How should I decide if I should buy my iPhone from my company?
February 11, 2024 5:49 PM   Subscribe

I just changed jobs, and in my new position I don't get assigned a corporate mobile phone. I haven't yet turned in my iPhone 14 from the old job, and I have the option to buy it from the company if I want to keep it. Is it a better idea to buy my current iPhone 14 from my company at the current depreciated price of $500, and "bring my own device" to Verizon, or should I just get another device from Verizon with my new plan?

Either way I have to get a new phone plan.

I'd like to minimize hassle, maybe even more than saving money. Fewer contracts, fewer decision points, fewer contacts with a company are all huge pluses. The more I can figure out here, the easier it will be once I get to the mobile store.

I would need a Verizon plan (or a plan that uses Verizon coverage) to get a decent signal in my area. My wife is already on Verizon so we would probably end up choosing the Verizon Unlimited Ultimate Plan at ~$200/month for two phones.

If you bring your own device, Verizon gives a credit of $540 spread over 3 years.

It seems if you get a new phone and plan from Verizon, either the iPhone 14 or SE (for example) are $0.00/month for 36 months. What happens after that? Do you own the phone after 36 months? Or is it like a car lease and you need to roll over and start paying all over again?

I would like an iPhone for the sake of sharing troubleshooting knowledge with my wife, but I don't care about the model or screen size, and I don't use many apps or very much data.

If I don't take a phone from Verizon, does that give me the flexibility of not committing to 36 months?

posted by lockedroomguy to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
What happens after that? Do you own the phone after 36 months?

I'm in Canada so YMMV, but I believe you surrender the phone or have the option to purchase.

However, if your options are pay $500 now for an iPhone 14 or get an iPhone 14 free for 3 years you would absolutely be better off taking the free phone for 3 years, assuming you have no plan to leave Verizon.
posted by dobbs at 6:45 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I am on AT&T and got a free (after charge and credits on every monthly bill) iPhone13 on a 36 month plan. I will own the phone once those 36 months are up. I'd expect Verizon to be the same. Carriers moved away from contracts with phone subsidies and are now doing the monthly credit that covers the monthly payment as a way to replace the contracts.

If I don't take a phone from Verizon, does that give me the flexibility of not committing to 36 months?
Yes it does. But how likely is it that you'd switch away from them if you can't get good coverage from other carriers? Are you thinking of using an alternate carrier that uses Verizon's network?
posted by soelo at 7:33 PM on February 11


I'm perhaps a bit more curmudgeonly than most when it comes to smart phones, but ... I can't imagine buying a brand-new iPhone. They're ridiculously expensive and I just don't need that much computing power.

Instead, I buy used and unlocked phones from Swappa. I have a 2020 iPhone SE that cost me $140 total last fall and works fine. I signed up with a cell service provider and then just popped in the sim card they sent me.
posted by Metasyntactic at 7:42 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Best answer: I don't know whether $500 for this phone is a good price, but I do know that anyone who doesn't upgrade their phone every 1-2 years and who can afford the upfront cost should own their phone.

Cell networks make a profit renting phones to their customers alongside a multi-year contract for their services. The phone is in no way "free" despite how the monthly payment allegedly breaks down. Renting might make sense for people who upgrade their phone regularly (just like car leases make sense for people who change cars regularly). It might also make sense who cannot afford the upfront cost of buying a phone. Everyone else should buy a phone from someone other than their cell provider (e.g. new from the company that makes the phone, Swappa, refurbished from Amazon), and have a "prepaid" or "month-to-month" plan IMO.

In Verizon's case, those plans are called Verizon Prepaid. You bring a phone. They charge you in advance each month until you tell them to stop. This is $35/month for unlimited talk/text and 15GB, or $50/month for "unlimited" data.

If your wife owned her phone too, you could get a Verizon Prepaid plan with two lines (i.e. a family plan) with unlimited data for $80/month instead of $200/month.
posted by caek at 8:58 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Best answer: If you're happy with your current phone, buy it and sign up for Visible Wireless. $25/month for unlimited talk/text/data ($45/month if you need international data), and they use Verizon's network so you'll get Verizon's coverage (and it looks like they're running a discount right now). That price is inclusive of all taxes.

It's Verizon coverage without the Verizon price - I've been on Visible for a couple years now and I've never had a single issue with it. With a 14 you should have no problem porting your number over, but the Visible site will let you verify that to make sure.
posted by pdb at 9:10 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Best answer: To actually answer your question...

