Confused about cell phone plans

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Hristo Botev
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Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Wed Aug 01, 2018 3:45 pm

DW has a 5gb plan with Verizon she pays $51/mo. for. My former employer paid my cell phone plan through AT&T, and if I recall I got to pay a discounted amount for my cellphone when I bought it about 6 months ago because businesses can still do 2-year contracts with AT&T. My new employer doesn't pay my cellphone bill, and so I had my plan changed to the cheaper of AT&T's two unlimited plans, for which I pay $73.41 for all in. Seems like it'd be a lot cheaper if my wife and I were on some sort of family or shared data plan, rather than 2 separate plans.

Assuming I actually can switch from AT&T to a new carrier without having to pay some sort of penalty to unlock the phone given that I bought the phone for a discount on my former employer's corporate contract, does anyone have ideas on how we can get this expense item down? I need my phone for work, but I wouldn't think I'd actually need an unlimited plan as I am almost always on wifi; and I'm sure I could otherwise figure out ways to live within any data caps (e.g., I don't really need to have Stravva on every time I go for a run; and I also don't need to have Google Maps navigation on every time I get in the car).

prognastat
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by prognastat » Wed Aug 01, 2018 4:05 pm

Hristo Botev wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 3:45 pm
DW has a 5gb plan with Verizon she pays $51/mo. for. My former employer paid my cell phone plan through AT&T, and if I recall I got to pay a discounted amount for my cellphone when I bought it about 6 months ago because businesses can still do 2-year contracts with AT&T. My new employer doesn't pay my cellphone bill, and so I had my plan changed to the cheaper of AT&T's two unlimited plans, for which I pay $73.41 for all in. Seems like it'd be a lot cheaper if my wife and I were on some sort of family or shared data plan, rather than 2 separate plans.

Assuming I actually can switch from AT&T to a new carrier without having to pay some sort of penalty to unlock the phone given that I bought the phone for a discount on my former employer's corporate contract, does anyone have ideas on how we can get this expense item down? I need my phone for work, but I wouldn't think I'd actually need an unlimited plan as I am almost always on wifi; and I'm sure I could otherwise figure out ways to live within any data caps (e.g., I don't really need to have Stravva on every time I go for a run; and I also don't need to have Google Maps navigation on every time I get in the car).
I'm testing out FreedomPops free service which provides 200 minutes, 500 messages and 250Mb(200 base+50 friend bonus) data at no charge. They also just reduced their friend bonus from 500 mb to 50 mb and removed the free option on their UK service, so no idea how much longer the free service will last in the US. There is some work involved up front cancelling trials that will end up charging you and adding the friends for the bonus.

Getting on a shared plan will likely lower your costs some, but when you are paying for GBs of data you'll likely be spending a bit on your plan. There are some cheaper options though. Consumer Cellular, Google Fi and Mint Mobile are some examples.

P.S.
A tip on google maps you can save maps offline while on WiFi to reduce data usage.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Wed Aug 01, 2018 4:20 pm

prognastat wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 4:05 pm
P.S.
A tip on google maps you can save maps offline while on WiFi to reduce data usage.
That is a good tip. Seems like in the past couple of years I've gotten to the point where I can't even find my way to the supermarket without using some sort of navigation app.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:30 pm

Cell phone equipment comes in a few incompatible flavors. VZ uses a different flavor from AT&T.

This is why it can be hard to switch.

However, there is a used market, so this doesn't have to be a wallet pincher. eBay has worked out for me, but it's not a regular solution. I save my old phones for disposable cameras. Crawling under a house? Take the old thunderbolt out and charge it up. Save the regular phone for regular use.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:18 am

Seems like the easiest solution (that wouldn't involve buying a new phone) would be to switch from AT&T to AT&T's low-cost provider, Cricket, which could get my monthly bill down from about $75 to $30. I know Cricket uses AT&T's network, and my understanding is that AT&T users get priority over Cricket users on that network, but not sure what that would mean from a practical perspective as far as calls and text messaging.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Riggerjack » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:43 am

Almost nothing to an individual low bandwidth user. You will be on the same towers, through the same equipment, across the same fiber backbone to the same network.

