Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
User avatar
Topic Author
Spades
Posts: 286
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:04 pm

Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Spades »

Heya Guys,

I was curious what savings ideas for data plans y'all have? I'm finding that I spend over $1,000 a year for two phones (iphones) with data plans. I do get a nice $10/month discount on my internet.

I'm up for even switching networks.

:sharebeer
Mudpuppy
Posts: 6676
Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:26 am
Location: Sunny California

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Mudpuppy »

This answer really depends on the carrier you currently have. Do you have an AT&T iPhone or a Verizon iPhone? The GSM technology used by AT&T is easier to switch to another provider than the CDMA technology used by Verizon. So unless you're up to switching phones along with networks, your options are going to be limited by the phone you currently have.
User avatar
Topic Author
Spades
Posts: 286
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:04 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Spades »

AT&T
stan1
Posts: 9835
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by stan1 »

$1000/year for two smartphones with data plans that are used every day may not be too bad.

- Can you turn off one of the data plans using Wi-Fi only and use Skype for phone (or get a cheap phone for voice service)?
- If eligible, have you requested an employer/affinity discount from the wireless carrier? Mine is 20%
- If one of the phones is only used periodically (one week a month, for example) you might be a candidate for a prepaid plan.
- Family plans may or may not help. The carriers mostly have this approach figured out, and charge $40/month or more for an extra device.
User avatar
linuxuser
Posts: 1107
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:15 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by linuxuser »

$500 for smartphone service isn't that bad.

I have $30/month with T-mobile. Unlimited web and text and 100 minutes.
Mudpuppy
Posts: 6676
Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:26 am
Location: Sunny California

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Mudpuppy »

Okay, so a GSM iPhone. Two options: explore cheaper options within AT&T or get the phones unlocked and go to another GSM carrier (e.g. T-Mobile). Without knowing what plan options you desire (minutes per month, texting, GB of data per month, etc.), it's rather hard to give specific advice.
SVT
Posts: 384
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:56 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by SVT »

linuxuser wrote:$500 for smartphone service isn't that bad.

I have $30/month with T-mobile. Unlimited web and text and 100 minutes.
Yeah, the T-mobile $30/month prepaid plan is what I'm seriously considering. I have a dumb phone right now and would like to upgrade to a smart phone but don't really want to pay the much higher price each month. I'm also considering VM.
investor1
Posts: 1052
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:15 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by investor1 »

I recently switched providers myself and did a side by side comparison between Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. For an individual plan, I found T-Mobile to be the cheapest option by far (I'm saving $15/month versus Verizon). YMMV for a family plan.

I get a discount through my employer with each of those four carriers, and dispite the fact that my discount with T-Mobile is half of what my discount with the other carriers is, T-Mobile was by far the cheapest option for me.

Throughout the process, I noticed T-Mobile just seemed a lot more straight forward regarding the plan options which they provide (they actually sell something which I want to buy). Their Value plans start at $34.99/month for 500 minutes. You can add unlimited texting for $5/month, and you have the option of adding any of the following data options: 200MB for $5/month, 2GB for $10/month, 5GB for $25/month, or 10GB for $55/month. You can see their Value plans here: http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/Packages/V ... kages.aspx

T-Mobile does have one hell of a scam when it comes to buying cell phones from them, but you can always purchase a phone on your own and stick your SIM card in it without their involvement. They charge you a percentage for the phone up front. For example, they are charging about $250 for the Galaxy SIII. Then they charge you a monthly fee to pay for the phone (on top of your plan). For the SII, they were asking $20/month for 20 months. Basically, you end up paying retail for the phone. I opted to just buy a phone on my own.

Edited to note the phone pricing scheme only applies when purchasing the phone through one of their stores. They do have reasonable options through the website.
Anthony
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon May 04, 2009 12:44 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Anthony »

I highly recommend the T-Mobile $30 plan. If there's a better deal for a smartphone on the market today, I'd like to see it. Not only do you get unlimited web and text, but the first 5GB of web is at 4G speeds. No contract either! The only downside is 100 minutes of talk, but there are ways around that using VoIP with services like Skype or Google Talk. The Samsung Exhibit II as the phone of the plan is pretty awesome too, and at under $200, it's a fraction of the cost of an iPhone with upwards of 90% of the same functionality.

