Getting smart about smartphone bills
It may come as a surprise to younger readers that cellphones weren’t always able to take photos, navigate via satellite, and retrieve endless cat memes. Back in the days, a little over 20 years ago, people used their cellphones almost exclusively to make and take calls. At a pinch, they might send the odd text message. Incredible, but true!
Still, some of us of beyond a certain age occasionally look back with nostalgia on those days, especially when we open our latest, larger-than-expected smartphone bill. In these desperate moments, we may even consider ditching our smartphone for a no-frills flip phone (which, believe it or not, are still available to buy). But would such an act of rebellion actually save any money? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.
Smartphones—shouldn’t we just get rid of them?
The reason for this caution is that today’s smartphones offer so many more functions than just communicating by voice and text. For example, a separate GPS for your car is going to cost at least $70, but your phone will get you there just as efficiently. More expensive yet are cameras—and who can be bothered with a slick Canon nowadays, when their phone does just as good a job?
Then, there are all the apps that make your life easier and cheaper. Go back to a phone that doesn’t support Uber, and you’re likely to get a shock the next time you pay for a cab. Remember, too: time is money, and apps can certainly save you a lot of time. The answer to bill shock, then, appears not to be ditching your smartphone, but rather being smarter about using it.
Quick and easy ways to reduce your smartphone bill
Don’t buy the latest model
Often the biggest expense when it comes to smartphones is paying off the cost of the device itself, which is essentially a pocket-sized computer with the added capacity to make calls over the GSM network. Smartphone manufacturers rely on there being enough people willing to pay big money ($1000+) for their latest-and-greatest models. Often, these people are seduced by the idea of walking away with a “free” phone, when in fact they will be forking out more than $50 a month to pay it off for months or years to come. But smartphones have by now reached such a high standard that it is possible to buy a perfectly decent older model, or even a refurbished used phone, for much less money (under $200, in the latter case).
Why not take advantage of all those early adopters and buy one of their old phones for a bargain? Before buying any refurbished phone though, it is important to check that it has been “unlocked” and is still covered by a warranty. There are plenty of these available on Amazon.
Avoid in-app purchases, and download free apps
In-app purchases (think game coins, for example) are usually cheap, but over time they add up, and app developers count on you underestimating by just how much. Have you ever stood in front of a dollar bin, congratulating yourself on your thriftiness, only to find yourself then walking out the store with a bunch of cheap trinkets you don’t really need? More or less the same principle applies to in-app purchases, so it’s always best to disable this option. Also, you can usually find free downloadable apps that will do the job—look for these wherever possible.
Don’t “pay” for free calls and texts
This advice is a bit less straightforward. People who use their smartphone a lot to keep in contact with their friends and family, especially those abroad, may be best off with an unlimited data plan that lets them make calls and send messages over the internet using apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype. On the other hand, if you don’t otherwise use the internet much on your phone, you might be better off downgrading your data limit and sticking within your plan’s minutes and text bundles. Plus, with more and more places offering free WiFi nowadays, you can almost have the best of both worlds!