Carrier-switching ideas for iPhoners

A woman walks past a sign announcing the upcoming sale of the iPhone at the Apple store in New York.

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Scott Jagow: That new gadget from Apple comes out tomorrow. Finally. People have been waiting in line since Monday at an Apple store in New York City. Some guy on Craigslist offered to camp out for you — for 250 bucks.

Now, one thing to keep in mind if you wanna buy an iPhone: If you're not an AT&T customer, you'll have to switch carriers. And we all know how fun that can be.

Ah, but there are ways. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: Web developer Adam Stewart can't wait to get his iPhone.

He's never tried it. But he just trusts Apple to make elegant decisions. Like allowing customers to activate their own phone over the Internet, instead of handing it over to a store clerk.

Adam Stewart: They didn't want some, you know, prepubescent, oily sales rep to, you know, be getting their grubby little paws all over your brand-new iPhone.

The only thing keeping Adam's paws from unwrapping his new iPhone is his current contract with Sprint.

The iPhone only works if you sign up for a two-year service plan with AT&T. The cost of cutting ties — 200 bucks.

Stewart: I'm gonna pay it. It's worth it to me.

But Adam's got a strategy to recoup some of his losses. He suggests signing up for AT&T service and getting one of its free or steeply-discounted phones.

Stewart: And then go out and buy iPhone, put the iPhone on your account and sell the replacement phone on eBay.

Online blogs are teaming with ways to avoid paying the termination fee entirely.

Ben Popken at Consumerist.com has come up with six ways to leave your mobile network. Among them, check the fine print on your latest bill. Any fee increase could nullify your obligation.

Or, accuse your mobile carrier of poor service. Send complaints to the PUC and the Better Business Bureau. Then:

Ben Popken: CC everything to the company. Create this big old nasty paper trail and wallpaper them until they're like, "All right, let's get rid of this guy."

And if all else fails, Popken has one final solution:

Popken: The last and definitely most desperate thing that you can do is die.

Yeah, not an option. A lot of customers will just end up paying to switch.

But in a bit of karmic justice, analyst Daniel Beringer says Apple might soon be fighting to get out of its own contract. He's run the numbers, and:

Daniel Berninger: AT&T will be getting a lot more revenue from the sale of iPhone than Apple.

And Apple's contract with AT&T is for five years — a lot longer than most consumer plans.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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