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Buying a Smartphone in 2017

When it comes time to buy a new smartphone, the options can be dizzying. For many people, the decision is even more difficult because the need for a new phone occurs suddenly: a hardware failure or cracked screen is often the impetus for purchase. While some people have $700 to $1,000 lying around to pick up the latest Apple offering any time the mood strikes, they are the exception to the rule.

Ditch Carrier Financing and the Latest and Greatest

The salespeople at your carrier’s local outlet will be quick to suggest the latest and greatest phones. They come with a hefty price tag, but the sales associate will be happy to sign you up for a financing plan that spreads out the cost over many months. That’s not a bad deal to pocket a technological marvel that looks and feels like a portal to the future, right

Hold the phone. With exploding batteries, missing headphone jacks and bootloop issues plaguing even the most high-end devices, you might want to reconsider before locking yourself into a contract. If your phone breaks, you’ll be unhappy about making payments on a device you’re not using. Don’t trust phone insurance to protect you from such a situation either. In order for a policy to replace your phone, you’ll generally pay a three-digit deductible on top of the monthly premiums. Even then, you’ll be getting a refurbished device that has a chance of failing. You’re better off just buying a new phone.

Go Cheap

Here’s a secret: Last year’s midrange phones work just as well for texting, emailing, calling and browsing the internet. Don’t worry about poor screen quality either; a 720p HD screen can now be had on a $150 device. Unless your cornea is touching the glass, you won’t see any pixelation. Admittedly, the cameras on budget phones aren’t quite on par with flagships, but only serious shutterbugs will notice (and they probably have a real camera, anyway).

Buy Direct

Here’s another secret: Telecom customer service recognizes only two kinds of customers: those who have the leverage of potentially switching to another carrier, and those who don’t. When you buy direct from a manufacturer, you get an unlocked phone. An unlocked phone will usually work on any carrier. If you’ve ever been on hold for three hours with your current carrier and are ready to kick them to the curb, you can see the value here.

Finding the Right Model

People are crazy about smartphones. For just about any given handset from a major manufacturer, you can easily find five different reviews. However, most reviews happen right at the release of the phone. They’ll tell you how nice it looks and how it works right out of the box, and that’s all. But it’s more important to know how the device holds up over time. Search for reviews of your candidates from a reviewer who used it daily for three to six months.

Security Concerns?

Unless you work for the National Security Agency, it’s unlikely that you’ll be targeted for the sophisticated exploits that monthly OS updates patch. In fact, most security experts would agree that your phone’s biggest security weakness is you.

In general, these are the best smartphone security practices for the average person:

  • Don’t do your banking on public WiFi.
  • Use different, memorized passwords for all your accounts.
  • Don’t download any email attachments you don’t recognize or apps with broken English in the description.

Do all these things, and you’ll be fine.

Buying a budget smartphone may not be as exciting as buying the latest version of the greatest phone, but the money you save will last much longer than the fleeting thrill of an impulse buy.

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