Actually, I'm pretty certain you could do this for under $200, but it would depend on your Kijiji/Craigslist skills.
Anyhow, Robin has been fishing for an iPhone for a little while now. There are real reasons why it makes sense for her/our life; texting seems to be something that isn't going away, a phone that takes pictures is handy for a blogger and we are already knee deep in Apple stuff anyhow, so App Store purchases would transfer over for free.
|Checking the weather while on the road could be useful. I guess.|
I decided to get her one for Christmas. My goal was to make it easily reproducible for anyone else out there looking to Smart Phone up their life. The actual steps are pretty easy, but to get to them, you'll have to sit through a rant... or skim to the bolded headings to the steps. At least humour me and pretend you read the rant. Either way, read on.
Step 1 - The Rant.
I know what you are thinking - I can get an iPhone for much less than $250. I can get one for free (in some cases) with a contract from any number of cellular providers. My problem with these deals is the that they are not deals.
To get your Free phone, you need to commit to a 3 year contract. If you take the difference between the cheapest contract I could find ($50/month) and compare it to similar pay-as-you go options ($25-30/month) and then multiply it by 3 years ($20 savings X 12 months X 3 years) your Free iPhone 4 will cost you $720. And if I wanted an iPhone 5? Add at least another $80 to that price.
And, if you are really only an occasional texter/browser/phoner? You can do even better than the $25/month plan. Rant over.
|This How-To requires exactly 1 tool - a paperclip to pop out your SIM card tray|
Step 2- Find a cheap iPhone 3GS from either Rogers (for 7-11 plan) or "Unlocked" for others.
The 3GS is still supported by the current iOS 6 update (as of February 2013 - iOS 6.0.1), meaning it will support virtually all current (and near-future) Apps. The 3GS also has a compatible SIM card size with cheap Pay-as-You-Go providers. If all that is gibberish, just look for the words "Unlocked" when shopping on Kijiji or Craigslist. This means you can shop plans and find the best one for you.
|Pop the SIM tray out with your amazing phone tool (paper clip)|
I didn't do this, but if you buy an Iphone 4 or 5, you will have to cut the SIM Card down. There are cool tools for this, or this handy printable. Sharpen up your kitchen knife and make yourself a frugal SIM card. Seriously. The geek in me wants to try this just to say I did it.
Step 3 - Find a Plan
Find a plan from a provider that sells SIM cards on their own (ie - you don't have to buy a phone from them). The best monthly plan that I could find that included browsing, texting and phone time was from Virgin. $25 gets you 100 minutes, unlimited Canada and US texting and 100 MB of data. Nothing to set the world on fire, but $25/month! And it is not a contract, so if you see another plan you like, jump ship.
Our favourite provider is 7-11 and their Speakout Cell service. It uses the Rogers network here in Canada, so don't worry if you don't have a 7-11 near you. You can manage it all online here. Pay $10 to get a SIM card and then top up your phone with any dollar amount - it will last you a whole year! Yup, if you only want a phone for an emergency, get a 7-11 $25 credit and that is the only cost to your phone for the whole year. Nuts.
Why 7-11 fits with iPhone is they have a $10 add-on for Unlimited Browsing. We monitor our account and make sure there is at least a $15 credit every month, they take out $10, and our iPhone is web enabled anywhere that Rogers provides service in Canada. There are some limitations, but things like checking email, the weather, looking up a map or an address (i.e. the stuff we actually need the data minutes for) all work.
|Slide it back in with a SIM card of your choice.|
Step 4 - Put it all Together.
If the 7-11 iPhone sounds interesting to you, here is a very detailed tutorial to get you going. I followed it exactly as written and other than having to reset our new iPhone once the SIM was installed, it worked flawlessly. I'm sure ordering the SIM/plan from Virgin would work just as well.
|The unlock.co.nz App lets you set up a profile for nearly any carrier you can imagine.|
So - here is the grand total for an iPhone with unlimited browsing plan.
- iPhone 3GS (8GB) - 179.99 plus Tax/shipping (Since it was a gift, I wanted a return policy - Kijiji is definitely cheaper though)
- 7-11 SIM Card $10 (plus taxes)
- Sign up online, add credit and activate $10/month Browsing option.
- Total: $240 (give or take - you may be able to avoid shipping/taxes on the phone with Kijiji or Craigslist)
|Facebook App via 7-11 Speakout wireless 3G|
And the following months? They'll cost us at least $10 for browsing plus whatever text and voice usage. We plan on monitoring this and perhaps adding the Texting option. Still, that would be $20/month, plus the occasional phone call. Ask a teenager how often they use their phone to call someone.
What plan are you on? Would you recommend it to someone else?