Looking to save money on a new phone or phone plan? Here are a few tips

As new phone season begins in earnest and the holiday season approaches, people all over the country are looking at their phone bills trying to figure out if it’s worth upgrading, or if there are ways to cut costs. 

Whether trying to figure out how to get the best deal on a new device or to cut costs, here are a few tips to help guide you through the process. 

Regardless of whether you prefer a new iPhone or Android, there are plenty of ways to save. 

Adding lines or switching carriers is always one of the best ways to get a deal, with all four carriers offering heavy device discounts to those willing to add or switch. 

Ap Review Samsung Note 9 Phone F File Usa Ny

In this Aug. 7, 2018, file photo the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is shown in New York.


If you’re not willing to switch or add a line, trading in your current phone could give you sizable discounts, particularly right now when values are boosted to entice people to upgrade to the latest iPhone, Galaxy or Android phone.

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Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are each offering a number of aggressive trade-in deals on the new iPhones, with all four major carriers also having trade-in deals for those looking to upgrade to Android devices. One thing on the carrier offers: Depending on the deal, the money might be delivered as a monthly credit instead of an upfront discount, so be careful of the fine print. 

Manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Apple have their own trade-in deals, as do retailers like Best Buy. 

Those looking for cash to buy their new device should look at sites like Gazelle, TradeMore and uSell. 

The values on your particular phone will vary based on the condition of your device and how old it is. Whether selling or trading in, you should compare how much your phone would be worth at a few different sites to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Bill too high? Switching to a prepaid carrier might help

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint may be the most well-known carriers in the U.S., but those looking for a deal may find it on some of those network’s prepaid options. 

All four carriers have what is known as prepaid networks, brands that use their wireless service but operate as their own companies. What they lose in perks like free HBO, Netflix or mobile hotspot data, they often makeup in cheaper monthly rates, particularly for those who don’t need unlimited high-speed data. 

You likely have seen these companies before. T-Mobile owns MetroPCS (soon to be simply Metro), AT&T owns Cricket Wireless and Sprint owns Boost Mobile. 

Jjl Logo

T-Mobile CEO John Legere poses next to new Metro by T-Mobile logo. MetroPCS ditches PCS in a name change.


Verizon has been experimenting with its own offshoot called Visible that offers unlimited talk, text and data for $40 per month. The catch: You need to have an iPhone 6 or later to use it and speeds are limited to a max of 5 Mbps, significantly slower than the 20 Mbps the company averaged, according to a July report from industry tracker OpenSignal.   

Beyond the major carriers, other companies have created prepaid networks that run on the nationwide service of the larger providers, offering various perks of their own to use their service.

Mint Mobile, which runs on T-Mobile’s network, offers 2GB of high-speed and unlimited calling and texting for $15 per month if you’re willing to pay for three months in advance.  

Unreal Mobile uses Sprint’s network and starts at $10 for unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of high-speed data (additional data will be slowed). 

While there are plenty You’ll want to make sure that whichever prepaid network you’re on uses the best, larger provider in your area.

Check your data, and the latest plans


Hands holding a cell phone while sitting at a desk

Getty Images

If you haven’t changed plans in a while, it’s very possible your carrier has come out with newer data plans. All four networks update their options every few months, adding features and even occasionally better value. 

They won’t make the changes automatically for you, however, so you need to be on top of your bill to see what makes sense for you and your plan. Look at a few of your recent bills to get an understanding of how much data you are using and what you are paying for. Then log onto your carrier’s website to see what the latest offers are and if there’s a better deal than what you have. 

This is particularly useful if you are on a shared data plan that charged you overage fees for exceeding your monthly data limits. Most recent plans, even non-unlimited ones, will now slow your data instead of immediately charging you, but you need to turn this feature on. 

The threatening-to-switch game

As always, one other option is to call your current carrier and see what happens when you tell them you are willing to leave. If you have been with your provider for a while, its possible there may be loyalty discounts that might be available to keep you on their network. 

As with any negotiation, though, be prepared for them to call your bluff – the carriers know how tedious it is to switch. And remember to be kind to the rep on the phone. They don’t make the plans, and being nice to them may make them more inclined to help you out. 

Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal


Copyright 2017 USATODAY.com

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Honda and Acura Recall 1.6 Million Cars–Because Safety Features Made Them Dangerous

If you own a Honda or Acura car from 2001 or later, you should check right away to find out if you’re affected by not one but two new recalls which together affect more than 1.6 million cars, one for faulty airbags on older vehicles, and another for faulty backup cameras on newer ones.

Honda, which owns the Acura brand, is recalling 1.4 million cars due to concerns over a faulty air bag inflator. If exposed to high heat and humidity over long periods of time, the air bags are at risk of exploding during a crash sending shrapnel into drivers and passengers. Drivers with affected cars should contact their dealerships immediately so that the airbags can be replaced for free.

The recall is part of a truly massive recall effort initiated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to replace air bags made by the Japanese company Takata. Takata airbags are used in some 19 car brands–nearly every brand you can think of, including American and European cars as well as Asian ones. So far, at least 23 people have been killed worldwide by these exploding airbags, and at least 180 have been injured.

Overall, about 100 million cars worldwide will need to be recalled and have their airbags replaced by the end of 2019. Perhaps not surprisingly, Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the U.S. as a result of the prolonged recall.

The recall appears to affect some Honda and Acura cars sold between 2001 and 2014. You can check  here to find out if theirs is one of them. For the most accurate information, have a VIN handy.

And then there are backup cameras.

If your Honda is newer than 2014, you likely don’t have to worry about an exploding airbag, but you should be aware of another recall of 232,000 2018 Accord and 2019 Insight hybrid models due to faulty backup cameras. It turns out these cameras might not accurately show what’s behind you, meaning that a driver could collide with an unseen obstacle. A free software update will fix the problem.

It seems ironic to say the least that airbags and backup cameras–two features that so greatly increase safety that both are required by law–could actually make driving more dangerous. Although you’re still better off with a Takata airbag than no airbag at all, as the NHTSA makes sure to say on its website

It’s even more interesting to note that, over the past few decades, cars have gotten safer and safer, thanks to the growing use of backup cameras and airbags, but also sensors that tell drivers when they’re drifting out of a lane, hands-free mobile phone use, and any number of other improvements. At the same time, the number of cars recalled has been mostly on the rise. That’s because cars are getting more and more complicated as manufacturers add more options and–yes–safety features.

U.S. auto recalls hit their highest level (so far) in 2016 with 53 million vehicles recalled, thanks in large part to the Takata airbags. In 2017, recalls dropped to 30.7 million. That’s still a very huge number, particularly when you consider that only 17.6 million new cars were sold that year. In other words, manufacturers are recalling nearly 75 percent more cars than they’re selling. Which doesn’t sound like any way to run a business.

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BrewDog ends its association with Scofflaw over free beer to Trump supporters gimmick

Scottish craft brewery BrewDog has terminated its partnership with Scofflaw after the latter dispersed a press release where it mentioned that it will offer free beer to Donald Trump supporters in the UK.

In a press release sent by Scofflaw, which the company later said was sent without its knowledge, it said that “the self confessed trailer trash brewery would get the UK “beered up redneck style completely free of charge but there is a hook, you have to be a Trump supporter.”

BrewDog after receiving backlash on social media, made it clear on Twitter that the Scofflaw release was announced without its knowledge and consent and that in no way they are aligned with Scofflaw’s position.

They tweeted: “We will of course be cancelling all the events and sending all of the beer back. We care about beer and people. Not hate.Following Scofflaw’s Fake News earlier, we’re going to run a very real promotion today – one free beer for anyone who supports Love not hate. Simply tell our staff, and enjoy a pint of Punk IPA, or any Headliner on us.”

Meanwhile Frank, the agency which sent out the press release apologised to Scofflaw and BrewDog and wrote: “On 27th Sept, a statement was released to media by an individual employee of Frank without Scofflaw’s approval. The reputation of our client is of utmost importance and we are taking this matter seriously. The employee has been suspended while an investigation takes place.”

BrewDog earlier made a ‘genuine move’ into streaming with Netflix-style originals service.

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You can now bring weed to the LAX airport, but will you make it on the plane?

You can now bring weed to one of the busiest airports in the country.

