My traditionally terrible timing + need for a new phone = disaster?
September 21, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I need a new smartphone. I am tech savvy and an informed consumer, but I also have terrible timing (in general). So though I'm looking at the options, my terrible timing + T-Mobile's expensive new phones make me very unsure of what to get. Halp?

I've had a MyTouch Slide 4G (Android) for quite a while. It's been fine, though not without its problems. For the most part, I've quite liked it and it does all the things I need it to do (email, internet, GPS, scheduling, cloud access, phone, etc). Now it's old and (past) time for an upgrade. I'm pretty sure I must stick with T-Mobile because they seem to be the only carrier that works in my house (no landline for years). When I moved here, I had to switch from Verizon when they did diagnostics and found out that I was correct, there's no service here. People with other services have lost all their calls made from here. Hence T-Mobile.

T-Mobile's new plans include no inexpensive smart phones, and most of their decent phones are now up around the $600 range, which they divide up into monthly payments. I have been thinking about the HTC One, maybe an iPhone, or the Galaxy S 4. All are around the same price.

I have called T-Mobile, have gone to the store, have done extensive online research and talked to people, but I also have TERRIBLE timing in all of the things, so I'm afraid that as soon I choose overpriced phone x, they'll release overpriced phone x.2 and I'll be left paying for the other one forever.

I'm fine with either Android or iPhone, and familiar with both interfaces. I do not play any games or listen to much music on my phone, though I take a fair amount of photos. What would be my best bet here? Thanks!
posted by FlyByDay to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would wait for the Nexus 5, if you can. It should come out in October or November and the Nexus phones are historically much cheaper than other options. You'll then be able to go on the no-contract T-mobile plans, which are cheaper.
posted by brainmouse at 9:59 AM on September 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

t-mobile customer who's done their monthly pay-off plans: These work well. It's also nice to see your bill drop $20+ once it's paid off.

Beware though, you cannot make larger payments toward paying off the phone. You're stuck in the $20/month for 24 months unless you can pay off the remainder all at once.

I also got the MyTouch Slide 4G during a valentines day sale and got a rebate off it. I waited until the amount I owed for the phone was the amount on the rebate and paid it off about 10 months early.
posted by royalsong at 10:12 AM on September 21, 2013

If you're interested in the best quality photos, get an iPhone 5s. As for timing, given that the iPhone 5s came out yesterday and that they traditionally have released a new iPhone about every year, you'll probably have a top of the line iPhone for about a year.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding brainmouse: assuming that Google prices the upcoming Nexus in a similar way (it was $299 for the 8GB, $349 for the 16GB), your best deal will be to buy the phone directly from Google and have it activated by T-Mobile. Buying it through T-Mobile will likely cost you much more over the long term, based on their comparable rates for the Nexus 4.

If you cannot wait until it is released (November?), I would get any working smartphone for as little as possible via Amazon or Ebay, then either re-sell it later, or keep it as a spare (plus you can use it for e-mail/web/apps via wireless).

Note: I have a Nexus 4 bought from Google, and am using T-Mobile.
posted by 1367 at 10:24 AM on September 21, 2013

The economics of tmobile vs vzw or art are pretty similar. The underlying plans vary in price by about the size of the phone subsidy amortized over the length of the contract.
posted by JPD at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2013

Nexus 5 is due in mid-October if rumours are to be believed. I would wait this much if I had to buy a phone just now or would have bought now-extra-cheapened Nexus 4 if I had to buy one anyway :-)
posted by amar at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2013

Unless you're concerned with having the coolest new phone model, I would just buy a reasonably new Android phone from any of a number of sources (eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, etc.) for way less than $600.

I know and understand gadget-lust, but I consider most newer high-end Android phones to be pretty much interchangeable for most purposes.
posted by nobejen at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would buy a Nexus 4. Because it's super cheap, and a super-good phone, with one of the better cameras. I am totally unmoved by the 'coming soon'-ness of newer, more expensive devices -- it will be a good 2 or 3 years (at least) until my Nexus 4 starts to feel ancient.
posted by wrok at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2013

Response by poster: I know and understand gadget-lust, but I consider most newer high-end Android phones to be pretty much interchangeable for most purposes.>>

No, it's not that. I just want to get something that's not laggy, un-updateable, and "this app is not compatible with your device" within 6 months or a year...
posted by FlyByDay at 1:02 PM on September 21, 2013

The. Get an iPhone or a nexus.
posted by reddot at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2013

I just got a Galaxy S4 for T-mobile from Swappa and couldn't be happier. Much cheaper than the retail price and it felt safer than eBay.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:34 PM on September 21, 2013

The Nexus 4 is currently $200 directly from Google. Unless you're super invested in having The Latest Nexus, I'd just buy that and call it a day.
posted by MeghanC at 5:00 PM on September 21, 2013

The Nexus 4 is theoretically $200 directly from Google, but in actuality is sold out with what looks like no plans of restocking in what everyone is assuming is preparation for the launch of the Nexus 5 in a month. If bad timing is a big concern, now is a bad time to get a Nexus 4, and you'd have to get it from a 3rd party anyway.
posted by brainmouse at 5:16 PM on September 21, 2013

Best answer: No, it's not that. I just want to get something that's not laggy, un-updateable, and "this app is not compatible with your device" within 6 months or a year...

That doesn't really happen that much anymore. A mid-tier (~100 on contract) or top-tier (>200 on contract) phone shouldn't have any lag on any of the things you do. As for OS updates, Apple supports their phones for at least two years, and Android seems to have stopped doing major updates (we've been on 4.x for two years now). Even if your phone never gets an OS update, it doesn't matter since the OS barely matters now.

You should just buy right after the model has been released. The major companies are all on a yearly release cycle and there are very little surprises:

Apple (iPhone): Sept
Samsung (Galaxy S): April/May
Samsung (Galaxy Note): Oct
Google (Nexus): Oct/Nov
posted by meowzilla at 12:57 AM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The HTC One is very nice, and relatively new. It has very nice build quality, and a camera that works well in low light. It costs $600 on T-Mobile, but with a 0-interest loan that means you'd pay about as much as on other carriers for an "upgrade".

Nexus phones have been a very good deal over the last couple generations ($200-$300 unlocked). They generally have had nice screens and always are the first to get new versions of Android, but have not had particularly lovely build quality or cameras.

The Wirecutter likes the Moto X:
But it apparently isn't available through the carrier yet, so you'd need to drop $600 upfront for it.

So if you want a phone now, I'd probably get the HTC One, and if you want a phone in a bit, I'd probably get the Nexus 5, which is likely to be a very good deal at around half the price of other unlocked phones.
posted by akgerber at 9:41 AM on September 22, 2013

My three-year old iPhone 4 has just reached the stage where it is feeling a little slow, and not getting all the features in the latest update. You should definitely get a couple of years out of a 5c (which is basically last year's high-end) or a 5s. The 5s is probably a little more future-proof unless some radical new feature comes out.
posted by danteGideon at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2013

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