Is $649 a Good Price for an Unlocked iPhone 5?

iPhone 5Apple has quietly began selling unlocked GSM versions of the iPhone 5 at a starting price of $649. Is this price too steep for what you get, or is it a fair rate for one of the hottest smartphones on the market today?

On the surface, the iPhone has never been a cheap device. $649 is about average for an unlocked version of the latest iPhone. It’s not like Apple increased the price any. There was a time, early on, when buying an iPhone (even with a contract) meant throwing down $600 at the carrier. This was quickly changed by Apple by reducing the price down to $400 and then $200 over the period of about a year.

Why it Might Not Be a Great Deal

If you want to pick up an unlocked version of some other popular smartphones, you’ll still be spending big bucks in some cases. A quick search on Amazon reveled these asking prices for popular Android devices.

At these prices (which are admittedly lower than the original list price set by the manufacturer), the iPhone 5 is the most expensive of the lot. These prices would put the iPhone 5 at a higher unlocked starting cost than virtually any other major smartphone on the market. The Nexus 4 is available unlocked at just $299 and has some of the best specs you can find in any smartphone on the market.

If you go by paper alone, then the iPhone 5 is not a good deal at $649.

Why It Could Be a Good Deal

When it comes to value, few factors are as important as user experience. The iPhone is a popular choice here in the U.S. and many users have invested more than a little money in apps for the platform. Switching to Android just to avoid the contracts and/or higher cost of the iPhone 5 would mean walking away from an established library of software.

For folks that area already using the iPhone and would like upgrade to the iPhone 5, the unlocked price is still a great deal when you take into account the higher rates charged by a carrier when it subsidizes a phone for you. Over a period of two years, you end up spending much more on the plans than you would have just biting the bullet and spending $649 up front for the iPhone 5.

If you love the iPhone and want to save money over a long period of time, it’s an excellent choice for you. If you’re switching from Android or really don’t care about long-term savings, then it might not be the best bargain for your particular tastes.

If you compared the Nexus 4 to the iPhone (which we have) you will discover a few ares where the iPhone provides an advantage over the Nexus 4. Software preferences aside, the camera in the iPhone 5 provides superior color accuracy and clarity than that of the Nexus 4. The addition of 4G LTE on the iPhone 5 is also an advantage in many areas where cluttered 3G/4G service just doesn’t cut it. Likewise, there are many things to love about the Nexus 4. It all comes down to personal preference, always and forever.

What about you? Do you feel $649 is a fair price for an unlocked iPhone 5? What would an ideal price be for you?

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