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Billeater: How I Got a New $300 Android Phone for One Cent

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by savingtools.com)
at 9:57AM Wednesday January 12, 2011
under Money Saving Tips

I was running a little late this week, so I shot editor Stella a quick email to tell her I would be sending a post soon about the awesome cell phone buying experience I had today. I had to laugh when she responded, "'Awesome cell phone buying experience,' are not words one usually hears all strung together." She would be right, except that today I beat "the man" at his own game. I got a $300 cell phone for nothing more than one penny and an $18.00 activation fee (Take that, AT&T!).

How did I do it? Here's the scoop.
I have always joked that I couldn't upgrade my iPhone 3 to an iPhone 4 because I couldn't afford the surgery to have the former removed from my hand. Well, this weekend, tragedy struck. Mercilessly, the phone was torn from my grip in a whirlwind of busy mommying. As I turned to grab my trusty sidekick to run out the door, it wasn't there. It should have been on the coffee table, but it wasn't. After turning the house upside down, interrogating the children and torturing my husband to make him talk, I still cannot find my precious iPhone anywhere.

So what is a mother to do? Spend another $300 on another iPhone? Perish the thought!

Time to Go Droid?

I've been thinking about Android phones for a while now, so I decided to have a gander at my options. After 24 hours sans phone, my breathing had become shallow and my pulse weak. With labored strokes, I searched longingly through the AT&T website, seeking a potential Android replacement. I saw hope when the Motorola Bravo came into view. This top-rated $300 phone was discounted to $50 with a two-year agreement. It seemed like a good fit. The phone had better reviews than almost every other Android phone available. Five stars for $50 seemed perfect, until I saw the $18 fee for activation.

The Hunt for a Good Deal

I reasoned that even if my beloved iPhone turned up, I could still probably get $50 for it or the new Bravo on eBay. But $68? Probably not. Even after a chat with an AT&T representative, I could not get the $18 activation fee waived or secure a discount for being a long-time customer. With sad face but hopeful heart, I popped over here to Savings.com to look for a coupon code that I might wave in the face of the AT&T representative. Alas, it was not to be. There were no codes or coupons available for existing AT&T customers. There was a sweet deal of $75 for new customers that might interest you, but I digress.

What to Do When Your Carrier Turns You Down for a Discount

I needed a better solution. Angry with AT&T for its lack of reciprocal affection, I decided to look into another carrier. After visits to T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint, I found that no one had better coverage than AT&T did, but the T-Mobile signal strength was far better than either Verizon or Sprint.

Scrolling through the options available on the T-Mobile site, I almost gave up. The free phones were weak, the cheap phones were lame, and the even-slightly-worth-looking-at phones cost at least $99. I felt like Ralphie from A Christmas Story as he contemplated the evil collusion between his teacher and mother.

Then, as I scrolled through one dismal phone review after another, it occurred to me that I might check the Amazon reviews to see if the quality of the cheaper phones was truly as bad as it looked...and then a thought struck like lightning, "Wait a minute, doesn't Amazon sell phones? Don't they sell stuff cheap?"

Side Step the Cell Phone Carrier for a Better Deal

As it turns out, my friends, Amazon does sell phones…cheap! In fact, the site sells the same phone I wanted to buy directly from AT&T for…wait for it…one penny. I clicked through super easy options, with Amazon defaulting to the cheapest option, unlike the AT&T site that always defaulted to the most expensive. I appreciated the good will from Amazon as I completed my purchase in less than ten clicks.

As I clicked the final button to complete my purchase, the life returned to my body. I only need to hang on two more days and I'll have the precious phone. It was the same free priority shipping offered by AT&T, the same phone, the same calling plan, the same carrier, but for about $50 less. That's what I call an "awesome cell phone buying experience!"

Jessica Bosari writes for the money-saving site, Billeater.com. The site is devoted to helping people reduce expenses, save money and find great deals. Pay Billeater a visit for more money-saving tips!