation.
“If you’re not biased on [operating system], consider BlackBerry,” he says. “Everyone knows that BlackBerry is hurting, so you’re going to see some aggressive deals there.”