Science & Technology



Helpware: How to buy an iPhone X

Harold Glicken, Tribune News Service on

Published in Science & Technology News

This is not a review of the iPhone X. There have been enough well-deserved raves of Apple's new genius phone to persuade Apple groupies like me to buy one.

Instead, this column is about math. More specifically, it's about the reality that no matter where you shop – the Apple Store or your cellular carrier – you'll pay pretty much the same price for the X.

How you get to that point can be confusing. Maybe the following will help. The figures below assume you have good credit and are looking for a phone with 64 gigs of memory. The X also offers 256 gigs of storage; we'll assume you want 64 gigs.

Verizon, ATT and Sprint customers can order online at or on their websites. Most carriers offer two choices: buy the phone for $999 plus tax on the actual price of the phone, or get it on the installment plan. Apple has an agreement with a bank for financing the X on an installment plan at 0 percent interest and 0 down. All four carriers offer plans that feature an upgrade after 12 payments. AppleCare, the warranty that covers accidental damage and outstanding tech support for two years, costs a ridiculous $199 and is included in the price if you order on the Apple website. Just a few years back AppleCare for an iPhone cost $79.

The warranty that comes with an iPhone is for 90 days of phone support and one year of coverage for mechanical defects. The basic warranty doesn't cover accidental damage.

AT&T's payment plan on its website is $41.63 a month for 24 months with 0 down. For that price, you can upgrade your phone every year. If you add the $199 for AppleCare, the monthly charge comes to $49.92. AT&T also offers a 30-month, no-interest plan for $33.34 if you trade in your iPhone 7 Plus. But you won't get a new phone for 24 months. Add AppleCare and it rises to $41.63. You'd be wise to cut eight bucks out of your budget and do the 24-month plan.

I'm a happy T-Mobile customer, but no one I talked to at Apple or T-Mobile could tell me why T-Mobile customers have to complete the purchases of an X in an Apple Store when they try to order at the Apple website. And therein lies the rub: If you order directly from Apple, you have to hang out at an Apple Store, hoping the latest shipment of X's will include the phone you want. I love the Apple Store; for Apple junkies like me it's a taste of heaven, but I also have a life.

If you order on T-Mobile's website you have to shell out $279, plus tax on the phone, as a down payment for the X. The monthly charge is $30 – less if you trade in your old phone. If you get full trade-in value for your 6S or later models, they'll give you up to a $300 credit, bringing your monthly payment to $17.50. But it's likely that you'll get more than $300 if you try to sell your 7 Plus yourself. You also get to upgrade your phone after 12 payments. So let's go with the $279 down, $30 for 24 months, plus AppleCare. The total comes to $49.91 a month.

Verizon wants $41.66 a month for 24 months, or $49.95 with AppleCare. Penny-pinchers may balk at spending the extra 4 cents. As with other carriers, that plan doesn't require a down payment, and the loan is interest-free. Phone upgrades can be made every 12 months. If you trade in a phone (6S or later), you pay $29.16 a month after a $300 credit. Verizon, along with AT&T, have some ridiculous fees, in my opinion.


If you're thinking of switching carriers, Sprint is worth checking out. Sprint has an 18-month lease with a free iPhone upgrade after 12 months. If you trade in your older iPhone and certain Galaxy phones up-front, you get a $350 credit, which brings the monthly payment to $22.22. Or skip the trade-in and pay $41.67 a month. If you buy the X when the lease ends--at 18 months -- you'll pay the difference between what you owe and the full price of the X, which, need I remind you, is $999. So, let's say you go with the 18-month lease with no trade-in, and with a 24-month AppleCare contract, and buy the phone after 18 months: you would owe about $250 for the phone, plus the $199 for AppleCare. The warranty can't be prorated, but it can be transferred to a new owner when you sell the phone. Confused? That makes two of us.

If your credit isn't so great, plan on a hefty down payment, or you may have to buy the phone outright.

While buying an iPhone X can be confusing, trying to understand the myriad of cellular service plans is absolutely mind-boggling.

One more thing: If I had been able to order the X on the Apple website, I would have had to wait three to four weeks for delivery. By ordering on the T-Mobile website, I got mine in five days.

About The Writer

Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at and a collection of his columns can be found at

(c)2017 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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