I generally don’t think much of smartphone payment plans. Unless you score a sweet deal from the carrier, they might not save you any money. And if you’re stuck in a contract without an early payout option, you’ll be saddled with the device until it’s paid off, whether or not you still want it. You won’t even be able to sell it, as the buyer would risk having the device disabled if you stopped making your installment payments.
All that said, these payment plans can be worth it if you find the right deal. Here’s a quick look at Google’s latest offering, which I actually don’t mind:
Google Fi’s new subscription plan isn’t bad (for a slightly older phone)
If you’re in the market for a new-ish Pixel, its worth considering a new installment plan offer from Google for the Pixel 4a. This mid-range Android smartphone might not wow you with its features compared to, say, the Pixel 5 or a competing smartphone like Samsung’s S20 FE, but Google’s offer is a great deal if the 4a will serve as a worthy upgrade to your older Android phone. (Don’t worry about the absence of 5G; you’ll be fine.)
Google’s offer drops the $349 regular price of the phone to $216. To secure the discount, you’ll have to jump to its pay-as-you-use-it Google Fi service—a pretty great option for saving some cash compared to a conventional carrier subscription—and pay off the device in monthly installments of $9. (If you bump up to $15/mo payments, Google’s subscription plan also throws in device protection, minus any service fees you’d have to pay for a repair.)
Additionally, Google will allow you to upgrade your phone after two years—presumably as long as you continue to pay the same monthly fee to get your hands on whatever the company has on offer around that point. Otherwise, you can just keep your Pixel 4a and pay no more fees, save the cost of Google Fi.
You still have to pay for Google Fi
Google Fi is billed separately in addition to your monthly phone payments, and it comes via one of two plans (prices are for a single line): A $70/mo unlimited plan for all the data, calls, and texts you want, or a $20 base plan that charges you $10 per gigabyte of data you use. On the plus side, Google charges an exact amount for what you’ve actually used; you’re not buying a “chunk” of data and then wasting money if you don’t end up using it all that month.
Honestly, I loved my time with Google Fi, especially during those months when I wasn’t a big data hog—like the entirety of my stay-at-home pandemic life. Were I looking to upgrade from a crappy Android and get away from paying my carrier a fortune for data, I’d consider Google’s offer. I’d really consider it if Google dropped a deal for its Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5, but the Pixel 4a isn’t too shabby if you’re upgrading something ancient.