Listed below are one of the best trade-in offers from AT&T, Verizon, T-Cell

If you’ve gone without buying a smartphone so far, Tuesday’s Apple announcements provide a simple price list: the iPhone 13 mini starts at $ 699, the iPhone 13 starts at $ 799, and the iPhone 13 Pro starts at $ 999. And the iPhone 13 Pro Max at $ 1,099.

For everyone else, the trade-in deals announced by the wireless service providers on Tuesday afternoon make one think about a cloud of cost probabilities.

For example, consider what you’d pay for an iPhone 13 if you were to trade in a two-year-old iPhone 11 at Apple and then claim each vendor’s incentive:

  • At AT&T, you get the new phone for free, in the sense that installment payments will show up as zero on your bill for the next 36 months.
  • At T-Mobile, you’d pay $ 259 after receiving $ 340 in Apple credit and then $ 200 in billing credit for the $ 70 Magenta plan. When you sign up for T-Mobile’s souped-up Magenta Max for $ 85, that billing balance increases to $ 500.
  • With Verizon, you pay $ 98.88 as $ 4.12 in monthly installments for 24 months.

Since these deals – which also cover the trade in many older iPhones and Android phones – are structured as installment payment plans with fixed terms, they can bind you to your wireless provider like the two-year contracts that the wireless service providers once imposed.

“It’s no different from previous deals,” said Carolina Milanesi, president and chief analyst of Creative Strategies.

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At AT&T and T-Mobile in particular, phones that receive these discounts remain tied to these mobile phone providers until you complete the term or pay the remaining balance. (Verizon unlocks phones after 60 days, even if installments are due.) Until then, you cannot switch to another provider or insert a prepaid SIM for temporary use.

Mark Vena, Senior Director, Smart Home Research Practice, Parks Associates, found that this risk of lock-in is higher with the discounted cellular services that cable operators like Comcast are now offering – combined with cable broadband services that are not available nationwide.

“If you move to another region that doesn’t have this cable company, it probably isn’t a great customer experience having to pay off this phone,” he warned.

In the meantime, Apple is offering installment plans for new iPhones that keep the phones unlocked, as well as their own trade-in discounts. Milanesi said: “Sometimes you get a little less money, but it can be a little more peace of mind.”

But for subscribers who are happy with their cellular service, the carrier deals now seem unusually generous.

“AT&T is literally giving it away: the iPhone 13 Pro is free and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is only $ 100,” wrote Avi Greengart, president and senior analyst at Techsponential, via email. He attributed AT & T’s thirst to the Dallas company that needs to sustain subscriber numbers as they break free from such expensive and unfortunate media deals as buying Time Warner in 2018.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is promoting a “Forever Upgrade” deal that promises up to $ 800 in credit for a new iPhone every two years. However, this requires Magenta Max, which equates to an annual premium of $ 180 for a single line over Magenta for bonus features such as 40 GB of mobile hotspot usage.

In the meantime, buyers who aren’t hooked on owning the latest model should keep in mind that last year’s iPhone 12 got $ 100 cheaper.

Jeffrey Moore, director at Wave7 Research, suggested that the new features of the iPhone 13 may not outweigh the savings for non-technophiles: “The battery, processor and camera are modestly better, but I think most consumers will get better Be your turn to buy an iPhone 12 at a lower price of $ 100. “

Rob Pegoraro is a Washington, DC technical writer. To submit a technical question, email Rob at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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