Author Topic: Help me find a cell phone plan  (Read 4653 times)

Frugal373

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Help me find a cell phone plan
« on: June 17, 2013, 10:00:03 PM »
Mello Mustachians!

I am hoping I could get some much needed advice on what cell phone plan to get in order to minimize my monthly bill. Before you post me a link to another post on this forum, let me assure you that I probably read them already, I have been researching this topic for the past three weeks, lol!

My situation is a bit unique because I am moving back to the US in about 4 weeks time, so there is no pre-existing phone plan of any sort. I am also a complete novice, I studied in the US for college about 5 years ago but never had a cell phone during college. I have already done tons of research online but I am still highly confused and cannot figure out what my best options are and I would really like to have a game plan when I arrive....I don't want to have to run from AT&T to Verizon to T-Mobile only to get desperate at the end and sing up for some wasteful 2 year contract.

I am hoping someone could chime in on what would be the most cost effective thing for me to do given my requirements.

Here is what I am looking for:
-   I currently have a blackberry bold (unlocked and paid for). I do not mind switching to another phone and do not mind paying cash for that if this is the best choice long term. The only requirement is that it needs to be unlocked as I need to be able to use it overseas (if I go overseas I often just buy a SIM card there).
-   I need data (less than 300MB per month) and need to be able to use whatsapp
-   I need to be able to make and receive calls (less than 100min a month outgoing, more than 100min a month incoming)
-   I need to be able to send and receive text messages (I send around 50 text messages per month usually)
-   I need to be able to send and receive emails
-   I do not care about any apps
-   I do not have a preference over a contract vs pre paid
-   I need to be able to have reception anywhere in the country as I will be traveling a lot for work
-   I need to be able to make/receive calls from/to overseas.
-   I need to be able to send/receive text messages from/to overseas.

I have read in some forums some suggestions that go something like this: buy a data only plan from carrier X, then go to Y website to buy some minutes, then go to Z website to buy some coupons….then another 2 steps to get int'l calling…and then my phone bill will only be $10 per month. While this is nice, unfortunately this is way too time intensive/complicated for me. I work quite a lot and really would like to get my phone settled within a day or so of when I arrive, so I am looking for a sweet spot between minimizing my bill and minimizing my time spent on this...and I understand there will be a trade-off, so I understand that I probably can't get phone plan for $10 a month, which is fine, but I also don't want to spend a crazy amount.

I hope I could get a few suggestions of what would work best for me in my situation, really appreciate it!

Daley

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2013, 11:25:04 PM »
1) WhatsApp pretty much runs on anything. Personally, I'm not a fan due to security and privacy concerns, but if you're entrenched you're entrenched.

2) Blackberry requires BIS to work without massive hacks, workarounds, and replacement apps. BIS also costs extra money with carriers (more of a problem with prepaid than postpaid, though). If you want a Blackberry-like experience without BIS costs, look into getting a carrier unlocked Nokia Symbian S60 device. Something like the e63, e71, e73 (older models) or if you prefer a bit more modern, the e5 or e6 running S60 Anna/Belle. They're all at least quad-band GSM handsets and easily found relatively affordable carrier unlocked, the most expensive being the e6 (current generation) running about $250.

3) GSM is going to be the way to go for you for multiple reasons: a) because you still travel overseas and need a phone that supports global GSM, b) you need a broad chunk of coverage in the US due to being on the road, c) being a Blackberry fan, Nokia's the closest you'll get to the BB experience without BIS, and Nokia doesn't make Symbian handsets for CDMA carriers.

4) Postpaid is probably the way to go. Not because of the volume of calls (which is light), not because of SMS volume (again, very light), only partially because of the data usage (which should and could be cut down a bit more, but still forgivable if you're looking at living on the road for the most part), but mostly because of the apparently heavy travel combined with the international communications requirement. You'll need to be able to roam off-network with data access, which means postpaid GSM account.

