How to Get a Cheaper iPhone 4 With the Help of a Friend or Family Member

Cheap iPhone 4

If you are like me and many other AT&T iPhone customers, you have logged on to to find out how much a new iPhone 4 will cost you, and you have been startled by the exorbitant price tag. Apple ads say the iPhone 4 starts at $200/$300, but the fine print reveals that this discount price applies only to new AT&T contracts.

If you’re like me, your heart stopped as an unanticipated $700 price tag forced you to reconsider your iPhone 4 purchase. Well don’t get discouraged just yet. There is still hope for getting a cheaper iPhone 4, if you’re willing to ask a friend or family member for a favor.

Read on to find out how to save $200 on an iPhone 4 with the help of a close friend or family member:

Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment purposes only. I encourage everyone to abide by all the terms and conditions of their AT&T contracts. This article is not to be construed as counsel or advice. Attempt any of the following at your own risk.

First, let me outline some of Apple and AT&T’s iPhone rules and regulations.

Apple’s rules for iPhone 4 sales in the US:

  • As most of you know, iPhone remains exclusive to AT&T as of this writing. That means you are not officially allowed to use another carrier on your iPhone. Note: It is not against the law to use another carrier. You can do so by jailbreaking then unlocking your iPhone, but be aware it will void your warranty.
  • If you purchase an iPhone at your local Apple Store, you must activate it (i.e. link it with an AT&T account via iTunes) in the store at the time of purchase.
  • If you are on a family plan, the primary account holder must go to the Apple Store to purchase iPhones for any of the other family members on the account.
  • If you purchase an iPhone online, it must be shipped to the address of the primary account holder.

AT&T’s rules for iPhone 4 sales:

  • AT&T will subsidize the cost of an iPhone 4 and offer it to new contract signers at $200 for the 16gb model or $300 for the 32gb model.
  • AT&T offers “early upgrade” eligibility to certain users, meaning they can get a reduced price on a new iPhone 4. Early upgrade eligibility is determined by several factors in addition to your contract length, according to ZDNet’s guide to iPhone upgrade policies:
    AT&T takes into account your spending level, whether you are a good customer who pays his bill on time, and how far you are into your contract to determine whether you can upgrade early. AT&T has said that it will allow existing iPhone customers who are eligible for an upgrade between June 7 and the end of this year to get the best pricing for the iPhone 4 with a two-year term commitment.
  • Upon purchasing the iPhone 4, you must select a data plan for your account. All iPhone customers must have a data plan.

As you can see, Apple and AT&T make it considerably difficult and nearly impossible for people to buy iPhones that are not linked to your own AT&T account. But there are ways to get around this.

How to Get a Cheaper iPhone 4

Imagine this scenario:

You have a friend or family member who is one of those “non-tech” people that is perfectly content with a modest cell phone with basic functionality. In my case, this person could be my mother. She has a basic camera phone that she is happy to continue using with her AT&T account, which has always served her well.

If you have a spouse, family member, or close friend who fits this description, they may be able to help you get a $200 discount on the iPhone 4, assuming you are in the position to pay $600/$700 with your own AT&T account.

Now imagine my mother has early upgrade eligibility and is allowed to purchase the iPhone for $400/$500 instead of $600/$700. I send her a $427 (with taxes) check for a 16gb iPhone 4, she purchases the iPhone and links it to her phone number, mails it to me and I place my SIM card in and activate it with my phone number.

As a result, I get an iPhone 4 for $200 cheaper, and she goes back to her old cell phone.

A couple of caveats:

  1. She has added a $15 data plan to her account, which she doesn’t actually need. To remove the data plan, we will call AT&T and simply tell them she has switched back to her old phone and no longer has any need for the data plan.
  2. This may prevent her from getting an AT&T-subsidized cell phone in the near future.

Does This Work?

Yes. Although the thought never occurred to me in previous years, my friend recommended I do this after learning about it from one of his friends who works at AT&T. Many people are on family plans, so it is easy to do this “bait and switch” with a family member who does not care to get a fancy phone. Even if you are not on a family plan, this should still work. My friend has successfully reduced his iPhone price with this method a couple of times already.

