In recent years, T-Mobile has been tinkering with its business model, allowing it to steal headlines from some of its competition while at the same time occasionally undercutting them in price. Now the “Uncarrier” has a new strategy to try to capture customers who can’t afford or don’t want to pay full price for expensive phones up front.
T-Mobile recently debuted a 36-month payment plan for the new Samsung Galaxy Note 9. If you pay in a lump sum, the $999.99 phone is currently being offered for $870. If you wish to set up a monthly payment plan, T-Mobile is offering customers three years to pay the phone off.
Here’s why T-Mobile’s 36-month financing offer on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is no deal
Doing the math on the 36-month financing offer, you’ll pay $24.17 per month for 36 months if you have excellent credit (it appears that those with less than excellent credit may not qualify for this deal).
That works out to almost exactly $870.00, so it sounds like a wash, right?
There are a couple of problems, though. One is the length of time people tend to keep phones these days.
Statista’s 2017 figures show that the average smartphone user kept their device for around 22 months before upgrading. That means the majority of cellphone users will have moved on before they’ve even reached the 36-month payoff threshold. Since phones — like vehicles — are are a depreciating asset, you are likely to be “underwater” on your phone by the time you’re ready to trade it in for a newer model. In other words, you will owe more on the phone than it is worth.
A 2017 Gallup poll found that 54% of U.S. smartphone users said they’ll upgrade their phone “only when it stops working or becomes totally obsolete.” If either of these things happen before that 36-month period is up, you will be in a position similar to someone who just wants to upgrade.
The bottom line is that if you insist on owning a more expensive phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, you should make sure you’re able to pay for it up front by budgeting money for the purchase.
And if you can’t swing nearly $900 for a new phone, take heart in knowing that there are plenty of other great options out there for less than $200!