Los Angeles International Airport changed it’s policy, allowing travelers 21 or older to stroll onto their flights carrying cannabis.

It’s an idea that had local travelers shocked.

“I can’t take certain cosmetics of a certain size on an airplane… drugs? That’s insane!” said Deborah Sampson, a Nipomo resident.

“If it’s a medical concern, everyone brings their prescriptions on, that’s fine,” said Rebecca Lilley, a San Luis Obispo Resident.

There are limits. Passengers won’t be allowed to toke one up on the flight or in any public place. Any more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana is not allowed.

Some local travelers say any amount is too much.

“I’m allergic to cannabis, so when someone has it on their person, like they just smoked it or have it in their bag, I react to it. It makes me sick,” Sampson said.

While Los Angeles police may give it the green light, don’t expect to sail through TSA with weed.

Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in part: “TSA’S response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized.”

That means if a TSA officer discovers an item that may violate the law, they’ll call law enforcement who will then decide if it’s a crime.

Some worry that will slow down the security process.

“Needing to possibly have a whole other line for those who have a substance that isn’t legally allowed in other states could get really complicated,” Lilley said.

LAX’s policy also states the weed in your bag may be illegal wherever you land.

Officials with the Santa Maria Airport say they don’t have specific regulations on marijuana, but they discourage it. If TSA finds drugs they’ll call the police and it will slow down the already stressful process of getting through security.

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Workers at Transbay Transit Center prepare to add support columns under cracked beams

Construction workers finished opening a large hole under the Transbay Transit Center’s bus deck on Friday as off-site crews began fabricating temporary columns they plan to bring in over the weekend to support two cracked beams.

A team of engineers and fabricators hoped to finalize the plans for a shoring system by early Saturday, so they can begin installing the columns “very soon,” said Dennis Turchon, the transit center’s senior construction manager.

“We will start seeing temporary supports in the next couple days,” Turchon said. “We have started off-site fabrication to minimize the process on-site.”

The columns will support the damaged beams running above the bus deck and under the transit hub’s roof-top park. The beams support the entire section of the building that crosses Fremont Street.

The temporary columns will rise from the street up through the hole to buttress the cracked beams. The design will go through a third-party peer review before workers begin installing the pillars.

Turchon would not estimate how much the work would cost, but he said it will be a “significant amount,” because a large team of designers and fabricators are involved in the project.

Workers rerouted electrical conduits, plumbing lines and other utilities Thursday and Friday to create an opening for the bracing equipment.

“We had many items in the way that had to be taken care of, and those are essentially cleared out at this point, so its clear now to do the installation,” Turchon said.

Officials with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which built and operates the facility, hope to reopen Fremont Street by the end of next week. They plan to place the columns in the center of the street so traffic can move around them.

As crews put in the quick fix to avoid a potential collapse, engineers are developing a plan to secure the more-than-60-foot-long beams permanently.

Workers discovered the cracks Tuesday as they were installing ceiling panels. That prompted officials to close the entire facility, along with the stretch of Fremont Street below it, as engineers scrambled to diagnose the problem.

The cracking is isolated to the two beams at the center of the span over Fremont Street, said joint powers authority executive director Mark Zabaneh. Another section of the building over First Street with an identical design to the cracked section has no signs of stress or cracking, he said.

The cracks run along the beams’ 4-inch thick bottom flanges. One crack spans the 2½-foot-wide flange, while the other crack only partially spans the flange. The beams are 5 feet thick at their ends and widen to 8 feet at the center, where they are welded to a column attached to the bus deck below. The cracks are a few inches from the welds.

The cause of the problem remains unknown. Engineers believe the cracking is either the result of a problem with the beams’ manufacture, a mistake with the installation or a failure in the building’s design.

Turchon said the joint powers agency has continued to monitor and test other areas of the structure and “no further issues have be found at all.”

Mayor London Breed has called for an investigation into the cracking. The agency said it will bring in outside engineers to conduct a peer review of the building’s design.

The $2.2 billion, three-block-long building in the center of the city’s new Transbay district opened Aug. 12 after some two decades of planning and construction.

Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: esernoffsky@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @EvanSernoffsky

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