Author Topic: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?  (Read 19499 times)

ajmers

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Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« on: August 05, 2013, 08:02:31 AM »
Had a bit of bad luck this week - a new Samsung Galaxy S3 is showing up on my doorstep under warranty today because the microphone and service are awful, but I cracked the screen on my old phone last night so I can't accept the new one without paying full retail price. So now I have a smartphone with a cracked screen that doesn't work for making calls (but works for everything else - music, email, wifi function, it's basically an ipod). My plan is to downgrade to a dumbphone for now and see how that goes. Any suggestions on a way I can keep my number and pay a reasonable price, preferably that includes unlimited texting?

edit: guess I should mention that I have a year left on my Verizon contract. My main concern is saving money right now. The cost to repair the phone I have (so that I could go back to my Verizon data plan) is $135. I think Verizon's early termination fee is $175.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 08:08:40 AM by ajmers »

ender

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2013, 08:32:15 AM »
A frame of reference, I've got a prepaid verizon dumb phone which I spend $35/month for 500 minutes on. I probably overpay, but I do use a lot of the minutes.

I had my primary number transferred to google voice, which makes switching prepaid phones easier.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2013, 09:13:35 AM »
Read the guide and do the math.

I also doubt that you actually need unlimited texting if you'd just sit down with your bill and find out what your actual usage is. People never text as much as they think they do... unless you're a 14 year old girl.

Once you've got a better grasp on things, then I can better recommend a phone for you.

KS

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2013, 10:25:36 AM »
I did this with Sprint (my smartphone mic/camera/wifi all died before I finally gave up on it but was out of warranty and still ~6 months from free upgrade) and it was no big deal. But I still had my old dumbphone and it had always worked great so I just asked them to transfer my service back to that one for me. Aside from the Sprint guy looking at me like I was nuts and making a few cracks with his colleague on the other end of the activation line ("Yeah that's really the model the customer wants to transfer to. Yep it even makes that old-school clicking noise when you open it!") it was super easy and didn't affect the contract much aside from getting cheaper thanks to no longer needing to pay the extra 4G fees and such. I'm now a few months past being allowed to upgrade again but kind of enjoying how good my "dumb"phone is at being an actual phone. The smart one was terrible for phone calls even before it officially died.

hybrid

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2013, 01:05:28 PM »
And here I thought paying for a data plan on a phone was a dumbphone.....  ;-)

In all seriousness, unless there is a really good reason why you need your phone to also be a computer, ditch the smartphone.  There are folks who truly do leverage them, so I am not knocking the tool, but I am knocking paying way too much for a toy, which is exactly what this is if you aren't using it for business purposes.  Better to get an iPad, iMini, or iTouch with wifi access only the vast majority of the time, because the vast majority of the time you will already be in a hotspot (usually your home) to begin with.

Left

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2013, 01:10:05 PM »
you have two phones? The one that got sent as a replacement and the one with bad mic? Could you take the mic/etc out of the replacement, and put it into the cracked one? Then send back the "replacement" + broken parts...? Then sell the phone with cracked screen (and all else working) on craigslist to make up the money to early terminate? I'm not entirely sure this is moral though... You could just sell phone "as is" as a parts phone on craigslist as well. Without tempering with the replacement.

MountainFlower

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2013, 03:09:01 PM »
If I understand correctly, you need to get a phone because you can't accept the new one?  I just bought a flip phone from replaceyourcell.com.  I wanted one in very good condition because it was for FIL.  He wanted a flip phone.  The one I bought was for alltel, but it works just fine.  I set it up with Kitty Wireless:  2000 minutes for $80, expires in 365 days (this was I.P. Daley's recommendation and I was an excellent one!).  It's probably worth it to pay the ETF. 

I found cheaper phones on mobilekarma.com that I would have bought for myself. 

