Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Absolute Cheapest (Even Free!) Cell Phone Plans, 2015 Edition


While your bill may not be $20k per month, you are almost
certainly paying way more for your cell phone than you should.

One of my most popular posts ever was my post last year on the cheapest (and yet still awesome) cell phone plans available in the US - many thousands of people read it, and many commented to thank me on it or add additional info. Since it's been about a year and there are new offers out there (and because I have more personal experience with some of the companies I'll tell you about), I figured it was time for an update, with the newest, best, and/or cheapest plans available right now, in April 2015!

First, the background:

Last year, I helped my parents and my wife cut the cord from the Death Star (i.e., AT&T Mobile) - prior to making the change, we were paying $200+ per month for two dumb phones and two smart phones on a family plan, and we didn't even have unlimited minutes. Now, my dad is paying about $0.50/month for his dumb phone plan, and my wife, my mom, and I are each paying $0/month for our smart phone plans - that's right, 100% free.

So, from $200 per month to $0.50 per month, for the four of us - that isn't a typo.

How much are you paying? If you're in the US, you're paying too much, and you're paying a lot more than the rest of the developed world is. The minimum service packages typically available in the USA do not come at a minimum price point:


Furthermore, US customers pay a lot more on average than customers in other advanced countries:


"But wait - surely we're getting more, if we're paying more, right?" you say. "Wrong," I reply. Here's a cost comparison that prices what the same level of usage would cost in each country:


So, you're paying a lot more for your cell phone than people in other countries are. What can you do about it?

I have done a lot of research into the current offerings out there, and I've found some really innovating pricing done by small companies - many of whom offer much, MUCH better deals than the big 4 in the USA (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint). As I don't want all that research and knowledge to go to waste, I figured I'd write an overview of what I found and detail the best cell phone deals available (as of April 2015) for a bunch of different consumer archetypes - the odds are that you fall into one of the below buckets, and the odds are that you can save A LOT of money compared to your current cell phone bill.

(Disclaimer: My wife, my mom, and I are all on FreedomPop, my dad is on LycaMobile, my father-in-law is on RingPlus, and my mother-in-law is on BYO Wireless. I was not paid any money by any company for this post, nor do I receive any referral fees. I detail any personal experiences with the companies I've had below; I have not had personal experiences with all the below-listed companies. Also, none of the below prices include possible taxes, fees, etc., so your monthly bill from any of them might be a little higher than detailed below - e.g., when I was on RingPlus's $10/month plan, my total bill was $12.15/month, which is pretty typical.)

All of the below plans are prepaid plans (as prepaid cell plans are far cheaper than contract plans), but that means that you have to pay full price for your phone up-front (I recommend buying a used or refurbished phone, as they are perfectly functional at a substantial discount). However, even paying full price for a phone, you'll be saving a lot of money over the course of a two year contract with one of the big companies. So, I don't want to hear any complaints about how much a phone costs. You're saving oodles of money in the long-run.

Alrighty, let's save you some serious money - and if you want to support the blog, feel free to donate a portion of your savings via PayPal via the email address in the upper right part of the page ;)

This Year's Winner: Free Service for Light/Moderate Smart Phone Users with Spring LTE Coverage: FreedomPop


My recommended plan: Their free plan - 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of 4G data for $0 per month. If you connect with your other friends on FreedomPop (or with other FreedomPop users via this Facebook group), you can get 50 extra MB per month per friend, up to 500MB additional free, per month. So, you can get up to 1GB of data free per month.
The Phone: In the past year, FreedomPop's phone choices have gone from pretty bad to quite good. FreedomPop will happily sell you a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S3 or S4 or an iPhone 5, or you can bring your own (fully-paid off) Sprint-compatible phone, if it's on this list. If you're bringing a phone that requires a SIM card, you'll need a Sprint CDMA SIM card, which is easiest to order from Ting, strangely enough. When they added my beloved Google Nexus 5 to their BYOD list, I jumped ship immediately from RingPlus to FreedomPop, to take my monthly cell phone bill down to $0. Note that bringing your own device does incur a one-time $20 activation fee.
The Good: Yes, Virginia, you can get totally free smart phone service, and it should be enough for you if you're a light/moderate user. The service works great anywhere that Sprint has an LTE signal, and Sprint is working hard to improve their network and expand their LTE coverage, so FreedomPop's coverage is only going to get better going forward. Due to their VOIP setup, FreedomPop calls, texts, and data also work anywhere there's a WiFi signal - not just a Sprint signal. If you set your phone up to do VOIP calls and texts over Google Hangouts instead of over FreedomPop's network (which is what I do), then you can have unlimited minutes and unlimited texts for free, as long as you don't go over your monthly free data allotment.
The Bad: It runs on Sprint's network, which, despite recent improvements, isn't be best network out there. FreedomPop's VOIP voice often fails to work on Sprint's 2G/3G network, which is why I only recommend FreedomPop if you live in an area with Sprint LTE. (Emergency calls go over Sprint's [or Verizon's] normal network, so that will always work anywhere there's any signal.) And if you live in an area covered by Sprint Spark (like me - I get 38Mbps down and 10Mbps up with a ping of 48ms - on Sprint!) and have a Sprint Spark-capable phone (I'd recommend the Google Nexus 5 or the LG G2), the service is really quite excellent. However, to some extent, you get what you pay for - though I've never had a problem bringing a device to FreedomPop, setup does require some technical savvy, and their customer service is rather slow. You also have to pay attention that FreedomPop doesn't add on extra (non-free) services, and you have to disable auto top-up in order to be sure to never be charged anything for your phone service. Finally, if you do go over your free allotment, their per-minute and per-megabyte charges are higher than the other options here (they've got to make money somehow, after all). There's also no roaming off of Sprint's network, but I see this as less of a problem, given that FreedomPop also works over WiFi.
The Verdict: I think FreedomPop definitely offers the best value of any of the plans on this page (which is why I'm now with them). With the greatly improved BYOD program, the availability of top-tier (if slightly dated) phones like the Google Nexus 5, LG G2, Samsung Galaxy S4, and iPhone 5, the ever-improving Sprint network, and up to 1GB of data per month for FREE, FreedomPop is a much bigger contender in this year's ranking, which is why I give FreedomPop my recommendation for most users out there (especially if paired with a great Sprint Spark phone like the Google Nexus 5 or LG G2), unless you use your phone a lot in an area with no Sprint LTE or WiFi, or if you REALLY need a TON of mobile data (but if you can get good-enough service for free, surely you can cut back a little on your data usage, no?).

