Author Topic: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?  (Read 7752 times)

onehappypanda

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« on: April 30, 2012, 07:38:55 PM »
Just got a call from the family member whose cell phone plan I've been piggybacking off of and he's cancelling his plan to go prepaid. So after dealing with a thoroughly beat up 6-year-old flip phone for a number of years, I'm thinking of taking the plunge and getting a smart phone. But I want to do it in a relatively Mustachian way, which means hopefully without getting stuck with a huge bill and a 2-year contract. It looks like the cheapest plan I can get through Verizon is $80 (after data, low minutes, and texting) and I assume AT&T is about the same though I haven't checked. I'd like to stay under $50 a month.

I had a very un-Mustachian buddy offer to sell me his relatively newish iPhone so he can upgrade, and I thought about springing for it because, I really like the iPhones I've played with and they have everything I want on them. Plus it'd keep me from having to purchase a replacement iPod and running GPS (two things I use regularly as a runner, both of which need replaced soon) so in that sense it'd be multifunctional. But it seems like all the iPhone-compatible plans are at least $75/month, usually with a contract. I know there are some cheap plans out there (page plus, pure usa, etc.) but I've heard they don't always play nice with iPhones. Does anyone know anything about this?

Another option is to get a StraightTalk plan, which I've gathered are $45ish a month for unlimited talk, texting, and data. I don't think they work for iPhones? But it looks like they have a decent LG Android phone for $150ish. I really like the iPhone better but if it comes down to a huge difference in monthly price I'd rather just get the 'droid.

Then I heard murmurings about being able to "tether" smart phones, whatever that means, so you don't have to pay for home internet? I'm intrigued by this. My home internet costs $20-30 a month (depending on how successfully I've haggled with them recently, lol) so taking that out of the equation would almost make a normal plan worth it. The major problem with this is that I'm NOT a very tech-oriented person by nature and I rely on the internet a lot to get work done at home- I'd worry about service being glitchy and me not knowing how to fix it, basically. And I use my internet at home for watching movies and other data-intensive things, so it'd probably have to be an unlimited plan.

Also, is the security of using a mobile network as good as having a home network? Something I'd worry about as I do a lot of banking online.

All of these options are kind of making my head reel, so I guess I'm just looking for feedback from anyone who's tried any of these options to see which would be best for me. In general, I use a lot of texting, a minimal amount of calling, and I've never had a smart phone so I have no idea how much data I'd use but I'm an internet addict so probably a fair amount. Thoughts?

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3943
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2012, 08:03:00 PM »
Sounds like one of the better options might be Ting, but the handset buy-in is kinda costly and it isn't the cheapest prepaid MVNO out there. Not to pimp the Communications Superguide twice in one day, but you might want to tackle my wall of text there. With the right provider and enough of your SMS contacts on TextFreek, you could get things pretty darn cheap (like under $10 a month cheap).

Rich M

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 191
  • Location: Boulder, CO
  • Fortune Kookie
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2012, 08:13:16 PM »
I'm a hypocrite...lets start with that.  But I will admit my fault and speak anyway, like "don't do as I do but do as I say."  Look at it as one on drugs telling you to stay away.

I think smart phones are very antimustacian....unless you are using them to further your wealth.  Now that is hard to qualify if you are like me and use it for work--which makes my work more efficient even though I pay my own phone bill.  See how I can easily justify my drug?

I use my phone all the time and since I travel a lot, I get a lot of utility out of it.

As far as tethering.  It depends on your plan but there are two issues with that over having true internet.  One, it's really slow. Second, some carriers forbid it unless you pay extra....and if you use it via rooted or jailbroken phones, you are subject to detection and throttling--breach of contract if they figure it out.  So don't assume you can run your whole living internet via tethering.

I use android devices and tether to a laptop when on travel and no access to the web---seems to be often.  Works great for dire situations but I would never want to have that as my only option.   


arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 27662
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2012, 08:30:36 PM »
As far as tethering.  It depends on your plan but there are two issues with that over having true internet.  One, it's really slow. Second, some carriers forbid it unless you pay extra....and if you use it via rooted or jailbroken phones, you are subject to detection and throttling--breach of contract if they figure it out.  So don't assume you can run your whole living internet via tethering.