Is This Allowed?

To the best of my knowledge, the above strategy is not illegal, though it may technically go against your AT&T contract (who knows? did you actually read the whole thing?). According to ZDnet’s iPhone upgrade guide, this is a tricky issue:

Let’s say that I have an iPhone 3GS. I’m not eligible for an upgrade, but my husband who is on my family plan and has an LG flip phone is eligible for an upgrade. Can I use his upgrade to get a new iPhone 4 for $199 or $299 for myself?
This is tricky. Technically, the answer is no. The upgrade is only for the subscriber whose contract is expiring. But a way to get around this is to “replace” the old LG phone with the iPhone 4. Then you can switch the phone numbers and continue to use the LG phone and reduce the service on that line.

Source: Demistifying AT&T’s iPhone upgrade policies (FAQ)

Who Should You Ask for the Favor?

It takes a generous person to do this for you, and that’s why I recommend only asking people who are close to you and who you think would not mind doing you the favor. Ask someone who is not tech savvy and is perfectly content with a basic cheap phone. I have a few friends and family members who just don’t care to have an iPhone or a new cell phone. These are the perfect candidates to ask.


Again, please attempt this at your own risk. However, it is a shortcut that has worked for a friend of mine and that I expect would work for me, based on the research I have done.

Let me know if this works out for you and if you have any other tips for saving money on a new iPhone.

Trouble Finding an iPhone 3GS?

iPhone 3GS

I spent all day yesterday trying to buy a new iPhone 3G S, with no luck. Yes, the Apple Store had them in stock, but they don’t let you buy an iPhone unless the AT&T account holder is present. My dad is the account holder for our Family Plan, but he is over 300 miles away.

When I was in Miami, the Apple Store staffers told me I could buy an iPhone 3G S at the AT&T store without the account holder present, but no AT&T stores in Florida currently have them in stock, including stores in Miami, Orlando, Ocala and Gainesville.

I spent over an hour calling AT&T stores throughout the state. Why don’t AT&T employees have the capability to tell me if there is an iPhone in stock at a particular store???

I called an Apple Store in Orlando and asked how I could buy the iPhone 3G S without the AT&T account holder present, and an employee told me the only thing I could do was sign up for a new contract with AT&T… um, no thanks.

“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll order one online.”

So I went through the checkout process on, hesitating before clicking Complete and spending $543.36, including an extra $10 for 2-3 day shipping — that is, after selling my 3G iPhone on eBay for $315.

I finally placed the order and received an email confirmation that said my iPhone should arrive between July 9 and July 13, twelve to sixteen days from yesterday. I’m not willing to wait that long.

So I canceled my order, called my dad in Miami and asked him to pick one up for me and ship it up to Gainesville. Hopefully I’ll have it in a few days. The problem is that, in the meantime, my phone will be deactivated because Apple requires you to activate the iPhone in the store when you purchase it, hence deactivating any other phone that’s using that account.

It makes no sense that I can buy an iPhone 3G S on without a problem, but if you go to a physical Apple Store, they won’t sell it to you without the account holder by your side. In my opinion, if you’re willing to spend half a grand on a phone, you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops.

Has anyone else had trouble getting their hands on an iPhone 3G S? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

An Echoing iPhone & My Trip to the Genius Bar

Apple Store, Miami, The Falls

I went to the Apple Store yesterday because of a problem I had with my iPhone, which produced a supposedly annoying echo in my voice that drove my callers nuts.

The Apple Store in The Falls mall in Miami is always packed. Even at 2 in the afternoon, the place was a zoo, so I got on the standby list for the Genius Bar and had to wait two hours because I didn’t have an appointment.

Thankfully, I was entertained by my sister, who joined me along with her Macbook, which had a damaged battery.

The Genius, who was friendly as are all the Geniuses I’ve met, placed a call to the back of the store using my iPhone to test the echo. When no one answered his call, he told me, “Never mind. I’ll just give you a new one, since you’ve waited so long.”