[Post first-draft edit: Although most people that I have signed up for FreedomPop have had no problems with their service, it just wouldn't work for my father-in-law - neither his home internet connection nor the Sprint towers near his house seemed capable of maintaining a high-quality VOIP call over FreedomPop's network. So, I moved him and his Sprint phone to RingPlus, which is probably my second-favorite low-cost Sprint MVNO. If FreedomPop isn't working for you, try taking your Sprint phone to RingPlus - they offer a wide selection of low-cost plans and are a great carrier. Or, you could also try Ting (described below) - they're more expensive than RingPlus, but they have extras like voice and text roaming on Verizon.]

Dirt-Cheap Per-Minute Service for Grandma and Grandpa: LycaMobile


My recommended plan: Their pay as you go plan (5 cents per voice minute; 4 cents per text; 6 cents per megabyte of data.) Based on what I see in dad's account, it looks like incoming calls are still 2 cents per minute (their old pricing), while outgoing calls are now 5 cents per minute. [Note: last year, Lycamobile announced that top-ups would expire after 90 days regardless of use, but Lycamobile seems to have changed its mind, as that is no longer in their terms and conditions, and my dad's credit hasn't expired. But, they might decide to reinstate that policy - with prepaid phones, anything is possible.]
The Phone: Any unlocked GSM phone (i.e. any phone that is unlocked and compatible with AT&T or T-Mobile). These kinds of dumb phones can be bought used for $20 or less, or you may even have some of these lying around in a drawer somewhere.
The Good: Dirt-cheap per-minute cell phone service. LycaMobile is also the only prepaid service I know of where your credit doesn't expire after a certain period of time (e.g. after 30 or 90 days), as long as you make 1 phone call or send 1 text every 90 days. Since my dad only uses about 25 minutes per month, dad's monthly bill with LycaMobile is $0.50-$1 per month. Fantastic. LycaMobile uses T-Mobile's network (and it includes 4G access where available), so coverage is pretty good, especially in cities.
The Bad: The per-minute text and data rates are higher than some of the other options on this list, so I don't recommend this for a smart phone user. Also, even though their coverage is nationwide, you can only sign up if you have an address in a city. For example, my parents in rural Tennessee couldn't sign up for this plan directly - I had to have the SIM cards shipped to me in DC and had to sign them up with a DC phone number, though the service works fine for them in Tennessee.
The Verdict: This is a great plan for people like Grandma and Grandpa, who don't use many minutes, don't need much/any texting or data, and just want a simple dumb phone with very basic, cheap service. Other options (on the Sprint network, if you prefer that to T-Mobile) are with RingPlus - they have a $0.99/month plan with 10 minutes or a $1.99/month plan with 50 minutes.

Cheap, Unlimited Smart Phone Service (if you can live with Sprint's 3G): Republic Wireless


My recommended plan: Unlimited everything (including 3G only data) for $25/month.
The Phone: If you're going with the cheaper 3G plan, I'd recommend the Moto G for $149.
The Good: People say (I don't know from personal experience) that the service is good, and that the customer service is excellent. My brother is on Republic Wireless with a Moto G and is very pleased with his experience thus far. Republic does offer some roaming (you can check their coverage map), so it may even be a good option for those of you in more rural areas.
The Bad: I wouldn't say it's bad, but it is a reality of using Republic Wireless - they want you to connect to WiFi at home, work, and wherever else you can. When you're connected to WiFi, they route all your calls and data through WiFi, which is much cheaper for them. They consider WiFi to be your primary cell phone connection, and the actual cell service as a backup for when you're not near WiFi. Finally, I don't like the fact that I can't bring my own phone (e.g. my beloved Google Nexus 5).
The Verdict: If I had a teenager, this plan with the Moto G is almost certainly what I'd get for them - it's hard to argue with unlimited everything for $25, if you are content with Sprint 3G data speeds. Republic Wireless's roaming offers coverage in many areas not covered by the above companies that don't have roaming agreements. If you don't want/need mobile data, Republic Wireless also has a plan that is unlimited talk and text (but no mobile data) for $10/month.

Inexpensive, Unlimited Smart Phone Service (with Sprint's 4G LTE): Republic Wireless


My recommended plan: Unlimited everything (including up to 5GB of 4G LTE data) for $40/month.
The Phone: They will sell you a 2nd gen Moto X for $399 (which is a decent price for an excellent phone). Since the Moto G is 3G only, you have to have the Moto X for this plan.
The Good: The same as the above, with the addition of 4G LTE data (up to 5GB per month, and slowed after that).
The Bad: Same as the above.
The Verdict: An excellent option if you want an excellent phone and unlimited everything with 4G LTE service, without totally breaking your bank. Republic Wireless's roaming offers coverage in many areas not covered by the above companies that don't have roaming agreements.

Inexpensive (but metered) Service, with Free Voice and Text Roaming on Verizon: Ting


My recommended plan: There is only one plan, and it scales with your usage as detailed here.
The Phone: They have the largest variety of phones available for sale of any of the companies listed on this page, including recently-launched phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and others. You can also bring almost any Sprint phone, and I'd recommend buying a Google Nexus 5 or 6 from Google and taking it to Ting to use.
The Good: Huge variety of phones (and the ability to bring your own). People say (I don't know from personal experience) that the service is good, and that the customer service is excellent. Ting offers free voice and text roaming on Verizon, so they have voice and text (not data) coverage practically everywhere. Your monthly bill scales to your actual usage, so if you use very little in one month, your bill shrinks dramatically, and then goes back to normal the next month.
The Bad: They don't have any unlimited service plan options, and their service is way more expensive than FreedomPop's free service.
The Verdict: If you're not an extremely heavy cell phone user but want 4G (and/or want a wider selection of phones), Ting will likely save you money and will definitely offer you more phone options than Republic Wireless. They also offer the absolute newest phones, if you're not content with FreedomPop's slightly dated phones. If you're in rural America, their roaming deal with Verizon has you covered for voice and text, but not data. Ting also just a launched a GSM-based service on T-Mobile's network, but since T-Mobile's coverage is often worse than Sprint's, I can't really recommend their GSM service.

