Sep 12 2010

Are smartphones worth the cost to you?


I came across this post explaining what smartphones can really cost you, and it points not only to the initial cost of the phone, but how much higher your bill will be simply for having a smartphone and the associated data plan.

The article states that for AT&T, the minimum data + talk plan is $55/month for the basics, and up to $115/month for a larger plan.

It can add up to $1,320 to $2,760 for the two-year contract. Yikes.

And that’s per person, so if you and your spouse each have a smartphone then expect higher costs.

We don’t think we need smartphones in our house. We have basic cell phones and the lowest amount of minutes on a family plan. With tax and discounts, our bill is about $65/month. We don’t have texting plans, so we pay $0.20 for each message sent or received (which isn’t frequent).

We don’t have a landline because we just don’t think we need one.

But. Smartphones and all the apps you can get with iPhones and the like are so much fun! So we compromised and we each have a used iPod Touch. We have free wi-fi access in our apartment and whenever we’re out in public where there is free wi-fi. WAY cheaper than the iPhone would have cost us in the long run.

There are times when it would be nice to be able to connect to the internet anywhere we are, but for our needs we just can’t justify the additional expense.

I do think some people benefit from smartphones — perhaps if you use it for work or need more frequent, reliable internet access.

What do you think? Are smartphones worth the price tag?

Posted under Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

12 Responses to “Are smartphones worth the cost to you?”

  1. My husband and I only have one cell phone and we have the lowest number of minutes that we could get. It took me a little while to get used to it but now I don’t talked on the phone while driving! It is almost a challenger to see if I can get through the whole month and not use all of the minutes! By the way, it is only 200 per month!!!

  2. I have to comment in defense of my beloved Iphone. If we ever got to a point where we had to cut either our Iphones or our cable, I would honestly rather cut our cable.

    I constantly use it for work. The google maps feature on there is fabulous— it has known where I was when my GPS (may it rest in peace) has not. Also, instead of carrying around a schedule book, I use it to schedule my appointments when I’m out in the community with clients. I think it would be totally different if I worked in front of a computer all day, but I don’t, so for that reason, it has been extremely happy.

    In addition, it’s been a real lifesaver from time to time. My car broke down once, and I knew what it was, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Using his Iphone, Shawn googled how to fix that particular problem, and he had it fixed within twenty-five minutes.
    Not to mention it’s just so darn fun. It’s one splurge I absolutely don’t feel guilty about :)

  3. oh, and AT&T offers a 20% discount for the talk plan for Wishard employees, so that’s nice. AND since I use my cell phone for work purposes, I automatically get an extra $30 added to my paycheck. Not a bad deal.

  4. Yeah Shane’s company gets us a 22% discount, but our bill still seems higher than I’d like. Pfft. Whitney — that is great that your company gives you an extra bit of money for your phone! Definitely helps. With your job, I think a smartphone is a really handy idea. And even if it wasn’t, they are fun! :)

  5. Oh boy. I think smart phones DEFINITELY fall into the major luxury category. As Whitney says, I view them in the same category as cable television. Lots of people make room in their budget for them, but it’s important to remember that they are major luxuries, not necessities.

    That said, I have an iPhone. And when our contract ran out this year, I upgraded my iPhone and passed the older model to my husband. So we’re now a two smart phone house. And oh geez, is my iPhone a guilty pleasure for me.

    We have the lowest minutes plan on AT&T (550 shared minutes between the two of us). Since AT&T lowered the price on data plans from $30 to $15, adding a second smart phone data plan to our bill didn’t increase our monthly price. But we pay about twice what you pay for two cell phones ($120 a month). We don’t pay for cable or a home phone.

    I happily pay for this luxury, because the iPhone GPS is SO handy to have for someone like me who is always lost. I also find it handy to keep up with my email when I’m out. And then of course there are fun apps and the iPod functionality.

    I won’t defend it, because I totally admit how frivolous an expense it is. But I still love the dang thing.

    It is worth noting, my major beef with smart phones is the 2-year contract. With most luxuries (like cable, for instance), we evaluate our financial situation as we go along, and those luxuries are the first thing to go when things get tight. That 2-year contract locks you in. The only way out is to pay a hefty early termination fee. Right now, I’m the only one locked into a contract. My husband didn’t re-sign his since he inherited my old phone. But that contract is pretty annoying.