There had been word going around that you had to buy the phone from Wal-Mart or T-Mobile directly to get the $30 plan, but it doesn't matter where you buy it from. The thing is, you're going to have to activate it online at T-Mobile's web site in order to access the plan; it's not an option if you try to activate the phone by calling T-Mobile. I bought mine tax free from Amazon and got the plan without a hitch. To refill your $30 credit each month tax free, use http://www.callingmart.com. Here's a forum post explaining how to do that without any problems:
http://www.howardforums.com/showthread. ... -Data-plan
BYUvol
Posts: 120
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:06 pm
Location: KY

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by BYUvol »

Spades wrote:Heya Guys,

I was curious what savings ideas for data plans y'all have? I'm finding that I spend over $1,000 a year for two phones (iphones) with data plans. I do get a nice $10/month discount on my internet.

I'm up for even switching networks.

:sharebeer
If you already have ATT iPhones, and just want cheaper service, I would check out this:

http://www.straighttalk.com/

Straighttalk is a joint-venture MVO between Wal-mart and Tracphone (owned by Carlos Slim I believe). They use ATT and TMobile towers, so just order the ATT micro sim and its pretty plug & play from what I have read. I would have gone this route if I didn't have a SERO plan from Sprint.

If you don't have iPhones, I would go with:

http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-pho ... -phone.jsp

You pay for the iPhone unsubsidized, but with the cheap plan, you make it up pretty within a year I believe.
User avatar
Eric
Posts: 770
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 5:44 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Eric »

One caution about switching from AT&T to T-Mobile: For now, at least, they use different 3G frequencies. (I say "for now" because T-Mobile is changing that and will eventually use the same 3G frequencies as AT&T.) This means that you can use an unlocked AT&T iPhone on T-Mobile, but only at much slower 2G network speeds.
User avatar
daytona084
Posts: 884
Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:47 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by daytona084 »

Virgin Mobile... $35 per month with unlimited data. No contact. Only drawback is limited coverage in some areas.
User avatar
LazyNihilist
Posts: 949
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:56 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by LazyNihilist »

SVT wrote:
linuxuser wrote:$500 for smartphone service isn't that bad.

I have $30/month with T-mobile. Unlimited web and text and 100 minutes.
Yeah, the T-mobile $30/month prepaid plan is what I'm seriously considering. I have a dumb phone right now and would like to upgrade to a smart phone but don't really want to pay the much higher price each month. I'm also considering VM.

Here's one great smartphone @ a fantastic price from google play store. http://www.google.com/nexus/#/galaxy. This should work well with the T-mobile plan. :happy
The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must -Thucydides
User avatar
linuxuser
Posts: 1107
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:15 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by linuxuser »

SVT wrote:
linuxuser wrote:$500 for smartphone service isn't that bad.

I have $30/month with T-mobile. Unlimited web and text and 100 minutes.
Yeah, the T-mobile $30/month prepaid plan is what I'm seriously considering. I have a dumb phone right now and would like to upgrade to a smart phone but don't really want to pay the much higher price each month. I'm also considering VM.
The smartphone I bought for this plan the Samsung Exhibit II 4G is now being offloaded for $130. I paid $190. It runs Android 2.3.
It is good enough for me, but if you are picky about smartphones the linked Nexus looks very nice.
investor1
Posts: 1052
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:15 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by investor1 »

If you end up going with T-Mobile, they have a referral program where they will pay both the current customer and the new customer. If you have family/friends with T-Mobile, hook them (and yourself) up. Otherwise, it'd be nice of you to PM someone on this thread which gave you good advice and complete the referral with them.

The program is here: http://referral.t-mobile.com/home/public.pg. You don't have to complete the referral prior to signing up. I believe you have 30 days (I could be wrong on the exact deadline).
Momus
Posts: 1023
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:23 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Momus »

I am using Virgin Mobile 3G $25/month: 300 mins, unlimited data and text.
New plan and phones comes with 4G $35/month: 300 mins, unlimited data and text..