Unfortunately, it's gonna cost you if you're really looking to keep it simple. You're looking at a baseline of around $60/month plus taxes on postpaid... so figure closer to $72 after everyone takes their pound of flesh. That said, T-Mobile is likely your best option. I feel absolutely filthy for having to recommend this, but you'd need to select the $50/month "unlimited" package with 500MB of data plus the $10 international package (for 200 fargin' minutes a month and 50 text messages - *shudder* what a waste) to get yourself covered. The problem isn't even so much the international, it's the mobility with data and as guaranteed as possible coverage that's slaughtering your bottom line.

Now, if you find you can survive purely on the T-Mobile network without finding yourself roaming off network at all, you might be better suited to giving P'tel/Giv Mobile a look (same company, one brand does charitable donations off your billing). $40/month gets you set up with some international communications perks and gives you 250MB of data at full 3G speeds and 2G throttling after that point (you may be stuck at 2G EDGE speeds anyway most places if you only have a quad-band GSM handset as T-Mo needs pentaband models like the e73 to access their higher speed network in some markets - 2G EDGE is plenty though for e-mail and WhatsApp).

Overall, if you had to pick access to only one GSM network, however, AT&T would have more complete national coverage. If you potentially want to try and go the AT&T only approach, given the international necessity, RedPocket would be your go-to. With your data needs, however, expect to drop $50/month.

If you could absolutely gut your data usage down to nearly nothing (well south of 100MB/month), and could get away with T-Mobile only coverage, P'tel's Real PayGo would be the clear winner as you could probably get away with less than $20/month. Airvoice is strictly off the table, because international calling/texting costs are insane.

Bottom line? International + data + roaming = expensive. The only way to reduce costs is to eliminate one or more of those factors. I think that's about as detailed an analysis as you're gonna get.

If you want to thank me, visit the website, buy the Nokia e6 through the link above, donate some money to tornado relief efforts in Oklahoma, or do a little of everything, or, just ignore the blatant tin cup rattling. :)
« Last Edit: June 17, 2013, 11:38:37 PM by I.P. Daley »

Frugal373

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 04:47:17 AM »
Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time for such a detailed reply, this is amazing advice! I really can't thank you enough, there will certainly be a donation forthcoming:)))

I will do some digging into all the advice you provided and report back!

One more question, regarding my data usage, it is actually much less than I stated, I checked my statements for the past 6 monts and it is only 30 to 60MB per month. But, numerous people have told me that blackberrys are very efficient in terms of data usage and if I were to use another phone my data usage would be higher automatically even if I stick to my current usage level. Is this true? If not, then I do not expect my data usage to exceed 100MB in the future either.

Also, regarding blackberrys....I am not really a big fan, it was more of a coincidence that I ended up with one, I am happy to switch to a totally different phone, but I will certainly check out the Nokia that you recommended. Again, thank you!

Price wise....I guess I could stomach (reluctantly) upt to $50 per month...sigh...this is much more than I pay in my current country where I seem to get all my specifications so easily, ha!

Daley

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 06:05:14 AM »
Actually, data usage is pretty low on any J2ME, Brew, BBOS or Symbian platform. You only run into data hogs with stuff like Android and iOS. WhatsApp isn't the most efficient with data itself, but they do compress, which helps a lot. XMS, eBuddy, Kik and the like tend to have a bit better back-end data compression I've found. I should also probably mention that I'm unsure of whether WhatsApp can do always-on background push with Symbian, I'd kind of forgotten about that, and it might be worth checking on. I know XMS/eBuddy does on newer Symbian s40 & s60 platforms, though (like the C3, Asha and e6). One thing that'll help with general data usage is to keep poll time with e-mail at about 20 minutes between checks or so if you wind up with a model that doesn't do push notifications. Expedient enough to get notified of updates in a timely fashion, but not so frequent that you're just chewing up data a drop at a time. It can also help you break the Pavlovian response to cellphone noises, if desired. Whatever phone you choose (especially if it's Nokia), just make 100% certain it's on the supported phones list with whatever SMS replacement app you choose.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Symbian platform again after re-acquainting myself with the old friend, and I actually deliberately downgraded from Android to a used Nokia with my last phone switch. Haven't regretted it for a second.

