I want to "upgrade" downwards
April 19, 2016 7:43 PM   Subscribe

I have an iPhone 4 which is starting to show signs of age and is becoming unreliable. New iPhones are technically something I could pay for, however I can't really bring myself to shell out $400 for one. Apple isn't selling refurbished phones any more.

I want to get a flip phone for texts and calls and use an iPod for music and apps. I'm hoping to save money on my data plan in addition to device costs. Is there something I'm overlooking here?
posted by bunderful to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been wanting to do this too. One thing that I'm thinking about is camera functionality. My current thinking is that my ideal phone would:


- have a high-quality camera (this might be difficult);
- be small enough to fit comfortably in a jeans pocket (the larger phones fall out all the time);
- use GSM so I could use it in other countries with a SIM card (and continue using my T-Mobile prepaid account, which is super inexpensive for me); and have
- a button keyboard (like a Blackberry), or have that cool Android feature where you can drag your finger across all the letters in a word when "typing".


So far, I've discovered that "phones for the elderly" / "big button phones" are the most promising "segment" of the current market. However, if I could get my Virgin Mobile flip phone back from 2001, I'd love that.
posted by amtho at 7:52 PM on April 19, 2016


Do you rely on the iPhone's Mail app, fancy multimedia messaging, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc? Do you browse the web lots from your mobile device outside of a wifi connection? If not, you're not overlooking anything, except that texting on a numpad is incredibly tedious. I also expect that the iPod touch, which you can barely even find from the apple.com webpage, is not long for this world, and so will begin to be obsoleted by apple and stop receiving iOS updates, etc., which means you'll start losing app support as well. But that's the long view.

If your only issue is cost, I've had great experience with glyde.com's marketplace. An iPhone 5S doesn't go for much these days, and probably has a few years of life left in it.
posted by dis_integration at 7:56 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Try www.swappa.com. It is great.
posted by 4ster at 7:56 PM on April 19, 2016


You could consider getting a used iPhone (or Android device) instead. A used iPhone 5C can run you roughly $125 (other options include Craigslist and eBay). A 5S will likely cost you a ways over $200.

The real question is whether you need mobile data. For many people nowadays, they need iMessage/Google Hangouts/WeChat/WhatsApp/Kik/Whatever wherever they are, whether wifi is available or not. If you truly can get by without mobile data of any sort, a flip phone and an iPod Touch could work, though you'd have to carry two devices.
posted by zachlipton at 7:57 PM on April 19, 2016


I've only gotten iPhones from Apple or AT&T. What do I need to consider if buying from swappa or glyde? (Support, etc).
posted by bunderful at 8:05 PM on April 19, 2016


They are also available refurbished from reseller marketplaces like newegg.
posted by nickggully at 8:12 PM on April 19, 2016


I asked a question about swappa a while back and am now answering you on the iPhone 5s I bought there. I found the transaction pretty straightforward and am happy I went that route.
posted by PussKillian at 8:17 PM on April 19, 2016


If you decide to switch to a "feature phone" (i.e. a "dumb phone"), maybe go for one with a keyboard so you can quickly respond to texts. Everyone texts so much more now that we have smart phones. Texting on a 10-key would get old fast.
posted by radioamy at 8:52 PM on April 19, 2016


I know a few people who have done this. They all carry some sort of bag with them because they found they needed two, three or four devices instead of the one they used to carry. As far as I am aware, they are happy with their choice but are also considering going back to a smartphone the next time it comes up. There are tradeoffs, but as long as they're ones you're happy with it's a big money saver.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:07 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know this idea sounds really tempting. I did this for awhile and even considered going back recently. But eventually I wound up just breaking down and getting a smartphone because getting directions off an ipod was a pain in the ass. The app works the same way, but having to always be ducking into a McDonalds or a Starbucks, and then not having them live update... I just felt like I was making my life unnecessarily difficult. Plus it seemed insecure to be always checking my work email through open 3rd party wifi.

