Author Topic: Moving off AT&T to MVNO (BYOD): Cricket, or one of the others (or AT&T Prepaid)?  (Read 2965 times)

Syonyk

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We won't do math on the legacy AT&T Unlimited plan I have from the iPhone 3G days, but looking at my use and how much I'm spending, it's time to optimize that.

My contract is up in Jan, and I've got an iPhone 6S that will then be free to be unlocked and moved around to other carriers.

However, I'd like to stay with AT&T, because I'm in a fairly rural area, and they have decent coverage out here.  Verizon is solid but pricey, AT&T works fine, Sprint has some coverage, and T-Mobile is useless.

My phone use is fairly limited already - maybe 60-100 minutes of voice a month, less than 100 texts, and in the 300MB-1GB range of data (Hangouts for text, occasionally checking something in a web browser when I'm out, rare map data if I'm genuinely lost, and a non-trivial amount of Ingress which is pretty light on data now).

Looking at the Cricket plans, the $35/mo auto-pay option (5GB) would work fine, and gives me a bit more of a data buffer than the 2GB plan for $30/mo (which doesn't have the auto-pay $5/mo credit).

Theoretically, porting my number from AT&T to Cricket should be easy, as they're wings of the same company.  I've had my number for well over a decade and would rather keep it, as I'm quite attached to the low volume of spam it gets (corp phones I've had universally get tons of calls for the previous bum who had the number).

At least on paper, the low data speed shouldn't matter - I don't see 8Mbit on a good day unless I'm in town, and I work just fine on much lower data rates.  My home internet barely hits 8Mbit most days.  So that shouldn't be a factor, unless they regularly deliver far less than rated.

I've considered moving over to Android/Project Fi, and have a device with a line on that at the moment, but the 5X phones we have are junk (my wife's has gone in for bootloop repair once already, she's using mine, and I've got her repaired one), and I don't really want to drop the coin on new Pixel/Pixel 2 hardware and discover that, once again, Qualcomm dumped a stinker of an SoC on the market.  Plus, I have some iOS specific software I run (ForeFlight), and my drone works far better on iOS (I've got my Part 107, so commercial use, so I care about the control app not crashing).

The final point I still haven't quite gotten over is the squick of the "poor person carriers."  The only reason someone would use Cricket or Boost or one of the "Pay ahead of time" carriers, in my mental map of the world, is because they can't afford a proper carrier, or can't get past the credit check.  Theoretically Project Fi is one of those, so I shouldn't mind as much, but... eeeh.

So, any reasons not to do this?  It'd save about $55/mo, plus another $20-ish from canceling the spare Project Fi line, and assuming Cricket actually provides a data connection on occasion (which I admit I'm skeptical on - I assume realistically I'll see sub-Edge speeds on a cheap carrier like this), I don't think I'd really notice the difference.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2017, 07:50:17 PM by Syonyk »

Syonyk

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Re: Moving off AT&T to MVNO (BYOD): Cricket, or one of the others?
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2017, 07:50:00 PM »
Hm...

Or I could stick with AT&T and go with one of their prepaid plans.

1GB for $30, or 6GB for $40.  With data rollover.  That's... a bit more tempting, really.

Is it possible to switch from AT&T postpaid to prepaid?

step_away

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I have the same usage pattern as yours. 

The plan I'm looking at when I FIRE (likely in 1H18) and lose my corporate mobile is Red Pocket.  RP allows you to pick any of the four major networks including AT&T.  The basic plan (100 voice min. / 100 texts / 500 MB every month) is  just $60 annually through eBay.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/132288143818

« Last Edit: December 20, 2017, 10:52:10 PM by step_away »

Syonyk

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Hm.  I've never heard of that.  Interesting.

I suppose one other thing worth mentioning is that MMS (group text messages) are an (annoyingly) commonly used feature for some groups I communicate with, so I'd like to keep that capability, which it seems complex with some of the MVNOs.

I'm mildly leaning towards the AT&T Prepaid option, since presumably everything will simply keep working as it has been.

Khaetra

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I have AT&T Prepaid and have no issues with it.  I've tried other carriers but can't get good coverage and calls kept dropping.  It's pretty much the same as postpaid, just cheaper.

katsiki

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Consumer Cellular is another option.  I have not had issues with multi-party messaging.  Prices may not be as good as some of the other ATT MVNOs.

Syonyk

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I have AT&T Prepaid and have no issues with it.  I've tried other carriers but can't get good coverage and calls kept dropping.  It's pretty much the same as postpaid, just cheaper.

Yeah, that's sort of what it seems. Hopefully the same network priority.