The good news is, if you wanted to try going strictly AT&T network, the lower data numbers do open up the $40/month plan from Red Pocket, and their international calling is direct dial instead of through a lower-cost VoIP gateway (which is what P'tel and calling cards do). Fortunately, if you're mostly sticking to highways and larger metro areas, the AT&T network should give you pretty decent coverage. That said, now that I'm checking a bit closer, you might want to contact Red Pocket to see if they're still doing international SMS... AT&T apparently yanked free international SMS from their MVNOs a few years back, and I'm unsure of how much longer they'll have it if at all. This does make P'tel the more realistic of the MVNO options as they do have international SMS support.

If your data can be kept under 100MB/month, however (and especially if you try to take advantage of WiFi when you can), and you find that T-Mobile's coverage alone can suit you (be cautious of P'tel's coverage map, you get no roaming - GoSmart's map is more accurate, and is identical to the reception footprint P'tel has), P'tel Real PayGo could be a really good fit for you. 50 SMS messages, 200 minutes, and 100MB would be a baseline of roughly $21/month + your international calling rates (landline calling to most other industrial countries from the US is typically cheap, mobile calling can be another story). Unfortunately, their international calling is only slightly more convenient than a calling card in dialing out. P'tel does rollover, too, so if you start out with a credit of about twice what you actually need in a month, you can run with a cushion and snowball minutes on slow months.

As you can see, however, saving money over the $70 after tax T-Mobile postpaid plan comes at some form of sacrifice in convenience and reception.

There's also various other, more complex approaches utilizing Android handsets and VoIP accounts and the like, but it sounds like you want simple. These are the most simple options that let you keep yourself limited to one provider and bill and doesn't require workarounds and hacks through multiple services.

Price wise....I guess I could stomach (reluctantly) upt to $50 per month...sigh...this is much more than I pay in my current country where I seem to get all my specifications so easily, ha!

Welcome to 'murrica. Eff yeah. (NSFW)

Edit: Sorry 'bout that. I shouldn't post links to Team America songs in the morning while I'm still waking up.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 06:43:10 PM by I.P. Daley »

Daley

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 06:27:10 AM »
I mucked around heavily with that last post, post-post. You might want to re-read it, sorry about that.

Frugal373

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2013, 07:00:36 AM »
Thank you so much for another great reply! I think Red Pocket doesn't support international text messaging from what I read....but to be honest, I think I don't really need it, I can easily cut that out. So I think I will start off with the $40 per month Red Pocket plan and see how that goes. I am not quite comfortable with the T-Mobile coverage, so overall I like Red Pocket the best, but I will still take a closer look at P'tel....just over $20/month does sound very appealing! Thank you much for all the great advice, this has made my life so much easier and saved me countless hours (days....weeks) of research!

Frugal373

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2013, 07:11:50 AM »
Hey, one last question of you have the time! You had initially recommended getting a Nokia given the blackberry-like experience...plus you also have a Nokia yourself so you must like it....so I was wondering, in general, is Nokia the phone you would go for? I am not that bothered about it being similar to a blackberry, so I am just curious, if you could get any compatible phone, would Nokia be your top choice? Thanks much!

madage

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2013, 07:32:09 AM »
Hey, one last question of you have the time! You had initially recommended getting a Nokia given the blackberry-like experience...plus you also have a Nokia yourself so you must like it....so I was wondering, in general, is Nokia the phone you would go for? I am not that bothered about it being similar to a blackberry, so I am just curious, if you could get any compatible phone, would Nokia be your top choice? Thanks much!

I.P. Daley and his wife like Nokia devices quite a lot:

...

