Is It Smart To Pay Full Price Upfront For Your Mobile Phone? Here Are Some Ways to Avoid It

full price mobile phone

This post was written in collaboration with Singtel. While we are financially compensated by them, we nonetheless strive to maintain our editorial integrity and review products with the same objective lens. We are committed to providing the best recommendations and advice in order for you to make personal financial decisions with confidence. You can view our Editorial Guidelines here.

Smartphones are certainly not a new thing, and these days, even preschool kids are perfectly comfortable using a smartphone. But what has really changed is the ramp up in competition amongst smartphone providers. Sure, you could argue it’s always been there, but just look at the players in the market now.

Apple has always set the standard for competition (biased fanboy here), but with Samsung bouncing back strongly, Google making a really strong push in the market with their Pixel 2 XL (auto-selfie anyone?), and Huawei having just released what looks to be the camera phone to kill all camera phones (and cameras too?), consumers are really spoilt for choice.

What has also shifted is that with more demand for choice, telcos have also started offering plans with no contract, and the popularity of SIM-only plans has started to escalate.

But the real question in our minds is really: When did it become cool to pay full price for a phone?


What are we missing here?

With higher end phones costing as much as $2,000 (which is easily half of the average Singaporean’s take home salary), managing your money with regard to buying a phone becomes increasingly important. Especially more so if you have children who hanker after the latest flagship models to stay in trend with their peers.

Most people aren’t going to willingly, or have the capacity, to dish out $2,000 out-of-pocket for a phone upfront and impact their own financial liquidity. Here are some ways you can get the latest phone without paying full price upfront – and we deep dive into the variety of Singtel’s plans as a case in point.


1. Discounted handsets with a Singtel Combo Mobile Plan

This is one of the biggest bonus points of getting a contract plan like Singtel’s Combo Mobile Plan, which in essence is a set meal that gives you a whole bunch of things like data, talktime and SMSes. Being able to upgrade your handset when the latest iPhone model comes out is something that many would consider important.

At a baseline level, getting a heavily discounted handset significantly reduces the upfront cost of the phone. As an example, an iPhone X 256GB which retails at $1,888 costs $0 on a Combo 12 plan.

Combo plans also give you access to a wide range of offerings such as Value Added Services (VAS) and roaming plans, which a lot of very basic plans don’t cover and you will have to pay much more for. We also spoken previously about how taking advantage of bundles like Singtel Circle and MobileShare can also greatly reduce your monthly cost.

So even if you work out the overall cost of your plan together with the discounted cost of the phone, you save overall and also don’t have to fork out so much money upfront.


2. SIM-Only Plans With 0% Interest Instalment Payment Plans (IPP)

If you really must have the latest phone but don’t want to fork out any money upfront, an IPP can help you out with that. This allows you to spread the payments out in a reasonable manner.

Just as a cautionary note, if you haven’t already read our piece on why you should be careful of interest-free instalment plans, you should read this first. But if you are disciplined enough to stick to a fixed payment schedule, this is a good way to manage your cash without having to pay anything at the start.

Singtel is the only telco to offer 8% off the regular retail price (RRP) when you use any Citibank, DBS/POSB or UOB credit card for your IPP. And for data junkies who want to sign up for a SIM-Only plan, Singtel has the best value 30GB plan available on the market. Here’s a comparison we’ve put together:


Singtel Competitor X Competitor Y Competitor Z
Monthly Subscription $46.75 $119.00 $50.00 $48
Local Data 30GB 30GB 30GB 26GB
iPhone X 64GB RRP


iPhone X 256GB RRP


Monthly IPP (2 Years) – iPhone X 64GB $63.17 $68.67 $68.67 $68.67
Monthly IPP (2 Years) – iPhone X 256GB $72.37 $78.67 $78.67 $78.67
Total Monthly Cost with iPhone X 64GB $109.92 $187.67 $118.67 $116.67
Total Monthly Cost with iPhone X 256GB $119.12 $197.67 $128.67 $126.67

*Information accurate as of time of publish
RRP = Recommended Retail Price
IPP = Instalment Payment Plans


3. Phone Trade In

Here’s the last thing to consider when deciding to pay the full cost of the phone or get it at a discounted rate – phone trade ins. Some other providers who aren’t actual distributers of the phones don’t offer you the ability to trade in your phone, but with Singtel, you get to enjoy discounts of up to $600 depending on the device you’re trading in – which could be half the price of a new flagship phone.

Sure, you could go and find a slew mobile phone resellers online that allow for trade ins and get a good price but, firstly, you’re stuck with the inconvenience of having to make more trips AND be stuck without a phone for awhile. Secondly, in this day and age where people are so sensitive about their data being “stolen”, do you really want to trade your phone in with some random shop and not know what happens to your phone once it disappears?

Being able to trade in your phone regardless of whether you order it online or make a purchase at a physical Singtel store ensures a seamless transition between an old phone and new, and at the same time offsets your overall cost over your contract period.


Money management when it comes to buying phones 

I’ve personally never paid the full price for a phone, because I’ve been on a Singtel Combo plan since, well, I don’t remember.

While these days both Combo plans and SIM only plans allow you to pay $0 upfront for your new phone, I personally am a fan of the Combo plan because of the fact that my phone comes practically free for the ‘set meal’ I pay for. Every time I’ve swapped phones every two years, I’ve barely had to pay a cent upfront, and continued on the same Combo plan paying roughly the same amount, give and take some minor add-ons here and there.

While I’m not the sort to change my phone every year, that is also something that you can enjoy if you sign up for the Singtel Circle customer benefits programme. But regardless of when I change my phone, I don’t ever plan to pay the full cost of a phone upfront.

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