Sunday, November 11, 2012

Smartphone Hunting: Prepaid?

My last post focused on the contracts I could get, but most of them require me to buy a phone anyway, so I thought I'd take a look at prepaid plans.

Contract plans require you to commit to two years of service, and generally don't let you change your phone during the duration of the contract. The carrier also tends to put a lot of restrictions on the phone, including slow upgrades, because they want you to have incentive to buy a new phone.

Prepaid plans offer the exact same service, but you can use an unlocked phone on them. So I could go buy a Google phone that has pretty good ratings, and then find a plan that's much more reasonable. And if I don't like my service, I can switch to another immediately.

The thing about prepaid plans, most of them are WAY cheaper than month-to-month. They also require more attention on the part of the user to make sure the bill is paid promptly and on-time. And, of course, they require you to buy your phone at a much higher price.

Just for me, no phone for Eric, I could buy a phone, then get a plan for as low as $50 a month base price. I would have to pay about $300 up front for the phone, but I'd be saving at least $25 a month (more, depending on what plan I would pick), so I'd recover that cost within a year.

If we kept our current phones while I bought a new phone and tried out the whole pre-pay thing, we would actually save money over upgrading through a contract without any chance of losing service.

It's very appealing.

So, anyone out there with experience in this have any thoughts? Warnings? Suggestions?


Jared said...

I know Straight Talk allows you to purchase a SIM card online for your existing phone so you can set it up with their service, which is pretty good for being prepaid. I have a friend who bought an Android phone on eBay and did that.

trinalin said...

I wouldn't recommend TrackFone for prepaid if you're going to get a google phone - they don't have SIM cards that you can remove. At least, my folks have never had any luck with that.

AT&T pay as you go phones do have SIM cards - I just took my old SIM card out of the phone I bought at Walmart (or wherever - it was ages ago) and put it in my AT&T Tilt. (Had to get an AT&T store to swap my SIM ID to a microSIM card to go from my Tilt to my Galaxy S III. Was only $25. If I'd gotten the right person, I probably could have gotten that waived.)

I don't remember if Virgin had SIM cards or not, but IIRC, you said Virgin didn't have good coverage for you anyway.

So one thing to know before you go prepaid - does the program have SIM cards, and are they the same sort as the phone you want to get?

J. L. Bell said...

I bought an iPhone on a prepaid plan. A lot more upfront, of course, but the monthly contract (Virgin) offered unlimited data, so I have no surprises or worries month to month. (Well, no surprises or worries about my cell phone.)