Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Do I Have to Buy My Phone From i wireless?

No. As long as your phone operates on GSM 1900 MHz and is not locked to another carrier, you can use it with i wireless service. While the network engineers don't like the idea of a bunch of untested phones running around on the network, the finance folks would love it if every customer went out and bought their handset and service separately. If you are reading this blog, you are probably well-informed enough to know that carriers sell handsets to their customers below cost to draw them in and sign them to an extended contract (usually two years).

So, if you prefer to save some money, go ahead an sign that one- or two-year contract, but if you prefer to have a broader choice of the handset you are going to use for the next year or two, you might want to explore your options. Many people go the eBay route, but when it comes to phones, there are a number of variables that could go wrong, and I'd prefer to know exactly what I am getting. Thankfully, many of the handset manufacturers are now selling direct to consumers via their websites. Check it out:

Motorola offers a limited selection of their GSM handset line-up for sale on their website unlocked. Sometimes they have some pretty good pricing there -- even relative to what carriers pay. There are some unique offerings there as well. Right now you can buy the gold MOTORAZR V3i DOLCE & GABBANA for $399.
http://motorola.digitalriver.com/store/motostor/DisplayCategoryListPage/categoryID.3104200

Nokia offers a much broader selection of phone models on their website, but they tend to be the more expensive phones that they can't get carriers to carry. Right now they have 11 phone models for sale without service, and seven of them are priced above $300.
http://www.nokiausa.com/phones/comparephones

Sony Ericsson's selection is closer to Motorola's (six phones), but they don't currently offer any of their inexpensive models online. The least expensive phone when I checked a few minutes ago was the W300i at $249...but it does include a "free" FM music transmitter.
http://shopwireless.sonyericsson.com/buy/products/cat/66

Samsung has an extremely close affiliation with the larger wireless carriers. They offer very little support to the rural carriers or their customers. It looks like they are starting to experiment with selling direct to consumers. They only have one model for sale that has not been programmed for another carrier, but it's a doozie...the Samsung Black Carbon™:
http://www.samsung.com/Products/MobilePhones/Globalphones/SGH_D900ZKAUSA.asp

Please note that I have not purchased any phones from any of these websites, but I don't think you can go wrong in buying direct from the manufacturers. If anyone has any experience (good or bad) buying phones from these websites, please leave a comment below.
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