The network runs on sprint so it's not as wide as AT&T or Verizon, but the price can't be beat ;D
bourg
Posts: 63
Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:26 am
Location: Indianapolis, IN

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by bourg »

To get the cheapest price I usually recommend finding friends to bring your "group" up to 5 and going somewhere that allows for the full benefits of the parent plan but is cheap to add lines.

I have Sprint with 5 people. Unlimited text and data. ~1500 minutes. The 5 of us split the bill evenly and it comes out to ~$35/person.

Fatwallet.com Hot Deals forum used to have lots of threads on this. I set mine up years ago and haven't touched it so I'm not current on the best deals to make this happen.
User avatar
big_tail
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:59 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by big_tail »

T-Mobile's $30/mo smartphone plan 5 GB data + 100 talk minutes. To supplement the limited carrier voice minutes, you use VoIP solution such as this:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthr ... ?t=1646755

Or Simple Mobile has a $40/mo unlimited everything plan with unlocked Tmobile GSM phones. One caveat is it's limited to slower speeds, but unless you're streaming video a lot, should cover most people's smartphone needs.
SVT
Posts: 384
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:56 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by SVT »

A friend of mine just so happens to be using VM and has 2 LG Optimus V phones that are practically new that he's selling that are no longer used (he bought them both for his parents to use but they only used them a short time and decided against using VM). He is letting me borrow one of them to try out the service for a month to see if I like it. I activated the phone and paid the $35 for one month of service 2 weeks ago and so far the service is very good where I am. I've had no problems with it. Plus the phone, even though it's not the latest and greatest smart phone, is much better than the dumb phone I have now. He's selling these (practically) brand new LG Optimus V phones for $70 each. So now I'm thinking of just buying one of these phones and using the $35/month plan. VM does have some newer better phones out like the HTC Evo V but I'm not sure it'd really be worth paying $300 for that new when I could get this LG Optimus V for $70. Also, based on the coverage map, T-Mobile's service appears to be better overall than VM's, so this makes the decision harder. I might just go with VM since I can get this practically brand new phone that seems to serve all the needs I have and is a big upgrade to what I have now, for $70.
mlipps
Posts: 1045
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:35 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by mlipps »

Momus wrote:I am using Virgin Mobile 3G $25/month: 300 mins, unlimited data and text.
New plan and phones comes with 4G $35/month: 300 mins, unlimited data and text..

The network runs on sprint so it's not as wide as AT&T or Verizon, but the price can't be beat ;D
Virgin Mobile's network is pretty sparse in places. OTOH, an actual Sprint plan lets you roam on Verizon at no charge. I love my Sprint service and out of the 3 major carriers, it's been the best deal for 6 years now. My parents live in a tiny town so I can't bring myself to switch to something where I have no service when I go back to visit them.
Knowzy
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:38 am
Location: California
Contact:

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Knowzy »

I'm just about to move to StraightTalk from Verizon. It's going to save me $90/month for two phones.

Some notes:
  • Visual Voice Mail doesn't work for the iPhone. Others have suggested using Google Voice instead.
  • Apparently getting data and picture messaging working on the iPhone is a bit tricky, thanks to all the locking done by Apple at AT&T's behest. StraightTalk's web site says, "If you have an iPhone and you would like to use MMS (picture messaging), you will need to Jailbreak** your iPhone in order to update your MMS settings." This site (visit from your iPhone) will unlock it enough to get data working. For picture messaging, you must pay someone to jailbreak your phone, which has its own complications.
  • You will still be on AT&T's network but you won't have access to the fastest of AT&T's data networks- LTE. It is available in very few cities right now anyway. You still have access to their 2G, 3G and 4G networks, just not 4G LTE.
  • Make sure you order the right size SIM card. The newest iPhones take a "microSIM." I'm not sure about the older iPhones.
Good luck!
enc0re
Posts: 104
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 9:32 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by enc0re »

linuxuser wrote:$500 for smartphone service isn't that bad.

