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Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:58 pm
by sophie
I remember that a while back there was a discussion of how to get smart phone service without paying the exorbitant monthly fees charged by the major carriers.  In one of the joys of free market capitalism, we now have some new or upcoming options.  Has anyone checked these out??

Republic Wireless:  Unlimited talk, text, data, and cellular roaming for $19/month.  No contract, but you have to pay full price for the phone.  The idea is that your phone uses Sprint's network for cellular, and automatically switches to wireless internet when available.  Because this requires a software modification to the phone's OS, the company has only one specific 3G Motorola phone that you can use, and it will likely never happen on the iPhone.  Supposedly they'll be adding some less dowdy Android phones to their lineup soon, though.

FreedomPop:  They offer a $39 mobile 4G hotspot device with free usage up to 500 Mb/month.  There is a strange catch:  if you use < 5 Mb in a given month, you are charged $0.99.  Still not a bad deal.  According to the website, they're about to roll out a free or low cost smartphone plan (can't find details though).  They also use Sprint's network.

These both look like really good alternatives to paying $100/month.  I checked out reviews on CNET and Amazon that were very positive.  Has anyone tried them, or know of other, similarly appetizing potential deals?

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:03 pm
by l82start
i have been using Ting https://ting.com/ and have been very happy with them so far, good price, paying for only what i use and the most surprising and odd experience with them so far....  i called the company for clarification and assistance and ..... a real person answered the phone!!!!!!

ps i forgot to mention, its month to month no contract...

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:53 pm
by Pointedstick
My personal favorite is the carrier that my wife uses: AirVoice Wireless. They are an AT&T MVNO, which means that any AT&T phone--locked or not--will work with them. They have pay-as-you-go plans that can be as cheap as $3.30/mo (!!!!!) and monthly usage plans that go from $10 to $40.

Right now my wife uses a pay-as-you-go plan with data and pays $10/mo. This is perfect for someone who doesn't talk a huge amount, texts primarily to other iPhone users (free using iMessage), and mostly uses data while at home, connected to a WiFi network. Every once in a while, she pays $20 during a period of heavy data usage away from the house. This compares extremely favorably to the $70 she used to pay through AT&T!

Same coverage, same network. 1/7 the price. It's awesome.

Mr. Money Moustache wrote a great write-up here: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/ ... one-plans/

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:08 pm
by foglifter
Pointedstick,

I looked at the Airvoice Wireless website and it all does look quite interesting. I couldn't find any details about their data speeds though, would you mind sharing your experience? Do they provide 3G or 4G speeds?

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:17 pm
by Pointedstick
They just use AT&T's network, so the 3G/4G coverage is the same. Don't know about LTE though. I believe one restriction is that there's no roaming on competing GSM networks liks you could have with a plan through AT&T itself. In practice, we've never found it it be a problem, and you can see their coverage map here: https://www.airvoicewireless.com/support/coverage-map/

In general though, if you're a big data user, AirVoice isn't for you. Their data rates are expensive. Ting--or better yet, Republic Wireless--are the better options for people who use a lot of mobile data. You could also get a free mobile hotspot from FreedomPop and use that to project a WiFi network for your phone whose service is through AirVoice, but while that would be a fun money-saving hack, it would be kind of inconvenient.

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:25 pm
by Pointedstick
Also, my wife tried Ting for two months before switching to AirVoice. It's a great idea in theory, but we got off to a rocky start with activation woes on the phone, which is made more confusing due to the fact that they only support CDMA phones that lack SIM cards. It makes the whole process more cumbersome, and we had several calls to tech support, although as l82start mentioned, a human always answered. A native English-speaking American, even! :D

Another downer is that they don't support iPhones. She eventually went with Airvoice since she already had the iPhone, so it was a simple matter of paying the early termination fee on the contract and popping in an AirVoice Sim. Didn't even need to unlock the phone! It winds up being cheaper anyway since the least expensive Ting plan is $6 + taxes and fees before you even add any minutes, texts, or data. She was paying about $17/mo for the Android phone before; now it's $10/mo for an iPhone! Much better deal IMHO.

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:50 am
by Tyler
Last December I switched to Virgin Mobile and have been pleased so far. 300min voice + unlimited texts and data costs a flat $30/month for my iPhone.  The only catch I've seen is that they're usually a generation behind on iPhone models and the data network is only 3G (neither bother me - hedonic adaptation and all). 

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:43 pm
by flyingpylon
Ting supports LTE in addition to CDMA.  While it's true that they don't currently offer the iPhone, they have been making some noise about it coming "soon".

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:57 pm
by foglifter
Here's the Wikipedia page with the list of all MNVOs (kudos to Pointedstick) - I thought it would be helpful for others who is exploring cheaper service options.

There is one important point that those traveling abroad should keep in mind: Europe and Asia are mostly on GSM standard, so any CDMA phone (Verizon or Sprint) would be useless there - unless of course you are happy to pay $$$ for international roaming. But usually it's much cheaper to buy a local SIM card and insert it into your phone. Relying on WiFi is another option, but if you need data connection at all times local SIM is the way to go.

There are only a few phones offered by US CDMA operators that are marketed as "world" phones and support both GSM and CDMA (like iPhone 5 or Droid 2 Global on Verizon). But even these phones would work on GSM only when you're outside the US and you've unlocked your GSM band in advance. I can't use my fully paid for D2G on T-Mobile or AT&T because Verizon blocked the US GSM bands (unlocking costs $100 and I would have to ship the phone to some obscure company). This is the reason I am considering going to ditch Verizon and switch to either T-Mobile or AT&T or any of the smaller operators that use GSM standard. I want my phone to be usable no matter where I am - be it in the US or overseas. I want to be able to buy a phone wherever I want and use it on any GSM provider. T-Mobile started their "UnCarrier" revolution and I hope this will be a good push for others.   

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:49 pm
by slk23
I use what I consider a moderate amount of data (~1.5 GB/month).  For a user like me it doesn't appear that any of the GSM alternate providers offer a significant savings over AT&T.  Still, I'd like to dump AT&T for threatening to throttle my data access when I exceeded 2 GB one month with my "unlimited" plan.

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 2:38 pm
by murphy_p_t
freedompop with google voice works great for me...most calls done over wifi (including incoming)...since its free when used under airtime limits...no taxes too!

Re: Low-cost smart phone plans

Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:58 pm
by AdamA
l82start wrote: i have been using Ting https://ting.com/ and have been very happy with them so far, good price, paying for only what i use and the most surprising and odd experience with them so far....  i called the company for clarification and assistance and ..... a real person answered the phone!!!!!!

ps i forgot to mention, its month to month no contract...
+1.

Ting is great.  I use an iPhone 6 Plus with it with no issues at all.