If You HATE Sprint but Want Loads of Data for Cheap: T-Mobile Monthly4G


My recommended plan: 100 Minutes, Unlimited Texts, and Unlimited Data (up to 5GB at 4G speeds) for $30/month.
The Phone: Any unlocked GSM phone will work, though obviously, you'd want one compatible with T-Mobile's 4G LTE service. Might I recommend the Google Nexus 5?
The Good: T-Mobile earns props for being the only company of the big 4 that earns a spot on my list at all, even if it is a bit of a niche plan. If you simply HATE Sprint irrationally (or if Sprint's coverage in your area is particularly bad), this plan is a cheap way to get lots of data.
The Bad: Very low number of minutes (not a problem for me, but a problem for some/many). This plan is only available from Wal-Mart or directly from t-mobile.com.
The Verdict: An excellent option for people who want lots of data and don't want to / can't use Sprint, and/or who already have an unlocked GSM smart phone they can use with this service. I had an out-of-contract Samsung Galaxy S2 from AT&T and used it on this plan for several months until the phone finally broke (when I replaced it with a Google Nexus 5 and switched to an even-cheaper RingPlus plan, and then to FreedomPop after that). However, I'll note that T-Mobile's coverage is often quite poor outside of cities.

LTE Data in Rural America: Page Plus Cellular


Good news for those of you who live in the middle of nowhere and simply HAVE to have 4G LTE data - this past year, Verizon finally opened up it's LTE network to a company other than Verizon, and that company is Page Plus Cellular. With Page Plus, you can get access to Verizon's LTE network for a good deal less than what Verizon charges. The downside to Page Plus is that the LTE speed is capped at 5 Mbps - while that's fast enough for most purposes, it's a lot slower than the 15+ Mbps you'd see on Verizon's LTE network or the 60+ Mbps you'd see on Verizon's XLTE network.

That said, Page Plus may be in the process of being shut down - so soon,  the only prepaid options for Verizon LTE (also at capped speeds like Page Plus) might be Straight Talk and TracFone. (/sarcasm/ I'm SURE it's just a coincidence, but the parent company for both Straight Talk and TracFone [which, also coincidentally, just launched LTE service on Verizon's network] recently bought Page Plus, so this probably has nothing to do with buying up and then shutting down a competitor. /sarcasm/). It will be a shame if Page Plus disappears, because it offers a much wider array of plans than either Straight Talk or TracFone.

Oh well - if you live in the middle of nowhere, you've got to take what you can get, I suppose, or give your first born child to Verizon.

Honorable Mention for Verizon Coverage on the Cheap: BYO Wireless


I'm sure some of you out there are like my mother-in-law, who lives in a rural area and wanted Verizon's coverage, but wanted to pay a lot less for it, particularly since she doesn't need unlimited minutes or much data. With BYO Wireless's CDMA network, you can bring your own non-LTE Verizon devices (e.g., an iPhone 4s) and get 2G and 3G Verizon coverage for cheap - for example, my mother-in-law is going with the 100 minutes, 100 texts, and 20MB of data plan for $5/month, or with the 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 50MB of data plan for $10/month on Verizon's network. There's no Verizon 4G with BYO Wireless, but there's no cheaper way to get coverage on Verizon's network, if that's a priority for you. Setup was very easy - just enter the IMEI of the phone, follow the instructions, make a phone call, and bam - my mother-in-law was up and running with the exact same service she had before in just 5 minutes, but she is now paying $5-10/month instead of $80/month. BYO Wireless also offers GSM coverage through T-Mobile's network (and that includes LTE), but I think their real value is in their low-cost access to Verizon's network. If you want a bit more data on Verizon but are still OK with 3G speeds, Red Pocket Mobile offers 300 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1GB of 3G data on Verizon for $20/month, which is also a pretty good deal.

So, that's what I found - have you found an even better deal? If so, let me know in the comments.

(FYI - the best list of all MVNOs available in the USA is probably this one right here - if you explore that list and find an awesome deal I that I overlooked, be sure to let me know in the comments.)

Also, the above obviously only applies to my American readers - but if you're from another country and have found a sweet cell phone deal, feel free to share that in the comments as well.

[Post first-draft edit/warning: Sprint has changed their system for how they check whether phones are eligible to be activated on a Sprint MVNO, and there are reports that Sprint is falsely rejecting a lot of phones for their MVNO services. So, to be safe, I'd recommend either buying your phone directly from either Google/Apple/Sprint or the company above that you want to do business with, OR get the seller (if you're buying a used phone via Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, etc.) to send you the ESN of the phone they're selling before you buy so you can check to make sure it is able to activate via the Ting ESN checker, RingPlus ESN checker, or FreedomPop ESN checker. But, in the past couple of weeks, Sprint seems to have fixed most of the activation problems they were having, so I'm hoping this won't be much of an issue moving forward - but, I would still check the ESN of a phone before buying it.]

67 comments:

  1. freedompop, horrible customer support, bad phone quality voip only, people could not understand me, dropped calls, 30 minute wait for customer support and never fixed call quality

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I did indeed list a lot of potential drawbacks for FreedomPop. It works well for me (I've been using it for several months on their free plan). But, as I wrote above, I really only recommend FreedomPop for people who:

      1. Spend a majority of their time on WiFi - the call quality is much better on WiFi than on a cell signal.
      2. Live in an area with very good Sprint LTE coverage (preferably with Sprint Spark, and get a Sprint Spark phone, like the Google Nexus 5 or the LG G2).
      3. Are relatively tech savvy, as the setup requires a little technical know-how. I warned that the support is relatively poor. (If I need support, I email support@freedompop.com - that seems to get me the best and most reliable support, though it does sometimes take a couple of days to get a reply.)

      However, I'll note that FreedomPop just launched a service called "Premium Voice" ($4/month), which routes your outgoing calls over Sprint's cell network (NOT VOIP) if the bandwidth available for VOIP falls below 400kbps. I haven't used it, but that could be a good option for people who don't live in areas with good Sprint LTE coverage.