I have $30/month with T-mobile. Unlimited web and text and 100 minutes.
Even better: extra minutes are only $0.10. That's equal to the cheapest prepaid minutes you can get today. It really is a screaming deal for smartphones. They are even refarming their spectrum nationwide this year to give iPhones 3G speeds, even though they don't sell the iPhone!

Keep in mind that Apple has pressured AT&T into unlocking off-contract and ETFed iPhones; so you can switch.
User avatar
kenyan
Posts: 3003
Joined: Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:16 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by kenyan »

Might be obvious, but nobody pointed it out yet - ditch the text messaging plan if you have one. Download a free app that will allow you to send and receive unlimited text messages using a meager portion of your data plan.

They are less reliable than actual text messages, but I can't imagine paying an extra $240+/year per line just on texting.
Retirement investing is a marathon.
froman118
Posts: 175
Joined: Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:04 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by froman118 »

T-Mobile Family Value plan (no subsidized phones):

-$75 out the door each month (about $10 off with AAA discount)
-2 lines
-1400 minutes
-Unlimited texting
-2 GB data on each line (throttling after limit, no overage)

Bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus (already enjoying Android 4.1) for $450 (after tax/ship) and a used MyTouch 4G off ebay for $160. There are some cheaper plans out there, but this gives me the most minutes, data and phone choice for about the same cost as the reselling carriers.

I waited until my contract on my old T-Mobile plan was up and for $10 less a month I'm getting more minutes and texts (which is good because the wife occasionally went over) and data on 2nd line. Value plan still has a contract, but I don't care since I'm saving so much every month. Going to Verizon or AT&T would have cost me about $100 more per month.
Petunia
Posts: 174
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:10 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Petunia »

I've recently switched to Ting. They are a new company, but they use Sprint's network. They have very low prices. I'm saving just over $100 per month on my cell bill. You do have to buy a phone from them. They are month to month only, no contracts. I switched on June 19th. So far, the service is flawless.
sunnyday
Posts: 1679
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:48 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by sunnyday »

Petunia wrote:I've recently switched to Ting. They are a new company, but they use Sprint's network. They have very low prices. I'm saving just over $100 per month on my cell bill. You do have to buy a phone from them. They are month to month only, no contracts. I switched on June 19th. So far, the service is flawless.
Wow, this could be perfect for my wife and I. I really like how you can pick and choose each option. Do they have roaming charges and if so, do you know how much those are?
Petunia
Posts: 174
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:10 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Petunia »

sunnyday wrote:
Petunia wrote:I've recently switched to Ting. They are a new company, but they use Sprint's network. They have very low prices. I'm saving just over $100 per month on my cell bill. You do have to buy a phone from them. They are month to month only, no contracts. I switched on June 19th. So far, the service is flawless.
Wow, this could be perfect for my wife and I. I really like how you can pick and choose each option. Do they have roaming charges and if so, do you know how much those are?
I believe there aren't any roaming charges. I live in California, and I went to Honolulu and Kona last month. I made several phone calls, there were no roaming charges.

I suggest you call and ask. When I called with a question, a bona fide live human being answered the phone. :)
madbrain
Posts: 5583
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:06 pm
Location: San Jose, California

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by madbrain »

Spades wrote:Heya Guys,

I was curious what savings ideas for data plans y'all have? I'm finding that I spend over $1,000 a year for two phones (iphones) with data plans. I do get a nice $10/month discount on my internet.

I'm up for even switching networks.

:sharebeer
If that's including all the taxes, I don't think you can do much better than that. That's only $83/month for 2 smartphones.
Switching carriers is not really a good option for you. The frequencies T-Mobile uses for data are not the same as AT&T.
So your data will drop down to 2G speeds. And you really don't want that.

You would have to get new smartphones if you switch to T-Mobile. But of course you will have to pay for those somehow, in the terms of some upfront costs and a contract with additional monthly fees.