If you are going to cancel anyway, you could always switch over to Airvoice.  I have a few phones on airvoice as well. 

ichoosemyself

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2013, 11:43:35 PM »
You might as well get a low-end Android. Your time is worth something, and having a smartphone is worth a lot of time. Look for Androids by Huawei and ZTE. You can find one for ~50-75 or so, if even that.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 11:45:48 PM »
Your time is worth something, and having a smartphone eats a lot of time.

Fixed that for you. ;)

ichoosemyself

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2013, 02:07:27 AM »
Your time is worth something, and having a smartphone eats a lot of time.

Fixed that for you. ;)

Point taken. The big thing I wanted to note is just that dumbphones and their plans cost more than you might think, and that smartphones (if you don't have to have the shiniest ones) can cost much less than you think. Jimmy Wales' smartphone is a $50 Huawei a friend got him from Africa.

madage

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2013, 06:04:20 AM »
The big thing I wanted to note is just that dumbphones and their plans cost more than you might think...

Just ditch the plan. I've spent $13 on my phone service since Easter. Seriously, if you want to save, read the Superguide.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2013, 08:09:34 AM »
Jimmy Wales' smartphone is a $50 Huawei a friend got him from Africa.

And if Jimmy's parents lets him jump off bridges, does that mean you should too?

Most people don't actually need smartphones, and even "cheap" smartphones have far greater disadvantages as wireless communicators than any basic feature phone does: battery life, call quality, operational simplicity, background data usage, build quality, distraction potential...

Most people around these parts (partly due to a certain stickied thread) spend on average between $5-35 a month per mobile phone, and you'd be surprised by how much even a "cheap" smartphone can actually negatively impact that bottom line, especially if you ever need to turn on mobile data use for stuff like email. You're still thinking in terms of traditional postpaid plans from the big four, which is forgivable, but your claim that "dumbphones and their plans cost more than you might think" is just not true when you're approaching cell service the way we do 'round here.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 08:15:28 AM by I.P. Daley »

ichoosemyself

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2013, 08:14:22 PM »
Just read the thread/guide, thanks for the link guys. Makes a lot of sense. But doesn't your guide also implicitly recommend getting a smartphone but NOT the data plan? So you could have a cheap smartphone and have the benefits of being able to use it when WiFi is available (which may be more than not for some people) for the marginal cost of $25 or so, as well as the benefits of having an MP3 player on you to listen to music and audiobooks on public transportation and the like. That's if your carrier lets you have a smartphone without a data plan. I'm in China where data plans are extremely cheap, flexible, and permissive, so there may be things I'm not considering.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2013, 08:18:02 PM »
Truthfully, I need to update the superguide a bit more. When I wrote it nearly a year and a half ago, I was still recommending Android handsets. That has changed. You'd be surprised what a basic feature phone is capable of these days (including WiFi connectivity in some cases), and the battery life is better than even high-end Android devices. Uses way less background data, too.

http://www.techmeshugana.com/2013/01/are-iphones-worth-it/

I'm rocking a Nokia C3-00 these days. $50 used, built like a tank, does everything I need and more, and I get nearly a week out of a battery charge.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 08:20:53 PM by I.P. Daley »

ichoosemyself

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2013, 08:28:37 PM »
Just read your blog post, there are some good points in there. I think a lot depends on your job duties and position in life. I can see myself, if living in a Mustachian endgame, barely needing a phone at all, much less a smartphone. But if one is still in the income accumulation stage in life, it seems that the scheduling responsiveness of Outlook-synced Calendars and push e-mail can be very much worth it.

For example, in a recent trip I took to a large metropolitan area, a smartphone was invaluable in scheduling and rescheduling meetings and interviews in real time. (I realize that features phones are capable of this as well - but from my experience touch-screen enabled smart phones are more efficient even in this functionality.)

Of course, there is the Catch 22 that many jobs where you need to be responsive in this way will give you a company provided phone, and if your job requires this level of responsiveness and doesn't give you a phone (like a nonprofit job), the job is probably AntiMustachian by all definitions.