Within minutes I had yet another shiny new iPhone, the sixth one I’ve ever owned.

My sister, on the other hand, was not so lucky. They failed to archive her operating system properly, so they kept it overnight and she will pick it up today.

Although my iPhones have had their problems, I have overall been pleased with the service I’ve received at the Apple Store.

What has your experience been with the Apple Store Geniuses?

iPhone Glass Repair: My Visit to the Apple Store

I went to the Apple Store in Miami today to get a replacement iPhone after my iPhone glass cracked when I dropped it on my wood floor.

Apple Store

Read about my iPhone glass repair experience below:

Since I read on the iPhone warranty that “service may not be available if your iPhone has been damaged due to accident or abuse,” I was expecting that the iPhone glass repair would cost me and that I would not get a free replacement.

iPhone Glass Repair Cost

I was right. Despite my pleas, both the tech support rep and a manager insisted that the warranty would not cover any physical damage and that I would have to cover the cost of the iPhone glass repair myself.

So I reluctantly handed over $250 big ones — an act I’m hoping to soon forget — to get myself a replacement iPhone.

iPhone Broken Glass

Apple’s repair fee for the iPhone is much too high, in my opinion. I feel that charging $250 for something that probably costs far less to fix is taking advantage of customers.

Apple knows that once I’ve paid the hefty price for an iPhone, I’m not likely to leave it damaged and buy a competitor’s phone, especially when there are few phones out there that can offer the same user experience. They could probably charge an iPhone glass repair fee of $400, the price of a new iPhone, and people would still pay up.

So I went home and tried to forget about the arm and the leg I’d just given to Apple in exchange for a new iPhone. Then, as I was importing my backed up contacts from iTunes and upgrading to firmware version 1.1.3, I noticed a significant discoloration on the chrome that I had missed before.

Had the iPhone replacement cost me $50, I would have disregarded the smudge, but for $250 I refused to settle for a new iPhone that was anything less than perfect. So, irritated, I drove back to the Apple Store and explained this to a manager.

Although he was nice, he tried to explain to me that certain defects are “within spec,” and that I might be out of luck.

He said, “for example, if a pixel on the screen is out, that would be within spec and we wouldn’t be required to replace it.” In other words, “if we give you a damaged product, it’s not our fault.”

I refused to accept such a nonsense policy, so the manager agreed to put me on standby so that I could talk to a tech support rep at the Genius bar. Once I was called up, the tech support employee replaced my phone without hesitation.

Now I’ve finally got a clean, functioning iPhone. Next week, I’m ordering myself a case so that this doesn’t happen again. Have you ever had to deal with a cracked iPhone screen? Did you have any luck with an iPhone glass repair service other than Apple’s?

In my panic, I probably spent more than I had to on fixing my broken iPhone. After doing research and hearing about other people’s experience cracking their iPhone glass, I decided to put together this guide, “iPhone Fixes,” that summarizes the options available to fix your broken iPhone. You can download it below:

iPhone Fixes: An iPhone Repair Guide

iPhone Fixes: A Summary of Options to Fix Your Broken iPhone
… and How to Ensure That it Never Happens Again!

Messed-Up iPhone? Don’t Panic…

This free guide tells you what you can do to get your iPhone fixed quickly, cheaply, and professionally.

  • How to avoid Apple’s high replacement and repair fees
  • How to fix it yourself and save $$$
  • How to hire a third-party repair professional
  • The best cases and covers to prevent future damage

[gravityform id=”2″ name=”iPhone Fixes Signup” title=”false” description=”false”]

Behold NYC’s Disappearing iPhone Ad

Matthew Yohe of Mac Rumors took these snapshots of a giant iPhone ad on the side of New York City’s 5th Avenue Apple Store.

The ad bore the words: “Introducing iPhone. Apple reinvents the phone.” The projection was removed shortly thereafter for unknown reasons.

I’m guessing it’s one of three possibilities:

  • Too expensive to keep up (doubt it)
  • It violated some kind of permit
  • It was a tease meant to lure the attention of bloggers like me

NYC iPhone Ad

Three more photos after the jump…

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