Depends on the carrier.  I've been with Sprint since 08, using my unlimited data plan as my internet.  Yes, it's fairly slow (equivalent to a 3MB home connection) but I'm okay with that.

I use an avg of 30GB/mo or so (have done Netflix in the past, but download a bunch on uTorrent, etc.)

It's definitely something you want to research before you lock in to something.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

kudy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 945
  • Age: 36
  • Location: RV Traveling the U.S.
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2012, 09:40:13 PM »
This isn't really relevant to your questions, but I was wondering why will you *need* to replace your (working?) mp3 player and running GPS devices in the near future?

bobthetree

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2012, 09:56:59 PM »
T-Mobile Monthly 4G Plan - $30/Month Unlimited(Slows after 5GB) Data, Unlimited Text, 100 Minutes per month.

I am working on switching to this plan right now.  I already own a 1yr old Google Nexus S (Bought outright for $530) and following I.P. Daley's guide got my google voice number all hooked up with sipgate and pbxes to route all calls through free Voice Over IP channels when I am on wifi (My House, Friends Houses, Work etc) so I think I have the 100min/month thing scheduled.  Even though I am already a T-Mobile customer ($70 month 500 mins +unlimited other stuff! Crazy expensive) I couldnt transfer my plan, which is dumb.  Good thing I already made the leap to google voice and don't need to worry about switching my "number" so I just signed up for a new account which was required for the new plan.  Just another option to consider and I think it will work out well for me and others who are on wifi for most of the day if they can take the leap into buying an android and having a google voice number, if they haven't already.  Just another option for you.

kudy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 945
  • Age: 36
  • Location: RV Traveling the U.S.
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2012, 10:03:38 PM »
I also just switched to the tmobile $30/month prepaid 100 minute plan, and it's going great so far.  I use skype to call out when the phone is in wifi range (unfortunately latency is too inconsistent to use skype on the 4G network).  I also use skype and gmail-google-voice to call out if I am at a computer (most of my day anyway).

The only sacrafices I've had to make are less talking on the phone while driving (safer anyway!) and having to switch BACK to traditional voicemail from google voice voicemail because prepaid plans do not allow conditional call forwarding.  I've been totally spoiled by google voice voicemail, and I really want it back, but the only way to accomplish that will be to port the cell number I already have to google voice (since everyone that has my number has that one).  This would be a one-time cost of $20, and ties me into Google voice for texting as well (I'd rather use the native phone texting, but I might do the transition anyway).


onehappypanda

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 06:04:44 AM »
This isn't really relevant to your questions, but I was wondering why will you *need* to replace your (working?) mp3 player and running GPS devices in the near future?

Both are old and "working" is a stretch ;) As in, they aren't dead yet but they're getting there (buttons going wonky, etc.). Of course my usual plan is to run my technology into the ground and replace only when it's fully dead, but it's something I wanted to consider now because if I can get a device that works for all 3 functions at minimal extra cost, it'd be worth it at that point. Both monetarily and in terms of not having to hassle with carrying multiple things when I run. But if I can't or it'll mean getting some fancypants expensive phone plan, it's NBD.

T-Mobile Monthly 4G Plan - $30/Month Unlimited(Slows after 5GB) Data, Unlimited Text, 100 Minutes per month.

That actually sounds pretty decent. The minutes would be a stretch but if I can figure out the Google Voice thing it'd be perfect. Thanks for the suggestion!

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 27662
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2012, 02:03:10 PM »
Another option is to get a StraightTalk plan, which I've gathered are $45ish a month for unlimited talk, texting, and data. I don't think they work for iPhones? But it looks like they have a decent LG Android phone for $150ish. I really like the iPhone better but if it comes down to a huge difference in monthly price I'd rather just get the 'droid.


It does indeed work with the iPhone, and is one of the best ways to get an unlimited iPhone right now, IMO.

