Money Saving Tips

10 Frugal Ways to Buy a Smartphone

10 Frugal Ways To Buy A Smartphone
Written by Oana Schneider

Can you use coupons or get discounts when buying a smartphone? This is the number one question asked by those who would like to save money when purchasing this oh-so-necessary device. In today’s tech-obsessed world, almost everyone cannot live without a smartphone because they use it for calling, texting, browsing, sending e-mail messages, taking pictures, organizing their day, and performing a whole lot of other functionalities.

If you want to do all these yet still save money when buying a smartphone, what are you supposed to do? That is exactly what we will learn more about here.

A Preview of the Sales of Smartphones in the US

Before dishing out the frugal ways to buy a smartphone, let us first take a quick look at the way that the gadget performs in the US in terms of sales. According to

  • In February 2013, 51.7% of smartphone subscribers were using a Google Android device while Apple’s popular smartphone has 38.95 of the market share.
  • Android is the most used operating system in the world, with a market share of 81.1% during the first quarter of 2014. For August 2014, Apple’s iOS had a 42% market share for the same category.
  • For 2014, the total sales value of smartphones in different parts of the world are as follows (in million US dollars):
    • 99 = China
    • 8 = North America
    • 8 = Western Europe
    • 4 = Middle East and Africa
    • 1 = Developed APAC
    • 4 = Latin America
    • 4 = Emerging APAC
    • 2 = Central and Eastern Europe

Furthermore, in an article published by Forbes entitled “The Real Cost of a Smartphone”, it shows that in the US, the average price for unlocked premium phones is $585, while carrier-locked devices can set subscribers back as much as $578. The high-end phones naturally cost more, while the average price for unlocked ‘cheap’ smartphones is $398 and carrier-locked phones are around $478.

Save Money when Buying Smartphones with these Top 10 Tips

The good thing about buying a smartphone is that you have an all-in-one device that fits the palm of your hand. Instead of carrying a separate mobile phone, digital camera, electronic organizer, calendar, watch, and MP3 player, you can simply use your smartphone. You can even use it as a more convenient substitute for your laptop or desktop computer because you can e-mail and browse the Internet using your smartphone.

So what are the top ten frugal ways for you to buy a smartphone? Take a look at the following tips:

1. Buy a smartphone directly from the manufacturer.

If you have a smartphone brand that you’re particularly loyal to, you might save money by purchasing a unit directly from the manufacturer. An iPhone from the Apple Store or an HTC One X from their official websites are typically sold on a SIM-free basis. Although purchasing a smartphone directly from a manufacturer may look expensive at first – there are additional perks like having twice the amount of storage, getting straightforward support, being assured of returns and the trustworthiness of the brand.

2. Purchase from an online retailer.

Just like pretty much everything else under the sun, you can buy a smartphone from an online retailer. Some of the most popular and not-so-well-known, but equally trustworthy sites, are Amazon, Play, John Lewis, Clove, Expansys, and Handtec. Buying smartphones online is an excellent way to save money, especially if you have online coupons, vouchers or codes for discounts. You can go comparison shopping and online retailers usually offer cheaper prices than other sources of mobile phones. The main draw is the competition between these third-party retailers, and the fact that you can compare prices, as well as features, will help you decide which unit will give you the best value for your money, with dozens of options, to boot.

10 Frugal Ways To Buy A Smartphone

Save money on your smartphone by buying it online!

3. Get a unit from a mobile operator.

Buying directly from the manufacturer or an online retailer are only applicable if you would like to have a SIM-free handset.  However, if you want to purchase a unit while also paying for a plan, you can simply get a smartphone from a mobile operator. Most carriers offer free handsets along with their plans, although the downside is that you might be forced to agree to a lengthy two-year contract.

To save money when buying a mobile phone this way, make sure to compare the contract, price, and coverage. In the US, the “Big Four” carriers are AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. There are plenty of sources online which compares the plans typically offered by these four mobile phone carriers which you can use as reference when deciding which plan and smartphone unit to get. Aside from the Big Four, there are smaller carriers that you might also want to consider including Boost Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile.

4. Choose the right operating system for your mobile phone handling needs.

More than just saving money when buying a smartphone, you’d want to get a unit that exactly suits your needs as a mobile phone user. One of the most important things to consider for this is the right operating system. With Blackberry struggling in the market, your top three picks are Android, iOS or Windows Phone operating systems.

