So I just ... buy? ... a phone?
January 13, 2022 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My last decade+ of iPhones have been "upgraded" or paid for monthly through T-mobile when one died/was stolen. Now I want to actually pay cash money for a new one. Please walk me through this.

I have the thousand-plus bucks for a new iPhone 13 Pro and the ability to keep my current 8+ as an emergency backup. I'm now a happy Mint Mobile customer, and prepay my wireless annually at $180 a year. Is there a smarter/better way to make this phone purchase than just walking into Apple and handing them full price? I don't do consumer debt and don't want any sort of monthly payment or commitment. Thanks!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet to Shopping (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, if there's any compelling reason I should wait a month or two, please let me know!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 12:11 PM on January 13

Microcenter usually has some refurbished unlocked iPhones in stock if you want a brick and mortar purchasing option which isn't Apple. Just walk in, buy one, and swap SIMs (assuming Mint Mobile uses SIMs)
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:12 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

There are also financing / leasing options like the iPhone Upgrade Program if you don't want to spend the money all at once. (I think Apple gives you some incentives like 0% interest and 3% cash back if you buy on an Apple Card.)

Rereading the question, I see this isn't an option for you so in your case you would simply (1) buy the new, unlocked handset from the Apple Store or other retailer, (2) pop in your existing SIM card, and (3) you're good to go. I've done this a bunch of times when upgrading and handing off older phones to family members so it's generally pretty straightforward.
posted by theorique at 12:28 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Last year, there was a mid-cycle release of a new color for the iPhone 12 (but not the Pro) in April. It's possible something similar will happen again.
posted by meowzilla at 12:28 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

If you buy the phone through Apple, consider getting an Apple card and buying it with that, as there is currently a 5% cash back promotion when paying in full. As with any card, you can pay off the balance in full at the first billing cycle and so not incur debt. This can offset some sales tax, depending on where you live.

New major-revision iPhones typically come out in the fall, and so the next iPhone 14 will be out in late 2022. You can check with the MacRumors Buyer's Guide to get timing advice on any Apple purchase.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:28 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

If you buy the phone at an Apple Store with an Apple Card you can save $30 via cash back.

If you buy the phone at Amazon and have an Amazon Prime membership, you can get a $100 gift card and $50 back by using a Amazon Rewards card.
posted by saeculorum at 12:29 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Mint uses T-Mobile as the network carrier so you will want to tell the Apple rep that you need an unlocked unit that will work on TMO.

You may also want to check with Mint that your current SIM will work on that phone. TMO recently had a bunch of changes as part of the Sprint merger and some old cards won't be useful for much longer.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:01 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Model A2484 is what is sold in the United States, and supports the following bands:

• 5G NR (Bands n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n28, n29, n30, n38, n40, n41, n48, n66, n71, n77, n78, n79)
• 5G NR mmWave (Bands n258, n260, n261)
• FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 66, 71)
• TD-LTE (Bands 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48)
• CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)
• UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)
• GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

You should be fine with whatever you get, so long as it is a US model (assuming you are a US resident, based on use of Mint as your carrier).
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:11 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I've bought used flagship phones for myself and my mother through Swappa multiple times and been extremely satisfied every time. Even though the 13 is new it's worth looking on swappa. Some YouTube reviewers buy phones and resell them after reviewing them.

If you can find an Apple refurbished on apple's site (what they have refurbished goes in and out of stock depending on the day) that's also a good buy.

If you want new without a commitment you'll pay the same price pretty much everywhere. The best you can do there is buy using a rewards card/program. Slickdeals forums are a good place to go to scout for deals on new phones, though you will be sifting through all the contract deals. And Apple tightly controls prices through resellers, so new you won't ever get much of a deal on a contract-less buy. The one exception is when they're clearing out current year models, and then the deals will be pretty much the same everywhere.

