The Secret to Getting A Cheaper Laptop

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Do you want to buy a laptop or netbook for 100 bucks? Well, the trick is to look to your cell phone company.

In the last year, phone companies have entered the world of laptops. Companies like AT&T, Verizon and Nokia have partnered with computer manufacturers like Dell and Acer to debut a modified computer called the 3G laptop. These computers are usually similar in size to netbooks and use the 3G wireless Internet connection available on many smart phones.

The computers typically cost a few hundred dollars, but when you buy them with a two-year contract from the phone providers, you can get some of these 3G laptops for less than $100.

RadioShack started to sell an Acer netbook from AT&T at the end of last year for $99, and Best Buy actually experimented with selling a Compaq Mini for just 99 cents back in June. Both of these deals required signing long term phone contracts.

How can the companies get away with selling computers for that cheap. Well, according to Bloomberg.com, “technical support, product warranties and phone contracts are more profitable than the laptops and handsets themselves.”

Unfortunately, companies are enforcing certain limits to these plans. While customers can often get a free phone with an extended contract, the same is not likely to happen with computers (despite Best Buy’s experiment).


“We want to give customers a choice in how they use their netbook,” the president of AT&T emerging devices told Wired.com recently. “But free netbooks from AT&T on contract is not part of the plan.”

On top of that, phone companies are very alert to ways users could scam them. A few months ago, reports came out that Ericsson had developed a special modem for its 3G laptops that had a built-in kill switch. The reason, as BoingBoing.net noted, was that “carriers are worried that customers might sign up for a contract, then stop paying their monthly service fee but continue to use the laptops.”

On the other hand, it's important for consumers to figure out whether the monthly plan you sign up for ends up costing so much that it nearly nullifies the savings on the computer. In some cases, the answer may be yes. But one strong positive of buying your computer through a phone company is that you will not only get wireless Internet, but you may also get free access to Wi-Fi hotspots around the country that usually cost money.

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the BankingMyWay.com Credit Center.

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