Dear Lifehacker, I'm in a bind. I am after a new phone. I've decided on the HTC HD2 but the problem is I'm still on a Vodafone contract. I have 10 months left on it and don't really want to wait!
I know Vodafone used to have a deal when you wanted to terminate your contract early where you would pay out half the remaining months (so if you had 10 months you would pay 5). But they have cancelled it, so now I'm stuck with the full price. If Lifehacker or any of my fellow readers can suggest ways of getting my phone without waiting that long and as cheaply as possible it would be appreciated. Thanks, Desires A New Phone
Picture by Gary Cheeseman
This kind of problem is exactly why we always advise people to think carefully before signing up to a 24-month phone contract. The savings can appear substantial -- and there are ubdoubtedly savings to be had if you do wait out the contract. But new phone models come out much more often than every 24 months, which means that gadget lovers are often either left waiting in frustration or end up paying out their contracts. In the latter circumstance, buying the phone outright and paying for mobile service separately sometimes ends up cheaper.
The carriers have no incentive (and generally speaking no legal obligation) to make it easy for you to exit your contract. They've subsidised your handset cost in return for getting a long-term contract; if they let you out early, what exactly is in it for them?
The answer to that might be: a long-term customer. So one strategy might be to wait until the phone in question becomes available through your carrier and then ask them if you can swap your plan onto it. There are two disadvantages to that approach: your carrier might never get around to selling the phone, and if they do agree to transfer you they'll probably extend your contract.
Claiming a defect in your phone has occasionally been a popular strategy -- there were a rash of iPhone-related complaints just before the iPhone 4 appeared -- but it's more than a little unethical, and it's still not going to get you out of your contract. Also, while several carriers now offer two year warranties on contract phones, different conditions might have applied when you bought your original phone.
The other broad option you've got is to order your phone of choice online as an outright buy, and transfer your existing SIM into it. You'll still have to pay for a handset (and might need to hunt a bit to find a suitable supplier who will offer a completely unlocked phone), but at least the money you're paying on your contract won't entirely go to waste.
If readers have any specific strategies to offer for ending a contract earlier, we'd love to hear them in the comments.