How to get a phone in the USA, in several easy steps.
I start by researching the phone that is right for me. It's not easy, and I have to sacrifice a lot of time to do it, but I find a clear winner - a phone designed for what I want, and is currently fairly highly recommended by the gadget sites. It was released a few months ago (with a lot of fanfare). It's also very expensive, but I'm desperate for a phone. I spend another few days trimming my bills for monthly savings.
I got to T-Mobile to buy it. "Oh, we didn't have this phone on in-store display, so not many people bought it. And then we stopped selling because not many people were buying it. But you can buy one directly from Google, and if you do, we can set you up with service for it!"
So I go home and got to Google. "Oh, we realised it was a mistake to dirty our hands selling our phones to customers directly, so we've switched off our online store. But you can buy one directly from our guy, Brightstar."
So I go to Brightstar. "Oh, we've stopped selling to the unwashed masses of the general public. We'll only sell to you if you are a registered phone developer."
I figure that I can probably set myself up as a registered phone developer, and go to find out the process. Reading the contract I'm about to agree to, I realize there may be a legal clash with my work visa (I'm not allowed to work other than for the company my visa is registered with), and that perhaps I should talk to an attorney.
(So at this point, just to buy a phone I need to consult an attorney. Trying to buying a phone in the USA is an amazing experience)
I do more research and decide that (a) it's most likely compatible with my visa, and (b) if it isn't, no-one will know. So, it looks like an Officially Registered Phone Developer I will be!
"Oh" says Brightstar, "It doesn't actually matter if you're a phone dev or not, because we don't actually have any phones to sell. But there is a chance we might be getting a small number of them sometime next month. If you camp out at our online store, maybe YOU could be one of the lucky buyers!!!"
I am defeated. US phone companies never really wanted my money, they just like to torment me. Nothing I do gets me a phone.
Wait... while I don't want to buy a phone from ebay (because later warranty dealings aren't easy), but maybe there is a local gadget store or Amazon or something?!
"Oh you poor man" says Amazon, "Come in from cold! We have phone! We sell to you! Everything good with Amazon! Exact phone right here. We do you special deal! Phone retail for $500, we give you good deal - for you just $900! 900 dollar and phone is yours!"
I budgeted for phone+service to top $1000/year, and I know dentists that give you a more pleasant buying experience for that money. Literally. Dentists! (Not to mention, at the end of the day, the dentist actually provides you with some dental work.)
I still don't have a phone.