And I totally agree with you that no one needs 99% of apps, not just Angry Birds, but also "productivity" apps.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2013, 08:42:02 PM »
I have to admit, I type far faster on a chicklet keyboard than I ever could on a touchscreen, and I've found a similar sentiment from many others. It's hardly a consensus, but you usually need to get into some pretty high-end phones with big screens to speed up text input on a touchscreen. I also agree with you that you need to let your needs determine the tool, and if you need not just push e-mail support, but Exchange support... by all means, pursue those needs.

That's actually what my wife needed, and we picked up a Nokia E63 for her. It was $70, lightly used and nearly mint in the box. She's been using it since March IIRC, and considers it the best working phone she's owned. There's something to be said about a handset with real buttons and primarily designed as a communicator first.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 08:45:31 PM by I.P. Daley »

Rangifer

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2013, 10:05:04 PM »
If you like having the ability to look things up when needed then Ting might be a good choice. You can buy a used or new smartphone and keep cellular data off unless you need it. Get some sort of GPS navigation app to take care of that need, use wifi when available, and you'll probably find yourself using mobile data sparingly. $3 for 100mb isn't a bad deal at all and easily takes care of things like email and google searches.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2013, 01:38:52 AM »
I treat my cell phone as a device to coordinate activities with other people when cheaper communication options are unavailable. Nothing more. Planned calls and/or idle chatter are done using Google Chat or Skype on the computer. This means that I only make a few calls from the cell phone every week, and most of those calls last less than a minute or two.

For this type of very light usage I've found nothing cheaper than T-Mobile pay-as-you-go. They charge roughly 10/minute for talking and 10 per text message (sent or received). I tell people to call me instead of texting when possible, since you can communicate a lot more in a minute-long two-way voice conversation than in a single one-way text message, and each option costs the same.

The net result for me is that I spent about $25 on cell phone service for the entire past year.

One caveat to this is that if you're not a "gold rewards" customer, your account will expire if you don't pay for more minutes every 90 days (the minimum refill is $10). To get to the gold rewards level, you need to put $100 in your account, either all at once or over multiple purchases. Once you're at that level, your minutes are good for a full year, and you can pay as little as $10 after that to buy more minutes and reset the clock for another year.

prosaic

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2013, 05:43:42 AM »
We did this in January:

Bought this phone for $19: http://www.ebay.com/itm/BRAND-NEW-Samsung-SCH-U365-Gusto-2-PAGEPLUS-Cellular-Phone-/321181115155?pt=Cell_Phones&hash=item4ac7e2e313

Bought an $80, 2000 minutes card that is good for one year: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Page-Plus-2000-MINUTES-80-Prepaid-Refill-Pin-/251288831045?pt=SIM_Cards&hash=item3a81fb4445

So far, so good.

If you truly use your phone for emergencies, you can go even cheaper. $10 cards (100 minutes) are good for 4 months. If you just need the phone for quick calls/emergencies, spend $19 on the phone and $30 a year for 33 minutes/month.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2013, 08:56:01 AM »
Prosaic, you are correct in that from a rock-bottom minimum per month cost with phone number, Page Plus is the cheapest you can get at $2.50/month without sink-holing a giant wad of money up front or going the ARN outbound only emergency phone approach. There is a 50/month service fee to keep the line active, which effectively gives you 80 available minutes per month at that price, which is a reasonably usable quantity. The only real downside to this is the Verizon CDMA lock-in with the handset along with any added complexity if handset replacement is necessary, and the now pending acquisition of Page Plus by America Movil which has a history of difficult customer support practices and eliminating cheaper plan options on their acquisition brands.


Seattlecyclone, your math is only accurate from a surface approach with T-Mobile being the cheapest as has been pointed out (PP holds that title at $30/year with 10/minute billing at that price even with the monthly service fees). Going the $10/90 days approach until you hit Gold Rewards status means you're locked in to paying 33/minute for the first 2.5 years of service... or basically $100 for roughly 300 minutes. That's 10 minutes of talk time a month for the money. If you can't see yourself even using that much, you officially don't need a cellphone at all (even if 20 minutes a month itself should be worthy of debate).