Assuming you're talking about an iPhone 14 with no suffix, 128 GB storage capacity, a brand new one currently costs $699. I would have to think long and hard before paying $500 for what is now an 18-month-old used device with a degraded battery that retails new for only $200 more. That is, I think $500 is a rip-off bordering on a scam.

It would be easier to not have to switch phones, and if Verizon is willing to give you credits that essentially cover the cost of the phone anyway, I guess it's no skin off your back (assuming you're going to stick with Verizon for three years). It still smacks of your company taking advantage of you. If you give it back and they don't reassign it to another employee, they're only going to get maybe $300 for it if they sell it to a company that buys phones. No way in hell are they getting $500 cash for it from anyone else.

If you buy a phone from Verizon for $0 a month for 36 months, you're buying the phone outright and agreeing to an installment plan where they provide credits that cover the cost of the installment each month. If you decide to cancel service before the 36 months, you owe the rest of the installment plan immediately and the remaining credits go away. You own the phone from day 1, you just have to pay for it (or stick with them long enough for them to pay for it). You're not committing to a fixed term of service (like in the old days with "contracts"), but you are committing to buying the phone regardless of whether you maintain service. It is not a lease.

Finally, if you're looking to avoid hassle in general, do this on their website. There is zero reason to need to go into the store. Assuming you're sticking with the phone you have, it supports eSIM, so it's very unlikely they'll even need to ship you a SIM card. Obviously, if you decide to buy a phone from them, they'll have to ship it to you if you are doing this on the website, but in my mind, that's vastly more preferable to wait a couple days for that than visit the store.
posted by tubedogg at 10:15 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


You don't get a free phone; the cost is always built in to the plan, you own it after 36 months. I've been on Bring-Your-Own-Phone and Pay-As-You-Go and No-Contract for quite a while now. Apple charges a lot for refurbished iPhones, but it looks like 500 is a midpoint price on swappa, ebay, etc. Negotiate a fair price, buy the phone and save the hassle of switching. Sign up w/ Verizon, use a prepaid plan that fits your needs. I use Visible, owned by Verizon, uses Verizon networks, a little cheaper, reduced customer service and no stores. It's been fine.
posted by theora55 at 10:59 PM on February 11


Best answer: if your options are pay $500 now for an iPhone 14 or get an iPhone 14 free for 3 years you would absolutely be better off taking the free phone for 3 years

Fine as far as it goes, but those aren't the options. The options being compared are pay $500 now for an 18 month old iPhone 14, or pay $540 over 36 months, plus migration time, for a new one. Much less clear.

My own policy has long been to pay upfront for the cheapest phone I can find that will do what I need it to, keep it until it stops being able to do what I need it to, never own a phone that's locked to any connectivity provider either by hardware design or software limitation or contractual obligation, and buy the cheapest plan I can find that gives me the connectivity I need without locking me in for more than a month at a time.

This is a policy firmly guided by having paid attention to the amount and variety of petty irritations I've seen experienced by other people who fail to follow it.

Vendor lock-in is a pain in the arse, and avoiding it would remain my primary guiding principle for choosing technologies even if it cost me twice as much to do so. Which of course it doesn't, because vendor lock-in is also, always and everywhere, essentially a scam. I have spent less time and money and emotional energy on phones over the last ten years than anybody else I know.
posted by flabdablet at 11:26 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


It looks like $500 is around market price for a used Iphone 14, so your company's on the level. The one from Verizon would be presumably new, but opting to keep your current phone makes you able to switch to one of those cheaper service-only plans. And if you change your mind, you can always sell your current one to recoup most of the purchase price.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:59 PM on February 11


Best answer: Your question has been answered but I want to add one thing: If you buy the phone from your employer you MUST make sure they remove it from any device management (MDM) they have set up. If they fail to do this it is essentially a worthless brick that you don't really own.
posted by mmoncur at 1:34 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Best answer: you MUST make sure they remove it from any device management (MDM) they have set up

and also disconnect it from whichever corporate Apple account it's currently associated with. If they don't do that, you won't get past the first setup steps after you factory-reset it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:36 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


(A) Pay $500 for an iPhone 14 with a (likely) degraded battery and $200/month for service on Verizon

vs.

(B) Pay $1000 for an iPhone 15 Pro, and service on Consumer Cellular (or similar MVNO) for $50/month.

The breakeven point is about 3 months, and you end up with a much better phone, and saving $150/month on an ongoing basis.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:48 AM on February 12


Best answer: The $540 over 36 months is the credits that Verizon will apply against the monthly plan for bringing an existing device. It's not a payment from OP to Verizon.

