What to do about my dying smartphone
June 24, 2014 3:30 PM   Subscribe

I have six months left on my Verizon contract. My phone is dying and is not gonna last that long. I'm not eligible for an upgrade. I'm reluctant to enter another contract. Am I trapped?

I got my phone, the Motorola RAZR m for $99 + contact. Now it's 99ยข + contract or $350 w/out. I was considering the HTC One M8 but it's 650+ w/out contract, $199 w/ contract at Verizon and $99 w/ contract at ATT. I've had Metro PCS in the past which has horrible. Same w/ Sprint. I need a new phone and no matter what I've gotta pay out the rest of my Verizon contract. What should I do? Should just suck it up and enter a new contract. I'm not tied to the HTC but I am tied to having a smart photo. Secondary consideration: my other issue w/ my Verizon plan is that I have the smallest data plan of which I use only 1%, literally, but my data plan is $50/mo. Seems like I could do better.
posted by lolo341 to Technology (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you get a cheap used/refurbished phone to finish out your contract?
posted by ktkt at 3:35 PM on June 24, 2014

Buy a phone on eBay. You can probably find one for fairly cheap. Just make sure it's a Verizon phone. Call Verizon and have them swap you over to it once you have it.
posted by Slinga at 3:39 PM on June 24, 2014

Seconding Slinga's suggestion. Then when your contract's up, ditch Verizon and switch to Virgin Mobile. No contracts and a fraction of the cost of Verizon for unlimited data and texts.
posted by carolinecrane at 3:43 PM on June 24, 2014

T-mobile will pay your contract's Early Termination Fee if you trade in your device and get a new phone and no-contract plan with them.
posted by BeerFilter at 3:46 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd buy a cheap phone on swappa that was halfway decent(say, a galaxy S3 for $150?), use that until the contract is up, then sell it again. You can probably still get a halfway decent amount of money selling your phone on craigslist for like $80 as is, too. And at the end of the contract, i bet that SIII would still be worth over $100 if it was in good shape.

When the contract is up, look in to stuff like the cheaper tmobile plans, straight talk, ting, etc.
posted by emptythought at 3:49 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make sure that the phone you buy off ebay or wherever is unlocked as there are sellers who sell locked phones :/

Or, switch to TMobile. Their rates are very reasonable, but they changed their pricing structure so that you pay your handset down monthly.
posted by quince at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2014

If you buy a used phone make sure it has a good electronic serial number (ESN). Swappa is more trustworthy than eBay IMO. The Tmobile deal is pretty good but be aware that you will have to pay your early termination fees and wait several weeks to get reimbursed.
posted by mattholomew at 3:55 PM on June 24, 2014

I think it depends on your goal. Do you want a new phone or do you want to not be locked into a contract? It significantly narrows your choices to try to get both.
posted by sm1tten at 4:06 PM on June 24, 2014

Get the T-Mobile $40+taxes/mo Simple Starter Plan and buy a cheap phone separately - a new Nokia Lumia 521 can run you as little as $70. T-Mobile will pay your terminated contract fee.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:08 PM on June 24, 2014

Thanks everybody. Great suggestions.
posted by lolo341 at 4:11 PM on June 24, 2014

Can you get the prepaid Moto G for Verizon and have Verizon swap the phone on your account? That's probably the best phone in that price range that you'll be able to find.
posted by dcjd at 4:11 PM on June 24, 2014

What do you mean, "dying"?
posted by Hatashran at 4:12 PM on June 24, 2014

If you have the $350, you can buy a Nexus 5 from google, set it to your current account/carrier, finish your contract out, then switch it to another carrier. I've been using Ting, and while they don't have the best reception, it's cheap as hell.

From what I understand, the Nexus 5 can access several carriers' signals, and has no carrier "lock". Was chatting at a party recently with a friend who got one to finish up a couple final months on a shitty Sprint plan when he broke his S3, and he's really happy with it. Caveat being that it's $350.

Other Caveat, I'm too much of a Blade Runner fan to get one. Yet.
posted by Sphinx at 4:25 PM on June 24, 2014

If you're considering Virgin Mobile, which is what I use, bear in mind that there's absolutely zero international roaming.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:29 PM on June 24, 2014

+1 for Swappa. Go grab an interim phone and wait it out.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 4:40 PM on June 24, 2014

If you stay with Verizon, there is the Verizon Edge plan which allows you to upgrade early.
posted by DeltaForce at 4:45 PM on June 24, 2014

Point of information, Sphinx, the Nexus 5 isn't compatible with Verizon's network. (and a shame, too, or that'd be my suggestion)
posted by hollyholly at 5:10 PM on June 24, 2014

T-Mobile is currently paying the termination fees for Verizon customers who switch.

Seriously. And you can get a new iPhone 5s from them on a monthly payment plan (with a handset upgrade option that costs $10 a month) with zero interest, after you pay it off you own it, and the cost is not built in to the plan cost.

I *love* T-Mobile. People complain about the network, but in the places I go it works great (including rural Alaska, where I can roam for free on ASTAC, and in every European country, where I get free unlimited 3G data and local calling, cheap calling and texting back to the US -- something no other carrier offers). Where I get LTE (which is any urban area I ever visit, which is quite a few in any given year) the network is blazing fast, and if you're talking to someone with a compatible phone, the HD audio is superb. With IOS8, T-Mobile's wifi calling option (works anywhere you have wifi) will be available on iPhones as well.