Google’s Android is the most popular smartphone platform which gives you many advantages. However, if you’re an Apple loyalist, you might want to go with the iOS platform. For those who would like to try something new, there’s the Windows Phone platform to consider as well.

5. Save money by not overpaying on mobile phone plans.

If you’re a texter instead of a caller, choose a mobile phone plan which includes unlimited SMS. If you frequently call your contacts, look for a plan which has plenty of minutes for your monthly usage. If you don’t use mobile browsing that much, you don’t have to pay extra for unlimited data. Remember that in order for you to have a frugal mobile phone plan, you simply need to pay for the features that you frequently use and actually need – so you don’t have to pay extra

6. Know when to get the best smartphone deals.

Apple, Samsung, Motorola and Sony phones usually introduce new smartphones during the month of September.  Just remember that carriers will usually push for you to sign two-year contracts to get the latest smartphone unit from specific manufacturers. If you wait three or six months after the latest Samsung mobile phone is released in the market, you can definitely get it at a lower price.

7. Consider an installment or a family plan.

Ask your carrier about installment plan options to save money when buying a smartphone. Most offer plans where you will pay off the value of your new device in monthly installments in exchange for a two-year contract. Just make sure that there are no activation or upgrade fees. Mobile carriers also offer family plans where the cost of each line is cheaper than individual line plans. The more family members you have, the cheaper each line becomes.

10 Frugal Ways To Buy A Smartphone

Save money on cameras by buying a cool smartphone!

8. Don’t pay for features that you do not necessarily need.

If you don’t even have an Instagram account and you do not take tons of selfies, you might want to skip on that amazing phone which has a 20-megapixel camera. To save money, skip the features that you do not necessarily use but will be paying more for in the long run. If you’re a photography buff, you wouldn’t mind paying extra for features like a mode that filters out photobombers from your images, or things like optical image stabilization.

9. Never settle for a phone with low battery life.

There’s no sense in having tons of GB of data in your mobile browsing plan if your phone’s juice will give out after barely 24 hours. To get the best value for your money, check how much juice your smartphone will provide in one charge. A good standard to look for is a smartphone with 3,000 mAh of battery life, which will give you more than 13 hours of power. The average phone lasts for six hours and forty-six minutes, so anything below that will not give you the best bang for your buck.

10. Recycle your old smartphone.

Finally, consider recycling your old smartphone. If you simply want to upgrade and the old phone that you have is still in good condition, trade it through sites like Glyde, Gazelle, NextWorth and even Manufacturers like Apple and retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Target also offer gift cards in exchange for old devices like smartphones.

This is the best way to dispose of old electronics properly while getting perks for yourself at the same time. There are also trade-in deals that you can consider agreeing to, where you can get anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on the brand of smartphone that you have.

As you can see, there are plenty of frugal ways for you to buy a smartphone. This handy piece of technology is definitely something that most people cannot live without. But just because it’s a necessity does not mean that you have to pay luxury prices for it.  With these tips, you can save money when buying a smartphone.

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About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois and was part of our team as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget and has a degree in Communications.


  • I’ve been using a dumb phone for ages and I’d like to upgrade. Good to know there are ways for me to do it for less! I do find that it’s important to pick the right plan; I’m more of a tester than a caller so that’s something I always have to factor in. I’ll definitely have to refer to this guide when the time comes.

  • I loved this article, but I’m afraid I caught it a bit too late. I recently purchased a phone online, and I would like to use my experience to expand upon your tips.

    When buying online, make sure that your seller is absolutely trustworthy before sparing any cash or credit card information. Cross reference from other websites, check reviews, and even get some personal suggestions from colleagues, coworkers and friends before forking your money over.

    I found an iPhone 6 for an absolute bargain price on an online merchants website and wasted no time giving a purchase order. However, the item was a no-show, and I was duped out of my cash. Remember, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is!

    • I’m very sorry for your loss. Did you manage to get your cash back? What was the paying method in the first place, if you don’t mind me asking?
      Because if it was, say, Paypal, you could open a dispute. I’m sure many methods of payment offer these kind of services.
      A direct bank transfer is way trickier. To add to your advice:
      Be wary of paying methods available for any online purshase you make.