The difference is in data priority. Your voice bandwidth is already prioritized over data traffic, so that won't be an issue. The area that is different is the priority of your data plan in high cell traffic areas. It will be a bit less speedy and reliable. So if you spend your days in ferry lines, with lots of users who are also using lots of bandwidth,you will notice. But if your pattern of use doesn't have these areas of cell capacity saturation, you will never know the difference.

So, is there any part of your week when you regularly have bandwidth problems on AT&T? If not, you shouldn't on cricket, either. If so, cricket will be worse, in those areas.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:47 am

Very helpful Riggerjack. I have very little issues with AT&T in and around my home/workplace. The only times I really notice problems is, like you said, in high cell traffic areas (which seems to be when I'm at the beach with every other beach-week vacationer in an area that's not set up to handle the seasonal influx of data users; or, of course, at any sports stadium), and when hiking in the mountains (though I'm usually with my wife, who has Verizon, and who seems to have much better coverage in the mountains; so we generally rely on her phone for any data needs--like how the hell do we get back to our car).

I think I'll give Cricket a shot, assuming AT&T will let me unlock the phone.

Looking forward to the day when I can drop the smartphone altogether in favor of a "dumb" phone. Seems like, if you're married and FI, you could downsize to one smartphone in the same way that you could downsize to one car.

forest_turtle
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by forest_turtle » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:42 pm

I just switched to Mint Mobile. I get unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data for $15 a month. You have to pay for more than one month in advance. You can start out with 3 months then you need to do a year to get the best rate. They have a variety of options. So far, so good. Works great.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:58 am

Check out Republic too.

If you are only using Strava to track your run it shouldn't be using much if any data while you are running. You can save the run when you get back to your wifi. If you are on the paid plan and need to know where the segments are that would be different I think.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:36 am

Any thoughts on/experience with Xfinity Mobile?

I am starting to get to the bottom of my cell phone conundrum; though, admittedly, I've been slow playing this a bit as my current unlimited plan comes with free HBO and I've been enjoying the Sharp Objects show.

In December 2017, I bought an iPhone 7 through my old employer on a 2-year contract, back when I didn't have to worry about cell plans because my old employer paid for my plan. I think that what that means is that in order to change from AT&T I'll need to pay an early termination fee, which I think will be $325 minus $10/mo. I've been on the contract. So, saying I've been on the contract for 8 months, that's $245. If I were to pay $245 to terminate the contract, that'd work out to a little more than $15/mo. for the 16 months remaining on the contract. I'm currently paying $73 for my unlimited plan with AT&T, and there wouldn't be much in the way of savings even if I were to switch to one of their lower data usage plans. So assuming I can switch to a plan that costs less than $58/mo. ($73-$15), then seems like that makes financial sense, right? (if I place no value on the free HBO access)

From what I understand, Xfinity Mobile is "included" with my Xfinity home internet service. According to their website and the woman I spoke to on the phone, that plan is unlimited calls/text and 100mb data. It's then $12/gb from there. Not exactly sure how it works, but my assumption is that if I go over 100mb data in a month, I'll automatically get charged $12 up to 1gb. Seems like a no-brainer, no?

Also, my wife loves Verizon. A year or so ago when my cell plan was covered by my employer I convinced my wife to switch to Republic Wireless. It did not go well, and as a result I've now lost all credibility with her when it comes to cell plans. But if I switch to xfinity and it goes well then perhaps I can eventually convince DW to sign up as well, and the /gb plan is a shared data plan; so conceivably if we only use wi-fi for data our cell bill would be $0. That would be a big difference from the $125 we are paying for 2 plans now.

Desert
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Desert » Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:53 am

It may be worth taking a look at US Mobile. You can check your phone's compatibility on their site. They use the Verizon network.

Optimal_Solution
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Optimal_Solution » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:42 am

I just switched from Republic Wireless to Red Pocket. Red Pocket has inexpensive, pre-paid, no contract plans available on each of the big four networks. After trialling their 1GB/month plan ($15) on the ATT network, I purchased a 12 month package via their eBay store. It was on sale (seems to go on sale frequently) and worked out to be about $17 per month for 5GB/month LTE and unlimited calls and texts on the ATT network. I use about 1-2 GB per month, so I have plenty of buffer. It's the best price I could find for a plan that provides at least 2GB.

