Repair or Replace: The Smartphone Conundrum

For my phone to be of use to me, I need to be able to hook into the earphones. Hear through them. Speak through them. And so on.

My iPhone 4s has been fighting with my headphones for several months now. The headphones themselves are fine; they work when plugged into other, less moody phones. My phone is at fault: it refuses to behave no matter what kind of headphones I give it to work with.

The problem is not the jack, or so sayeth the young Russian dude at my shoe repair place. Said young Russian dude is my savior. He has eyes like Heathcliff’s and a bad cigarette habit, but he helps me out with whatever I bring him, from broken boots to a broken secondhand travel stroller. He unscrewed the back of my phone, showed me the circuitry, and explained that some internal part is showing its age. He can replace the part for me for $35. I’ll only have to leave my phone with him for a couple of hours.

A couple of hours without my phone. If only he worked while I slept, like elves in a fairy tale. Does it shock you that I have not yet been able to bring myself to do this?  It’s easier to drop Babygirl off at day care every morning. Parting from my phone — even temporarily, even for a good cause — is not my only hesitation, though. Is it really wise to be investing more money in my phone at this stage of its lifecycle? With the 6 out, iPhone is already two rounds ahead of me. How many good months does my 4s have left? But how does one know when to repair vs when to replace? Gigaom offers some salty advice:

does the phone you carry right now work? Can it make calls? Does it do whatever else you need it to do? Yes? Then what do you need a new phone for? Unless your contract is up (see below) or the phone you carry is completely useless, you should think long and hard about why you’re replacing it.

Well, my 4s falls in between “yes it works” and “is completely useless,” so thanks for nothing. In December, Consumer Reports said do itBusiness Insider was even more exuberantly on the side of “yes, get a new phone!,” in part because the site advises you to sell your old one as well.

A new study from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners says less than 20% of smartphone owners sell or trade-in their old phone when they upgrade to the latest model. If you are one of the 80% of people that aren’t selling your phone, you should really reconsider. … In the U.S., when you get a new phone, you generally re-up for a two year carrier contract. Your new phone usually costs $200-$300. What this means is that you could be getting your phone for free if you were selling your old phone! And if not free, then at a nice discount. And yet, 80% of people are just sitting on the free money. Huge mistake, people!

But, according to their graph, my 4s would have been worth less than $85 several months ago — and that’s if it were in good working order. I’m not optimistic about its chances on the open market.

I’ve been on an AT&T family plan for a while now. Maybe I’m eligible for an upgrade of some kind? I checked the website.

AT&T screenshot

Ack this reads like spam! If it were an email I would delete it. Instead I tense up and click through.

AT&T screenshot prices

30 installments of nearly $20 a month? What is this, Rent-A-Center? Also that totals $550, and either that’s insane or I am. The alternative seems to be that I can pay $100 right now and pledge my troth to AT&T and the family plan for another two years.

Ben has been whispering in my ear to ditch the family plan and join him on the Dark Side with something called Cricket. Apparently it’s cheaper. I don’t know, honey. Can I really turn my back on my family of origin? Besides, does Cricket’s website read like spam? Will it give me anxiety headaches? And does it solve the problem of whether to repair or place my phone?

** dies of indecision and annoyance, RIP **

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