Now it's true that if you start out of the gate with the $100/365 day service card that immediately puts you into Gold Rewards status where the $10/30 minute card gives you an additional year of airtime, but at 250 minutes a year usage levels, you're locked into T-Mobile for the next four years to get all your money back out without increasing usage levels substantially. Additionally, there's been increasingly lousy customer service quality and "billing error" issues in T-Mobile's Prepaid division where people's balances are slowly evaporating on them without use. I'd heard scuttlebutt about it online a good number of times and dismissed it as user error, but then someone I knew started having the problem.

So technically, yes, you're effectively using $25/year for service usage (technically closer to $32.50 in actual cost if you count the $30 needed to finish out the $100 balance at current usage levels), but realistically and on the books, you paid $100 for the service up front, and have to commit to staying with T-Mobile through thick and thin and keep spending $10 a year for three more years to use up your remaining invested airtime, then wash-rinse-repeat with the $100+$10+$10+$10 approach for another four years to get per minute rates approaching anywhere near reasonable and competitive for long-airtime service.

A far better option for that level of usage would be Airvoice's Pay as You Go plan, as you'd effectively get that same per minute/text rate as T-Mo at $10 a pop each 90 days for that 250 minutes a year usage level without the huge outlay up front. There's a $1/month maintenance fee, but that leaves 70 minutes for usage every 90 days plus rollover, or 23 average minutes a month (the available minute/month math works out roughly the same as your $130/1090 minute/4 year approach). Airvoice's customer support is pretty solid, too, and you'd get a bigger GSM footprint on service with AT&T's network which may or may not matter, and only costs an extra $7.50 a year, or on average 63 a month. It's not to say that one can't take the T-Mobile prepaid approach (and if it's working for you for the time, stick with it), but there are much better options for the money in prepaid that still provides you the freedom to walk away to a better deal without leaving too much on the table depending on usage change habits or to a less abusive provider if need be. This is why I don't particularly recommend or point out that route even before the problems with T-Mo's prepaid division cropped up.

Let us be frugal and wise with our investments, not cheap. :)
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 09:03:29 AM by I.P. Daley »

SunshineGirl

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #20 on: August 08, 2013, 09:16:22 AM »
Your time is worth something, and having a smartphone eats a lot of time.

Fixed that for you. ;)

LOL - yep!

seattlecyclone

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #21 on: August 08, 2013, 09:30:08 AM »
That's 10 minutes of talk time a month for the money. If you can't see yourself even using that much, you officially don't need a cellphone at all (even if 20 minutes a month itself should be worthy of debate).

As much as I might think my life would be just dandy without a cell phone, my wife insists that I have one, so canceling service altogether is out of the question.

I did the $100+$10+10+... thing that you mention, and have been with T-Mobile for 7 years. I have never seen the evaporating minutes or even had a reason to contact customer service (which in my book is better than having to call even the world's most helpful and friendly customer service agent). Airvoice does look like a decent deal if you think you might want to switch your service in the next year or two, but I stand by my assertion that T-Mobile is cheaper in the long run. The $100 up front was a small gamble. It paid off for me, it might not for you.

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2013, 10:08:15 AM »
I did the $100+$10+10+... thing that you mention, and have been with T-Mobile for 7 years. I have never seen the evaporating minutes or even had a reason to contact customer service (which in my book is better than having to call even the world's most helpful and friendly customer service agent). Airvoice does look like a decent deal if you think you might want to switch your service in the next year or two, but I stand by my assertion that T-Mobile is cheaper in the long run. The $100 up front was a small gamble. It paid off for me, it might not for you.

The problems with T-Mo have been a more recent development, and it's not an everyone is impacted by vanishing balance issue... it mostly seems to be an issue with newer users who switch over. In my book, it's enough of a concern to warrant mention for new switchers considering the approach necessary to make it cost-effective.

