You might not associate Walmart — home of rollbacks and everyday low prices — with high-tech, highly coveted smart phone technology. That’s why both the tech and frugal living worlds are all abuzz over the new Walmart iPhone plan being offered. The two big draws are:
- You don’t have to sign a service contract.
- The monthly bill is probably cheaper than you’re used to.
Before you head over to Walmart, however, here are three questions to ask yourself about their iPhone plan and your budget:
How do I feel about not having a contract?
If the answer is liberated, then you’ll feel right at home with Walmart’s StraightTalk Wireless, which is a prepaid program operated by TracFone Wireless. On the other hand, if your cellular service provider is also your cable, Internet and/or home phone provider, you could be losing out on any “bundle” savings you have by removing your cell service from the equation. Also, be sure to see when your current contract is up, or you might be stuck paying hefty cancellation fees.
Do I have a few hundred bucks to shell out?
The draw of the Walmart deal is that you’ll save money over the life of the phone service, but unlike when you sign into a contract plan and walk away with an iPhone for $200 or less, with Walmart, you have to pay full retail price for the phone up front. That means $449 for the 8GB iPhone 4 or $649 for the 16GB iPhone 5. If all you could think about is the monthly savings, don’t forget to factor in that up-front cost, as well as any interest accrued if you’re putting it on your credit card.
There is one loophole that might make a switch to Walmart a no-brainer, however. If you already have an iPhone that’s “unlocked” (meaning if it was through AT&T, T-Mobile or another domestic GSM phone not tied to a particular carrier), you can get the Straight Talk deal without having to buy a new phone (thanks to the Sun-Sentinel for pointing that out!).
Is it really cheaper?
When you think about $45 a month for unlimited data, unlimited text and unlimited voice, it’s hard to argue that it’s not the cheapest plan around. For instance, as an article in Forbes points out, it’s $69.99 for just unlimited voice from AT&T. You can add Sprint to the comparison mix, too, as the last remaining national carrier still offering unlimited data plans to new iPhone users for $79.99 per month. So is it cheaper? It seems to be, even if you add in the cost of the phone.
In short, the best thing to do is to figure out what your current phone is really costing you, if owning an iPhone is in your budget, and then see which plans make the most sense for you. Remember to factor in up-front fees and bundled savings, too.