The iPhone Phenomenon

Cell phones have become a part of daily life, and many people feel lost without them. But there's a new cell phone on the market that has had consumers buzzing for months. Stephanie AuWerter, Deputy Editor of SmartMoney.com, weighs in on the iPhone phenomenon.

What makes the iPhone so enticing is that it's a mobile phone that has touchscreen keyboard, but it's also an iPod (that's Apple's digital music player) that has a powerful internet browser -- all in this very, very cool package. "This is going to be the gadget for any technology lover," says AuWerter. Many expect this product to change the cell phone business overnight.

But if you don't have AT&T as your cell phone provider, you're out of luck; the phone is going to be sold to AT&T customers only. The company has sole access to this phone for five years. So if you're currently under contract with another provider, that may mean an early termination fee, which can run as high as $200. Add in the fact that the iPhone will cost a minimum of $500 - $600 if you're springing for the fancy version. "The switch is not a cheap proposition," says AuWerter.

Given the hype surrounding the iPhone, you may want to wait to get one of your own. As with any new technology, the conventional wisdom is that unless you're the type who has to be the first kid on the block to have a new toy, you're better off waiting for any potential kinks to be worked out. "If you can resist the temptation, wait about three months or so before you make the purchase," says AuWerter.

Also, consider your alternatives. You can bet that every carrier in the country is worried about losing customers who will switch providers to get the iPhone. So sticking with your current carrier could be a very good idea. There are already other smart phones on the market and AuWerter expects to see some good discounts and deals in the near future to entice people to stay put.

If you must have it, though, be sure to keep a few things in mind. If you're looking to get out of your current contract, there are companies out there that help you find someone take over your existing contract. It's called "cell swapping" and it keeps you from getting hit with an early termination fee. Also, if your wireless provider ever changes the terms of your contract - maybe they're adding on a 40-cent administrative fee - then you are allowed to terminate your contract. So read all the mail that comes in from your provider.

For more information on the iPhone or other personal financial advice, click here.
By Stephanie AuWerter
  • Erin Petrun

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