Carriers and third-party operators are cashing in on how quickly we swap out our devices for the next hot young thing. Most retailers have buyback and resale programs, under which they'll cannibalize your old phone for replacement parts or sell the phone to someone else for a low price. Some buyback programs even take previously loved phones and sell them in bulk to international distributors. "Yesterday's smartphone becomes today's smartphone in a developing market," says Hays.
As for the United States, plans and phones may not be getting any cheaper, but carriers are starting to bend a bit, if 2013 is any indication. So far, three of the four major U.S. carriers have introduced contract-free options that don't lock customers in. Chances are, we'll see more-creative plans and phone financing options as our mobile needs change. And when you look at our numbers compared to those for phones in other countries, you'll see that the grass isn't necessarily greener overseas.
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