$30/mo, 1GB, data rollover, and slow-but-usable data (128kBit) instead of overage charges seems hard to beat.

geekette

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IME, you won't get MMS on an ATT iPhone if you use an MVNO other than Cricket or Consumer Cellular.  If there's a droid in the mix for group texts you get nothing.  If a droid user sends you a photo text you get nothing.

I was happy with Airvoice for years until a friend switched to a droid, then I got locked out of some group texts.  I switched to Red Pocket on their Verizon plan, and I'm back in. 

Red Pocket customer service is pleasant, but I had to talk to 4 before I got things going.  So much misinformation (maybe a carry over from being GSM?) 

Syonyk

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Yeah, those are important use cases. Annoying, but required function at this point.

Syonyk

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Ok, called AT&T to ask about the transfer process to prepaid, and it's pretty straightforward.  Once my contract is up I can transfer at any time, but it's wise to wait towards the end of the billing cycle as you don't get refunded on the contract plan payments.

Pretty much, call to cancel service, tell them you want to switch to prepaid, and they'll move the SIM over to the prepaid category so you can sign up for service and set up payment over the phone.  Which should net me about $60/mo savings, or $720/yr.  Cancel my spare Fi device, that's another $260 or so a year.  And save $1000/yr with a better excuse to not use my cell phone in public.  Sounds sane to me!

... and, yeah, we won't discuss why I'm paying that much for phone service in the first place.  Consider it a "not closely inspected" budget category from the days when that phone was a business expense and a way to fiddle with servers without going home from wherever I was at when I got paged.

Mr. Green

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Been on Cricket for over 2 years now. After paying $100/month w/ Cricket for 5 lines w/ 5GB of data each, seeing what the big carriers charge disgusts me. I have no idea why more people haven't switched. Maybe it's that poor person perception. I'm laughing all the way to the bank though!

Note: Apparently Cricket just reduced their group save discount in November. 5 lines like I have is now $130/month.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2017, 07:42:14 AM by Mr. Green »

MayDay

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We have also been very happy with cricket F rnover two years now. No issues keeping numbers or anything. Super easy to add extra data or calling in Mexico for a month ata time.

Daley

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The final point I still haven't quite gotten over is the squick of the "poor person carriers."  The only reason someone would use Cricket or Boost or one of the "Pay ahead of time" carriers, in my mental map of the world, is because they can't afford a proper carrier, or can't get past the credit check.  Theoretically Project Fi is one of those, so I shouldn't mind as much, but... eeeh.

I know I'm late to the party, Synoyk, but I thought I'd especially address this one point for you. In the global mobile phone industry, postpaid carrier plans in this country are the abnormality, not the standard. Over 85% of the world's mobile plans are prepaid. We didn't even start to see any downward trends in postpaid pricing in this country until wholesale MVNOs finally made a dent and started eroding the big four's profit margins instead of bolstering them around 2013 or so... it's bonkers that it took wholesalers reselling airtime in smaller packages and providing their own customer support to actually drive down mobile prices in this country, but that's deregulation for you.

The only real benefit with "postpaid" plans are the addition of off-network roaming. Consumer Cellular and Ting being the big two aftermarket MVNOs that do that, and neither of them do credit checks. So relax, and ignore the idiotic old bias in this country that prepaid is for deadbeats and drug dealers. It's more cultural arrogance and discrimination than anything... after all, there's a deep seated cultural hatred for the poor, living within your means, and only paying for what you need in this country.

Which brings us to the second part... AT&T's antitrust history, Cricket Wireless, and the exploitation of the poor. You've hinted over the years at matters of faith, ministry, and outreach. Approach this matter from the lens of your faith and read Cricket's terms of service and their price schedule. Cricket exploits the most financially vulnerable in this country with their various maintenance fees in ways that no other carrier has. Don't just take my word for it, though... research yourself... but rest assured that Cricket charges for things that no other prepaid carrier brand or MVNO does, and the way they've set those fees up, they actively exploit the most financially vulnerable in this society. They're blatant poor taxes. And that's ignoring the other problems with Cricket such as the undercutting of their wholesale pricing with their end users.

Remember, AT&T didn't give a toss about prepaid and lower monthly bills in this country until their own wholesale customers peeled off enough angry and overcharged postpaid customers to make a dent in their ridiculous profit margins. Now, because there's no regulation preserving fair wholesale pricing and network access, AT&T (along with Sprint and T-Mobile) are actively trying to undercut the third party MVNOs that forced them to be serious about offering prepaid phone service in this country and to reclaim higher profit margins by killing off their competition and bring the customers back in-house. What happens when their real competition disappears? Given the recent FCC policy changes regarding the Lifeline program, wire network infrastructure maintenance, broadcast television, monopoly media holdings in service areas and all the other skullduggery on top of the network neutrality repeal, I suspect we'll get those answers far sooner than later.

