Monday, June 18, 2007

How to get an iPhone for $99 without getting friend referrals or signing up for 2,123 offers.



At the end of this post I will explain to you how you can save $300-$400 on an iPhone. If that's all you care about, start scrolling.

I want an effing iPhone so badly that I have become completely irrational about it. I am emotionally committed to a gadget I have never seen in person. I don't know anybody that has seen it, and chances are it will barely even function where I live. (no AT&T in Montana)

$599 for the 8GB model doesn't even make me flinch. I typically have buyer's remorse after any purchase over $40 (even dinner) and I am ready to shell out $600 for a product that I really don't know anything about at this point. (other than what the almighty Steve Jobs has told us)

Financial analysts seem to think I'm not alone. Equity research analyst Mike McCormack has estimated that nearly 1 million customers will leave their cellular provider in order to get an iPhone with AT&T wireless (the wireless company formerly known as Cingular). Research and investment firm PiperJaffray has predicted iPhone's yearly sales to grow into a 45 million unit per year business by 2009. And in their 13th biannual study of teen shopping behavior and brand preferences, PiperJaffray found that 84 percent of the students surveyed had heard of Apple's iPhone and 25 percent said they would pay $500 for the iPhone.

So what is so great about the iPhone? Who cares. It's an iPhone, it's made by Apple. It has really cool marketing and they are releasing it at 6pm (local time) on a Friday night so you can show up at your favorite watering hole with your semi-charged iPhone.

Seriously though... the lack of GPS or 3G doesn't bother me. The iPhone could run on diesel fuel and I wouldn't hesitate. Whatever Apple decided is fine with me. After all, I have been listening to Steve Jobs since I was a kid. Everything he has told me to buy has made me happy and cool. (and my friends jealous- at least until they bought their own)

Some of you may remember that the other contributor to this blog is not an apple user. Yes, he says he's a "PC guy". Well, except for his iPod he's a PC guy. Earlier this year Apple dropped "computer" from its name. Apple is a consumer electronics company and most "PC guys" and girls I know are "Apple" users in one way or another. (ipod, itunes, or an apple computer)

Matt is probably calling himself a PC guy because he is smart And it turns out the most famous PC Guy is extremely smart. (and not-surprisingly a "mac guy") In fact, the "PC Guy" kinda sorta has ties to the name of our blog. (in a round-about kinda sorta way) He is a contributor to McSweeneys.net.




Anyway, smart guys like Matt are not going to line up on June 29th to buy an iPhone. They don't make emotional commitments to buy things without ever reading a review or trying one out first. However, guys like me... well, we do. And like anything, there is a smart way to do it, and a not so smart way.

I am going to keep you all updated on my iPhone purchase from now until I have used the product for a few months (and reviewed it on this blog). I know you are thinking there is nothing to report right now, as I can't purchase one until June 29th.... however, the process has already begun. There are several obstacles I must overcome to get an iPhone, and I'm going to tell explain to you how I do it.

Obstacle #1: I live in BFE and AT&T does not provide service here



Because Montana does not have AT&T service, I am living in the state that Apple forgot. Montana is CDMA territory and Verizon has a pretty good hold on the cellular business around these parts. Fortunately, there is a company that is changing all of that. Chinook Wireless has been building a GSM network that will allow AT&T customers to roam in Montana. (or Montanan's to buy Chinook Wireless service- without the iPhone)

So if I can get AT&T service using an out-of-state address I can roam in Montana. Unfortunately the AT&T coverage map shows that while they have roaming coverage in Montana, the "EDGE" network (high speed network) does not work in Montana. I can only hope this is not true as I know Chinook's GSM network is an EDGE network, although it may be that AT&T customers don't have access to the EDGE capabilities while roaming.

Obstacle #2 - Out of state phone number

With an out-of-state address listed as my primary use location, I will be stuck with an out-of-state phone number. This wouldn't matter except that my place of employment would probably question my logic. They pay for my cell phone, and I highly doubt they would want to pay for me to have a long distance phone number. (and business cards printed up with a California number)

This is where VOIP comes in. I can port my current local # to Vonage and then set up Vonage to forward all calls to my new California #. I have to sign up for Vonage service (at $25/month) and then forwarding and long distance is free. That way my clients/friends/etc. can call my current local Verizon # and they will actually be calling my future AT&T California #.

