Author Topic: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone  (Read 746 times)

Hibernaculum

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Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« on: November 03, 2017, 04:38:50 PM »
Hi folks-
I'm looking for some cell phone plan advice and some cell phone advice. I've checked out I.P. Daley's “superguide”- and it is super- but there is so much information, I have trouble making heads or tails of it. I'm hoping someone here can give me some recommendations.

My wife is a heavy user of her smartphone for work; currently I have dumb phone. After years of being on a “plan” (my wife would re-up without checking with me, so heck knows how much we've spent all-in), we're now free agents, so to speak- my wife's plan has switched to month to month. So we're now looking for the best/cheapest plan.

We use the Verizon network and want to stay in that network. Verizon is bad around here, but apparently the other two major carriers are worse- so we're looking for an MVNO using Verizon's towers.

My wife uses less than 2 gb of data per month on her Android phone. It has at some points been more, but I think we have a handle on that now. We've got no landline. So, interested in a plan the provides 2 gb of data before it throttles things. My wife is out and about, so her data usage will be cell, rather than through the home or office wifi, mostly.

I'll want to get a new phone that could use data, so presumably getting both phones on the new plan is the best way to do it. I won't need much data at all, so we should still be under 2 gb total. Interested in unlimited domestic calling and texting. A bonus would be the ability to make international calls (Netherlands) of around 30 minutes or so a month as cheaply as possible, too.

Currently, we pay $79, including $2 for my flip-phone and plan (got a new flip phone about six months back; could pay it off all at once for like $24 or pay $2/month for two years, so I went with the two years- I'll have to pay off the balance due on the $24- obviously not a huge consideration). My wife's phone is an Samsung Android phone she's had for about two years or so.

Any ideas on a good provider that could save us money?

Next- my phone. Something is wonky with my flip-phone, and texting is a pain. I don't text much, but I would like to be able to dictate my texts, or at least type them, rather than doing some sort of keypad multi-press stuff. What I like about my flip phone:
- it was cheap
- unlikely to damage the screen
- battery lasts for a good long time- around a week

It would be handy to have a smartphone to run a few apps, and I think the interface would be easier for certain things. I've got an old iPhone that I use around the house for wifi stuff- controlling the stereo system, casting videos etc. It has a cracked screen, and is large and bulky, so I'm not interested in getting it back into duty as a phone like it was when my wife had it.

I'd like an Android phone. Small would be good- I won't be emailing a ton or editing documents on this phone, so it seems like a phone with a smaller screen would be less likely to have the screen crack, would be cheaper, and would have better battery life. Also handy, if this is a feature that is still available, is the ability to use a micro-SD card for memory expansion. It sort of sucks if you run out of space on a phone, and you have to futz with making sure everything uploads to the cloud correctly, etc. I'd prefer just to be able to pull a chip and plug it into another device for backup. As far as price- lower is better. I'm thinking something in the $100-$200 range. Durable and compact would be good.

Any ideas what might fit my needs?
TIA
JB

Daley

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2017, 07:04:27 PM »
You don't need unlimited anything, because there is no such thing as unlimited. It's marketing doublespeak. Find out what you and you wife are actually using minute and text wise per month on average and what your peak usage is for the sake of padding if needed. You find those numbers, and you can actually start shopping for plans.

2GB of data is still a lot, and I suspect that some tweaks to how the phone handles app and system updates could trim a lot of that fat by shunting it to WiFi. Learn those settings, too, especially if you want to buy an Android phone of your own. Data usage is your enemy, and Google by default with these handsets plays fast and loose with your money. Now, if what you mean by no landline is actually no home internet, then nevermind... but you can disable a lot of needless background mobile data usage in Android. Do so.

There's only one Verizon MVNO I really recommend, and that's Selectel. This said, Red Pocket offers Verizon calling plans, as does US Mobile. I am personally on US Mobile for their T-Mobile plan, and been so for nearly a year now. That doesn't give you a lot of options you need to wade through, either, which simplifies things. Note there is no off-network roaming like Verizon postpaid offers, so if you find yourself roaming a lot onto US Cellular in your region, abandon all hope.

