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How can I finance an unlocked, no-contract Android phone?
February 23, 2014 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering signing up for one of Brightspot Mobile's pre-paid plans. I will need to buy an unlocked (or T-Mobile) phone and I'm interested in a Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One. Is there any possible way I can pay for it in installments?

I'm in the United States. I've found that I can buy an iPhone directly from Apple using their Barclaycard, which is interest-free for 24 months. I'm at a loss to find a comparable deal for Android devices. Apparently HTC had a short-lived financing offer back in December but it's no longer available. Everything else I've found suggests that currently the only way to get a payment plan for one of these phones is to shoulder a mobile contract too. Please prove me wrong!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Technology (9 answers total)
 
I think you might have to give up on the prepaid option if you really want financing. T-Mobile will finance the phone over 24 months without a contract if you select one of their 'Simple Choice' postpaid plans. You are free to cancel at any time; you'll just owe the remaining balance on the phone.
posted by dcjd at 1:41 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Also important to note: if you finance a phone from T-Mobile, they won't unlock it until the balance is paid off.
posted by dcjd at 1:45 PM on February 23


Thanks, dcjd, that's what I've found as well. But since Apple offers financing for iPhones, and HTC (briefly) did the same for their One, I'm putting out feelers for anything else like that. I'm hoping to find an outside-the-box solution, if not from a carrier than directly from the manufacturer or maybe a third party. These are very popular devices; there's got to be something...
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:04 PM on February 23


Credit cards with 0% introductory rates for up to 18 months
posted by payoto at 2:33 PM on February 23


There are also android phones that are substantially less expensive off-contract than the ones you listed: The Nexus 5 and the Moto X can both be had for $350 and the Moto G (which is a decent phone, but definitely not in the same league as the S4/One/N5/X) is $170 or so.
posted by Oktober at 5:38 PM on February 23


Everything else I've found suggests that currently the only way to get a payment plan for one of these phones is to shoulder a mobile contract too. Please prove me wrong!

First, a side node: the fine print at Apple Financing does not offer 24 months interest deferrment for an iPhone, that purchase price gets you 1 year. And it's not interest free, it's interest deferred (but you probably understand the difference).

Financing isn't monopolized by phone carriers! Or if you want an S4 Mini, buy this and apply for an Amazon branded credit card at checkout. Congratulations, you've financed a phone!

I think the Amazon card is fairly high APR -- if you paid 18 percent interest, and made payments for a year, your monthly payment would be roughly 32 dollars. At this pricing range, secured debt isn't worth the underwriting effort, so just open a new credit card specifically for this debt. Payoto suggests a list of them, try to keep the APR low!

"I'm hoping to find an outside-the-box solution, if not from a carrier than directly from the manufacturer or maybe a third party. These are very popular devices; there's got to be something..."

Google owns an operating system and mobile advertising service that naturally earns more money as the number of users grows. They want cheap Android phones! It makes sense to me that Google would rather allocate sales incentive / marketing money to offer unlocked phones on discount than use the money to keep prices artificially high ($549 for off-contract unlocked iPhone).

Apple's strategy is less reliant on iTunes sales, and the intersection of 'buys expensive gadgets' and 'needs low monthly payments' makes for a pretty juicy market for Barclays' rather high APR (22-28 percent!) card. Even if only ten percent of users carry a balance on that card, I bet that's a deal Barclays is ready to take.
posted by pwnguin at 6:32 PM on February 23


I believe that, if you finance a phone through TMobile and then cancel your service, the balance becomes immediately due. You won't be able to keep the 0% financing without active TMobile service.
posted by chazlarson at 8:29 PM on February 23


You can get the Moto X directly from Motorola with 0% financing.
posted by eamondaly at 6:42 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


Whilst I don't like to advocate anyone getting into any more debt than they need to - it's worth noting that pretty much any credit card will give you a better APR than a carrier. So even if you're unable to get one that is 0% don't automatically assume that this is the only option left to you.

Compare the SIM only contract to the phone contract to work out the APR and then use this when deciding what credit card to go for. Obviously the lower the APR, the better.

You have one other advantage to this method. Once the debt has been paid off, it's paid off. If you took a contract with a carrier and didn't change phone after two years then you'd still be paying the subsidy (or interest) every month even though you've already paid out for the entire phone (loan).
posted by mr_silver at 9:30 AM on February 24


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