More info on StraightTalk:
http://gigaom.com/mobile/straight-talk-sim-the-bff-of-a-galaxy-nexus-or-iphone/
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3943
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 10:42:40 PM »
Another option is to get a StraightTalk plan, which I've gathered are $45ish a month for unlimited talk, texting, and data. I don't think they work for iPhones? But it looks like they have a decent LG Android phone for $150ish. I really like the iPhone better but if it comes down to a huge difference in monthly price I'd rather just get the 'droid.


It does indeed work with the iPhone, and is one of the best ways to get an unlimited iPhone right now, IMO.

More info on StraightTalk:
http://gigaom.com/mobile/straight-talk-sim-the-bff-of-a-galaxy-nexus-or-iphone/

There's also Simple Mobile's "Unlimited" $40 service. Their phone support is almost as bad as StraightTalk, the coverage is a bit smaller than T-Mo's GSM network, and as with most "unlimited" plans (StraightTalk included) they've been known to cut you off if you're too much of a data or minutes hog - a good rule of thumb should be to see where T-Mo starts throttling or considers excessive as a soft rule of thumb. A couple trade-offs over an extra $5, but it's still something to keep in mind. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend either MVNO.

onehappypanda

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2012, 09:15:31 PM »
Another option is to get a StraightTalk plan, which I've gathered are $45ish a month for unlimited talk, texting, and data. I don't think they work for iPhones? But it looks like they have a decent LG Android phone for $150ish. I really like the iPhone better but if it comes down to a huge difference in monthly price I'd rather just get the 'droid.


It does indeed work with the iPhone, and is one of the best ways to get an unlimited iPhone right now, IMO.

More info on StraightTalk:
http://gigaom.com/mobile/straight-talk-sim-the-bff-of-a-galaxy-nexus-or-iphone/

There's also Simple Mobile's "Unlimited" $40 service. Their phone support is almost as bad as StraightTalk, the coverage is a bit smaller than T-Mo's GSM network, and as with most "unlimited" plans (StraightTalk included) they've been known to cut you off if you're too much of a data or minutes hog - a good rule of thumb should be to see where T-Mo starts throttling or considers excessive as a soft rule of thumb. A couple trade-offs over an extra $5, but it's still something to keep in mind. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend either MVNO.

So T-mo's network is better than those options? If so, I might just go with the $30/month Tmobile 4G  plan, which is looking more and more appealing. I don't use that many minutes anyway at the moment.

So now I guess my question is- would an iPhone hook up to the Tmobile network if I did buy one? Or would I be better of getting one of the 'droid-powered T-mo phones?

napalminator

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 71
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Denver
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2012, 12:41:02 AM »
Another option is to get a StraightTalk plan, which I've gathered are $45ish a month for unlimited talk, texting, and data. I don't think they work for iPhones? But it looks like they have a decent LG Android phone for $150ish. I really like the iPhone better but if it comes down to a huge difference in monthly price I'd rather just get the 'droid.


It does indeed work with the iPhone, and is one of the best ways to get an unlimited iPhone right now, IMO.

More info on StraightTalk:
http://gigaom.com/mobile/straight-talk-sim-the-bff-of-a-galaxy-nexus-or-iphone/

There's also Simple Mobile's "Unlimited" $40 service. Their phone support is almost as bad as StraightTalk, the coverage is a bit smaller than T-Mo's GSM network, and as with most "unlimited" plans (StraightTalk included) they've been known to cut you off if you're too much of a data or minutes hog - a good rule of thumb should be to see where T-Mo starts throttling or considers excessive as a soft rule of thumb. A couple trade-offs over an extra $5, but it's still something to keep in mind. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend either MVNO.

So T-mo's network is better than those options? If so, I might just go with the $30/month Tmobile 4G  plan, which is looking more and more appealing. I don't use that many minutes anyway at the moment.