Obstacle #3 - No contract/upgrade discount on the iPhone (how to save hundreds of $$$)

$599 with a 2 year service agreement. You know how when you sign up for a 2 year contract you typically get a huge discount on your phone? Yeah, well not with the iPhone. AT&T is selling it at full retail price, so that 2 year contract gets you nothing. Customers who qualify for an upgrade and customers who don't will all pay the same exact price.

So if you are planning on purchasing an iPhone, and you either qualify for an AT&T upgrade or you will be a new AT&T customer, you must take advantage of their discounts. Most of their phones are offered at significant discounts with a 2 year contract, and this can be transferred to the iPhone.

All you do is purchase a phone, like the Blackberry Curve ($99 with a new contract through Amazon) and sell it on Ebay "new in box". You can then apply your $300-$400 profit towards the iPhone. So if you profit $400, and you buy the $499 iPhone... that's an iPhone for the low price of $99!

I ordered my Curve and new AT&T service yesterday and I expect it to arrive on Wednesday. I'll keep you posted on how things go and what my final cost is for my 8GB iPhone.

17 comments:

Matt said...

All of us have things that they are super irrational about in our lives. The only question is whether we're honest enough with ourselves and others to admit (as you are.) Great post- hilarious. How lame is it of me to praise a blog I'm part of in the comments? Hopefully not inexcusably lame.

nate said...

With anyone else I would have a myriad of questions, like "how is this going to make you happy" or "why does starting a new at&t contract and a vonage contract make any sense at all to get a new phone" or "why hasn't any other major wireless company come to montana by now? They have almost the population of 6 blocks of New York" or "how many people do you have to leave dead in your wake to get this new paragon of technology" but with you this is not only a regular monday, it is a much simpler plan than I expected you to cook up. Its nothing if not creative and if anyone can pull it off it is definitely you Sharington.

Anonymous said...

I specifically was looking for someone to tell me how to get this phone to work in Billings, and I googled you. I am totally prepared to take the whole package plunge but want to know if you find it worked. Also, help me understand, please: couldn't you just keep your Verizon phone number and forward it to the new phone number? Of course, that would cost more than your plan, I suppose, but wouldn't it work? I am on the family plan with Verizon, and it would make little difference to me. It would also be nice to have backup in Montana while traveling. But I certainly can identify with your iPhone disorder. We own a marketing firm and have seven Macs. We will pretty much purchase anything Apple. Thanks for the help. Dana

John said...

Dana,

The iPhone will work in Montana while roaming on Chinook, however, I do not think it will roam on the 2.5G (edge) network that Chinook has. Therefore, the data speeds will be very slow. I am not too concerned as most places I spend any time have WiFi and I understand the iPhone is very good at hopping on those networks when available.

I will keep you posted on how it works when I pick it up tomorrow in Idaho. I do have my new AT&T phone and have been using it for a week now. It works well in Missoula, although the Verizon backup phone isn't a bad idea if you have a family plan anyway. You can certainly forward your calls to your iPhone. (I am doing that right now with my Verizon phone)

John said...

iPhone is amazing and working well in Montana. More to come soon!

Spencer said...

I've been planning to do much the same, though I hadn't thought of signing up for the free phone and selling it. Great idea! Question: are you the same johnsharrington on appleinsider.com and who wrote the Helena independent article? Did you AT&T phone ship to the California address? One more question too: Do you think it wise to transfer my verizon number to AT&T straightaway and then use iTunes to transfer it to my iPhone? Hope all is still going well today with your iPhone. Thank you for all your effort into this project!

John said...

Spencer,

I am also Johnsharrington on appleinsider. But no, I do not write for the Helena Independent. I did see that there is a John Harrington there, I hope he's good. (don't want him tarnishing our good name.. haha)

I was able to have my new AT&T phone shipped directly to my Montana Address. The "primary use" address you give them is only used to assign a phone number, you don't have to use it for anything else. (your billing address can be anywhere you want)

"Do you think it wise to transfer my verizon number to AT&T straightaway and then use iTunes to transfer it to my iPhone?"