Personally, the only Android handset I'm willing to recommend these days is the Moto G4 Play. There's a Verizon variant, the XT1609. Not too big, user replaceable battery, mostly vanilla Android builds, third party Android build support if needed. You can buy it used, cheap. Be certain that it is used and has a clean ESN for activation on a Verizon MVNO or Verizon postpaid. Any new Verizon prepaid models of this phone can't be activated outside of Verizon prepaid anymore... so shy away from the "new $50!" listings.

Cheapest calls to the Netherlands at that time level will be using Localphone (a VoIP provider) using their pay per minute prepaid service at 1.3-5.9˘/minute. They provide preconfigured Android apps to simplify usage, you can set your existing phone number as the outbound caller ID, and you can use it on either WiFi or on mobile data. Use WiFi and your home internet connection as often as possible with this, obviously, as VoIP uses around 500kB/minute roughly.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

Hibernaculum

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2017, 10:45:20 AM »
Hey, great information- that's very helpful!

My wife would probably log about 30 minutes a day of long-distance talk; I'm more like 30 minutes a week. 2 gb data is a lot- I think I'd probably start with her there, and then optimize her device to trim usage and see what we get. We do have home internet. And the cell phone service right at our house is so bad that we have a network extender, so all the calls we make from home go through our wifi and internet. I think the breaking point for me was the the wifi on my flip phone must have gone south- it wouldn't connect well, so quite often people would call, I'd answer, and then there would be no connection and they'd have to call again, or I'd have to call them back- quite a pain.

Here's another question, aside from simplicity of billing, is there any advantage to us being on the same plan? My wife uses the phone so much for work stuff that if we changed to something new and had dropped calls (or something wonky with the roaming, maybe- not sure how to know what our roaming set-up is), she'd be really grumbly. So, it may make sense for me to go first, buy a phone and sign up for a plan with Selectel, and see how it goes.

Looks like Selectel has a plan for $20/month with 500 minutes talk, 50 mb high-speed data. Might be good for me. And then, my wife could either sign up for the $30/month 1 gb data or $40/month with 3 gb data, with lots of talk, assuming everything worked OK for mine.

So, for the phone, this is the one you're talking about, right?
https://www.bestbuy.com/site/motorola-moto-g4-play-4g-lte-with-16gb-memory-cell-phone-unlocked-white/5451203.p

I haven't been in on the procedure before. What do I do? OK, I buy the phone. Do I need or buy a Verzion-based SIM card, too? And then I call Selectel, tell them my account info, the phone number of my current phone, give them a credit card, and then they activate things? Do I need to talk to Verizon to cancel/transfer things?

You don't need unlimited anything, because there is no such thing as unlimited. It's marketing doublespeak. Find out what you and you wife are actually using minute and text wise per month on average and what your peak usage is for the sake of padding if needed. You find those numbers, and you can actually start shopping for plans.

2GB of data is still a lot, and I suspect that some tweaks to how the phone handles app and system updates could trim a lot of that fat by shunting it to WiFi. Learn those settings, too, especially if you want to buy an Android phone of your own. Data usage is your enemy, and Google by default with these handsets plays fast and loose with your money. Now, if what you mean by no landline is actually no home internet, then nevermind... but you can disable a lot of needless background mobile data usage in Android. Do so.

There's only one Verizon MVNO I really recommend, and that's Selectel. This said, Red Pocket offers Verizon calling plans, as does US Mobile. I am personally on US Mobile for their T-Mobile plan, and been so for nearly a year now. That doesn't give you a lot of options you need to wade through, either, which simplifies things. Note there is no off-network roaming like Verizon postpaid offers, so if you find yourself roaming a lot onto US Cellular in your region, abandon all hope.