And while you as an individual may be able to sell the phone for $500 on Swappa or whatever, a corporation (unless it's a really small one) isn't going to invest the time and effort involved in doing so. Which means that they're going to be selling it to a company that buys phones en masse, and those companies are not paying $500. I still don't accept that it's a fair price given the circumstances.

There's also the whole aspect of the effort involved in getting it disconnected from the company, which is not nothing, especially if the company doesn't routinely deal with this.

One thing to keep in mind is if you do buy a phone from Verizon, it will be locked to their network for 60 days. That's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things (at least compared to the old policies of locked either forever or for a much longer time) but it's something to keep in mind.
posted by tubedogg at 12:20 PM on February 12


I was comparing prices, and I've noticed that our current provider offers cheaper plans with new phones (3 year) than if you bring your own. They really wanna move merchandise. YMMV.
posted by ovvl at 3:24 PM on February 12


You don't get a free phone; the cost is always built in to the plan, you own it after 36 months.
This is not true in all cases and in many, like ovvl's case, it is false. I get the same service price with or without the installment plan on a new phone.
posted by soelo at 7:29 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


The $540 over 36 months is the credits that Verizon will apply against the monthly plan for bringing an existing device. It's not a payment from OP to Verizon.

That's one way to look at it.

Another is that the customer ends up paying Verizon $540 more for a plan where Verizon supplies the phone compared to an otherwise identical plan where it doesn't, which makes $540 the price of the phone bought through that plan.
posted by flabdablet at 8:41 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks all! Marked many best answers that helped me decide but really they were all useful.

For posterity, I decided to modify my options based on the feedback. I'm buying a new SE outright and trying Visible wireless. Nearly decided on a Verizon prepaid, but I will give Visible a spin.
posted by lockedroomguy at 3:57 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


You don't get a free phone; the cost is always built in to the plan, you own it after 36 months

This, generally speaking, has not been true since "contracts" (contracts requiring certain service periods, anyway) ceased to be a thing. The customer sets up an installment plan and credits are applied against the installment plan, not the rate plan. This actually ties into what flabdablet said about the $540 credit for bringing your own device; see below.

Another is that the customer ends up paying Verizon $540 more for a plan where Verizon supplies the phone compared to an otherwise identical plan where it doesn't, which makes $540 the price of the phone bought through that plan.

Verizon is either a) applying credits against an installment plan for a phone purchased from them or b) applying credits against a service plan for a phone purchased/obtained from somewhere else.

Customer A: $100 * 36 months + $700 phone - $700 credits = $3600
Customer B: $100 * 36 months + ~$700 phone - $540 credits = $3760

There's a difference, but it's actually in favor of the plan where Verizon "supplies" the phone (Customer A). It's possible to buy the phone for less than $700 from somewhere else (with the caveat that buying a used phone, while better for the environment, is not equivalent to buying a new phone, so that should be taken into account, too). That said, it's impossible to buy the phone, new OR used, at such a low price point as to end up where Customer A is paying $540 more than Customer B overall.

If you are literally speaking only about the money that is paid directly to Verizon, you are technically correct. But looking solely at that amount ignores the cost of the phone for Customer B while taking it into account for Customer A.
posted by tubedogg at 8:42 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


That $700 figure is a red herring; the price of a phone is what the purchaser actually pays for it. If Verizon offers $540 worth of credits in the case where they're not also running the instalment plan for purchasing a phone, then the phone they're offering via that instalment plan is not a $700 phone, it's a $540 phone regardless of how Verizon describes it.

If an unlocked version of the same model generally retails elsewhere for $700, all that means is that Verizon internally values their network lock-in on it at roughly $160. Again, this may not be what they'd charge their customers to do an unlock, but it will factor in the rate at which customers actually do that.

See also: every price ever mentioned for any item any US medical insurer ever pays a hospital to provide. Same basic fictional-pricing bamboozlement scam, just more extreme.

Also see also: where did the extra dollar go?
posted by flabdablet at 1:35 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


A factual point: The lock period is 60 days, and the unlock is free and automatic. Nobody is paying Verizon anything for an unlock, and the lock period is so short as to be essentially meaningless since almost nobody (legitimately) changes carriers that frequently.

That said, I'm not going to continue debating your points when it has become clear you are discussing something different from what I am, which is what the customer is actually paying out of pocket, not what Verizon paid for it or values it at or anything else.
posted by tubedogg at 2:40 PM on February 20


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