      But, if FreedomPop just isn't working for you, it's easy to cancel your FreedomPop service (emailing support@freedompop.com is easiest, though there will be a few day's wait for them to get around to it) and take your phone to RingPlus.net - they're not free, but they have very low prices and better support, and their phone calls go over Sprint's cell network, not a VOIP setup. That's what I did for my father-in-law when FreedomPop didn't work for him, and as I said in the post, I was on RingPlus for many months and had a good experience with them.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Freedompop works awesome for me in fort worth tx..yes it does have its set bavks here and there but i have 5 phones with this service and i love it. Never run out of data not on even one of the phones. I can hook up to my gear s watch also and use tectnow to reply to messages from my watch. Or make calls from my watch if i connect it to my iphone as a bluetooth headset. It will catch the text too i believe that way. Maybe...but i got it just for my watch and calls and text for free on the go. I love freedompop. Im in fort worth tx. Everyone dont get discouraged by comments try freedompop! Go get a cheap sprint from craigslist spen d 20 to activate it abd plz try it. U might never pay a cell bill again like me. I text all day even leave my data on for days straight. ..never go over 500 mb.

      Delete
  2. Could you give an update as to your experience thus far with freedom pop? Many reviews online speak of poor call quality. I would like to lower my phone bill, but it doesn't have to be free. Specifically, would you recommend for use as a business phone for self employed? According to the maps, my area has excellent spark coverage. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I have been on FreedomPop's service for several months now, and I'm perfectly content with it. However, I do a couple of things that may be atypical:

      1. I make all my calls/texts via my Google Voice number and Google Hangouts, which gives me unlimited calls and texts for free.
      2. I'm on WiFi 98% of the time, which means that I have no call quality issues. But, the 2% of the time I'm not on WiFi and am on Sprint Spark, my call quality is fine.

      If you live in an area with Sprint Spark, I would absolutely give FreedomPop a try. I recommend going with a Google Nexus 5, but there are a few other Sprint Spark phones that you can activate with them or purchase from them (the LG G2, Samsung Galaxy S4 [make sure it's the tri-band edition], and the Samsung Galaxy S5]. The most recent list of phone you can activate is here, but most of them are not Sprint Spark phones: https://forums.freedompop.com/categories/byod

      I would recommend the Google Nexus 5, however, because if you get a Google Nexus 5 and decide that FreedomPop's service isn't right for you, you can easily cancel your service with FreedomPop and switch to a different Sprint MVNO (RingPlus is probably my favorite after FreedomPop), or you could even switch to an AT&T or T-Mobile MVNO (or to AT&T or T-Mobile directly) - basically, with a Nexus 5, you can use any network except Verizon, which gives you a ton of flexibility if FreedomPop doesn't work out. And if you're using Google Voice, you'll keep the same phone number when you jump carriers without having to go through the trouble of porting your number each time.

      So, I'd say grab a Google Nexus 5, sign up for Google Voice, and give FreedomPop a shot - if it doesn't work out, it's really easy to switch to something different!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Hey you seen my reply but i will reply again for you lol try freedompop asap! My calls react late sometimes like i say hi...have to wait a couple seca on the person to say hi back then i respond wait they respond...sometimes though it works great like a normal phone when i call someone driving. No delays..while saying 3g during call. Iys no worse than any other voip apps u use on wifi to me. Even better sometimes. Just try it..what do you have to lose...20 bucks...plus the price of a cheap ass sprint on craigslist...i love it..will never use any other service until i die lol

      Delete
  3. BYO Wireless will be shut down on August 31, 2015. On September 1, it will become Budget Mobile (Lifeline), which is essentially a government-subsidized phone service (you have to already receive aid from an assistance program in order to buy their phones). I'm a BYO customer and am looking for cheaper options before my phone shuts off, LOL. Thanks for this informative blog post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rebecca: Yes, I read about that, though the plans seem to vary by State, so perhaps the Budget Mobile plans in your particular state will still be a good match for you.

      For people like my mother-in-law who are relatively low-use people who want to be on Verizon, I might recommend Page Plus's $80 PIN plan - https://www.pagepluscellular.com/plans/80-standard-pin/ - though not as good as BYO's low-usage options, it seems to be pretty good.

      Or, if you use more data, Red Pocket Mobile's $20/month plan is an OK one - 300 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1GB of data per month - http://goredpocket.com/plans#cdmav

      If you find a great deal on Verizon's network, let me know - I may be looking for my mother-in-law here in a couple of weeks.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Hey thanks, I looked at Budget Mobile and it is eligible in my state, but I would have to be enrolled in some kind of government program to join.
      Here was my plan: A lot of companies like FreedomPop, RingPlus, etc., use wifi as part or nearly all of their service. I was strongly thinking about purchasing a wifi hotspot and having it on me or around me (see Karma hotspot here: https://yourkarma.com/) and using an app like TextFree Ultra to make phone calls and texts. The actual Karma device is $145 ($135 if you can find a referral on the web, and I believe there's quite a few), and they offer $14 for 1 GB. Currently, I am on BYO's $5 plan, which offers me 100 mins, 100 texts, and 20 MBs of data. 1 GB is roughly how much data I would use in two years or more. I did the math (I have a Verizon phone with a shrinking number of options as far as MVNOs are concerned), it would cost nearly the same for me to purchase a Karma hotspot with the $14 plan as it would to purchase a Joy plan on RingPlus and buy a used Sprint smartphone for around $85 over a three-year time period, but a Sprint smartphone that I'm not 100% sure would work due to Sprint's restrictions on past or present tardy customers...
      LOL. Feel free to weigh in!