  • Certain brands like iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6 give total peace of mind but come with a whopping price. The technology too is changing constantly. So I thought I’d buy something like Moto G2 that came for an earthly price. However, I’m fully happy with Moto G2 and buying it with an online site’s mobile app further gave me a discount.

  • There are an awful lot of people who choose to buy smartphones without taking the time to think about what they actually need from the deal that they’re getting. Many people purchase too many minutes, meaning that they’re paying for things that they’re not using, or too little data, meaning that their bill skyrockets once their allowance runs out part way through the month. So by taking a short while to learn about your own personal usage habits, you should find that you can negotiate a better deal that gets you exactly what you need, without anything being wasted along the way.

  • I would also suggest people look at factory reconditioned phones. These are still sold by the manufacturer so there is little chance you will be scammed or sold a phone in poor condition. I have bough several “one model behind” iPhones online that were reconditioned used phones, and never had any trouble with them. The savings are substantial!

  • Based on my observation on how my husband conducted his business of buying me a Smartphone (he lost his , lucky me :-D), he did all you advised in your article. With my 2012 Galaxy Tablet, It has lost its Google Play Services. For four-five months, it froze. I started researching and saving for a Samsung Galaxy Tablet that “suits my needs” as a busy WAHM. So, he called Samsung manufacturers (eventually after delays).

    In short, my husband (being the IT man) had it factory-reset. It’s like brand new now. I’m very pleased. My money saved is now sitting there smugly for another priority-project.

    Thanks for this excellent blog site!

  • These are some great tips. I rarely buy anything electronic brand new, because there always seem to be bugs to be worked out, and I’d rather wait until the prices come down, and the bugs have been fixed. That way, I save aggravation, as well as money. Note, if you buy a phone from an individual, or even a not so well known company, be sure to check the ESN/IMEI before buying, so you know you will be able to activate the phone, assuming you don’t simply want to use it via wifi.

  • When I was shopping for a smartphone, I was really impressed with the low prices of windows phones, but then I investigated their capabilities and found out there is a huge lack of apps for them. Specifically, there aren’t any money/gift card earning apps I could find. I besides to go with Apple because they have so many apps and are known to have the best security. Price sometimes isn’t the best way to decide what to get. For me, the benefits of paying a bit more for my phone have been very much worth it.

  • I think refurbished phones are also a great deal. Usually, when I go to Amazon, I just buy “Used/Like new phones” or refurbished ones, especially since Amazon has a “Certified Refurbished” section on their site. It’s pretty much the same with tablets and laptops. You can find really good offers in there, but you may have to settle for a brown/orange phone.

  • Thanks for the great tips! Unfortunately for me, my galaxy decided to go 20,000 leagues under my laundry and ended up getting washed, and almost dried. Fortunately I was able to get it in rice, and it worked….until I dropped it off of my friends 2nd story balcony. I wish I could turn my old phones in like you’ve suggested, but I don’t think they’d want phones in such bad conditions, seeing as that’s the only time I ever get upgrades. Regardless, I’ve never looked into buying direct from a retailer, but I think that might be something worth looking into…as soon as I get some cash!

  • I only bought a smartphone last year, I always wait as long as possible to buy these new technologies, but it was time for me to be able to access wifi everywhere from my phone. I did a lot of research and ended up with a sony Xperia. I love it and the battery life is good to. For me the best thing is to invest in a decent (maybe slightly expensive) phone and use is as long as possible.

  • I am sadly guilty of over paying for phones and other electronic devices. Recently, I have been buying my phones used from eBay or other websites. I currently have the Galaxy Note 3 and I paid $150 for it. I also bought the Note 10.1 tablet and paid $200 for it. I’m all for bargains.

  • Awesome post! Definitely some great tips and advice. Recycling your smart phone is always a great idea, especially when you can sell it for a little cash. You can also save some money by buying a used smart phone!

  • You make a great point about only paying for features that you need. I definitely make use of a good camera and texting, but I don’t necessarily need unlimited talk time. Great post!

  • Great tips and great suggestions. Thank you for sharing this! I think sometimes family plans really help out to cut costs, and you get to make everyone happy!

  • Great tips! I work online so its a must for me to have two or more working devices. I’m glad to have come across this site because phones are too expensive nowadays. Thank you!

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