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Guide for Buying Phones Online vs In-Store

Buying a phone can be as simple or involved as you want. If you don’t want to get too technical, you can walk into a phone store and walk out with a new phone and service contract within the hour. On the other hand, you can dive into a website after website of manufacturers’ specs, reviews, and message board forums. 

The phone you choose is up to you, but when all is said and done you have two ways to purchase it: online or in-store. Both methods have their advantages.

Know What You Want

Knowing what you want from a phone helps you narrow down your choices. Will you use your phone to take pictures or text with family and friends? Will you need extra memory for all your files? Is your phone likely to need high-end graphics capabilities for games? How important is security to you? How big a display do you want? What about battery life? Will you want a phone with headphone jacks? Once you have some idea of what you want, it’s time to do some research.

Researching Phones

While it’s possible to purchase a phone without doing any research, it’s not generally advisable. A little research can reveal a phone’s specifications, how well it stacks up to the competition, which carrier services it works well with, and its reputation among its users.

You can spend hours comparing different phones online. If you’d rather consult someone in person, drop by a phone store and talk to their customer representatives. In-store staff can be a font of information about specific phones.

Benefits of Shopping Online

Shopping online comes with a wide range of advantages, including:

  • You’re not limited to your local stores, which may only carry certain phone models.
  • You can take your time researching phones, without pressure from sales staff.
  • You can visit each manufacturer’s website to see phone specs, as well as checking consumer review sites, Yelp reviews, and other sites of interest.
  • You can buy directly from the manufacturer, eCommerce stores, and auction sites, or order the phone online from your preferred carrier and take delivery at your local store. 
  • While it’s a case of “buyer beware,” you may be able to buy high-end phones second hand or refurbished at lower than normal prices.
  • You can take advantage of eCommerce promotions, including cash refunds and free accessories.
  • Delivery is fast and returns are easy.

Disadvantages of Shopping Online

With that said, there are a few downsides to purchasing a phone online. Unless you purchase and take advantage of a service carrier’s financing options you need to buy the phone outright. Given that a high-end phone can cost thousands of dollars, this can be a hefty upfront purchase.

Additionally, you have to consider your service provider plan. Some phones have compatibility issues with specific service providers. The chance of this becoming a problem increases if you purchased your phone from an international store. Check with your service provider before making a final decision on your phone to avoid this issue.

Benefits of Shopping In-Store

Purchasing a phone from a store has its own set of advantages:

  • Store staff can set up your phone quickly and efficiently, including transferring data and SIM cards from old phones and setting up services like Google Play.
  • If you purchase the phone from your service provider you may be able to add to your plan or score some freebies.
  • Service providers often offer no-interest financing, so you can pay for your phone over time.
  • Buying a service carrier-approved phone ensures you’ll receive proper updates.
  • Store staff provides post-sale support, resolving any problems with the phone.
  • In-store purchases often come with the option of purchasing insurance against theft or damage. 


Stores are often willing to go the extra mile for their customers. For instance, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Victra stores had introduced Window Shopping, so customers spend the minimum amount of time in the store, reducing the risk of infection.

Disadvantages of Shopping In-Store

In-store purchases do have some issues. The store may not have the model or color of the phone you want in stock and have to order it in, which may take a few days.

Phones bought in-store are usually locked for use only with the store’s service carrier, which can make it difficult to switch providers and continue using the same phone.

In-store or Online?

So which is better: purchasing phones online or in-store? The answer depends on your personal preferences. With online purchases, you get more selection but less support unless you buy from your carrier’s website. With in-store, you may have less selection but receive more support. Or you can split the difference: Do your research online, then drop by your local Verizon Victra store to chat with staff and choose the phone that best meets your needs.


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