Author Topic: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone-mod, please move to ask a mustachian  (Read 2890 times)

catccc

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I have an old iphone 4 that's been sitting around.  I was going to sell it on ebay, but we are just starting to let our oldest stay home alone for very short periods of time, and might use it as a "home" phone.

We don't have a home phone/land line, so what I do is give my phone to the kid, and leave without a phone.  She can use the phone to call DH if needed, meanwhile, I'm out of touch.  Or the other way around, if DH was home, but then left, he'd leave his phone w/ DD and I'd be the one DD would call if needed.  This also doesn't make much sense because the parent that can be reached is usually the one that is more tied up, typically at work.  So it would be better if DD could reach the parent that stepped out for a quick errand if she needs something. 

This is NOT going to be the kid's phone, it will basically be a "home" phone for use when she is home alone.  (We are pretty strict with screen time around here.  She still watches zero TV, gets 15 minutes of computer time per week, and we do a family movie night about once a month.)

DD home alone is a very infrequent and sporadic kind of thing at this point, but it makes me a little nervous for one of us to be w/o a phone for the time that she has it.  Obviously I prioritize DD's need for communication over mine when she's home alone, but it would be nice if both parents could be reached.  The handful of times DD has been home alone, it's for maybe 30 minutes, and she hasn't needed to use the phone at all yet.

I want to get a very low use prepaid cell phone plan.  The phone we have available is possibly locked to AT&T, I'm not quite sure.  I previously used it with Airvoice for their $10/30 day plan.

Airvoice also has a $10 prepaid plan that lasts for 90 days.  Minutes and texts are each $0.10.  Seems crazy compared to the $0.02/text and $0.04/minute I get on my $10/30 day plan, but I guess it doesn't make a huge difference at the end of the day.  The balance will not go unused because I can opt to use this phone on the more expensive plan to make calls if there is $ left and we are approaching the 90 day mark.  So this is a decent option, we are looking at about $40/year to keep DD connected when she is home alone.

Does anyone know of other options that might be good for such infrequent use?

« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 10:20:40 AM by catccc »

bobechs

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2016, 08:32:31 AM »
T-Mobile voice/text only BYOP prepaid for $3/mo with 30 min. /mo included, $0.10/min. after that.

Ask at the store and they have never heard of it. You'll have to show them the web page for them to sign you up and take your money.  I don't recall if there was a charge for the SIM card.

catccc

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2016, 09:32:23 AM »
Thanks bobechs, that's slightly better than the one I had found!

I was also looking at textnow, an app that uses wifi for free texts and calls.  This would require wifi, which is always on at home, unless the power goes out...

For the t-mobile $3/mo plan, any idea if you can skip a month, or delay your refill/charge at all?

katsiki

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2016, 09:45:28 AM »
RingPlus is generally free.  Many plan options (somewhat confusing).

Also, if you're in ATT-land, Consumer Cellular is a good cheap option (not as cheap as free or $3/mo though).

GuitarBrian

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2016, 09:54:58 AM »
What about Google voice? Or whatsApp? Or viber? Or any other service over ip? Seems like you can configure one of them to work on the iPhone 4. One of them must be free. Or even Skype. You can put it on your phone, plus on the iPhone 4... Free calling, it will ring on both ends...
Google Hangouts as well. Texting (chat) calls...
Seems like there are free options if you just want a device to call to home... And to your self.

The iPhone 4 will be able to dial 911 without a cell plan.

catccc

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2016, 10:22:33 AM »
What about Google voice? Or whatsApp? Or viber? Or any other service over ip? Seems like you can configure one of them to work on the iPhone 4. One of them must be free. Or even Skype. You can put it on your phone, plus on the iPhone 4... Free calling, it will ring on both ends...
Google Hangouts as well. Texting (chat) calls...
Seems like there are free options if you just want a device to call to home... And to your self.

The iPhone 4 will be able to dial 911 without a cell plan.

Yes, I think this is what textnow basically is...  trying to find more info on it, but their site just kind of pushes the pay plans they offer, which aren't a good deal.  I'll have to mess around with the phone later tonight and see if textnow will work.

Can the phone dial 911 w/o a sim card?

GuitarBrian

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I am sure you can make a 911 call from any cell phone, assuming you have a network available, that the phone has a radio for. Sim on not... valid or not.

I did a little research. I don't think Google Voice will work.

Skype will work, and lets you call any phone number. It is great, just put a few bucks in the account... and you can call phones for 1 or 2 cents a minute. Install skype on both your regular phones... then you can send text style messages and call/video call between each other for free.

FaceTime will also work, if you are all in the Apple world...