      Delete
    3. Very informative article on this: http://www.wired.com/2015/01/phones-are-tablets/

      Delete
    4. Freedompop rules! No i bbc.co dont work for them im a balck male 28 in ft worth tx..this phone service changed up the game for me.. will never evr pay another cell bill again. Try it! What do you have to lose...20 bucks? Its worth knowing the truth. .freedompop is best to me

      Delete
  4. Hey thanks, I looked at Budget Mobile and it is eligible in my state, but I would have to be enrolled in some kind of government program to join.
    Here was my plan: A lot of companies like FreedomPop, RingPlus, etc., use wifi as part or nearly all of their service. I was strongly thinking about purchasing a wifi hotspot and having it on me or around me (see Karma hotspot here: https://yourkarma.com/) and using an app like TextFree Ultra to make phone calls and texts. The actual Karma device is $145 ($135 if you can find a referral on the web, and I believe there's quite a few), and they offer $14 for 1 GB. Currently, I am on BYO's $5 plan, which offers me 100 mins, 100 texts, and 20 MBs of data. 1 GB is roughly how much data I would use in two years or more. I did the math (I have a Verizon phone with a shrinking number of options as far as MVNOs are concerned), it would cost nearly the same for me to purchase a Karma hotspot with the $14 plan as it would to purchase a Joy plan on RingPlus and buy a used Sprint smartphone for around $85 over a three-year time period, but a Sprint smartphone that I'm not 100% sure would work due to Sprint's restrictions on past or present tardy customers...
    LOL. Feel free to weigh in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rebecca: Two things: First, I'm pretty sure Budget Mobile will continue paid, non-government-subsidized service after August 31; it's just not clear yet what the plans will be. So, I'd say it's likely that you'll be able to stay with Budget Mobile, if they have a plan that you're happy with.

      Second, however, if you're looking to switch: since you're such a light user, I'd recommend just going with FreedomPop directly. You can buy a refurbished Google Nexus 5 here - http://www.samsclub.com/sams/nexus5-ph-cpo-cert-pre-own/prod18640906.ip - for just $150. I think that's an awesome phone at a great price. I would try out FreedomPop's free service and see if it works for you - if it doesn't, you can cancel with FreedomPop and take that same phone to RingPlus and use it on one of their free or very cheap plans (or to any company that runs on T-Mobile's or AT&T's networks). When you get your new phone, you can try to sell your old phone to recoup some of the costs - that's always how I help finance a new phone purchase, by selling the my phone.

      I think trying to use a phone via a wireless hotspot will be unnecessarily complicated, and perhaps less reliable. Of course, you can do what you think is best, and let me know what you end up with!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  5. No mention of Scratch Wireless? The only caveat is that you have to purchase their phone (you may use my referral code https://account.scratchwireless.com/offers.htm?code=REF-O7FPYPUOKI for a $20 discount which also gives me a pass). It works great for my family because we mainly text & unlimited texting is always free everywhere. The wifi calling works well, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I looked at Scratch Wireless back when they first launched, and back then, I was unimpressed - they were selling a crappy phone at a ridiculously high price, and the cellular access passes were very expensive for what you got.

      But, because of your comment, I had another look at them. The phone they sell (the "Coolpad arise") is still crappy, but at least it's now a more reasonable $99. The passes aren't quite as expensive as they once were, but they're still pretty expensive for what you get.

      So, while Scratch Wireless isn't as bad a deal as they once were, I'd still pick FreedomPop with a Google Nexus 5 (a great phone that you can get for $150, with free cell service) over Scratch Wireless (a crappy phone for $99, and rather expensive cellular access, if you end up needing cellular access).

      If you like Scratch Wireless, I'm glad it works for you, but I don't think it's the best choice for most people.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  6. My youngest son just came of driving age: he needs (and we need him to have) his own phone. Found a Pantech Breeze flip phone in a drawer here in pristine condition, handed down from a friend. We don't want our son to be, um, burdened with data access. All he needs is voice and text. And he'll need lots of it. Is there a best option for using that phone? or should we move on and consider another phone?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous:

      There are a few good options, assuming that the Pantech phone is unlocked:

      1. The best option in terms of coverage is probably Airvoice Wireless - they run on AT&T's network and have a $20/month plan with unlimited talk and text (and 100MB data) - https://www.airvoicewireless.com/PlansA.aspx

      2. Lycamobile is another option - they have a $19 plan with unlimited talk and text (and 100MB of data) - http://www.lycamobile.us/en/19-cellphone-plan - they run mainly on the T-Mobile network, but offer some roaming, if T-Mobile offers better coverage in your area.

      3. Ptel has a $20/month plan with unlimited talk and text and a little more data (250MB) - https://www.airvoicewireless.com/PlansA.aspx - but they run ONLY on T-Mobile with no roaming, so their coverage won't be as good as the above two companies.

      4. The absolute cheapest unlimited talk and text plan (with NO data) is only $10/month with Republic Wireless (https://republicwireless.com/plans/) but, you'd have to buy a new smartphone (starting at $129), and they run on Sprint's network (with voice and text roaming onto Verizon). To make sure you use no data, you'd have to disable the mobile data connection on the phone; otherwise, your bill will be higher than $10/month, if you use any data.

      So, if your Pantech is unlocked and you really don't want to buy a new phone, I'd probably go with Airvoice; if you're open to buying a new phone, I'd go with Republic Wireless, as they have the cheapest unlimited talk and text plan at $10/month, if you can avoid using any data.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. I like ptel also..paid 20 a month for everything unlimited. .but net was 500 mb. That's all i need. Wifi is everwhere...but then. ....i found the pop...freedompop that is...lol sorry im goodmfy..but yes freedompop is the ish! Hands down to me

      Delete
    3. I like ptel also..paid 20 a month for everything unlimited. .but net was 500 mb. That's all i need. Wifi is everwhere...but then. ....i found the pop...freedompop that is...lol sorry im goodmfy..but yes freedompop is the ish! Hands down to me

      Delete
  7. I was with BYO on their $5.00 plan from January til Aug, now they tranfered me to Budget Mobile. In California the available NON LIFELINE plans are $40.00 per month. It was a VERIZON phone I had, and I found PureTalk (GMS via AT&T) so I am getting a used GMS phone and signing up with them for their $5.00 per month Advantage Simple 80 plan. Have you looked at PureTalk for low cost service?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: There are more than 100 MVNOs in the USA, so I can't cover every single one in one post - I post the ones I think are best, and I address others in the comments as people bring them up.

      I thought BYO's big value was low-cost access to Verizon's network, for people who didn't need a ton of minutes but needed Verizon's coverage. Now that BYO is out of the picture, I think the best options for low-cost Verizon coverage are Puppy Wireless (250 min, 250 texts, and 50MB of data for $15/month, though they also have smaller, cheaper plans), Red Pocket Mobile (300 min, unlimited texts, and 1000MB of data for $20/month, if you need more data), and Page Plus Cellular (you can pay $80 for a credit that lasts up to 365 days, and it deducts value from your credit as you use your phone - 4 cents per minute, 5 cents per text, and 10 cents per MB of data).

