Blackberry Torch Buyers be Warned: Avoid AT&T

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Research in Motion said the Blackberry Torch's $100 selling price on should not be considered a price cut, because the phone still costs $200 through AT&T.

So, basically, if you don't mind having a phone mailed to you, don't buy the Blackberry Torch directly from AT&T.

Buying a phone directly from the wireless carrier is like getting your car repaired at the dealership. You might not get better service than an average mechanic, but you know they can do the job, and for that, you'll pay out the nose.

RIM was correct in telling Computerworld that the price discrepancy is standard industry practice. Samsung's Captivate Android phone, for which AT&T charges $200, costs $50 at Amazon. Motorola's Droid 2, which costs $200 at Verizon Wireless, is priced at $150 on Amazon. Verizon charges $50 for the Palm Pre Plus, but Amazon practically gives the phone away (actually, it costs one cent). The list goes on.

This phenomenon isn't limited to Amazon, either. Wirefly shows me a price of $50 for the new Sony Xperia X10 smartphone, compared to $150 with AT&T.

It's mainly your own fault if you buy directly from a wireless carrier. No one's forcing you to walk into an AT&T store instead of shopping around. But unlike the huge repair markups at the place you bought your car, which everyone knows about, the smartphone price difference is a relatively new trend. A lot of people who are buying smartphones now are buying them for the first time, and they just don't know any better.

Hence my warning to you. Describing Amazon's Blackberry Torch deal as a price cut is "inaccurate and misleading," RIM said. But what's the appropriate adjective when wireless carriers charge double for smartphones?

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