Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?

Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?

Summary: The Amazon penny smartphone sale sounds incredible, but it has limitations that severely limit who can actually take advantage of such a sale.


I was at the Windows Phone Inner Circle event in Seattle last night and several folks mentioned they were going to try to pick up one of the new AT&T Windows Phones through Amazon for a penny. You have probably heard of this penny sale, but if you are reading this blog, or were at the geeky phone event last night, it is highly likely that it doesn't apply to you or millions of other Americans. You see, the big caveat here is that you must be a new subscriber or add another new line. In looking at the recent CTIA report that states the number of subscriber connections has surpassed the U.S. population it seems to me there are not that many new subscribers or new lines left. Thus, Amazon is getting lots of press for this penny sale that is extremely limiting.

New customers those of you that have a family plan and then add a new line (remember you are limited to five) can get the penny phones, but keep in mind that Amazon shows adding a line creates a new contract and any grandfathered deal you have goes away. I am grandfathered into unlimited data on Verizon Wireless so I pay full price for my phones now to keep that contract intact. If you are already a subscriber then you need to agree to a contract extension and pay a much higher price (dependent on how much time you have left on your contract) for a new phone. The deals sound amazing considering that just about any smartphone other than an iPhone is covered. Also, there are no deals for new T-Mobile subscribers.

While it is great to save a couple hundred dollars on a phone, keep in mind the cost of the phone is just a small percentage of your 2-year committment. I recommend you try not to worry too much about saving $50 to $100 and instead buy the best phone you can that you can count on lasting for the two years of your contract.

If you are upgrade eligible than also make sure to check out sales at other online vendors such as Wirefly (I bought a couple phones from them and have been very happy with their service and support) and RadioShack (they perform upgrades through the carrier backend and offer free phones too).

I would love to see a carrier or online retailer step up and offer some deals for existing subscribers that could include a contract extension too. As fast as the mobile space moves, those of us who enjoy using our smartphones like upgrading every 6 months, one year, or in my case even every couple of months. I understand that they would have to subsidize such offers, but they make most of their money in the monthly fees we pay and offering early upgrade deals helps keep customers with the carrier.

Topics: Telcos, Amazon, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • RE: Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?
  • I thought about this ...

    ... as I am a Sprint customer considering Verizon (with about six months to go). The savings on the phone would more than cover the ETF. But I would probably not get the discount on monthly contract (I get one through my employer), and Verizon is significantly more expensive per month than Sprint. Perhaps Sprint will get a phone I want as much as the Droid Razor...

  • So far do good

    Have an AT&T Premier account.
    Dropped into Amazon, added a line, a Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket.
    Total cost = $0.01

    Could not upgrade my backup line so added a new one and canceled the old.
    Will update when I get it.... Saying tomorrow :)
  • "Loyalty" -- Not in the Cell Phone World's Lexicon

    I'm not sure what the business rationale is behind rewarding new accounts more than loyal subscribers (does it really result in overall growth when you factor in the eventual loss of current accounts due to dissatisfied customers?). If your dream phone happens to be with another carrier, though, this is an amazing deal. I'm getting a "$300" Droid Razr for $0.01 by switching carriers.
  • RE: Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?

    I am way excited. I was already planning on switching to Sprint from T-Mobile and spending $400 to do it. I just ordered and and paid $.02 instead. Good times!!
  • RE: Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?

    When I put in the upgrade option through Amazon Wireless (Verizon) it tells me that the LG Revolution is a penny, and the Samsung Charge is only $69.99. Those are pretty nice deals. Even the Razr shows $299.99 if you click through the summary page link.

    If you aren't eligible for an upgrade as I am, then I understand, but as long as you are, Amazon appears to be where to go. I'm just a little nervous regarding my data. Would I still qualify to be grandfathered along on my unlimited data if I go through Amazon? I would still be extending my contract, just upgrading my phone (from the infuriating BlackBerry Storm 2 I've lived with these past couple of years).
  • RE: Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?

    "I am grandfathered into unlimited data on Verizon Wireless so I pay full price for my phones now to keep that contract intact."

    Mr. Miller,

    I just want to make you aware that you can still upgrade your phone and keep your unlimited data package. If you are currently using a smartphone on Verizon and upgrade to another smartphone, you are still grandfathered in. This includes 3G to 4G upgrades. If you have a "smartphone" and then upgrade to a new "basic phone", you would lose the unlimited package because you changed phone type, which is what triggers the computer to drop off any incompatible features...such as unlimited smartphone data. So as long as the phone type is the same (upgrading from smartphone to smartphone or basic to basic), you keep the feature.

    This does not apply to USB modems or hotspots, however.

    Figured I'd say so since you mentioned you are paying full price for your phones but staying on the same network. Might as well save the money if you plan on being there for a couple more years.

    Also, I agree wholeheartedly with the statement to forget about saving $50 - $100 and splurge on the better phone. It will save you hours of time troubleshooting and master resetting your phone if it's Android based( I do tech support for one of the carriers...I see it all) and while you may still have issues, it won't likely be hardware based as is often the case as the phones that *launch* at the free price point. The Motorola Citrus, LG Optimus, etc... tend to be too slow or lack enough memory to handle the type of usage it's users tend to do. They tend to be the social networking/texting bunch and they need a little more horsepower (especially RAM) than these phones offer.
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