Best Way To Buy An iPhone: Contract, Outright, Refurbished?

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If you’re looking to buy a new iPhone, you have multiple ways of getting one – buying outright, going on a contract, or picking up a refurbished one. So which is best? Let’s investigate…


#1) Buy iPhone Outright – No Contracts, No Messing Around…

iPhones aren’t cheap. You’re looking at $699 minimum for the iPhone 11 and $1200+ for the top of the line iPhone 11 Pro Max. Therefore, buying outright, at least for the last majority of people, will simply not be possible. Most people – myself included – don’t have a cool thousand bucks just laying around. But this doesn’t mean you CAN’T buy an iPhone outright.

Best Buy now runs a finance program where you can spread the cost of a new iPhone – or any product from its store, for that matter – over the course of 18-24 months. Just browsing around the options, I realized that you could pick up the new iPhone 11 for as little as $25 a month – with 0% APR for the first 24 months!

That is manageable for most, especially when you consider the main benefit of buying a phone outright: cheaper data and calls!

Best Way To Buy An iPhone
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When you buy outright, you can pick and choose which carrier you go with. You’re not locked into lengthy agreements, meaning you can move to another provider if they offer a better deal, and this means your monthly data/calls costs will be significantly lower. For instance, say you’re with Verizon but T-Mobile starts doing truly unlimited data for 40% less. Normally, you’d have to wait for your contract to end. Not for you though; you’re free to switch as soon as a better deal comes along.

MORE: The #1 Best SIM-Only Deals Right Now (UK & USA)…

If you want unlimited data, the freedom to move whenever the mood takes you, and lower monthly costs for running your phone, buying an iPhone outright is 100% the way to go – and Best Buy’s 0% APR finance is a very good offer. As with cars, it’s slightly more cash-intensive than leasing but you’re the owner of the phone at the end and, providing you keep it in good knick, you’ll be able to sell it for around 70% of its original value and then use this money to buy a new iPhone. Simple, right?

PROS:

  • You get a 100% unlocked iPhone; this makes reselling A LOT easier
  • Freedom to shop around for the best SIM-only deals
  • Cheaper monthly costs for data and calls
  • You can sell the phone whenever you like, so long as the payments are complete
  • You can spread the cost of the phone using finance and/or a credit card
  • Example: Apples’ finance runs from as little as $25 a month for the iPhone 11

CONS:

  • You’ll need either cash or credit to do it
  • If you go the finance route, you’ll have to be approved first

#2) Buying iPhone on Contract

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Buying an iPhone on contract via a carrier is perhaps the most common method of getting one. Millions of people get new iPhones on contract plans with carriers every year. And the reason? For many, it is the most cash-efficient method of getting a new phone every couple of years, especially if you’ve been with your carrier for multiple years and are happy with the service and support you’re getting.

If you’re happy with your current carrier and you know what iPhone you want, you’re pretty much good to go. When your current contract is up, simply navigate to your carrier’s sales page and upgrade your plan and get yourself a new phone. Alternatively, you could shop around for better offers from other carriers – there’s always LOADS.

The upside of buying an iPhone this way is simplicity: you know how it works, you know how much it costs, and you know how much data/calls you have. The downside is that buying an iPhone this way usually costs more – you’re paying for the phone AND the data and calls – and you’re locked into a binding contract for the next 18 to 24 months.

And the iPhone will be locked to your carrier’s network too, meaning when the time comes to sell it, you will only be able to sell it to someone that is happy to use the network you were on. The contract route might be the path of least resistance, but it does come with a fair few downsides – the two most notable being overall cost and the inability to move to another network.

PROS:

  • You get the phone you want on a plan with agreed data limits
  • You can get unlimited data plans
  • You don’t have to fund $699+ to get a new phone
  • Access to carrier’s customer support
  • You can sell the phone at the end of your agreement, but it will be locked to your carrier’s network

CONS:

  • You’re trapped for 18-24 months on a plan
  • You pay for both the phone AND data – and neither is cheap!
  • The iPhone will be locked to the carrier, making it harder to sell once your plan has concluded
  • Monthly costs are usually higher compared to buying outright and going the SIM-only plan route

#3) Buying A Refurbished iPhone – The Cheapest Method

Best Way To Buy An iPhone
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If you want to get super-savvy, there is a third way to buy iPhones: refurbished! And it really is a very underrated method. Why? Simple: it’s cheaper than buying a new phone outright and comes with all the benefits of owning a phone and not being locked into a contract. You get the best of both worlds, effectively, owning the phone outright and having the ability to shop around for the best SIM-only deal.

But that’s not even the coolest thing; no, the coolest thing is the cost of the iPhone. When you buy a refurbished iPhone, you’ll pay 40% less than the normal RRP. And when you’re talking about high-end, three-figure numbers, 40% is a pretty big chunk of savings. The newer the refurbished phone, the higher the price, so my advice, if you want to go this route, would be to get an older model – the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, or iPhone X.

MORE: The #1 Best Place To Buy Refurbished iPhones In The USA…

If you don’t really need the latest and greatest iPhone (spoiler: no one does, really), then using a 12-24-month-old model, like the iPhone X or iPhone XR, is a sure-fire way to save yourself a TON of money, while still getting excellent performance and support across the board. The iPhone 11 is a great device, but the difference between it and the iPhone X and iPhone XR isn’t as much as you’d think…

For 99.9% of users, the iPhone X and/or iPhone XR will be more than adequate. Apple builds its phones to last, so it doesn’t matter that you’re using a slightly older model. They still perform great and will get iOS updates well into the mid-2020s. For me, buying refurbished iPhones is one of the most underrated methods for securing yourself a new iPhone. Sure, the phone isn’t brand new. But who cares!? It’s 40% cheaper and, for all intents and purposes, it looks and feels just like a new phone. And for me, that’s all that really matters…

PROS:

  • 40% cheaper than buying “new” iPhone
  • The phones look and perform as good as new ones
  • You can buy unlocked refurbished iPhones
  • Ability to shop around for the best SIM-only deal
  • No contracts, no ties to a carrier
  • Loads of choice – from the iPhone 8 Plus up to the iPhone XS Max

CONS:

  • The phone isn’t technically new (even though it looks brand new)
  • Newer handsets (iPhone 11) are available, but they’re more expensive
  • You’ll have to be comfortable finding and setting up a new data plan

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