The things to look for with a phone will be WiFi support and push email, possibly MS Exchange support. If you're cool rocking an older Symbian S60 device, the E63, E71, E72 and E73 can all be had for under $100 off Ebay with some careful shopping. My wife's only had her E63 now for under a week and considers it the best portable communications tool she's used over the years... it was $70, and so well taken care of it we almost thought it was new. If you want something a bit newer, consider something like the E5. You can get 'em new and carrier unlocked for around $200 if you shop around. The Finns know how to design a good business phone, even despite Stephen Elop... and if you're partially getting a phone for the benefit of your employer, get a phone that screams savvy business professional, not Joe Sixpack's company time eating portable toy.

...

...

The humble Nokia business phone running Symbian S60. You get push email support, WiFi, native integrated SIP/VoIP support, great keyboards, awesome battery life, and good speakerphones. Phones like the e71 are legendary amongst business users, and can be picked up refurbished for reasonably great prices still rocking your face off with their ability to just work. Heck, Symbian s60 even has a WiFi hotspot app if you need it!

...

I've recently switched back to a Nokia X2 (not as fancy as those linked above) from an old iPhone 3G mostly due to battery life and the overall pokiness of the old iPhone. It works for me.

Daley

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Re: Help me find a cell phone plan
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2013, 01:02:39 PM »
Madage is quite right... left to our own devices, we find ourselves repeatedly going back to those little Finnish cellphones.

I'll recount you with a story. It was about 10-15 years ago *cough*, and I was near the end of my rope with a field support job that had me on call 24-7-365 with a four hour response time. My company issued cellphone was a Nokia 5160 or some such if I recall correctly. Frustration levels were high, and I was an especially angry younger man at the time due to frustrations at home on top of the stresses of the job. The phone had taken a pretty heavy beating in general at the time due to the line of work I was in and kept going... this observation eventually extended into the conclusion that the phone could act as my personal punching bag.

I took to hanging up from my dispatches by throwing the phone into the wall. Not just a gentle toss, either... like a major league pitcher throwing a fastball, these throws left dents in the wall. The faceplate and battery would pop off, I'd put it all back together, and it'd still work. I even threw it so hard one time, the LCD display shattered. Still worked, and when I got around to it, the display replacement was cheap and easy to do on my own. After quitting that job, I downright hated the idea of cellphones after that experience and didn't pick up another one for a small handful of years, and still had moments where if I heard a Nokia cellphone ring anywhere, I'd be nails deep into hanging from the ceiling. When I finally did revisit mobile devices, my aversion to the sound of a ringing Nokia won out over the lasting impression that I got from seeing their handsets be nigh indestructible, leading me to buy a small little Ericsson handset. I was not impressed, nor did it survive regular normal use. Next handset after that, I returned to the beloved Nokia candybar form factor where I was again impressed by their ruggedness and ability to just work (rocked both a 6030 and an N-Gage QD taco phone switching between the two until our push away from AT&T around 2009). It also didn't hurt that polyphonic ringtones finally displaced the traditional sound of the old-school Nokia.

Flash forward through our MVNO adventures, playing with Android and Blackberry handsets and being forced to use devices from LG, Samsung, Kyocera... well, when P'tel went GSM, we went shopping for phones that actually suited us and our needs and what do you know? Back to Nokia.

Here's a nice little epilogue to my teal deer tale: Just to prove my point when discussing cellphones a couple months back with someone who was complaining about the added costs of not only needing to replace their iPhone due to battery issues and twitchiness, but also needing an Otterbox for their new iPhone... I proceeded to slip out my Nokia C3-00 from its holster. Unprotected, I slammed it down on the high traffic industrial carpeted ground. The back popped off, the battery came out, and it scuffed a corner on the back. I put it back together in front of the person I was talking with who was now frozen with terror, turned it on, and it was running like a champ again like nothing happened at all. I held it up and announced, "Fifty bucks, Ebay, used. Does all the same important things yours does. When's the last time you owned a phone that didn't inspire your life to flash before your eyes when you dropped it?"

My point was made and they're now looking into Nokia handsets for their next phone.

So yes, you might say I could be construed as being a "fan" of Nokia phones.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2013, 01:05:43 PM by I.P. Daley »