Note that their plans may vary somewhat between networks.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:02 pm

Optimal_Solution wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:42 am
I just switched from Republic Wireless to Red Pocket. Red Pocket has inexpensive, pre-paid, no contract plans available on each of the big four networks. After trialling their 1GB/month plan ($15) on the ATT network, I purchased a 12 month package via their eBay store. It was on sale (seems to go on sale frequently) and worked out to be about $17 per month for 5GB/month LTE and unlimited calls and texts on the ATT network. I use about 1-2 GB per month, so I have plenty of buffer. It's the best price I could find for a plan that provides at least 2GB.

Note that their plans may vary somewhat between networks.
So I think I'm starting to figure this all out. AT&T is going to manually unlock my phone, presumably without me having to pay the early termination fee; so that's good. The problem appears to be, however, that I may not be able to use my iPhone 7 bought through AT&T on Xfinity Mobile's network, which uses Verizon's network. Assuming that's the case, then my options appear to be to either sell my phone and buy one (cheaper) that will work on xfinity mobile's network. Or find a low cost carrier that is on the AT&T network. I was thinking Cricket. But the Red Pocket thing seems interesting because you can pick which network.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:56 am

As an update, if anyone is curious. I finally pulled the trigger on a plan to get the cell phone bill down. I bought an unlocked iPhone SE for $350 from Apple, against which I got a $200 credit for trading in my iPhone 7 (which only worked on AT&T and TMo networks). I signed up for Xfinity Mobile's by-the-gig plan, which is $0 up to 100mb, and then $12/gig. I did not have to pay an early termination fee to AT&T. 2 days in, my bill for next month to Xfinity will be $0, as I've only used 32mb of data, most of which I think was incurred while I was actually at the Xfinity store (I've switched off cellular data and am relying exclusively on wifi). So, I'm out ~$150 for switching to a phone that will work on anyone's network. But given that my AT&T plan was $75/mo., I will have broken even within 2-3 months, since my new plan will cost either $0/mo. or $12/mo. I'm sure lots of people have issues with Comcast/Xfinity, but this is the first time in years that I'm not paying AT&T for something (cell, internet, cable, etc.). It's a good feeling.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:58 am

Of course, DW and I waited to cancel AT&T until we'd finished Sharp Objects, because cancelling AT&T met no more free streaming HBO.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:02 pm

Just in case anyone is curious, I'm 3 bills in now with Xfinity Mobile, and I'm a fan. I haven't had any problems with the network, which is Verizon's. I haven't been able to hit $0/month yet (or, really, about $3 with the fees/taxes), because I haven't been able to stay under the free 100mb limit. Instead, I've been in between 100mb and 1gb each month, meaning my bills have been $12 (~$15 with the fees/taxes). Certainly beats the $70+ I was paying before.

prognastat
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by prognastat » Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:23 pm

Good to hear it's been working out so far. 100 MB is tough to stay under I manage it maybe half the time.

My experiment with FreedomPop so far is still a success. I'm still getting the 250 MB free a month and have managed to stay under it with some wiggle room and haven paid a dime for the past 4+ months. I do have almost everything except messaging and calling apps set to not use cellular though. I think not using my cellphone as much is a good thing anyway though.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by Hristo Botev » Mon Dec 17, 2018 5:18 pm

prognastat wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:23 pm
I think not using my cellphone as much is a good thing anyway though.
That's been my favorite part of this whole experiment: not using my cell phone as much. I have cellular turned on for my work e-mail and for my home security system, and that's it. It's simple enough to turn cellular on momentarily for Google Maps, or Spotify, etc., when I need/want to; but I have enjoyed having the default setting being to figure out whatever it is that needs to be figured out without using the phone.

prognastat
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by prognastat » Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:03 pm

For google maps saving the local area for offline use has worked for me so far, but this depends on how much you travel to various locations.

arcyallen
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Re: Confused about cell phone plans

Post by arcyallen » Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:36 am

prognastat wrote:
Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:03 pm
For google maps saving the local area for offline use has worked for me so far, but this depends on how much you travel to various locations.
You can download practically the entire country if you want, limited only by your phone storage. I have about 6 "max sized" maps downloaded right now.

I just switched to Google FI. They allow most phones on their plan now, and if you can control data use when you're not on wifi, it's a bargain. $35 for two phones, $10/GB. It should be about 40% cheaper than our Verizon plan we had (I've been on Verizon for over twenty years). The interface is slick and simple. My only compliant is MY vmail is a little clunky (my wifes is fine), but it's well worth the trade off.

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