WhatsApp... I use this all the time. Since I spend months at a time out of the country... The calling feature works great. Texts and pictures and voice memos (these are way more useful than they sound, just hold the mic button, and talk... let up and it is sent, no typing) It chimes/alerts like a text message on the other phone. The draw back is you will have to have a sim card and number... at least for a day, you need to confirm your number by text message. Then you will be fine. I have swapped sims in and out... no re authenticating. This is a GREAT option, free and an all around good app.

Viber is basically a WhatsApp clone. Same phone number/sim authentication... biggest difference is ViberOut... like Skype credit, it allows you to call regular phone numbers... for a fee.

Just my opinions...
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 08:21:05 PM by GuitarBrian »

Daley

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Does anyone know of other options that might be good for such infrequent use?

If you go mobile, Truphone SIM will be the cheapest to maintain long term for absolute minimal usage. 9¢/minute/text/MB out, free inbound calls and texts, no monthly charge (Airvoice charges $1/month on their PAYGO plan), AT&T plus T-Mobile coverage, non-expiring balance so long as the phone gets used at least once every 30 days. $30 for a SIM card, but it comes with $15 in account credit. Minimum $15 re-up, but again, non-expiring if you keep the phone active once every 30 days.

Next cheapest is H2O Wireless PAYGO, 5¢/minute/text inbound or out, 10¢/MB data, 90 day expiry (or longer), no monthly surcharge, minimum $10 re-up, unused balance roll-over, and AT&T coverage.

VoIP would be a far cheaper option, honestly - something like Localphone would work, and they even have pre-configured smartphone apps for use. If an inbound number is needed, it's $3 for setup, 99¢/month with unlimited inbound calls. Outbound calls are 0.5¢/minute, cheaper if you get monthly calling packages, but the cheapest is 75¢/month for 250 minutes... just a bit of overkill. If you're worried about power outages, put your modem and router on a UPS which will keep the internet active even during an outage (bonus since the smartphone has a battery)... it'll help protect the electronics from brownouts and power surges, too. Unfortunately, VoIP on an iPhone can suffer a bit on incoming due to battery life and the need for keeping an active inbound network connection.

911 calling support on deactivated mobile handsets is covered in the non-abridged guide, but the short answer is yes (as others have pointed out), it'll work without a SIM card or active account. The kid would need to know to use the phone's native dialer to call 911 instead of the VoIP dialer, though, and short of GPS co-ordinates (if a satellite lock can be made) or 100m cell tower triangulation, she'll also have to provide the house address when calling and the emergency operators won't be able to call back if the call is dropped. The ballpark triangulation/GPS thing with the need for a provided address by your daughter when calling 911 will still be true though, even with a paid mobile service. Teach your kid how to use a fire extinguisher, a few pointers on first aid, and maybe a few self-defense moves. All critical life skills that'll provide even faster first response than immediately calling for help.

If you'd rather go VoIP and you feel like you need proper e911 service, go VOIP.ms instead. Outbound per minute costs are higher at 1¢/minute, but they bill in six second increments, phone numbers are nearly as cheap as Localphone (or cheaper depending on the exchange) per month, but you'll have to pay per minute inbound rates, and e911 service will cost an extra $1.50/month - but you can manually set the address of the phone yourself for the PSAP operators. Only downside, you'll have to configure your own SIPphone, but they have an excellent wiki for that, and it's not as hard as you think.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 09:31:21 PM by I.P. Daley »

Daley

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2016, 09:03:01 PM »
For the t-mobile $3/mo plan, any idea if you can skip a month, or delay your refill/charge at all?

Absolutely not.

Also, it's still basically 10¢/minute like Airvoice but with a minimum $3/month cost with an allotment of 30 credits that no longer roll over if unused, whether you use the minutes or not. Additionally, the prepaid T-Mobile SIM usually runs about $15 by itself. Not seeing how that's a better deal than Airvoice PAYGO - smaller network and higher per minute lifetime cost unless you're consistently using 21+ minutes of call time every month. At least Airvoice's minimum monthly charge is only $1/month, leaving the other $7 from the minimum $10/90 re-up available to roll-over. If anything, T-Mobile Prepaid is a significantly WORSE deal than Airvoice PAYGO if you actually do the math.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 09:08:19 PM by I.P. Daley »

catccc

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Thanks, I.P. Daley!  I was hoping you would chime in with a wealth of information.  Many good points and recommendations, very much appreciated. 

I put the textnow app on the phone and it works, but does rely on wifi.  We do have iphones, so if we are both in wifi, facetime/iMessages/whatever-you-call-apple-calling will work, too.  But it will be kind of complicated to explain to DD that it only works if the receiving party is on an iphone and has data or wifi on.

Truphone sounds like a great deal, esp, with the free inbound calls and texts.  Does an inbound call or text count as keeping it "active," or do you actually need to use some of your balance for it to be considered active?  I feel like there should be a market for second hand truphone sims (one time international use kinda thing), but I'm surprised I don't see any on ebay...