The customer service remains excellent. The prices can't be beat. And the deals are fairly honest. As long as they're being disruptive (and losing money, albeit gaining a lot of subscribers over the last year) you should consider taking advantage.

What I love lately is adding other people to my plan for 10 bucks a month (2GB high speed data, after which, like all T-Mobile data plans, it drops to 3G but does not incur extra data costs), or 20 bucks a month for 5GB, which is enough for most people.

I know I sound like I work for them. But I've just been with them for 10 years and find the travails (and high bills) of my friends and family who have ATT and Verizon to be strange and unfamiliar. People close to me have Verizon and curse it constantly. They can't understand why I'm grinning from ear to ear.

Switch, unless you live in one of the few places T-Mobile doesn't work. It won't cost you a thing.

Oh, and no contracts. Ever. Sweet.
posted by spitbull at 5:10 PM on June 24, 2014

Oh, I didn't notice BeerFilter already flagged T-Mo's payment of early termination fees. It's a great deal.
posted by spitbull at 5:15 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The prepaid Moto G can't be used on a Verizon post-paid account out of the box, so that doesn't work.

(You can use it, but only once it has been active on a pre-paid account for at least six months)
posted by shinynewnick at 7:22 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar situation 1.5 years ago when my daughter killed my Blackberry. I ended up getting a Nexus 4 and then switched providers when my contract came up. The Nexus phones seem to work on just about every network so I would say they're a good choice. They are nothing too special but are hard to beat for the price.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:52 PM on June 24, 2014

I had horrific luck with Virgin. I know lots of people have great luck with them, for me it was like a two year slog before I finally just gave up trying. I've swapped over to MetroPCS and have never been happier with a cell service. $40 a month PERIOD that's taxes and everything, they run on T-Mobile infrastructure, good phones offered at good prices, I'm just happy as hell since making the switch, not one problem.

Maybe do what others are suggesting about buying a phone to finish out your Verizon contract and then jump ship.

And yeah, what *does* it mean when you say the phone is dying? Do you just have a weak battery? You could buy a replacement for next to nothing on fleabay, use it til you're out of contract, and then jump ship.

It's a very different world out there now, cell outfits have finally gotten into competition with each other and it's lots better for us, lots of options, many of them good options, too.

Good luck!
posted by dancestoblue at 10:32 PM on June 24, 2014

As a note on the battery swap idea, if that's how your phone is dying, it's really not that hard to swap it out. It's not a phone designed to let you swap the battery, but at the same time it's not some hellish piece of demon-designed-satan-approved gear like the original iphones. A little plastic pry bar or even a guitar pick will pop it open, and some careful slow pulling will yank it out. I glanced through those instructions and i'd rate it like a 3/10 on the difficulty scale, it's harder to swap the hard drive in some laptops...

I easily found the battery for $19, and i bet you could find it cheaper if you were bored and searched around. I just offhandedly assumed when i was originally reading this post that was one of those phones that's like, glued shut or something. It's not.

If that isn't how the phones breaking though, just ignore this i guess.
posted by emptythought at 12:08 AM on June 25, 2014

Again, thanks for all the good ideas. @Hatashran asked what I mean by "dying." You name it: It frequently (and always at the most inconvenient times) becomes unresponsive, frozen, or will not respond to the power button so that I have to do a force reboot. Sometimes it shuts down completely without my being aware of it. Even at a full charge, the battery lasts about two hours even with very little usage. When I do use it for texting, a phone call, gps, etc., it get overheats like a mofo. When using the camera in daylight, there is now about a 10-sec. delay between touching the "shutter" button and the picture actually being captured. And best of all, on occasion it randomly dials numbers in my phone book. For example, I was sitting at my desk at work with the phone beside me on the desk. I heard someone saying "hello, hello" and I looked down to see that my phone had rung up a friend of mine out of state. I get texts from friends all the time asking if I called them or if it was a butt dial when the phone wasn't anywhere near my person, but when I look at recent calls, I can see that a call went out from my phone. As far as I know it doesn't have a virus on it (I've checked w/ Avast) and some of these problems began with or became exacerbated by the last Android update that was pushed to the phone a few weeks ago. The ironic thing is that I'm not one to gush about technology, but I was so smitten with this phone when I first got it a year and a half ago. I have another friend who has a Razr M and a friend who has a Razr Maxx. All of our phones are about a year and a half old, and all three of us are having similar issues although mine seems to be the most problematic of the three. Swapping the battery might help some of the issues and is worth looking into but I'm not convinced that's the only issue. Oh, I also frequently get a message stating that the SIM card is unmounted. I have not abused this phone. I won't say I've never dropped it, but I think it's probably been treated better than average.
posted by lolo341 at 11:21 AM on June 26, 2014

Ended up getting through to Verizon, once their computers were back up. They allowed me to go off contract and sign up for the Verizon Edge program: "The full retail price is broken down into 20 affordable monthly payments and added to your bill. After 30 days and 60% of the device payments, you are able to upgrade to a new smartphone." I Since I had liked the Razr M when I first got it, I decided to go w/ the newer version with is called the Motorola Mini. It's not the fanciest, best or most amazing phone, but it's all the phone I need given that I don't really do much streaming or mixed media stuff. Thanks for all the great suggestions though.
posted by lolo341 at 11:42 AM on July 10, 2014

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