Unfortunately if you live in Montana you cannot transfer your Verizon number directly to AT&T. That is why I ported my number to a Vonage line. (and now forward from there) You will have to sign up for a new number with AT&T that is inside the AT&T service area. (I got one from Los Angeles- 310)

My iPhone continues to amaze me and all things are good thus far. I am going to post a more in depth review on this site soon. I will be sure to address using it in the Big Sky Country.

Thanks for your post, I hope I can help out.

John

Paul said...

I also live in Montana and really want an iPhone.

I recently went to out of state Apple and AT&T stores to see if it was possible. The rep at AT&T did say that it would be possible to get the phone and a non-Montana number, but said that if a person has more than 50% usage on a non AT&T network for a 3 month time span that they would cancel the contract as they would be loosing money.

Did your research reveal anything like this?
Was he just discouraging me from getting it will not make AT&T $?

Anonymous said...

How have things been going with the iPhone usage in Montana? There have been no recent posts. Did you ever get the VOIP forward to work?

John said...

So sorry I've been MIA. I've been so busy playing with my new phone I forgot to post. J/k, the 100 degree temps have forced me to spend my free time at the lake.

Paul, I did read that in the AT&T contract. I believe it is a possibility that they could cancel my contract. I suppose I won't know for 3 months, although I do know people who have been here longer than that without having their AT&T contract cancelled.

I will be sure to keep you posted. I am impressed that the rep at AT&T even knew about that clause in the contract. They typically don't know anything about... well, anything.

I was finally able to transfer my number to VOIP from Verizon. It was a major pain and Vonage has the worst customer service I have ever dealt with. It is unbelievable that they still have customers. Anyway, I hope to write more about that soon.

I had to port my number to a land line (Qwest) then to Vonage from there. Vonage was unable to port directly from my cell phone, even though they had previously told me they could.

The iPhone is working well, although service is not as good as Verizon was. Calls are sometimes dropped and the internet speeds vary when using the Edge network. (sometimes painfully slow) The WiFi is amazing though. Last night I hopped on the Missoula Osprey WiFi network while I was at the baseball game. I was able to bring up live stats off their website. (and check on my fantasy team as well)

Anyway, I am hoping to write a post about my iPhone experience soon. Feel free to keep the questions coming.

Paul said...

How is the iPhone going? Has AT&T given you grief about it? It has been a few months and I am wondering if it is still working. Also have you considered some of the unlock hacks that have been going around.

Thanks

John said...

Paul,

I sincerely apologize for the lack of attention I have given to this post.

I moved to Los Angeles on October 1st. After 3 months of straight roaming in MT, I did not get any complaints from AT&T (or warnings). I understand that 3 months is typically the grace period, so unfortunately my test was not quite long enough to give you affirmation that AT&T won't stop your service.

I am now using my iPhone in Los Angeles and it works great. The network is still slow, but quite a bit faster than Montana. The Youtube application works surprisingly well without wifi here in Los Angeles. However, AT&T service is spotty in this vast city. It's pretty incredible that there is even a single square foot in this city that isn't serviced, let alone the 200 square feet in my apartment without service.

There are 15 million people in this urban area, and I would estimate at least 45 million phones. (slight exaggeration) It is just mind boggling that service is not better.

I saw on Appleinsider.com the other day that Apple will be selling unlocked iPhones in parts of Europe due to gov't regulations banning locked phones. I am curious to see what that means for those of you in Montana who want to roam on Chinook.

John

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Anonymous said...

So were you ever able to sell the Curve and get the iPhone with the same/similar plan? Was changing the plans difficult? I was thinking about doing something similar but thought AT&T plans were different with the iPhone then other phones...

John said...

Yes, I was able to get a discounted AT&T phone through Amazon, sell it, and use the proceeds towards my iPhone. The transition is simple and they will be happy you are upgrading to an iPhone.

I actually assisted a friend this past month in the same process. He purchased a Curve on Amazon and sold it over Craigslist. (you could use ebay like I did as well) He got his iPhone for less than $100 in the end. (sold the curve for around $300- and it is possible to get more on Ebay)

Anonymous said...

Great, thanks for the help, definitely going to do next week -- one last question: was there any time lag from buying the Curve then activating the iPhone? I was hoping to sign up for the 2-year agreement with the Curve, go home and activate my iPhone. Do I need to wait a couple of days or can I do it within a few hours of each other?

John said...

I don't think there is any lag whatsoever. It seems as though you could switch within minutes.