Smart phones can be one of your larger expenses. You need to pay for a device in addition to the monthly service fee. For this article I will only cover how to save money when you need to buy a phone. How to save money on your monthly bill will be in another article.
The only reasonable smart phone for a frugal conscious person to buy is an Android. With Apple products you will pay more for less. Now I’m not saying Apple can’t make decent machine, they can, and if you have excessive money to spend then go for it. I am saying that with just about everything Apple makes you can find something else that works just as well for half the cost.
When you’re looking for an Android phone you should look for used models about 2-3 generations old. This is because people frequently get new phones every two years, which is foolish of them. Any flagship Android 2-3 years old will still run great, be very powerful, and be useful for years to come. There just hasn’t been enough new innovation in the past few years to justify buying something new. The best market for buying used phones is Ebay.
When people exchange their used Androids for new, the old phones inevitably end up with bulk resellers who put them up on Ebay. Since people exchange their phones in droves every two years the supply of these older phones tends to be much higher than the demand. This makes it very easy to find great deals on used Android phones.
The Android community has a huge amount of options for you to choose from. The brand you pick is up to you, some of the popular ones are: Samsung, LG, HTC, Google Nexus, Motorola, Huawei, and many more. Each brand has their own subtle look and advantages to them. I prefer LG myself, but as long as you stick with the flagship models you will not be disappointed with any of them. Samsung tends to be a little pricier since they like to compare themselves with Apple.
Once you figure out what model you want, you need to filter down which network you want to use the phone with. Most smart phones are “locked” to work on only one network. If you want to use an Android on the Verizon network you will need to get one specifically labeled for Verizon, and likewise for any of the other cellular providers. Often phones for specific networks will have slightly different hardware as well. Some phones are “unlocked” which means they can be used on any network they can communicate with. If you intend to do a lot of travel in foreign countries, you’ll likely want a phone that is “unlocked”. The condition of the used phone is also typically listed in the description on Ebay. Phones with more scratches and dents tend to sell cheaper. I’ve bought a couple B-stock or 8/10 condition phones and they both looked close to brand new to me. Make sure the phones are listed as having a “clean ESN”. The ESN is sort of like the hardware identification of the phone. If the ESN is flagged, then you will have a lot of trouble registering the phone on a network.
There’s one thing you should do every time you buy a used phone: replace the battery. After a few hundred charges a smart phone battery degrades quickly. The first thing you will notice is consistently poor battery life. As the battery gets closer to total failure, the phone will shut down randomly even when there is significant charge left. You can make your phone work like its new again by giving it a new battery. Again, I recommend using Ebay to find a replacement battery for your phone. It shouldn’t cost more than $10-15. Many of those cheap batteries come from China and may not be strictly OEM, but will probably work out fine regardless.
Once you have your cheap used phone you’ll need to register it with a cellular provider. Typically, you will need to call them up and tell them information about your phone. Sometimes you need to buy one of their sim cards, or transfer one you already have. In the end you should have a solid Android phone for you to use. Just don’t tell anyone how much you paid for it; jealousy can ruin friendships.