Personally, the only Android handset I'm willing to recommend these days is the Moto G4 Play. There's a Verizon variant, the XT1609. Not too big, user replaceable battery, mostly vanilla Android builds, third party Android build support if needed. You can buy it used, cheap. Be certain that it is used and has a clean ESN for activation on a Verizon MVNO or Verizon postpaid. Any new Verizon prepaid models of this phone can't be activated outside of Verizon prepaid anymore... so shy away from the "new $50!" listings.

Cheapest calls to the Netherlands at that time level will be using Localphone (a VoIP provider) using their pay per minute prepaid service at 1.3-5.9˘/minute. They provide preconfigured Android apps to simplify usage, you can set your existing phone number as the outbound caller ID, and you can use it on either WiFi or on mobile data. Use WiFi and your home internet connection as often as possible with this, obviously, as VoIP uses around 500kB/minute roughly.

AmyS

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2017, 10:51:09 AM »
I've been very satisfied with Page Plus for almost a decade. They use Verizon phones and network. They offer a variety of plans and phones. I buy phones from Ebay, I've had everything from not-so-smartphones to my current refurbished Samsung Galaxy S4. My kids use Verizon iPhones on the Page Plus network.

After reading all about MMM's obsession with a couple of different providers, I checked out several but decided to stick with Page Plus. It's been completely reliable, ridiculously affordable, and very flexible with plans and phones. Also, in my area Verizon has the most reliable network, so coverage is great. And it's not fiddly. You can use a huge variety of phones, they have a large variety of plans, and the customer service has been accessible and helpful. You don't have to mess with buying only one kind of phone, using a new network (I notice many of MMM's recommendations use the Sprint network, with is just about as good as shouting across town where I live), or dealing with odd-to-anyone-but-techies equipment to make it work.

I highly recommend Page Plus, especially if you're already with Verizon. Two thumbs up.

Hibernaculum

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2017, 07:21:27 AM »
Thanks, I'll check them out!

I've been very satisfied with Page Plus for almost a decade. They use Verizon phones and network. They offer a variety of plans and phones. I buy phones from Ebay, I've had everything from not-so-smartphones to my current refurbished Samsung Galaxy S4. My kids use Verizon iPhones on the Page Plus network.

After reading all about MMM's obsession with a couple of different providers, I checked out several but decided to stick with Page Plus. It's been completely reliable, ridiculously affordable, and very flexible with plans and phones. Also, in my area Verizon has the most reliable network, so coverage is great. And it's not fiddly. You can use a huge variety of phones, they have a large variety of plans, and the customer service has been accessible and helpful. You don't have to mess with buying only one kind of phone, using a new network (I notice many of MMM's recommendations use the Sprint network, with is just about as good as shouting across town where I live), or dealing with odd-to-anyone-but-techies equipment to make it work.

I highly recommend Page Plus, especially if you're already with Verizon. Two thumbs up.

Kwill

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2017, 10:15:30 AM »
If it's mainly one or two people you want to talk to in the Netherlands, you might see if they would be willing to set up Skype or Google Hangouts for computer-to-computer video calls from home. That would be free as long as it's your home Internet and not the mobile data, and it's always nice to see people. For the rest of it, it sounds like you're already getting plenty of good advice.

Daley

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2017, 12:22:51 PM »
And the cell phone service right at our house is so bad that we have a network extender, so all the calls we make from home go through our wifi and internet. I think the breaking point for me was the the wifi on my flip phone must have gone south- it wouldn't connect well, so quite often people would call, I'd answer, and then there would be no connection and they'd have to call again, or I'd have to call them back- quite a pain.

This is not good news at all. If you need a microcell for Verizon coverage, you're likely stuck on Verizon postpaid as you'll need an active account to keep the device registered. Even though Verizon offers WiFi calling with several of their handsets now thus bypassing the need for a microcell, it's still a feature limited and restricted to postpaid service. Then of course, WiFi calling support has been a feature that nearly all the major network operators have kept exclusive to postpaid contracts only in this country.

