Get the Better newsletter.
Consumer Reports is out with its final test results on the iPhone XS and XS Max and both phones got high marks. They didn’t beat the No. 1-rated Samsung Galaxy Note9 — which scored 83 out of 100 points — but they were right behind with a score of 82 and just ahead of the Samsung Galaxy (81) and Galaxy S9 (80).
The iPhone XS Max has a super-sized 6.5-inch screen, the largest display of any iPhone to date, but in its review, Consumer Reports focused on the “noticeable improvement” in battery life, putting the XS and XS Max among the industry leaders.
“Apple also managed to make its already top-rated cameras just a bit better and boost the phone’s overall performance with a new, faster processor,” the editors said.
The iPhone XS retail costs range $999 to $1349, depending on storage, while the iPhone XS Max will set you back $1099 to $1449.
Shelling out $1,000 or more for a smartphone isn’t something everyone can afford, but you don’t have to pay full price. The major wireless carriers are aggressively promoting these new iPhones. There are deals for people who want to upgrade and deals for those who want to switch mobile companies.
Bree Fowler, Consumer Reports senior electronics editor, says it’s important to “shop around and read the fine print,” because these money-saving iPhone promotions typically have strings attached. For instance, you’ll most likely be required to start a new line of service.
“You may also have to pay for both of those phones over a long period of time which means you’re pretty much stuck with that carrier for two to three years, unless you want to pay off the balance of the phone,” Fowler told NBC News BETTER.
Big-box retailers and electronics stores are another option. They typically don’t discount the phone, Fowler said, but they may pay you for your trade-in or give you a gift card.
For example, right now Best Buy is offering a gift card of up to $275 with the purchase of an XS or XS Max, with a trade-in of an iPhone 7 or newer model.
Here’s a look at some of the deals currently available for customers with good credit:
Buy your XS or XS Max from AT&T and you’ll get $700 off the cost of a second one. The discount comes in the form of a monthly credit to your account. You can choose either 24 or 30 months to pay off both phones. Now, here’s the fine print: You need to buy both on AT&T Next (their upgrade to a new smartphone every 2 years program) and have wireless service. In most markets, you must have DIRECTV to qualify for this promotion.
Sprint has an 18-month lease deal for those who trade-in an eligible older-model phone, such as an iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy 8 that’s in good condition with no missing pieces, broken parts of cracks on the screen.
For the XS, the phone is basically free for the lease period: You pay $41.67 upfront and then nothing for 18 months. You’ll receive a $41.67 credit for the trade-in within two months.
With the XS MAX you pay $4.17 a month after the $41.67 trade-in is credited to your account.
When the lease is up, you can trade in that phone for a new model or buy it for about $250 (lump sum or divided into six monthly payments).
These deals require a new line of Sprint service or a current line that’s eligible for an upgrade.
Trade in your old phone and get a rebate of $100, $200 or $300 (depending on the quality of your device) toward the purchase of a new XS or XS Max. You’ll get the full $300 rebate for an iPhone 8, 7 or 7 Plus in good condition; $200 for an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus in good condition. Trade in any other iPhone, no matter how old, and you’ll get a $100 credit.
The trade-in savings will be in the form of a credit and prepaid Mastercard that will be mailed to you within eight weeks.
Verizon is offering $100 credit when you trade in your old phone or $300 when you trade-in a phone (in good working and cosmetic condition) and add a new line. That money will be credited to your account over 24 months. If the market value of your phone is higher than $100 or $300, Verizon promises to give you the full value as an account credit in one to two billing cycles.
Note: With all these deals, you owe the remaining balance if you cancel the wireless service before the lease has ended.
Consumer Reports’ Fowler says it’s important to make sure you know how much you’re paying before you buy. A lot of these plans come with taxes and fees that might be buried in small type. You may have to pay the taxes up front.
In some cases, there’s a sizeable downpayment required. For example, with T-Mobile’s money-saving promotion for the iPhone XS Max (64 GB), the downpayment is $379.99, then you’re billed $30 a month for 24 months.
DON’T WANT TO SPEND A GRAND ON A NEW PHONE?
Maybe you don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with a thousand-dollar smartphone. Consumer Reports suggests saving some cash with one of the earlier-generation iPhone models still on the market.
Retailers have already dropped the price of the iPhone X (64 GB) from the old starting price of $1,000 to $900 (or lease for $30 a month for 30 months).
You can buy a new iPhone 7 for around $449 or a new iPhone 8 for $599. You should be able to get a rebate for trading in your old phone.
“The 7 and 8 are still quality phones and they do a lot of the same things as the XS, especially the 7 and the 7 Plus which have the dual cameras that a lot of people like,” Fowler said. “They’ve cut the prices on those significantly and if you want to stick with Apple those are your budget choices at this point.”
GET MORE SIMPLE MONEY HACKS THAT’LL HELP YOU SAVE
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.