After you buy a new phone, sell the old one on swappa (being scrupulous about condition detail and photos). I know you said your old phone was stolen, but it's good info for the future since you're moving away from trade-ins. I've found swappa to be way more fuss-free and reliable than ebay, Amazon, and Craigslist for used phones (I always buy nearly-new ones), and I won't even touch the nightmare that is FB marketplace.
posted by liminal_shadows at 2:34 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I just checked swappa for you and on the pro there's only one 13 pro 128GB in mint condition (like new) listed at less than a thousand bucks, shipping included. The seller has 4.5 stars, and I personally won't buy from someone with less than 5.

If you're looking for a 256GB model you have several options in the mint condition (not mint the carrier) category from 5 star sellers that would save you about 50 bucks, some with extras thrown in.

Unfortunately apple resale value on current year models is kind of insane and it might not be worth it to you to save 50 bucks. I *have* gotten some nice extras before. Worth a browse at least. Make sure you're buying an unlocked model if you buy there.

Edit to add I just also checked refurbished through the Apple site and the latest model Apple has refurbed right now is the 11.
posted by liminal_shadows at 2:46 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Oh right. Forgot to add, you don't pay tax through swappa, and shipping is free. So more like a savings of $100 over retail on a 256GB mint condition model iphone 13 pro, plus the value of any extras the seller has listed as included.
posted by liminal_shadows at 2:53 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

People often get the cellphone thing wrong - they stuggle to save $50 or $100 on the phone, but forget/ignore they are spending $100+/month on a crappy plan, every month, for 2-3 years.

You are doing it right - spending $180/year on Mint (!damn, that's good!)

Just go to and buy the phone you want, they ship same day or next day depending. (Get the unlocked one.)

(N.B. Partner and I switched from ATT to a year ago and our bill went from $100+ to $27. )
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:59 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Apple - great warranty, can use their insurance, great service. Cons: Full Price.

Swappa - +1 on that - used 3-4 times, usually $200 cheaper on a newer phone, with very little BS.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:58 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I bought my last phone (an iPhone 11 Pro) like this -- just walked into the Apple Store, told the salesperson I needed an unlocked iPhone for, in my case, Verizon, and he had one brought out from the back for me. Total time was about 10 minutes, and I was able to swap the sim at home.

I do 100% recommend not trading in your old phone immediately. It sounds like you're not planning on this, but I had enough two-factor things I barely ever use that I was digging out my old phone to register new authenticators for at least a week. If I'd handed my old phone over without thinking, things would have been bad.
posted by Alterscape at 6:39 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

It looks like Mint has a deal where you get a few months free by buying a phone from them, and you can either pay cash up front or pay it off over time.
posted by decathecting at 8:58 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I can speak to the ease of buying a phone through Apple. Yes, you go in, pay the money, put in a SIM card. I did have to purchase a new SIM card (about $10) because my old card didn't fit the phone.

Using an Apple Card gives you cash back, an interest-free payment plan, and the ability to pay off the balance at any time without penalty.

Also consider that you can often get past-model phones at the iPhone store. My current phone is an XR, which was cheaper at the Apple Store than the then-current iPhone 12. At the time I bought it, they had iPhone 8s available new in-store as well.

Apple refurbs are the best things in the world, if you can find what you want. They have the same warranty as a new phone and are eligible for AppleCare.
posted by lhauser at 7:10 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I just bought a refurbished S20 in perfect condition on for $550. Free shipping and it came in 3 days. Definitely recommend checking there for a refurbished phone.
posted by ananci at 10:43 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I bought mine at Costco. Had to be in person and I'm already a member but I think it saved $100+. Did take a few tries to find one in stock but they had just come out.
posted by sepviva at 8:38 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the suggestions! I wound up ordering online through, and opting for the concierge delivery ($5) so I didn't have to wait a week. (There were none available at my closest store.) Full price, but I did use skymiles shopping so at least I got ~1100 Delta miles for the purchase. And I'll be keeping my old 8+ for an emergency backup.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:30 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

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