Daley

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Truphone sounds like a great deal, esp, with the free inbound calls and texts.  Does an inbound call or text count as keeping it "active," or do you actually need to use some of your balance for it to be considered active?  I feel like there should be a market for second hand truphone sims (one time international use kinda thing), but I'm surprised I don't see any on ebay...

Keep in mind that Truphone still needs to make money, and although incoming doesn't get billed in Europe (which is why their model is set up this way in the US as well), they're still paying something for inbound in the US (not to mention phone number exchange costs and e911 service charges), and I'd always recommend that you try to pay out something to help offset those costs with them to try and keep things fair and to help support the model so it doesn't become a loss leader and disappear. It's a sweetheart deal and they're the only MVNO in the US that offers this, so be nice and actually try to use a buck or two of credit a month.

As to answer your question, yes. An inbound call or text will be sufficient to keep the account alive.

As to your thought on a Truphone aftermarket, no. That's not how things work. SIM cards are one-off activation, tied to a phone number and in the case of Truphone, tied to a credit card as well. You don't see any on Ebay because people either keep using them, use up the balance and throw away the card when they're done, or let the balance expire and the SIM with phone number along with it after 30+ days of account inactivity.

I put the textnow app on the phone and it works, but does rely on wifi.

I don't know how old (or young) your daughter is, but be aware that TextNow does datamine and advertise (that's how you pay for their "free" service), their ToS explicitly forbids use by minors under 13 years of age (parental consent and setup or not), and will terminate the accounts of underage users if discovered. It also doesn't support e911 under any circumstances, so separate dialer and the same shortcomings of location services with any mobile phones calling for help... active account and phone number or not.

fat-johnny

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If the daughter is using the iPhone4 at home, where wifi is always on, I would say try Hangouts (by Google).

Step 1 is to setup a Google account, which will get you access to Gmail, Google Calendar, etc… but most importantly Google Voice.  With Google Voice comes a free phone number……a REAL phone number that anyone can call from any phone.

Once you have that all set up, install the Hangouts and Hangouts Dialer apps on the iPhone 4, log into your Google account, and you can now send texts and make real phone calls to anyone else with a phone number.  It doesn't matter if you and your husband are on wifi, data, or cell service……as long as you have some sort of signal, Hangouts (your daughter) will be able to get ahold of you.

More reference:  https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/3144867?hl=en

Good luck!
FJ

Kaikou

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Re: Best plan for very, very low use cell phone
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2016, 11:47:17 AM »
For the t-mobile $3/mo plan, any idea if you can skip a month, or delay your refill/charge at all?

Absolutely not.

Also, it's still basically 10¢/minute like Airvoice but with a minimum $3/month cost with an allotment of 30 credits that no longer roll over if unused, whether you use the minutes or not. Additionally, the prepaid T-Mobile SIM usually runs about $15 by itself. Not seeing how that's a better deal than Airvoice PAYGO - smaller network and higher per minute lifetime cost unless you're consistently using 21+ minutes of call time every month. At least Airvoice's minimum monthly charge is only $1/month, leaving the other $7 from the minimum $10/90 re-up available to roll-over. If anything, T-Mobile Prepaid is a significantly WORSE deal than Airvoice PAYGO if you actually do the math.

TMobile requires you to add a minimum $10 balance for service, which expires in 90 days. The $100 Refill is the only one that runs for 365 days.  Yes you can't choose not to add to account making it suspended, the time limit is 90 days suspension at a time.

jim555

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Qualify for Medicaid and you can get a bare bones cell phone for $0 a month.

catccc

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Keep in mind that Truphone still needs to make money, and although incoming doesn't get billed in Europe (which is why their model is set up this way in the US as well), they're still paying something for inbound in the US (not to mention phone number exchange costs and e911 service charges), and I'd always recommend that you try to pay out something to help offset those costs with them to try and keep things fair and to help support the model so it doesn't become a loss leader and disappear. It's a sweetheart deal and they're the only MVNO in the US that offers this, so be nice and actually try to use a buck or two of credit a month.

Gotcha- totally fair and reasonable approach.

I don't know how old (or young) your daughter is, but be aware that TextNow does datamine and advertise (that's how you pay for their "free" service), their ToS explicitly forbids use by minors under 13 years of age (parental consent and setup or not), and will terminate the accounts of underage users if discovered. It also doesn't support e911 under any circumstances, so separate dialer and the same shortcomings of location services with any mobile phones calling for help... active account and phone number or not.

So many idiosyncrasies with textnow.  I assume other apps operation similarly.  DD is not 13 yet.

Qualifying for medicaid isn't a possibility for us right now, still in the accumulation phase for 5 years or so...

It looks like truphone is the way to go, thanks again for all the help, everyone!