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Phones

Get an iPhone 7 and six months of service for $305

Or choose an iPhone 7 Plus with service for $355.99. What's the catch? Not what you think. Plus: A 128GB wireless flash drive for $30!

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!


A good-as-new iPhone 7 has never been more affordable.

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

If your iPhone is feeling a little long in the tooth, or maybe you're looking to switch from Android (gasp!) here's an interesting and affordable way to score an iPhone 7.

Virgin Mobile is now offering the refurbished iPhone 7 (32GB) for $299.99, along with six months of unlimited service for $1 per month (when you transfer your mobile number from another carrier). Similarly, you can score a refurbished iPhone 7 Plus (32GB) for $349.99, plus $6 for six months. Update: As of 8 a.m. PT, Virgin's site is down -- and has been all morning. The company is aware of the outage. Update #2: The site is back up.

As regular readers know, I'm strongly in favor of refurbished Apple products, because that's usually the only way to save any money on them. And Apple does such a good job, er, refurbing, the gear is literally as good as new.

Virgin's "Pre-Loved" iPhones get essentially the same treatment: Apple-grade testing and inspection, a new battery and charger, new EarPods and a one-year warranty.

What's more, Apple proper doesn't currently have any clearance iPhone 7 models available. You could buy a refurb elsewhere, but you'd be unlikely to get the new battery or a full warranty.

So, for all intents and purposes, this is a new iPhone 7 for $300 or iPhone 7 Plus for $350. Not all colors are available, though, and for now you're limited to the 32GB SKUs. If you want 128GB or 256GB, you're out of luck.

The carrier question

The real "catch," of course, is that you have to hitch your service wagon to Virgin Mobile for at least six months. Thankfully, at $1 per month (plus any applicable taxes or fees), that's hardly a hardship.

Or is it? Virgin is a Sprint MVNO, and I'll just charitably say not everyone is a fan of Sprint's service. It really depends on where you live, work or travel. In my house, I can barely get a signal. Of course, I have Wi-Fi, so I barely need a signal.

After six months, you'll be switched over to Virgin's $50 unlimited plan -- still a good deal, especially considering some of the Inner Circle perks that go with it. And there's no contract, so you can cancel if you want. Ah, but can you get the iPhone unlocked at that point and take it elsewhere? From what I can tell, and there's some conflicting information online, phones activated as part of the Inner Circle plan can be unlocked at any time -- but don't quote me on that. (I've reached out to Virgin and will update the post if or when I get clarification.) Update: According to a Virgin PR manager, the company has different unlocking policies in place for different phones and purchase options. Thankfully, these iPhones can be unlocked after just 14 days.

Despite this handful of caveats, I think this is an amazing deal. It's ludicrous to pay $700 or more for an iPhone 8 or $1,000 or more for an iPhone X. But $300 for last year's (okay, 2016's) flagship model? That's more like it.

Your thoughts?

sandisk-connect-wireless.jpg

This normal-looking flash drive is also wireless!

SanDisk

Bonus deal: If you're wondering whether 32GB of storage will be enough, or you're just running low on your existing device, consider a wireless flash drive.

Like this one: For a limited time, you can get the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick (128GB) in bulk packaging for just $30 shipped when you apply promo code FSHIPOUT at checkout. Price for the identical, retail-packaged version: $70! Update: As of about 7:50 a.m. PT, this sale seems to have ended. I've reached out to SanDisk and will post an update (or another deal) if they're willing to restart it for Cheapskate readers.

The Connect looks like a fairly typical USB flash drive, and it is that -- but it's also a wireless drive that can connect to up to three mobile devices simultaneously. Use it to feed music or movies to a storage-strapped phone, or to offload extra photos, videos and the like.