So now I guess my question is- would an iPhone hook up to the Tmobile network if I did buy one? Or would I be better of getting one of the 'droid-powered T-mo phones?
at the moment, ATT (GSM) iPhones will work on T-Mo, but you're limited to 2G data speeds until T-Mo revamps their network.  dial-up modem speed data will make that smartphone feel pretty dumb.

http://gigaom.com/apple/t-mobile-will-be-iphone-ready-this-year-and-not-just-for-atts-cast-offs/

jrhampt

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1069
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Connecticut
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2012, 09:32:19 AM »
I was happy to see this discussion since my two-year contract with AT&T was finally up last week.  I also have a smartphone and value it for many reasons - for example, I use the email feature to communicate easily with family who are overseas, and I've found it's been a great asset in allowing super timely response in job searches as well.  Anyway, not being a total Mustachian badass, I decided to ditch cable but keep the smartphone.  My current contract with AT&T is a little over $70/month with a coporate discount, so I've been wanting a way to reduce this for a while.

After researching some of the alternatives mentioned in this post, I unlocked my phone and ordered a sim card from t-mobile, which should allow me to use both my current phone and port my current number over from AT&T when I receive it.  Since t-mobile has good coverage in my area and I don't use a lot of text messaging, I opted for the $30/month plan with a combination of 1500 minutes of text messages and a limited data plan.  Should save me nearly $500/year.

onehappypanda

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2012, 03:43:50 PM »
Update on the phone situation for those who are thinking of doing something similar.

I ended up deciding to go with T-mobile's $30/month plan that has unlimited data and text + 100 minutes. Picked up the Samsung Exhibit II 4G and was told to call T-mo to set up service and transfer my number from Verizon. So far, so good.

7 different customer service associates and 37 minutes later, I still didn't have my phone set up. I couldn't figure out why every associate I spoke to asked me a bunch of repetitive questions (do you want a contract or prepaid? do you already have your phone? etc) and then transferred me to someone else. I finally figured out with the last associate that it was because NO ONE COULD HEAR ME. The call quality was flippin' terrible. They kept cutting out so I had to have every associate repeat themselves a million times, and apparently they couldn't hear me at all. At one point I was yelling into the phone and moving around my apartment and the associate just kept asking me the same questions and saying she couldn't hear me. Eventually she got really rude with me, and I just hung the phone up.

So. I can't figure out if the phone I bought was a dud or if T-mo's service is just that terrible. I live in a downtown area, I've never had any service issues before on Verizon and I have friends on AT&T and Sprint who have never had any issues in our area either. The phone has good reviews and no one has said anything about an antennae or service problem. I think T-mo's service may not work for me, cheap as it is.

Now I have to decide if I want to try StraightTalk or break down and see how many discounts I can get through a major service provider like AT&T and Verizon. Yikes. Has anyone else (now that some of you all have theoretically tested your phones out) had issues like this?

plainguy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2012, 09:32:17 AM »
I use Straight Talk.  I currently have the Nokia E5.  I downloaded a free app called Joikuspot that lets me emit a wifi hotspot allowing me to tether my other devices to it.  Paying $50 a month for a smartphone and unlimited internet access on my laptop is not too shabby.  Also, if you do auto enroll for the payment option, they tend to not monitor your internet usage.   

Ipodius

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 88
  • Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2012, 01:01:07 PM »
GameStops new prepaid service is based on AT&T's network, so it allows you 3g with a GSM iPhone. AFAIK it's the only prepaid/mvno service that does so.

jrhampt

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1069
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Connecticut
Re: Help figuring out a frugal smart phone solution?
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2012, 08:02:48 AM »
I have also not been impressed with T-mobile's customer service.  My phone seems to work fine when talking to anyone else, but the last time I talked to them **even when I was using a land line** they could not hear me and I finally gave up.  I have to assume the problem was on their end, or they just don't want to talk to their customers.

Also, it would have been nice if someone in customer service had told me prior to switching my plan from at&t that emails and internet would not work on my old blackberry unless I purchased a blackberry data plan at a higher cost.  For now, I've been doing without email and internet and just using talk/texting.  Much cheaper, but at some point I may switch to a different phone so that I can take advantage of email forwarding as well.