As for the iPhone/AT&T MMS issue, it's been brought up already by others, but Apple deliberately breaks MMS functionality for any AT&T MVNO that isn't on their approved provider list. Just another obvious reminder that you don't really own smartphones, doubly so for Apple devices. Now they're introducing embedded SIM cards, restricting your carrier choices even further. The Cupertino noose is tightening.

As for yourself, I know you've settled on AT&T prepaid. Here's some additional future food for thought, though. Even accommodating your existing biases and existing hardware and usage patterns, going Consumer Cellular using their AT&T SIM card may still be cheaper for you in the long run. $20+tax will cover all your needs most months. You can set their data plan to 250MB (which you could probably easily hit on the light months with some additional tweaking since you're already in the ballpark at 300MB), and if you need more, it'll just pop you up to the next tier of service and notify you before doing so. One line with your call load, even with 1GB of data is still only $25+tax a month. There's higher tiers available if needed, and adding a second line allows you to pool usage and potentially save more. You'll also get the full AT&T postpaid carrier footprint as you'll still have off-network roaming access for those prices - something that you will lose with AT&T Prepaid. Just something to consider longer term. You still have room to save another $5/month on average, you'll get the same network coverage you had, the customer support will be more pleasant, your postpaid itch will be scratched, you shouldn't have any problems tethering, and it'll work with your iPhone as an approved carrier thus keeping MMS functionality.

Anyway, enough out of me. Just figured I'd add some points for consideration.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 07:26:10 PM by Daley »

Daley

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Can you please elaborate on this topic?
[snip]
How would anyone, rich or poor, be considered taken advantage of if they are saving money for the same service as supplied by the big carriers?

Cricket Wireless Charges and Fees

Examine those fees in light of their general terms of service and from the perspective of living hand-to-mouth and being financially insecure. Now, show me another carrier-owned prepaid brand or MVNO in the United States that has these same fees or similar. (Not even Carlos Slim's brands are this heinous in their TOS, and they're a conglomerate that'll usually only give you a few days to reactivate your line due to non-payment before losing the number - but you'll note I don't recommend any of the Tracfone brands, either.)

As for your claim about, "the same service [you] did before," in comparison to AT&T, no it isn't. Customer service is rated worse than AT&T postpaid year after year, there's data speed caps (not that this should matter as 8Mbps should be plenty for anyone), you lose off-network roaming as well as access to certain premium postpaid only calling features, technically you have lower tower access priority than AT&T postpaid customers which increases dropped calls and network busy issues at peak times in densely populated areas or in an active crisis/disaster zone, and Cricket's definition of "unlimited" is a lot different than AT&T postpaid's definition of "unlimited". Most of those features are non-necessities and nearly invisible to end users, so nobody is going to miss what they didn't know they had, but that only strengthens the case for other MVNOs and only paying for what you need. It would be dishonest to claim that the service is the same, however.

I'm not saying you haven't saved money. All I'm pointing out is that you're saving money by doing business with a provider that doesn't have anyone's best interests in mind except their own bottom line, and is actively trying to eliminate more affordable alternatives for the sake of shutting down competition and driving prices back up. You could have likely saved nearly the same amount of money going with another AT&T MVNO that would have treated you better than a walking purse, provided better customer support, and given you the same thing as you're getting now - excuse visual voicemail and WiFi calling support, but that's again AT&T freezing out their wholesale customers from service access.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 09:49:20 AM by Daley »

Syonyk

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Which brings us to the second part... AT&T's antitrust history, Cricket Wireless, and the exploitation of the poor. You've hinted over the years at matters of faith, ministry, and outreach. Approach this matter from the lens of your faith and read Cricket's terms of service and their price schedule. Cricket exploits the most financially vulnerable in this country with their various maintenance fees in ways that no other carrier has. Don't just take my word for it, though... research yourself... but rest assured that Cricket charges for things that no other prepaid carrier brand or MVNO does, and the way they've set those fees up, they actively exploit the most financially vulnerable in this society. They're blatant poor taxes. And that's ignoring the other problems with Cricket such as the undercutting of their wholesale pricing with their end users.

I've seen some criticism of them along those lines.  I can't say I'm particularly impressed with what I've seen there.

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As for the iPhone/AT&T MMS issue, it's been brought up already by others, but Apple deliberately breaks MMS functionality for any AT&T MVNO that isn't on their approved provider list. Just another obvious reminder that you don't really own smartphones, doubly so for Apple devices. Now they're introducing embedded SIM cards, restricting your carrier choices even further. The Cupertino noose is tightening.