      If you don't need Verizon's coverage, I would go with FreedomPop if you want a smartphone, or with RingPlus.net if you want a dumbphone (or if FreedomPop doesn't work for you) - RingPlus runs on Sprint, and they have 4 different FREE plans to pick from, including one totally free plan that doesn't even require a credit card (125 minutes, 40 texts, and 10MB data).

      So, I'm glad you're happy with PureTalk, but I think there are better choices out there for most people.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  8. I have been with Republic Wireless for over a year now and absolutely love them! Every now and then their WiFi-to-Cellular transition is scratchy, but I would say definitely less than 5% of the time. Usually when that happens it is because the Internet the phone may be connected to does not have speeds high enough to rely on VoIP - as I found out the hard way. Their programming seems to be very fluid.

    Also, in regards to their customer service. They don't have a business number to call; they rely solely on twitter, facebook, email, community experts (via their website), and other social media outlets to answer and respond to problems/issues, should they arise. That can be a good or bad thing depending on if there is an emergency or something.

    Lastly, they're plans changed mid-2015. I was once on the $25/unlimited 3G plan, but I have recently switched to the Republic Savings Plan. It's a $10/month flat rate for unlimited talk/text/data (over WiFi only). Data may be added for an additional $15/1gig. BUT, the best part is, they refund whatever money back to you that you don't use. Meaning, I rarely go over 500MB of data, so my bill roughly comes out to be $20 after taxes for unlimited talk & text with 1GB 4G data!

    While the Verizon roaming is not ideal, it's you get charged extra for it. I'm a huge advocate for RW. (For the record, I am not affiliated with RW in any way; just a very happy customer who has saved tons of money).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I'm glad you're having a good experience with Republic Wireless - thanks for the extra info about them! I noticed that they changed their plans right after I put up my post, but oh well - things change quickly in the MVNO world.

      They're definitely a good choice for some people, though I'm a bit disappointed that they did away with their unlimited data plans, since that's where I thought their big value was. People who use lots of data should run the numbers with Republic Wireless, RingPlus, and T-Mobile, and see what company comes out on top for them, given their individual usage patterns.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Anonymous: A follow-up reply - I was curious, so I ran the numbers myself, because I was curious.

      For 3GB of data, here's what you'll pay:
      Republic Wireless: $55/month
      RingPlus.net: $40/month
      T-Mobile: $30/month

      Republic and RingPlus both include unlimited minutes and texts, and T-Mobile includes 100 minutes and unlimited texts (and 5GB of data).

      So, people just have to look and see what's the best match for them and their wallet.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    3. You know we are happy with a cell service when we get online and promote them from the heart like this is so hard when we don't even work for them. Lol im just excited because i now have five phones all with free service lol my kids have one too. Its awesome to me. Freedompop all day

      Delete
    4. I ues gigabytes and gigabytes of data monthly. But it's mostly over wifi so republic wireless still wins it for me :)

      Delete
  9. I signed up for Scratch, but am looking to change. Their customer support tells me the Coolpad Arise cannot be used on another MVNO - EVER. This doesn't sound correct. Are you aware of this or is this customer support guy off base.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sam: Actually, it's quite possible that you can't use that phone with another MVNO. Republic Wireless phones have the same restriction - they can only be used with Republic Wireless. It may be some kind of restriction with the firmware that they use for the wifi calling part of their service.

      Nevertheless, I wouldn't let that stop you from getting a different phone and different service, if you're not happy with Scratch - you can pick up a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S3 or S4 for less than $200 and then use it with the best service above that meets your needs (be sure you're getting the right kind of phone for the right service you want to use!).

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  10. I just wanted to let everyone know that I personally have switched from FreedomPop back to RingPlus. RingPlus has been running a bunch of limited-time promotions that give you 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1000MB for free each month (with various amounts of up-front payment required, but the monthly charge is $0), so I jumped on one of the promotions to sign up for one of RingPlus's promotional plans.

    The main reason I made the switch is call quality - as noted above, FreedomPop uses a VOIP setup that works fine if you're on Sprint's 4G (especially Sprint Spark) or WiFi, while RingPlus uses Sprint's regular towers for calls - so, the call quality is also fine where there's just Sprint 3G coverage. Also, RingPlus is giving more minutes, texts, and data for free each month, but the call quality is the main reason I made the switch.

    So, that's where I am with my phone service, though the above descriptions of the different plans are still accurate (except for Republic Wireless, which is addressed elsewhere in the comments).

    -The Angry Bureaucrat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I switched from Ting to RingPlus in September during one of the promotions for their Diversity plan (300 min./300 texts/300MB data), then switched to Jasmine (500/500/500, which kicked in at the start of the next billing cycle) during another promotion, and then signed up for the waiting list for promos for existing customers and got upgraded to Future 6.0 (1000/1000/1000 like you) just this week. I did have to pay $10 in top-ups at the time I signed up, but am paying $0/month for my phone service (compared to $14-$18/month I was paying at Ting). It does help if you have at least 1 device which is absolutely not currently active with any cell phone provider (which in my case meant initially activating my old LG Optimus S, then porting my number from Ting to RingPlus -- thus releasing my Samsung Galaxy S2, then activating the S2). Then I started lusting after newer devices and picked up a used Boost Mobile LG Volt from eBay, which was then successfully activated on RingPlus. I'd love to find a Motorola Moto E or Moto G (newest generation on each) for cheap, as I'm impressed by the positive reviews of those devices running a nearly stock Android 5.0 -- but should probably wait for either a superb Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal or a batch of eBay auctions which does far better than usual, so I'll have the funds to get the phone I want.
      I would also note that, precisely because of the multiple recent promotions, customer service is most quickly handled informally via their Discourse forums, as RingPlus' support staff is currently swamped with helping new customers who had problems getting up & running on RingPlus. (And there's a troll on the Discourse forums, who belittles the clueless & lazy -- although he can still have useful information in his posts.)

      Delete
    2. Catherine: Thanks for the additional info, and for sharing your experience with RingPlus. I've been quite happy with the service the past few weeks, and I managed to get my wife, mom, and father-in-law signed up on RingPlus's promotions as well, so we're all getting tons of free cell phone service. So, I'd highly recommend RingPlus, especially if you can get in on one of their free plan promotions!

