In August of 2011, on the spur of the moment while at the Apple store in Kansas City, I decided to replace my Nokia “feature phone” with an iPhone. They had the 3GS available, and the iPhone 4. I didn’t like the feel of the 4 – it felt square, and cold due to the metal on the side. The 3GS was a big enough improvement over the Nokia, and it was less expensive, so we went with the 3GS. I kept my AT&T plan as I’ve always been happy with the features and details. It works well in Germany and my plan allows me to temporarily change / adapt to a foreign country = I can add overseas roaming, for instance, for the two weeks I need it and then cancel again. My data plan was 200 MB/month which AT&T has since discontinued (but allowed me to stay on, as long as I didn’t change anything else).
In February of 2012, when eligible for an upgrade, Mark replaced his android HTC Droid Incredible with an iPhone 4S, staying with Verizon.
A few days ago, Mark reminded me that I was now eligible for an upgrade. The choices were: upgrade to an iPhone 4S ($99), or to an iPhone 5 ($199), or wait until they release the new version of the 5 and the price for the “old” 5 drops and get an “old” 5. Or, of course, go with a different kind of phone. Jonathan has a Samsung Galaxy Note II and is beyond thrilled with it – he loves the large screen, the long battery life, and its many features.
Then we started talking, again, about some kind of shared/family plan. We were paying a total of around $150 every month for the two plans, one with AT&T and one with Verizon. So, Mark called AT&T and started a google spreadsheet, looking at options. He was about half way through his contract with Verizon which meant that breaking that contract and joining me with AT&T would incur an early termination fee of $210, a number which would have to be taken into consideration when looking at expenses and potential savings.
Of course, Mark’s phone was a Verizon phone, so in order for us to be on some kind of family plan with AT&T he would need an AT&T iPhone – early upgrade to the iPhone 5 for him.
We had pretty much decided to go with the iPhone 5 (for both of us, one for Mark, one for me), which, at $199 each, was quite pricey. To which we needed to add the early termination fee for Verizon. The savings from any kind of family plan would over the next year make up for that. But it was still a big expense to look at.
A couple trips to BestBuy to look at phones and plans, and to the AT&T store which offered differing details on some of the plans, and then some – no, a lot of – mulling, thinking, revisiting spreadsheet … going online to look at BestBuy’s trade-in value (in the form of gift cards) for used electronics … My 3GS was worth exactly $0.00, but Mark’s 4S could be worth more than $250, and if instead of a gift card they would apply the trade-in value to the transaction it would bring the price of two new phones down quite a bit.
With AT&T, there are two ways to combine plans: one, the family plan, and another, the “Mobile Share Plan“. For two phones/people, the price for both plans was identical but for our purposes, the mobile share plan was the better option because it gets us a combined 1GB of data, and unlimited calling and texting. Plus, this plan allows for a free Mobile Hotspot (free tethering) which is very attractive as it’ll allow us to get iPads and laptops online outside of our home or otherwise free Wi-Fi.
The savings (over two separate plans with two different carriers) aren’t that great, definitely not as big as I had hoped and expected, but it will be less than what we have been paying. Of course there is AT&T’s one-time change-of-plans fee of $36 per phone.
Tuesday, after dinner, we went to BestBuy. The plan was to see if they would use Mark’s phone as a trade-in, applicable right away, not some gift card we’d get in the mail at some later point. We were prepared to walk out if that was not an option.
Not only was trading in Mark’s phone (for $256) an option and acceptable, the sales representative, when we asked for two iPhone 5’s brought over two boxes and asked whether we would be interested in an “open box” phone => $149 instead of $199 per phone. We looked the phones over, very carefully, and one of them did indeed have one itty-bitty tiny nick on the side but it didn’t bother me enough. The warranties and guaranties were the same as with a brand-new phone, plus a 14-day return policy (with no restocking fee). A deal too good to refuse.
I like to add an “Invisible Shield” to my phone to protect the screen, and, as luck would have it, they even had a soft shell case similar to the one I had had for my 3GS, this one by Rocketfish instead of Belkin. There was a special “buy two accessories for $45” deal (which our sales representative brought down to $35), so by the time we bought two iPhone 5’s with shield (plus installation fee) and case for one of them, we had spent exactly $115.81.
Without the soft shell case, I still wouldn’t like the feel of the iPhone 5, but between the case, and the improvements over the 3GS – I am thrilled. It will be a while before I don’t marvel anymore at how crisp the display is, the high quality of the pictures it takes, and how immensely fast this phone is.
Oh, and the sales representative at our local BestBuy was an absolute joy to work with: competent, friendly, unhurried but efficient, efficient but unhurried. Partly because Mark’s phone had a lot of pictures, it took a long time to transfer them to the new phone, so we spend a good two hours at the store before everything was finished.