The Hunt for the Elusive Subsidized Smartphone

It’s a well-known consumer fact that major wireless carriers have opted out of the sales game of subsidizing smartphones to chase after the ever-churning, always-upgrading postpaid customer. It’s better for the carriers, and certainly gives the average Joe a better idea of just how much one of the computers in your pocket really costs.

Amid this reality, we at the makejdm blog have undertaken a perhaps quixotic quest to find some way to get a reasonably high-quality, new and recent generation smartphone for a big discount. And we’re taking the son of the makejdm blog with us every step of the way.

That is a consequence because said son startled us by dry-firing a Nerf gun at us after being warned not to do so. We inadvertently put the phone that was in our hands down too hard on the table where we were sitting. That broke the upper half of the screen. Unfortunately, we lacked a protective case for our iPhone 5. The super-duper waterproof one we’d bought from the Apple store as a replacement for our cracked Otterbox case didn’t work and Apple wouldn’t take it back and we hadn’t found a new one.

Having bought our first smartphone, an iPhone 4, on a heavily subsidized basis from our then-carrier Verizon Wireless, we were somewhat confident we could find a current deal on a newer phone. So we figured that with a little bit of homework and some shoe-leather consumer reporting, we could for a hundred bucks or so buy a replacement device. Having just read Geoffrey Fowler’s column in the Washington Post about smartphones, we decided that if we stuck with iOS, we’d get an iPhone 7.

We went to the nearest Apple store to see about the trade-in value for our current iPhone 5. Just two months ago, we’d been told that it was worth $300 if we bought a new iPhone. Sadly, that was then and this is now, and we were told that now that the 8 and X have come out, resale values have plummeted, and in any case we’d have to pay to get our screen fixed. So no dice there.

The salesman did run an Apple app on his device that linked to our current Sprint account, to show any available promotions. Bingo! The app showed that, if we signed a two-year contract, we could get an iPhone 7 for only $99. Great, we thought. So, we tried to find this elusive offer.

This was the first smartphone-upgrade mirage we encountered. Sprint does not provide subsidized phones without a monthly fee (where you basically pay back the subsidy). At least we think that’s the case, after two visits to the nearest (franchise) store, a few calls to their customer service number and also to the closest company-owned store.

Keeping in mind that with carriers as with most companies, one must always trust but verify, we went today into the nearest Verizon Wireless company-owned store. We wanted to hear from someone in person, whose business card we could take with us, what the dilly was. Both the sales rep and his boss said they knew of no such Black Friday offer. They doubted the customer service rep would have known about this, either, and said if so she wasn’t supposed to reveal it so early. Further casting doubt on this supposed future offer, they also said that the CSR got wrong the amount of the credit for transferring service from elsewhere — it’s $150, not $200. They advised me to call the store a few days before Black Friday to check what the real deal was, saying they would know what was in store by then.

So check this space for what deals we find on Black Friday at Verizon Wireless or elsewhere. This currently looks like the best bet toward finding that rarely found subsidized smartphone.

@Comm_Daily editor. Buff about good journalism, writing, art & culture. Heart my wife, son & dog -- civility and good drivers, too. Personal views only.