It’s easy to find out the price of the BlackBerry model you desire. For example, if you want the device through Verizon Wireles, you just go to the Verizon BlackBerry page, scroll down and look for the respective price. Ah, if it were only that easy. As we discussed a month or so back, there are many costs associated with a BlackBerry. Some of those are apparent up front — the cost of the device and accessories, specifically — but some are a bit more hidden. That’s because they’re spread out over time. What follows is a breakdown of the true BlackBerry costs. Not all will apply to everyone, but you should have a better idea of the true cost by the end.
Remember what you’re buying
I don’t think this fact is lost on anyone, but I also don’t think everyone takes it into account when purchasing a new phone, BlackBerry or not. The way the U.S. wireless industry works, you’re not just paying for the device. You’re paying for the service along with the device. For smartphones like the BlackBerry, this means entering into a two-year agreement with the carrier. Yet few people make this calculation when making a purchase.
The carriers don’t force you into a two-year agreement “just because,” of course. There is a trade-off, namely the phone’s subsidy. Retail prices for cellular phones are quite high — high enough, at least, that it would be impractical for most people to upgrade their phones as often as they currently do. The subsidy means the phone comes at a discount. When you buy a BlackBerry Storm, you’re paying just $199, but the device retails for $550. Hence, the device is worth more than you’re paying for it.
Don’t forget the accessories and applications, either. Many — most, even — are optional, but there are a few I would consider essential. You can forego these and save some cash, but in the long term they might actually save you money.
Now, onto what you’ll really be buying.
The device is a fixed cost. You go into a store (online or off), pick out your phone, and pay the cashier the designated amount. As mentioned above, though, with that transaction comes a two-year agreement. Most people do not calculate this into their transaction. It’s a recurring monthly fee, so it’s probably budgeted, but not quite at first.
If you’re going with a BIS personal plan, most carriers will charge you $30 per month for data. This isn’t true of all carriers, of course, but my purpose here isn’t to make calculations for every carrier. You’ll of course have your voice plan attached to this. These can range in price, as you know, but for the most part carriers start their plans at $40 per month (and yes, I understand that T-Mobile, among others, might offer something lower than this). For the sake of simplicity, we’ll just assume you’re getting the $40 voice plan and the $30 data plan.
That comes to $70 per month. Over the course of your two-year agreement then, the total cost to the consumer is $1,680. Hardly a pittance. Yet I’m sure many consumers don’t even make this calculation before making a cell phone or smartphone purchase. I wonder if purchasing habits would change if they did. Yet, despite this already-lofty figure, we’re not done yet.
These days, it’s tough to get by without some sort of text messaging plan. Carriers, despite the low cost of SMS, have upped prices over the past few years. Without a bundle, texting will cost you 20 cents per message sent or received. This quickly adds up. So if you plan on using text messaging actively, you’d best sign up for a plan.
(Incidentally, if you want a look at how badly carriers are gouging consumers on a la carte text messaging prices, read this article in the New York Times. It’s an excellent breakdown which shows how little messaging costs carriers, and what an astronomical profit they make from it.)
Bundles can run anywhere from $5 to $20 per month, depending on your level of usage. I use Verizon’s $10 per month bundle, which gives you 500 messages, sent and received, to and from any network, with unlimited Verizon texting included. On AT&T, one might get by with the $15/month bundle, which includes 1,500 messages. Unlimited plans typically cost $20. So, for the sake of fairness, we’ll go with $15 per month, even though yours will vary. That would mean $360 over 24 months, bringing the total cost to $2,040 over two years.
As noted above, what you pay for your BlackBerry isn’t its true worth. You might have paid $150 for your Curve, but the device is valued at a higher price point. This becomes more apparent if you lose your Berry before your contract expires. You will not receive a subsidy for the device the second time around, since you will not be signing a two-year contract.
This means that your device is a valuable asset. Most people who own BlackBerry devices depend on them in some way or another. To lose that device would be to lose not only the initial money you paid for it, but the money for the full-price replacement, plus the consequences of the downtime you realize when you don’t have a device.
All of this is a long way of saying you should get insurance. My Verizon rep badgers people until they agree to get insurance. It’s just $5 per month, and without it you could be liable for a ton, ton more. Think about it. Insurance, at $5 per month, comes out to $120. Many subsidized BlackBerry devices cost more than that, and zero unsubsidized ones, unless you buy used, will come close to that price. It’s worth the gamble.
Incidentally, that brings our two-year price up to $2,160.
Accessories and Apps
Okay, so most of this falls into the luxury category. Further, most of it you can do without if you’re on a budget. As such I’m not going to assign a monetary value to accessories and applications. Lend me just a second to point out why you might want to factor this into your budget.
To buy a new device means you now have a ton of BlackBerry Accessories and BlackBerry Applications available. These would not be otherwise accessible if you had a regular cell phone. So you are more apt to spend money on them now that you have your BlackBerry than you would have been otherwise, because otherwise you wouldn’t have even had the option. That’s not even to mention things like ringtones, though you’d have access to those with a normal cell phone.
So while it’s tough, if not impossible, to put a price on the applications and accessories you will buy as a BlackBerry owner, it’s safe to say that you’ll spend at least a little. Even if you get by with mostly free BlackBerry games and free BlackBerry applications (more applications), you’ll still likely spend money on a case at least, maybe a Bluetooth, perhaps a car cradle…you can see how it adds up.
All said and done…
When we add up the above commitments, it comes to $2,160 over 24 months, or $90 per month. Of course, that’s assuming you buy nothing else for your BlackBerry. It also doesn’t account for fees and taxes which are assessed to every cell phone owner. With taxes, actually, you’re probably looking at $100 per month.
That might be more than you expected when thinking about getting a BlackBerry. But that’s what it comes to. Just something else to think about when you’re considering a new purchase.