I am on T-Mobile BTW. There is almost no signal inside my home on the hill, but it's the same for all the carriers... sigh.
madbrain
Posts: 5583
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:06 pm
Location: San Jose, California

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by madbrain »

investor1 wrote: T-Mobile does have one hell of a scam when it comes to buying cell phones from them, but you can always purchase a phone on your own and stick your SIM card in it without their involvement. They charge you a percentage for the phone up front. For example, they are charging about $250 for the Galaxy SIII. Then they charge you a monthly fee to pay for the phone (on top of your plan). For the SII, they were asking $20/month for 20 months. Basically, you end up paying retail for the phone. I opted to just buy a phone on my own.
I wouldn't call it a scam, that is very transparent pricing actually that reflects the actual costs of the new phone you get.
If you stick with your old phone, you can stay on the bare Value plan and not pay the extra monthly charges associated with getting a new phone.
With most of the other carriers, even after your contract expires and your phone is paid for, your rate does not go down. That is what I would call the scam.
mikep
Posts: 3730
Joined: Wed Apr 22, 2009 9:27 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by mikep »

Petunia wrote:
sunnyday wrote:
Petunia wrote:I've recently switched to Ting. They are a new company, but they use Sprint's network. They have very low prices. I'm saving just over $100 per month on my cell bill. You do have to buy a phone from them. They are month to month only, no contracts. I switched on June 19th. So far, the service is flawless.
Wow, this could be perfect for my wife and I. I really like how you can pick and choose each option. Do they have roaming charges and if so, do you know how much those are?
I believe there aren't any roaming charges. I live in California, and I went to Honolulu and Kona last month. I made several phone calls, there were no roaming charges.

I suggest you call and ask. When I called with a question, a bona fide live human being answered the phone. :)
What are the taxes with Ting? They say they are required to collect .. but other prepaid carriers don't.
Petunia
Posts: 174
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:10 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Petunia »

mikep wrote: What are the taxes with Ting? They say they are required to collect .. but other prepaid carriers don't.
I was charged $3.47 in taxes. I have 3 lines, 1000 minutes, 1000 text, no data.
MrMatt2532
Posts: 454
Joined: Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:58 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by MrMatt2532 »

bourg wrote:To get the cheapest price I usually recommend finding friends to bring your "group" up to 5 and going somewhere that allows for the full benefits of the parent plan but is cheap to add lines.

I have Sprint with 5 people. Unlimited text and data. ~1500 minutes. The 5 of us split the bill evenly and it comes out to ~$35/person.

Fatwallet.com Hot Deals forum used to have lots of threads on this. I set mine up years ago and haven't touched it so I'm not current on the best deals to make this happen.
This is what I currently have too. I'm guessing that you haven't bought a new smartphone recently as there will be an additional $10 surcharge per phone.

After employee discount, we are paying just under $43 per phone.
sunnyday
Posts: 1679
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:48 am

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by sunnyday »

Petunia wrote:
I believe there aren't any roaming charges. I live in California, and I went to Honolulu and Kona last month. I made several phone calls, there were no roaming charges.

I suggest you call and ask. When I called with a question, a bona fide live human being answered the phone. :)
Yep, it looks like no roaming charges for Ting in the US. The data coverage may not cover as much as Verizon or AT&T but seems good enough for my area.

What phone did you get and are you happy with it? The price of their phones is the only downside I can see.
montanagirl
Posts: 1477
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:55 pm
Location: Montana

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by montanagirl »

Wow, I'm still using a Dumbphone and would love to be able to at least check my email at work. But this is all blowing my mind...I am intimidated by the transition process and don't want to get stuck in a contract spending the $40+ per month I've come to expect for data. I have had the same $25/mo plan (100 min) since 2001.

Is that T-Mobile $30/mo plan available in every state? Should I order it online or go to a Walmart to do it?

When I look at local cell coverage all we have is Verizon, AT&T (my current carrier), Alltel, and Cellular One.
Momus
Posts: 1023
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:23 pm

Re: Efficient Data Plan/cell phone

Post by Momus »

bourg wrote:I have Sprint with 5 people. Unlimited text and data. ~1500 minutes. The 5 of us split the bill evenly and it comes out to ~$35/person.
This is great until it isn't. One person going MIA on payment on you sucks. Yes, I know it's only ~40/month but this happens to me.
Post Reply