Right now, millions of people around the world are trapped in a reality distortion field brought on by the imminent release of the iPhone 6 and Apple’s drool-inspiring marketing machine.
Punters have been lining up outside Apple stores for over a week, just for the privilege of being among the first to get their hands on the new phones (which don’t go on sale until this Friday).
But amidst all the spin, hysteria, debate and tomfoolery, it’s easy to forget that these ‘must have’ items actually set you back a pretty-penny in both upfront and ongoing costs.
So before you jump on the bandwagon and blindly lock yourself into the first two-year contract you see, take the time to do a quick reality check.
The major carriers are falling over themselves at the moment to sell you a new 24-month plan, and the level of demand for the new iPhones means there are actually some pretty good deals floating around.
Virgin are leading the price war, offering the cheapest plans for both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus at $55 and $60 dollars per month respectively, as well as a number of benefits for customers coming from another network including a bonus 2GB of data and $200 to cover any break fees from your old provider.
Optus and Vodafone are slugging it out in the middle market with some mind-boggling data packages of up to 5GB included monthly, while Telstra is firmly at the top of the pile with the most expensive contracts backed up by arguably the best coverage.
Although like Virgin, Telstra are also offering $200 towards break fees, and there are some decent bonuses to be had including extra data and the option to upgrade in 12 months, too.
Basically, if you’re clear on how much you can afford to spend each month, a contract can be a reasonable way to own a phone. Just do your homework and look for the deal that best suits your budget and usage.
But if you’re the type of person who’ll get bored of their device and want to upgrade this time next year, or isn’t very good at monitoring their calls or data usage, a contract can cost you a mint in excess charges, so be careful.
Stay in control
Once you’ve picked which carrier is going to own you for the next couple of years, it’s important not to drop the ball or you’ll end up getting burnt. That $75 per month headline fee can double, triple or worse if you step outside the confines of the contract.
Most carriers have an app (or at least a text service) that will allow you to monitor your calls and data. Find out what yours offers and use it.
And if you go on holiday overseas, for Pete’s sake remember to turn-off cellular data and calls (Pete was a mate of mine who got completely stitched up forgetting to do this).
While some carriers are beginning to offer reasonable options for international roaming, most will still happily pull your wallet out through your eyeballs, so be careful.
Dealing with bill shock
Didn’t realise that those YouTube videos you were streaming over 4G in Bali weren’t included as part of your plan? Say hello to bill shock.
Before paying that sky-high bill, it’s worth calling the carrier to see if you can come to an arrangement.
If it’s the first time it’s happened and you’ve been a long-term loyal customer, claim ignorance and ask them to waive the charges. For people out of contract, threaten to switch providers.
Cry, scream, and call a few times to speak with different people. You never know.
But if you never want to deal with bill shock, ever, maybe this next option is for you…
For savvy savers with a bit of spare cash in the bank, there’s always the option of buying an unlocked phone outright and a prepaid SIM card.
The main benefit is you’re not locked in to a long-term contract, so when that iPhone 6S is released in 11 months and counting, you can chuck your thousand-dollar paperweight on Gumtree.com.au and get back in line.
Prepaid contracts are also much cheaper as you’re not paying for the phone.
But depending on the model you want, buying a new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus outright will set you back anywhere from $869 to $1,249, so you’ll pay a pretty hefty price for freedom.