  6. I have the same beef as Karen. And another beef—that the Iphone doesn’t offer insurance. So for people like me who leave their phones on the back of cars only to find them smashed to smitherines in the middle of busy intersections, well, we’re just SOL—and irresponsible.

    I lied in my last post. I indeed consider it a totally guilty, and frivolous pleasure. If I had to, I could get around at work. I could use google maps before I go out in the community. I could carry around a scheduler. Sometimes I forget how frivolous it really is and that *gasp* it isn’t a necessity. So again, I agree with Karen, it’s very important to remind yourself of that.

    We make room for it, though, I’m not sure if we will forever. But for now, it’s justified. Or at least rationalized on my part, until it’s justified :)

  7. Ugh. I hate that there’s no insurance! Because seriously, you pay $200 for the thing with a contract. Buying one out of contract is more like $600.

    Since my husband is using my old phone and he hasn’t re-signed his contract, we have a bit of a safety net (somewhat). If something happens to one of our phones, we can get a new one at the $100-$200 contract price. But yeah, after that, we’d be SOL.

    My first iPhone made it two years, and it’s still in excellent condition. So hopefully I can keep up that track record. (Knock on wood.)

    Oh, and I’d like to add how handy a smartphone is when you’re traveling! Even if you’re not that far from home. So many times we’ve found certain restaurants or things to do by doing a search on the iPhone. Tonight we were an hour from home, and I had a craving for sushi. I did a quick search and found a place with reasonable prices and great reviews. Definitely not a necessity in life by any means, but it sure is nice to have! But I guess that’s the kinda the point of luxuries — you pay extra to make things a little more convenient for yourself! It all depends on whether the convenience is worth the hefty price tag!

  8. Oh, totally with you guys on this one. It’s definitely classified as a luxury, but I’d say it’s at least a very useful luxury (and certainly better than those like cable TV, which I ditched years ago!).

    I forgot just how wonderful having a data’d phone was bc I couldn’t figure out how to sign up for the plan in China. Now, I have one again! I haven’t gotten lost once yet because of my iPhone — its biggest perk for me! And as an editor/reporter, Internet-accessible phones are priceless if you happen to be somewhere when big news breaks (of course, this is why the company should be pay, or at least subsidizing, our phone bills).

    Another handy feature worth the costs is the Skype app. If you have a data plan (or if you’re on wi-fi), you can make calls anytime using the app to anywhere in the world, and it’s free if you’re calling Skype-to-Skype or have a subscription, and much cheaper for making international calls than traditional cell phone charges!

  9. I miss, miss, miss my smart phone! I got rid of it after I quit working because I couldn’t justify the $20/mo extra for the data plan when am home most of the time. Definitely a luxury, but high on the list of things I’d add back if/when I get extra money. I miss it most when I’m traveling and don’t have ready access to the internet.

    We got rid of our cell phones one time and just had a landline, and that was an interesting experience. Then we shared a cell phone for a looong time. To be honest, the biggest reason that we now each have a cell phone was because it confused people so much. Paul would get left out of a lot of things because no one seemed to understand that I could pass on messages. And plans are so fluid, when we didn’t have a cell at all, people didn’t really get the concept that “call me when you’re ready to leave” doesn’t really work as well when one doesn’t have a cell phone. Times, they have a-changed!

  10. Totally agree with the previous posters!! A major luxury that really comes in handy sometimes. It’s expensive but we don’t have cable or a home phone and we can afford it. I lowered my data plan recently but Tim can’t because he uses it w/out wifi all the time. But since we did that and dropped our home phone we are saving about $40. I would rather have my iphone than cable, words with friends is just too much fun! :)

  11. Smartphones are lovely, but I can’t justify the expense. Especially since Tim and I are almost always right by a computer anyway.

    They’re very attractive, but at $30+ per month just for the data plan, that would be wildly expensive for Tim and I. I’m sure we’d end up using them. But I see a difference between what we’d use once we got it and what we actually need.

  12. When you add up the prices for a 2-year contract, that’s a ton of $$! I think that smartphones are very reliable and useful for the people that really need them for work, that travel a lot and need to stay connected. For the average person with internet access at home, its probably a luxury (a very cool one!). Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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