I broke down and shelled out for a new iPhone. Which I hated, but I figure if I take good care of it I won't have to be continually thinking about it and getting new ones all the time. I pay $70/month for a great data plan with ATT's pay as you go plan.
posted by bleep at 10:06 PM on April 19, 2016


If you're budget-conscious, I would use Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile or something similar. You can pay $100-$200 for a good smart phone and unlimited talk, text, data for $35 per month. iPhones are like the most expensive phones on the market. If you switch to Android, you'll have a lot more choices but basically all the same capabilities, especially since it sounds like you have very basic needs.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:11 PM on April 19, 2016


I hear what you are cooking my friend. My "please can I have" would be a keypad dumb-phone that functions as a personal hotspot, so gives me wifi on demand to my ipod. Would reduce my data by lots while still letting me connect if needed (like directions above). I've not been able to find this, but it might be worth you also keeping an eye out for.
posted by Iteki at 10:45 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


We bought a refurb 5S from Gazelle and it has worked out perfectly.
posted by michaelh at 5:27 AM on April 20, 2016


Have you thought about getting a refurb 5 and going with an alternate (ie cheaper) carrier? I use Cricket, and coverage in my city is great. My husband and I pay $80/month total with unlimited everything for his iPhone 5 and my iPhone 4.
posted by Maarika at 5:45 AM on April 20, 2016


Using a used phone not from AT&T or apple is easy and straightforward to port to your existing carrier. Please do this before going back to a dumbphone.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:45 AM on April 20, 2016


I do this and it's kind of a hassle to be honest. I have an old iPhone that I use for wifi and camera and a Nokia brick for messaging and calls. I would recommend getting a newer dumb phone though, because group messages now apparently use data so if you have an old dumb phone and are part of a group message you wind up get a bunch of garbled junk.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2016


Forgot to mention, I haven't really experienced the lugging around of 4 devices mentioned upthread. On the contrary I found myself needing smart phone capabilities less and less in my day to day life, and now I generally just carry around the brick. I'm sure it depends on if you're the kind of person who loves technology or if you're a technophobe like me. It definitely feels nice to bow out of the smartphone life.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:36 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


You could save a lot of money by switching carriers! I'd definitely bet that T-Mobile or Sprint will be cheaper than AT&T.

You could also save money by buying a used iPhone -- or by switching to an Android (depending on the manufacturer and model).
posted by J. Wilson at 9:16 AM on April 20, 2016


As for support, it depends on what you mean. If you mean the ability to go into a physical store, ask for help, and possibly swap a broken phone for a new one, then you're out of luck. If you're used to support including a carrier-provided insurance policy (usually with a monthly charge), then you're not going to be able to get that. If it's an iPhone, the Apple store will do some repairs on a per-repair cost basis, but they tend to be expensive. Third parties will do some repairs, and there may be a shop in your area that would do screen or button replacements.

Others have mentioned Cricket Wireless, which I use. It's owned by AT&T and uses their network, with the main differences being:
- No physical store for support
- No phone "subsidies" -- the cost of service is for service only, and phones are purchased out of pocket (not a problem if you bring your own phone)
- Slightly different restrictions on service. I have unlimited voice/text/picture messaging, and there are multiple data plans available

If you're on a post-paid carrier like AT&T and are considering buying a phone off-contract, it'd be worth making sure you're using a service plan that's not priced to subsidize a phone. If AT&T would charge you $400 for a new phone (and it's not an older model), then it's possible that's the "subsidized" price (for a phone that actually has a $600-$800 MSRP) and you'd want to switch to a "bring your own"-style plan or carrier. Because even if you don't pay them for a phone, a lot of traditional plans are set up such that you are paying a portion of the price of a phone in your monthly plan.
posted by mikeh at 1:20 PM on April 20, 2016


For what it's worth, I have bought a new phone off of a friend who has a Verizon plan with multiple lines, one of which was for a family member that hardly ever needs a new phone. So he helpfully used one of his phone upgrades (after we checked that Verizon no longer locks phones to their carrier) and sold it to me at a discount.
posted by mikeh at 1:21 PM on April 20, 2016


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