      As with all free services, there are a couple of (to me, very small) catches:

      1. You'll have to pay a small top-up fee when you first sign up - for me, it was between $8 and $12 per phone line, though that's less than FreedomPop's $20 activation fee, and you keep the top-up in your account to pay for any overages you may have.

      2. When you make a phone call, you have to listen to RingPlus radio, which plays either music or ads. The other person you're calling doesn't hear it, and it stops when they pick up, but it can take a little getting used to listening to music/ads instead of hearing a ringtone.

      Anyway, everyone should give RingPlus a try, especially if you're not content with FreedomPop's service!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. These all suck because they're CDMA instead of GSM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: It's true that most of the services I list on this page run on Sprint's network, which I say multiple times isn't the best network, but Sprint is passable enough in most places, and their network is getting better all the time - so, Sprint is good enough for me, especially when it's free.

      But, you're wrong when you say "all" are CDMA - LycaMobile, Ting, and T-Mobile all run GSM service on T-Mobile's network. There are some MVNOs that have service on AT&T's network, but they're more expensive than the options I've listed here, so I don't think they provide as good a value as these options. But, Airvoice Wireless is a good AT&T option, and there are a few others.

      So, CDMA is good enough for a lot of people (especially when it's free), and there are lots of GSM options out there as well (some of them are even on this page already).

      -They Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Your opinion but we don't agree. Freedompop go hard. Ptel go hard. It doesn't suck if you know how to use it right abd arent attached to a phone all day running your mouth. Wifi is everywhere...i dont c how it can suck..freedompop that is..plus my mobile data they give me works just fine...for curious ppl ready to be happy like me.....yes freedompop will make you phone magically get data every month. Lol its not wifi only service. I thought that at first but nope. It works with no wifi if u have mobile data. 509 mb she's me just fine. I use wifi when i need to do the big stuff. Only use mobile data to make calls n text and surf web pages only. U Will last all month if u do this. .angry man jeep up the love and help

      Delete
    3. Your opinion but we don't agree. Freedompop go hard. Ptel go hard. It doesn't suck if you know how to use it right abd arent attached to a phone all day running your mouth. Wifi is everywhere...i dont c how it can suck..freedompop that is..plus my mobile data they give me works just fine...for curious ppl ready to be happy like me.....yes freedompop will make you phone magically get data every month. Lol its not wifi only service. I thought that at first but nope. It works with no wifi if u have mobile data. 509 mb she's me just fine. I use wifi when i need to do the big stuff. Only use mobile data to make calls n text and surf web pages only. U Will last all month if u do this. .angry man jeep up the love and help

      Delete
  13. I started my smart phone with Republic wireless (19.00/mo) a few years ago dropped them since Sprint network was so bad and wifi was not so good even though unlimited data calls and texts. Paid 149 for the phone. Switched to TextNow (18.00/mo) Got the MOTO g from them for $18.00 about 6 months ago same Sprint network calls are not connecting. Finally went back to Verizon via tracfone rollover plan $20/ which rolls over over for 3 months still i use up the 60x3 minutes for me is enough calling. Calls connect. Now seriously looking at ringpop their pricing seems to be double talking free and top ups.I am if I can get my phone on it heading toward Ringplus and keeping the tracphone their LG was 9.99 to buy. I have 2 pockets so when I am out I can have access to call as the textnow phone which tech support changed to only Sprint network first still does not connect when needed. The link for BYO said it is closed now. FYI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: Thanks for the additional info - I hadn't looked at TextNow before, but $19/month for unlimited talk, text, and data (the first 500MB at high speed) on Sprint or WiFi is a pretty good deal - I might have to include them in my next list. And they cell phones are reasonable prices, or you can bring your own.

      Yes, BYO is dead, unfortunately - and I don't find TracFone to be a particularly good value, but oh well. I moved my mother-in-law to Selectel Wireless from BYO - Selectel uses Verizon's network as well, and she gets 300 minutes, 300 texts, and 15MB of data month for $15. Not as good as BYO was, but not bad - and you can get a $10 add-on card to cover data overages that's good for several months.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Oh yea textnow is cool. All i use. For free that is combined with freedompop like u use hangouts.. how do i use hangouts free. Tried but was unsuccessful

      Delete
    3. Oh yea textnow is cool. All i use. For free that is combined with freedompop like u use hangouts.. how do i use hangouts free. Tried but was unsuccessful

      Delete
  14. Thanks for the detailed info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: Glad to hear that it was useful!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  15. Hi, this is a great review...thanks!

    One question, do you have any info on US Mobile? Perhaps this falls in the bucket of "a lot of MVNO's so can't review them all"...

    I am specifically interested in a GSM MVNO for using an iPhone...

    For now, that seems to be Ting or T-Mobile, but I see US Mobile and they appear to offer GSM as well...

    Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I have looked at US Mobile (https://www.usmobile.com/) - it's a good choice if you want a Ting-like experience on T-Mobile's network, and their prices seem to be a bit lower than Ting's - I'll probably add them to my main list the next time I update it.

      For people who have really low usage, LycaMobile's pay-as-you-go plan will probably be cheapest (and they're also on T-Mobile's network), but if you have slightly higher usage (but not high enough to move to T-Mobile's $30/month plan mentioned above), US Mobile might be a sweet spot in terms of price.

      If you decide to give them a try, let us know how they work out for you!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
    2. Thanks! I looked at LycaMobile, but it kind of weirded me out. Looks like it's focused on international calling and I've seen some reviews on really poor customer service and billing practices...did something change with them?

      I'm probably going w/ Ting or US Mobile (might be a coin flip). I'll report back...

      Thanks again for this guide!

      Delete
    3. Rothberg: My dad has been with Lycamobile for more than 2 years now, and we've had no problems with them - that of course doesn't mean that other people haven't had problems, but they've been fine for us. Just FYI.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  16. I have REPUBLIC as my primary phone, and 2 FreedomPop phones on free service. Republic is OK with a medium strength signal, but Freedompop is unusable. If the mobile signal (or wi-fi) is good, both companies have adequate quality. I need a way to disable FreedomPop's voicemail, because I prefer to use Google Voice (and I don't want to have to press 1 to answer a call while driving).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. atomic: Thanks for sharing your experience with Freedompop!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  17. The cheapest way I have personally found (did not know about FreedomPop) is purchasing a new preloaded sim card each month from a T-Mobile MVNO or AT&T MVNO.

