Starting at $22 per Month for Unlimited Android or iPhone Service (Updated April 2014)
Android Service Plan Comparison
iPhone Service Plan Comparison
|Mobile Service Bargain of the Week: Unlimited talk, text, and data for $22 per month
from T-Mobile, prepaid and no contract. How's that possible? Get
together with four other family members, relatives, co-workers, or
friends, then enroll in a T-Mobile family plan as a family of five for $110 per month. That's $22 per line per month. Each line
comes with unlimited talk, text, and data, with up to 1 GB 4G data,
throttled to a lower speed after that for the rest of the month. What
if one "family member" drops out? Then you'll have a family of four for
$100 per month or $25 per line, still a great bargain. For individuals, they have the Simple Starter Plan, $40 per month for unlimited talk and text, and 500 MB of 4G data. |
|Smartphone Bargain of Last Week: The LG Optimus F3 4G LTE from Virgin Mobile is still $104
(no-contract full price, up from $78 the previous week but still a bargain).
This is an Android 4.1.2 phone with a 4-inch touch screen, fast
dual-core processor, 5 MP camera with LED flash, and front-facing
camera. Reviews are available at PC Magazine. and CNET.
This phone has space for 1000 MB of apps, and you can't transfer apps to the SD card. That's plenty of
space for me, but maybe not for you. The service is $35 per month for unlimited texting and web, and 300 minutes of talk.
This is a no-contract plan -- upgrade or downgrade your service, or quit
without penalty. |
Get a $25 credit on your new service by accepting my Virgin Mobile referral.
How to Shop for a SmartphoneThe largest cost of smartphone ownership is not the phone itself, but the mobile carrier service. The cost of the phone is usually between $150 and $600, but the cost of service for two years is usually between $700 and $4,000. If you're trying to save money, you should shop for the service first, then find a phone that you want that works with that service.
There are two way to buy a smartphone:
If you choose a 2-year contract, at the end of two years, it's a good idea to sign up for another two-year term and get a new free or reduced-cost phone, or cancel the service entirely and buy a new phone and get new service. Otherwise, you'll continue paying a higher rate to subsidize the cost of your phone, even though you've already paid for it in full.
Among the most popular smartphone systems are Android and Apple iPhone. Although both are good, Android is usually the lower-cost option, at $800 to $1,500 for two years of service and phone using a no-contract plan, depending on your choice of phone and service plan. If you choose iPhone, you can pay full price for the phone (starting at $300 for an iPhone 4) and get service from Virgin Mobile at $30 to $50 per month, or you can get an iPhone 5c for $100 or an iPhone 5s for $200 with an expensive 2-year service contract, having a total 2-year cost of $1,500 to $3,000 or more.
Android prepaid, no-contract service plans range from $22 to $50 per month, and smartphones cost from about $100 to $600. The following table shows the costs for no-contract service plans with various carriers.
*T-Mobile family plans offer a lower monthly cost per line: $40 each for a family of two, $30 each for a family of three, $25 each for a family of four, or $22 each for a family of five. You and your friends can form your own "family" and share the savings. Each line comes with 500 MB of high-speed data per month, after which the speed is reduced for the rest of the month; you can purchase more high-speed data if you need it.
If you only need Web access occasionally, then a $2 per day unlimited plan might be the most economical. Use your regular no-contract mobile phone most of the time for talk and text, and bring out your smartphone only on the days that you need it.
If you choose a plan with unlimited Web access but limited talk and text, you can use Web apps (for example, Skype to talk and Google Voice to text) without consuming your talk/text usage limit.
If you choose a plan with generous talk and text limits but limited Web access, you can use WiFi where available (home, work, Starbucks, etc.) without consuming your Web limit. A Web limit of 30 MB will support about 1,500 1-page email messages at 20K per message, or about 300 web page views at 100K per page. Streaming audio or video (for example, using Pandora or YouTube) uses about 1 or 2 MB per minute. Skype voice calling (without video or screen sharing) uses about 1/4 MB per minute.
If you want totally unlimited service (talk, text, and Web), the lowest-cost provider is MetroPCS at $40 per month ($35 per user in their Family Plan) or Straight Talk at $45 per 30-day service period. Otherwise, you can choose any of several providers that offer unlimited service for $50 per month.
The Apple iPhone is a good product, but you need to pay a lot for the phone or get an expensive 2-year service contract. The lowest-cost option is to pay full price for the phone and use Virgin Mobile or T-Mobile as your service provider, which costs about $1,000 for the phone with two years of service. Otherwise, the 2-year cost for the phone and service is $1,500 at the very least, and typically more than $2,000, depending on the phone and service plan you choose.
To see Apple's comparison chart for iPhone contract-plan service providers, go to Apple's Buy iPhone page and click "View rate plans". The following table shows several of the available prepaid and contract plans as of February, 2014.
* Virgin Mobile iPhones: You make a full (unsubsidized) payment for the phone up front. They are offering an interest-free 6-month purchase loan, and a $100 bonus credit for transferring your phone number from another provider. They also offer "pre-owned" (used) phones for about $50 to $100 less than new phones. Check their website for details. In return for a higher up-front cost, you get a lower ongoing cost and a no-obligation contract. You'll earn back the additional up-front cost in less than a year. All plans include 2.5 GB per month of high-speed data, including 4G speeds where available. After that, access speeds are reduced for the rest of the month. You can change plans or quit any time. The Virgin Mobile service costs shown in the table include a $5/month discount for AutoPay setup. (This discount is only available for the iPhone, not Android.)
** T-Mobile iPhones and plan costs: You make an initial down payment (starting at $0, depending on phone) and make additional monthly payments for two years, and you pay for the service separately: $50 per month for unlimited service. Family plans offer a lower monthly cost per line: $40 each for a family of two, $30 each for a family of three, $25 each for a family of four, or $22 each for a family of five. You and your friends can form your own "family" and share the savings. Each line comes with 500 MB of high-speed data per month, after which the speed is reduced for the rest of the month; you can purchase more high-speed data if you need it. You can change plans or quit any time, but you must finish paying for the phone immediately if you quit.
Among the plans that subsidize the cost of the phone (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint), you pay more for the service. You can pay as little as $199 for the iPhone 5 or $99 for the iPhone 4S, but then the lowest cost for service is the $60/month plan from AT&T and Verizon, which offers 450 minutes of talk, no texting, and 300 MB of Web access. The 200 MB limit is good for about 10,000 email messages at 20K per message, or about 2,000 web page views at 100K per page. Streaming audio or video uses about 1 or 2 MB per minute. You can use Web apps such as Skype and Google Voice together with WiFi, where available, to call and text without consuming your usage limits. For typical usage patterns, the lowest-cost provider is Sprint, with plans starting at $80/month. Sprint also offers the lowest-cost unlimited service (talk, text, and Web) for $110/month.
Root Metrics website and click "Check Coverage." Enter your location, then choose the carriers you are considering. A color-coded map shows the signal quality in that area. You can choose to display signal quality alone (for making calls), data speeds alone (for smartphone web access), or both quality metrics combined.
The following examples show the coverage in the Silicon Valley, California for four popular providers: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint (which is the network used by Virgin Mobile), and Verizon. Coverage in your area could be different, so check your particular location to get relevant results.
This web page is about saving money on smartphone service plans. If you're interested in voice calling only, see Lowest-Cost Cell Phone Service Plans.
©2013 Gray Chang
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