For about half of you, this update will not make sense. You may just use a basic cell phone and have no use for one that allows you to check email or sports a full keyboard. However, the other half of my clients / readers cannot live without their smartphones.
This message is broken into two parts. Choose your adventure. Do you want to extend your contract or not?
1) Upgrading directly through your wireless carrier.
This is almost always going to be your most expensive option. Their subsidized prices, whether they be $79.99, $99.99 or $199.99 are TOO MUCH, unless you are buying an iPhone or love throwing money away. You are extending your contract for 2 years; make it as wallet friendly as possible.
2) Upgrade through an indirect agent / authorized reseller.
Your local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or TMobile stores are not the only players in town. Take advantage of the lower prices offered by an Authorized Reseller for their carriers.
The best deals to be had are online. Check out Amazon.com or Wirefly.com for your cell phone upgrades. Your contract will still be extended by two years, but the savings will make you a very happy shopper. As a point of reference, Wirefly.com was selling the new Samsung Fascinate, Android powered phone, for Verizon at an unheard of $9.99 with a new two year agreement or qualified upgrade. Verizon was selling this phone directly for $199.99. Wirefly.com and Amazon are authorized to sell for all 4 major carriers.
3) Let’s say you lost your phone or are not able to make a qualified upgrade
You can purchase a really nice used smartphone on eBay for about $150. Deals that I’ve spotted recently include the HTC Droid Eris or Palm Pre Plus for Verizon selling for roughly $160 in very good condition. Make sure you purchase from a reputable seller.
4) Special note for AT&T (and also T-Mobile) customers. If you are not eligible for an upgrade or want to buy a phone without a contract…
You can buy an iPhone 3G on eBay for under $200. The iPhone 3G is the model that was released in 2008; however chances are that you can find a very functional model that is UNLOCKED. This means you can use it very cheaply on your travels overseas. iPhones sold by AT&T do not offer you this option. You can also buy a new unlocked iPhone 3gs from Apple in Canada for $599.
If you are looking for another great phone that you can use with your AT&T (or T-Mobile) service that does not require a contract, consider buying a new Nokia E72 direct from the manufacturer. It is a beautiful phone, totally unlocked and ready for your overseas travel.