I don't need data

We got a mailer from T-mobile this month saying that our plan was going to be upgraded and giving us a broken link to info about the upgrade.  Very helpful.  NWC is also on the market for a new phone; he wants "anything without a big screen," a.k.a. not a smartphone.  Thus, I've been looking at cell provider websites lately and I've been really sad that there are basically no plans without data.

So far this month, I've talked for 12 minutes and used 8 text messages; NWC is beating me at 48 minutes and 46 text messages.  1000 minutes is the minimum we can get with T-mobile; it used to be 500, but all we really need is 200.  Our monthly bill for this pittance of use?  $73.13.  It's a complete rip off, but I haven't been able to find anything cheaper with the main providers.  Cell phone plans are increasingly including things that I don't want or need as part of their cheapest plans, raising their rates on the low-end products and forcing people into using smartphones.  You have to hunt for alternatives.

I'm seriously considering changing to Consumer Cellular, where our monthly bill would be reduced to $35 for 600 minutes and 1000 text messages.  There are other obscure phone plan providers, but theirs seems to be a good match for us.  I'm also amused that their target demographic is elderly and retired persons.  We won't get in-network benefits, but we weren't really using them anyway as we make our long calls via Google Hangouts.

Do you know anyone that uses a non-mainstream cellular provider?  How are they?


Joe Grimm said...

I have a "payLo" plan from Virgin Mobile. I pay $20 / month for 400 minutes and 15 cents per text (so about $2 / month to text.

Anonymous said...

Is having a plan a requirement? I'm still on prepaid, maybe that's worth looking into.

Jeff Kaufman said...

If you stay with t-mobile [1] you could switch to a pre-paid plan. With pay-as-you-go you'd be paying $0.10 per minute or message. Your current usage this month would be $11.40. [2]

You'd need to talk to t-mobile [3] to get them to switch you to pre-paid, and then you can select pay-as-you-go at [4].

(If you eventually decide you want data you can switch to $30/month for unlimited data+text with 100 min voice. Extra voice minutes are $0.10. This is what I use.)

[1] Which I'm in favor of; they're the sanest of the big-4 and they're improving the US market.

[2] There's a $3/month/person minimum, so you'll always be paying at least $6/month.



ajbc said...

I think the biggest concern with prepaid plans is predictability. If at some point we have, say, a slew of phone interviews or a family emergency that involves lots of calling, then we don't want to be surprised by a huge bill. Basically, it's worth something to us to not have to think about the number of minutes we're using. At the same time, we don't want to be paying for 5 times what we use.

Our ideal plan would be ~$30/month for 300-400 minutes and maybe 500 text messages. Virgin Mobile has custom plans that would allow us to pay $24.46 for 500 min and 500 texts, but we'd need to get compatible devices. I'm a little sad at the prospect because I do like T-mobile, but I don't like that they've basically been slowly eliminating the cheap low-use plans.

Jeff Kaufman said...

Why not (1) switch to pay-as-you-go and (2) set T-Mobile to automatically deduct $25/month from your bank account? This will cover more than you actually use, and any you don't use will stay around as an account credit.

(Which you can either use on emergencies where you suddenly need to call/text a lot, or if that never happens you can just ask for your money back.)

ajbc said...

In investigating my options, I realized that I made two mistakes in reporting my usage. First, my T-mobile has unlimited in-network minutes and those were excluded from the counts. Second, what I thought was "this month so far" was actually "this billing cycle so far."

Given that most of my calls are to my family (who all has T-mobile), and that the billing cycle is only partially complete, it's more accurate to report the last billing cycle's usage: combined, we used exactly 400 minutes (with only 148 out of network) and 295 text messages.

With those numbers, we wouldn't save much by switching to prepaid on T-mobile. I'd also need to adjust our ideal plan to have 500-600 minutes (or ~300 out-of-network with T-mobile). Regardless, $70/month still seems like a lot for this relatively low usage; $50/month seems more reasonable.

We pay $10 for unlimited messaging and $50/month for 1k minutes; the rest is taxes/regulatory fees. This comes out to ~3cents/text and 12.5cents/minute actually used (and potentially going down to 5cents/minute if we use all 1k). Monthly plans should be cheaper per minute than prepaid as it's predictable income for the provider. If T-mobile went back to having a 500 minutes/month option (which they used to have), I'd be satisfied.

Jeff Kaufman said...

At 400min/295sms I don't think any of the big four are going to do better than $35/person for you. Though TMO pre-paid is unlimited talk and text at that price.

Laura said...

We have Ting and really like it. You have to buy a phone at the beginning, but then you're billed each month based on how many minutes/texts/data you used. It tends to be cheaper than other providers, and you're not locked into a contract, which is nice.