    Reference:
    http://swkstudios.com/tutorials/wireless-providers/10-dollars-a-month/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown: That's definitely a way to get cheap service, but it sounds like a good deal of work (and waste) - and that's my opinion, as someone who's very comfortable using Google Voice.

      I'm a big fan of FreedomPop, if their service works for you, and I'm an even bigger fan of RingPlus.net, my current provider (both run on Sprint's network) - they regularly run promotions where you can sign up to get 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1000MB of data free per month, with a ~$20 up-front payment. In fact, they're running one right now, until tomorrow at noon PST!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  18. We recently left Sprint for Wifi only calling. We have Brighthouse internet so they have several "Cablewifi" hotpsots around town that we can use and just the regular coffee shop hot spots, as well and the wifi in our house. One downside is that even with Google Voice, which I use religiously, there seems to be no way to get free dependable inbound calling for free over wifi. I was using Vonage to place free outbound calls which displays my Google Voice number and works very well. I I can send and receive text messages over Google Voice. I drive 60 miles to work and there were concerns of coverage if I break down. My solution was to pickup a FreedomPop Hotpot that has 3G/4G access (over Sprints network) 500MB per month for $3.99. The 4G is Wimax so many places I will have 3G access which is fine. 500MB of data should net me about 200 minutes of talk time so if I break down I will be able to call someone. I also paid $9 to MagicApp for a phone number that has unlimted outbound AND inbound calling over wife and text messages. That will be $9 per year which is not shabby at all. $3.99/month for the Hotspot and $9.00/year for Magicapp is pretty cheap compared to what I was paying before..which was about $60.00 per month.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Orlando: Interesting solution, if a little complicated for most people ;)

      I've been very happy with RingPlus.net, who continues to run promotions like the one I currently have (1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1000MB for $0/month).

      Just something to think about, if you ever want to simplify things!

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  19. When will you write an update? Why did you switch to RingPlus.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I hope to write an update relatively soon.

      The main reason I made the switch to RingPlus was call quality - as noted above, FreedomPop uses a VOIP setup that works fine if you're on Sprint's 4G (especially Sprint Spark) or WiFi, while RingPlus uses Sprint's regular towers for calls - so, the call quality is also fine where there's just Sprint 3G coverage.

      Also, RingPlus has been running a bunch of promotions that give more minutes, texts, and data for free each month (up to 4000 minutes, 4000 texts, and 4GB of LTE data FREE every month!), but the call quality is the main reason I made the switch.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  20. Living in rural Nebraska I HAVE to be on Verizon. All I can come up with is page plus or possibly red pocket as I got that for my son (3g 4s iphone 19.99 per month for 300 talk, unlimited text and 1G data)and it work fine for him when he visits. Until I am in another area of the country I'm pretty stuck- I think- mostly 1 bar of 3g and slow internet. Suggestions??? (besides moving!!!) Thanks!Oh, we did BYO until they folded and it took me 3 days of continuous calling but got 2 older iphones ported over to Red Pocket we seriously are limited here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. marejohn: For cheap-ish Verizon service, Page Plus or Red Pocket are probably your best bets.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  21. This is a great list but I still dont see what I am looking for. Right now I pay 30/mo for unlimited talk/text with att. Im looking for something with unlimited talk/text that runs on verizon or att (I live in BFE). I really like Republic Wireless but it uses Spint. Any suggestions? I use a basic phone now but might be willing to get a smartphone again if it saves money in the long run.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex: Airvoice Wireless (https://www.airvoicewireless.com/PlansA.aspx) runs on AT&T and has an unlimited talk and text plan for $20.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  22. I remember reading about one of the MNOs offering free 200 minutes, 200 texts, and 200 MB/month. All you had to do was purchase their SIM card for $10. I remember they didn't have it advertised very well on their site. Almost as if they didn't want to lose potential customers to this free package? I don't recall who it was. I just tried to do a search but was not able to find it. Does anyone know which carrier it is/was?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read just last night that TMobile has a data plan for tablets that is 200 MB for free. I wondered if that is what you heard about? I have an unlocked phone running FreedomPop right now. It is dual SIM so I was considering adding another SIM card to pick up any of the overages.

      Delete
    2. Phil: That is FreedomPop's new SIM card offering. I'm sticking with my RingPlus plan (I've since upgraded to 3500 minutes, 3500 texts, and 3500 MB for free every month), but I grabbed a FreedomPop SIM card because they offer free data in 30+ countries for free.

      Delete
  23. What do you think about Tracfone now? It seems to have gotten better deals since your and most other reviews. For $12.50-25.00 a month, depending on your needs each month, you can get 500-1000 texts, 1.5 GB of data, and 500 minutes with their smartphone/BYOP plans. Apparently, according to some blogs, if you port in a number from a given provider like AT&T or Verizon, you will be connected to AT&T or Verizon 4G service instead of the default Sprint or T-Mobile. This means that you get the best providers for $12.50-25.00 a month, so to me it seems to be a tempting deal if you want the best 4G providers for cheap and don't need a bunch of talk or text (and you can buy more texts for cheap). Am I missing something? It seems none of the MVNOs you mention can match this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael: That could be tempting for relatively cheap Verizon access if you're out in the country. Personally, I probably wouldn't bother with it otherwise, as I think there are better deals to be had (especially RingPlus), and the number of people who really "need" Verizon's coverage is relatively small, despite what people think their needs are.

      -The Angry Bureaucrat

      Delete
  24. I've had it confirmed by two separate tracfone reps that you can use AT&T or Verizon service by porting in a number from one of these carriers, so this seems to sweeten the deal if the reps know what they're talking about.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I recently got a freedompop tablet for $49 that seems to work fine, but I noticed that talk minutes were being deducted when using wireless. A google search showed that this is true, even using your own wireless signal, calls count against your quota. I don't need this device as a phone, but just for the heck of it I installed google dialer and can make and receive free wireless calls using my google voice phone number.

    ReplyDelete
  26. You may also want to try out the calculator tool at http://siftswift.com/en-us/cell-phone-plans/ to find low-cost plans for your usage. It factors in monthly add-on costs and overages to give an apples-to-apples price comparison across plans from a bunch of carriers.

    ReplyDelete