The problem is, outside of a very short list of T-Mobile based MVNOs, no MVNOs are able to offer WiFi calling to their customers. There are even fewer MVNOs that activate/use microcells, and the ones that do, use Sprint if you can even find a microcell at this point that you can activate with them.

Are you positive that native AT&T or T-Mobile coverage in your area hasn't improved the past few years?

Theoretically, given Verizon's microcells aren't discriminating on which customers can connect, it's possible to keep the thing active by leaving your wife on Big Red's postpaid service (given the savings on her line will be far less than with yours) and you could test to make sure a Verizon MVNO could connect and use the thing, but it doesn't eliminate the need for a postpaid account to keep it active even if it does work... but this isn't territory I'm that familiar with and hasn't been talked about much. At all. Microcells were a flash in the pan stopgap in the industry, and poorly thought out at that. After all, you're the one stuck having to foot the bill to extend their coverage, and foot the bill again on your internet data hosting their network and data traffic for yourself and any other of their customers who stumble onto your extender.

Here's another question, aside from simplicity of billing, is there any advantage to us being on the same plan?

The answer is, it depends. You're the only good judge of that.

Honestly, the Verizon coverage issue is a non-starter for you in my book, but if you're bent on trying to plow forward anyway, do note that I mentioned more than one MVNO offering Verizon service to do some price comparisons.

So, for the phone, this is the one you're talking about, right?

Yes.

I haven't been in on the procedure before. What do I do? OK, I buy the phone. Do I need or buy a Verzion-based SIM card, too? And then I call Selectel, tell them my account info, the phone number of my current phone, give them a credit card, and then they activate things? Do I need to talk to Verizon to cancel/transfer things?

If you switch carriers, you need to get the SIM card from them, not Verizon. The act of porting your number out from one carrier to the other is your method of terminating service with your previous carrier. Calling your old carrier up and cancelling your account with them directly is a good way to lose your number.

I've been very satisfied with Page Plus for almost a decade.
Thanks, I'll check them out!

PagePlus was bought out a couple years back by America Movil/TracFone, and customer service cratered not long after. There's a lot of reasons why I stopped recommending them and never recommended any other TracFone brand. Be aware of this.



Understand, Hibernaculum, unless you can get mobile service with a carrier on their native network at all the major locations you need to use your phone without using WiFi calling or microcell network extenders, you really don't have any solid MVNO options at all. There are hoop jumping options in your situation involving a home phone line using VoIP, choosing an MVNO that allows for call forwarding (again, there aren't many, and I don't believe there are any that use Verizon's network), and forwarding those cell calls to the home phone. There's also Google Voice, but that's a bit of a patchwork.

About the only other potential option would be GoogleFi, but that requires all new expensive handsets that are compatible, signing over all your call records to the Googleplex... and honestly outside of in-home WiFi calling? If your general area just has terrible T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular coverage already (which is probably why you went Verizon in the first place), you're still SOL for reliable calling from anywhere but home and places with open WiFi hotspots. I'm also loathe to recommend Republic Wireless's T-Mo MVNO plans as well, because although they permit more Android handsets than GoogleFi, it's T-Mo network coverage only with WiFi calling activated. If Fi's network coverage won't work for you, then Republic definitely won't.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2017, 12:24:38 PM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

Hibernaculum

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Re: Looking for new phone plan and new smartphone
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2017, 02:42:55 PM »
Wow, I didn't know the network extender would be such a problem! It IS kind of crazy- we've got poor cell phone coverage and the fix is for US to buy a device and shunt the traffic from their network to our home internet. The particular problem we have at home with cell connection is pretty local- we're in a shadow area, it seems.

I picked up the Motorola phone today. Looks like the thing to do is stick with Verizon (alas), call them up and see if I can find the best deal for the existing plan my wife has and the best deal for me with the new phone. And then we can optimize our phones to minimize the passive data usage and see where we end up at the end of the month. At least our bill is better than it was- for quite a while, we were paying $180 or so normally, and then if there was a data overage, it would jack it up to $220

Thanks again!