The rest, I agree with: YMMV, as does most everyone's. There's caveats and gotchas with all three options. And yes, T-Mobile is cheaper than Airvoice by $7.50 a year as I pointed out, but I'm not sure that $7.50/year savings is much worth it for most people in your position anymore for the investment, effort, and caveats at play. Technically, Page Plus has T-Mo beat out by $2.50 a year, but I'm not even certain that $10/year savings would be much worth it at these usage levels. I'm just highlighting the math and realities of these sorts of long-term ultra-low usage plans, and how comical the striving for the cheapest at call volumes that make no sense to even carry can get instead of just going with what's simplest and best serving for your needs. If it's gotta be done, pick based not on what's the absolute cheapest, but on what carrier will cover your area best and be most cost-effective for your needs.

I do get the whole doing it for the wife thing, and if you're happy with the service, stick with what works, which is why I said what I did. We're talking about splitting peanuts, after all... I just wanted to point out that your claims that it is the cheapest plan available that you could find technically wasn't correct or mathematically cost effective outside of a very long-term approach, and the needed approach to get reasonable per minute rates with T-Mobile was a bit unreasonable given other carriers could do roughly competing without that risky front-heavy investment and very long-term approach. All things that should be considered and understood by someone seriously looking at options on this end.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 10:19:25 AM by I.P. Daley »

MrsPete

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2013, 06:09:02 PM »
Check your last bill to see exactly how much you text /how much you talk.  Then you'll have data that'll tell you how to proceed. 

ajmers

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2013, 09:14:01 AM »
Apparently I am a 14-year-old girl, because I sent/received 2200 texts last month.

The dumbphone I've been using is pretty beat-up, has an obsolete charger (no micro-USB), no message indicator, volume control doesn't work so it doesn't ring, etc. But the only thing I've really felt the absence of is navigation. Hopefully will have a chance to read through the Superguide and all your tips. Wish there wasn't still the ETF to worry about!

Daley

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Re: Downgrading to dumbphone - best deal?
« Reply #25 on: August 09, 2013, 10:28:52 AM »
Apparently I am a 14-year-old girl, because I sent/received 2200 texts last month.

Dude.

Okay, all seriousness? I'm guessing 90% of that text usage falls to a group of three people or less. If they're willing (or at least some of them are), IM-based SMS alternatives would probably be a good option for you as data per message will always cost less than the SMS itself (unless you're already looking at needing to spend $30 or more on prepaid per month). As to what one, it all depends on the platform(s) shared between the big texters in your group and whether they're willing to switch to it. It also means you have to consider possibly going with a slightly higher end phone than just a basic feature phone for simplicity sake. XMS would probably be a good option. If that switch is possible, you could probably make a pretty healthy dent in your texting needs.

The dumbphone I've been using is pretty beat-up, has an obsolete charger (no micro-USB), no message indicator, volume control doesn't work so it doesn't ring, etc. But the only thing I've really felt the absence of is navigation. Hopefully will have a chance to read through the Superguide and all your tips. Wish there wasn't still the ETF to worry about!

On the subject of navigation? My biggest advice on that front is to pay attention to your surroundings as you drive/bicycle/whatever and actually learn the layout of your city and how to navigate it with a printed map... then you don't need a GPS. If you want a crash course in it for your neighborhood, moonlight as a pizza delivery guy for a couple months. Free eats, extra money, and you learn the layout of your city through planning ahead. If you still want to go the GPS route, there's always stand-alone devices that don't need data connections or integration with anything. You can pick up some pretty decent used Tomtom or Garmin devices for well south of $100. Beyond that, if you insist on having GPS integrated with your phone? There are some high-end feature phones that do GPS, but you have to specifically look for them, and they're typically not offline maps. Nokia Symbian devices do have access to Google Maps, but there's no offline map support there, either. If you're wanting offline maps on a phone, you're probably looking at needing an Android device running at least version 2.3.5 for Google's offline maps support.

Odds are, if you scale back and are smart about what phone you choose and what MVNO you pick that best suits your genuine needs, the total outlay combined with the ETF could quite possibly be recovered in savings long before the contract runs out. You just need to do the math.