I'm aware.  I can pick between an iOS device that has 3-4 years of OS support before being abandoned (at this point, I refuse to run out of support devices anywhere - there are enough shiny new security problems showing up daily that I want fast patches), or I can get an Android device that has Qualcomm's latest stinker of a chip (the Nexus 5X bootloop issue being a perfect example of Qualcomm dropping a chip that was fatally flawed, and everyone having to hold their nose and use it).  And of the Android devices, I'll only run Nexus (or Pixel, or... whatever on earth they call that line next year) devices because of the OS update issue.  I want fast updates, not "Oh, yeah, so, there's a root vulnerability, but... I mean, we really don't want to bother testing that and pushing it out..." from the major carriers with regards to updates.  Currently, I'm happy enough with the iOS side of that, though I tend to toggle back and forth every so often.

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As for yourself, I know you've settled on AT&T prepaid. Here's some additional future food for thought, though. Even accommodating your existing biases and existing hardware and usage patterns, going Consumer Cellular using their AT&T SIM card may still be cheaper for you in the long run. $20+tax will cover all your needs most months. You can set their data plan to 250MB (which you could probably easily hit on the light months with some additional tweaking since you're already in the ballpark at 300MB), and if you need more, it'll just pop you up to the next tier of service and notify you before doing so. One line with your call load, even with 1GB of data is still only $25+tax a month.

I looked at Consumer Cellular, but the AT&T rollover data plus "Yeah, you used your data, here's a 128kbit feed till the end of your cycle" is worth something to me.  I travel for work every now and again, so will run a week on cell data only if I'm not somewhere that has good access points (or access points that I trust).  At the worst, I'll still have enough data, on the fixed $30/mo plan, for Hangouts and maps, if needed.

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There's higher tiers available if needed, and adding a second line allows you to pool usage and potentially save more. You'll also get the full AT&T postpaid carrier footprint as you'll still have off-network roaming access for those prices - something that you will lose with AT&T Prepaid. Just something to consider longer term. You still have room to save another $5/month on average, you'll get the same network coverage you had, the customer support will be more pleasant, your postpaid itch will be scratched, you shouldn't have any problems tethering, and it'll work with your iPhone as an approved carrier thus keeping MMS functionality.

I don't see a reason to switch my wife off Project Fi, since that's carrier diversity (we have all 4 major carriers available to us, and I'd like to keep that capability).  Unless my phone roams off network without telling me, I don't recall using that capability in a long, long while.  Does Consumer Cellular just bump your plan up if you go over on data, or is there a way to restrict it and get the slow trickle effect AT&T prepaid offers?

It's quite frustrating trying to find details of who offers what, exactly, for all the options out there.  They don't really make it easy to find details.

I'm also a bit concerned about keeping my phone # if the process is "Cancel my service, then sign up for someone else, than port my number."  Staying with AT&T at least means there's only one company involved to yell at if they drop my number on the floor and give me someone else's old number.

Daley

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I'm aware.  I can pick between an iOS device that has 3-4 years of OS support before being abandoned (at this point, I refuse to run out of support devices anywhere - there are enough shiny new security problems showing up daily that I want fast patches), or I can get an Android device that has Qualcomm's latest stinker of a chip (the Nexus 5X bootloop issue being a perfect example of Qualcomm dropping a chip that was fatally flawed, and everyone having to hold their nose and use it).  And of the Android devices, I'll only run Nexus (or Pixel, or... whatever on earth they call that line next year) devices because of the OS update issue.  I want fast updates, not "Oh, yeah, so, there's a root vulnerability, but... I mean, we really don't want to bother testing that and pushing it out..." from the major carriers with regards to updates.  Currently, I'm happy enough with the iOS side of that, though I tend to toggle back and forth every so often.

I get it. I use Windows 10 Mobile myself. When I finally lose that, my only option is rolling my own AOSP build or go Resurrection Remix on a Motorola if I want to use Android and keep it patched for any length of time, go to a feature phone which the VoLTE capable models really suck and it'll be a gutted Android device without security updates anyway, or just do without. I won't do Apple out of principle. Odds are, when that point rolls around, I'll probably just hang up the mobile as a general liability.

I don't see a reason to switch my wife off Project Fi, since that's carrier diversity (we have all 4 major carriers available to us, and I'd like to keep that capability).  Unless my phone roams off network without telling me, I don't recall using that capability in a long, long while.  Does Consumer Cellular just bump your plan up if you go over on data, or is there a way to restrict it and get the slow trickle effect AT&T prepaid offers?

