The iPhone 5 is one of the hottest gadgets in recent memory (over 5 million sold in just its first weekend!) and seems like it should be a perfect gift for the gadget-lover on your holiday shopping list. And, now that both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 are available at low prices, the whole iPhone family seems like a better-than-ever candidate for a holiday gift.
But is it? If you don't consider your options carefully, you could end up costing the person you give an iPhone to more than you spent to buy it.
Giving an iPhone as a gift is much more complicated than giving an iPod or iPad, due to the iPhone being a phone. Unlike the iPod, the iPhone requires a monthly subscription plan and you can't (easily) get around that. Without an AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon contract (or one of the regional or pre-paid carriers), you can't use the iPhone in the U.S. (unlocking aside).
So, if you're considering buying an iPhone as a present for someone, make sure they have:
- AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon (or one of the other U.S. companies that offer the iPhone) as a carrier; in this situation, there will likely only be a nominal activation fee and contract extension
- A cell phone contract that's about to expire so they don't have to pay expensive early termination fees (also called ETFs; these generally cost $300 or more)
- No cell phone at all.
Even if you overcome this obstacle, you still may want to consider a gift other than an iPhone. Since getting an iPhone generally requires a two-year contract of at least $59.99/month, buying someone an iPhone also means you're requiring them to pay a minimum of over $1,400 to use their gift over the next two years. A gift that costs the recipient nearly $1,500 doesn’t seem ideal to me.
Of course, if you're determined to give an iPhone and are feeling like a big spender, you could pay for the recipient's monthly fees, too. That's one way around the problem. You could also give the gift with their knowledge and agreement to pay the monthly fees.
Chances are, though, most people won't be giving nearly $2,000 gifts this year. So if you want to avoid spending that much, or want to avoid causing cell-phone-contract complications for your friend or family member, skip the iPhone as a gift this year.
Maybe an iPod touch with its roomy storage, or the big-screen iPad, both of which support the App Store and other great features, would be a better option?