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Print

Release Date: 11/29/2012

Apple Store and Costco Are Among Consumer Reports’ Highest-Rated Cell-Phone Retailers

Americans’ Spending on Wireless Services Rises 7 Percent
Haggling, Prepaid Plans Are Among Top Ways To Save

January 2013 CoverYONKERS, NY — Whether shopping online or at walk-in stores, those who bought a cell phone at an Apple Store or at Apple.com had a better overall experience than shoppers at any other cell-phone store, according to a survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. When it came to ratings for checkout and service, only Apple’s walk-in and online stores received top scores for both attributes.

The full Ratings, which are based on 9,774 responses from Consumer Reports subscribers surveyed in July 2012 who bought a new cell phone in the past two years, can be found online at ConsumerReports.org and in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports. In the same issue, Consumer Reports rated carriers in 23 metro areas based on a September 2012 survey of 63,253 subscribers.

Costco received high marks in the Consumer Reports survey for service and pricing on the cell phones it sells at special kiosks within its warehouse stores; Walmart matched Costco in offering pleasing prices. Best Buy received the highest score of any retailer for its selection of smart phones, which includes everything from high-profile smart phones to simple prepaid phones from a host of carriers.

The average American household spent more than $1,500 on phones and phone services this year, up 7 percent from 2011. Part of that spending came as more basic cell-phone owners upgraded to more expensive smart phones: about 70 percent of the Consumer Reports readers surveyed now own a smart phone versus a basic cell phone, up from about 50 percent only two years ago.

Consumer Reports has the following money-saving tips when shopping for phones:

Haggle for the phone. Most shoppers don’t think to negotiate for a lower cell-phone price, but 17 percent of survey respondents took a shot and over one quarter of them were successful at it.  The median discount won was $54, but a handful of hagglers knocked $100 or more off the price.

Be careful when upgrading early. Unless you’re totally fed up with your current phone, try to stick with it until the contract runs out. If you upgrade early, you’ll be hit with hundreds of dollars in penalties and surcharges, including paying full price for the new phone.

Think twice about insurance or an extended warranty. It can easily cost $500 to $600 to replace a popular smart phone midcontract. But only 15 percent of  Consumer  Reports readers bought a new phone because their old one broke and only 2 percent bought one because their phone was lost or stolen. Based on that, the value of insurance or an extended warranty seems questionable. A better idea would be to keep your old cell phone until the new handset’s contract ends and reactivate it in the event that the new phone is lost or stolen.

Inside Consumer Reports January 2013 Issue
The full report includes detailed Ratings of cell-phone service providers nationally and in 23 metropolitan markets; Ratings of smart phones and cell-phone stores; data-hogging phone habits; advice on choosing the right phone and plan; an Android OS vs. iOS vs. Windows Phone comparison; and tips on how consumers save money on their cell-phone bills can all be found in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, available wherever magazines are sold and also online at ConsumerReports.org

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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