It's quite frustrating trying to find details of who offers what, exactly, for all the options out there.  They don't really make it easy to find details.

I'm also a bit concerned about keeping my phone # if the process is "Cancel my service, then sign up for someone else, than port my number."  Staying with AT&T at least means there's only one company involved to yell at if they drop my number on the floor and give me someone else's old number.

Understandable on the network access diversity point with Fi, but still worth tucking away if you ever abandon Android entirely. As for CC, they just bump you up to the next tier. There's no "unlimited" data promises. This said, 128kbps "unlimited" is pretty useless for any "heavy" internet usage... it basically lets you keep checking email and maybe surfing if you turn off image loading.

Yeah, looking around can be frustrating, and it's one of the reasons why I hate the term "unlimited" when it's used. It's one of the secondary reasons why I'd done the guide, and focused so heavily on the quality end of things over the price. You gotta be willing to read a lot of legal boilerplate as well as learning how to read between the lines of those same agreements as well to suss things out.

As for the number porting and keeping the number concern... that's one of the greatest misunderstandings with all this over the years I've run into. Cancelling service before you port your number is a guaranteed way to lose that number, which is why you don't do that. The thing to understand is that the act of porting your number to another carrier actually notifies your existing carrier for you that you're terminating service with them. Number porting basically takes care of getting the final bill cut and the account closed for you without dealing with the current carrier without losing your number. Doesn't mean that there haven't been bad ports that happen over the years, but they usually happen with leaving carriers like Tracfone.

Syonyk

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Odds are, when that point rolls around, I'll probably just hang up the mobile as a general liability.

Certainly tempting at times...

My life has been less phone based recently, deliberately, and it's a massive improvement in quality of life not being pestered endlessly.

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Understandable on the network access diversity point with Fi, but still worth tucking away if you ever abandon Android entirely. As for CC, they just bump you up to the next tier. There's no "unlimited" data promises. This said, 128kbps "unlimited" is pretty useless for any "heavy" internet usage... it basically lets you keep checking email and maybe surfing if you turn off image loading.

Part of the reason I like Fi around is that I can use the phone as a hotspot.  I'm heavily dependent on internet access for my income, and, despite a pair of home connections, reliability is not amazing.  I can run probably 2 days of "zero internet connectivity" without too much trouble, but beyond that, I'd better have some connection or other I can hook a laptop to.  I can always head into town, but if there's record setting snow again, that may not be an option (last winter, for instance...).

My current estimate is that, for my uses, "1GB and slow" is more useful than "1GB and we bump you up plans."  I'm aware it's glacial, and that's still fine for basic out-and-about use.

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As for the number porting and keeping the number concern... that's one of the greatest misunderstandings with all this over the years I've run into. Cancelling service before you port your number is a guaranteed way to lose that number, which is why you don't do that. The thing to understand is that the act of porting your number to another carrier actually notifies your existing carrier for you that you're terminating service with them. Number porting basically takes care of getting the final bill cut and the account closed for you without dealing with the current carrier without losing your number. Doesn't mean that there haven't been bad ports that happen over the years, but they usually happen with leaving carriers like Tracfone.

Ah, ok.  Apparently with AT&T, "Loyalty Service" can handle both, so I plan to go that route.

Thanks for all the useful info on MVNOs - it's (obviously) a new area for me.

Daley

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Certainly tempting at times...

My life has been less phone based recently, deliberately, and it's a massive improvement in quality of life not being pestered endlessly.

Yeah, the less technology I use, the happier I seem to find my life in general. Not being at others' beck and call 24-7 was a great improvement in my life.

Part of the reason I like Fi around is that I can use the phone as a hotspot.  I'm heavily dependent on internet access for my income, and, despite a pair of home connections, reliability is not amazing.  I can run probably 2 days of "zero internet connectivity" without too much trouble, but beyond that, I'd better have some connection or other I can hook a laptop to.  I can always head into town, but if there's record setting snow again, that may not be an option (last winter, for instance...).

My current estimate is that, for my uses, "1GB and slow" is more useful than "1GB and we bump you up plans."  I'm aware it's glacial, and that's still fine for basic out-and-about use.

It's worth noting that Consumer Cellular allows you to enable tethering on your account for free (you have to call to get it enabled), they also offer both AT&T and T-Mobile based SIM cards for their service, and the T-Mobile SIMs support WiFi calling as well. You won't get "unused data" rollover or refunds, but CC's data prices are a lot lower than Google's.

Thanks for all the useful info on MVNOs - it's (obviously) a new area for me.

No worries, it's why I share the info I do. The SNR in telecom can really get difficult to dig through, sometimes.