Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Exploring a New Phone Plan

I'm always on the look out for deals.  If you haven't figured out by now, I'm pretty OCD when it comes to research, and I've been itching at finding a better phone plan since my current service with Verizon will be expiring on September 24th.  The coverage was great, however I only have 2 simple feature phones between my wife and myself.  Even with my company discount of 20% off the phone charge, I still pay about $68/month before taxes.  We only use about 200 minutes per month and even have texting disabled.  Needless to say, I feel like I'm getting slightly ripped off, and have made it my part time job to find a new phone plan.

Examining the main carriers of Verizon and AT&T, I've come to the conclusion that these companies have a virtual duopoly on the cell phone market.  Upgrading to a smart phone with either of these institutions will cost me between $100-$200/month.  That's likely having an additional car payment!  So lets examine my other options.  Note that each section includes a financial analysis which incorporates NPV.  A two year plan in today's dollars (assuming a yearly inflation of 3%) would cost me $1,632.

Operating on the Sprint network (as do the rest of these plans), Virgin mobile is defining itself as one of the best cheap alternative carriers on the market.  It has modern phones and cheap monthly plans with unlimited talk and text.  Before taxes, and buying the cheapest Android enabled smart phone ($40/person), I would be looking at  bill of approximately $1,709 over 2 years.  Not exactly a savings over time, however I would be upgrading to smart phones.

Net10 seems like a good alternative.  It incorporates the same basic features of normal prepaid phone plans and appears to have some decent phones.  I'm hesitant to jump into prepaid phone plans due to persistent attention needed in order to keep your phone service.  What I don't like about this plan system is that most of the plans are use it or loose it type deals.  If you don't use your allocated minutes within  30 day period, you loose them.  This seems like too much work.  Looking at the financials, I would probably have to use 2 $45 minute plans over 60 days which amounts to $45/month.  However, like most prepaid plans, you have to buy your minutes upfront ($90/person for their cheapest Android phone).  Total cost would be $1,227.  Not too bad, however I would have to go to the Sprint network and their remains questions about porting my phone number.

Page Plus Cellular
Pageplus is another interesting prepaid phone plan distributor.  Assuming I could only use 10mb of information per month (highly unlikely), then I would be fine with the $12 plan/month.  Their cheapest Android enabled phone is $80 (not sure if I would want a Kyocera), which would total a pretax cost to me of $718.  Now we're really getting in the savings.  Pageplus looks much more simple to use, and their coverage map is far more robust.  However, this still feels like I'm compromising.

This brings me to Ting.  Ting is a relatively new company with a quirky way of going about the phone business.  You sign up for recurring monthly plans on the Sprint network, and if you go over, you just get upgraded to the next highest plan for that month (which is also cheap).  Phone selection is very good and always expanding, and their blog is pretty interesting.  There are no overage fees, and Ting will reimburse you for minutes you don't use bringing you down to the plan that fits your habits.  This alone is something no other organization will do.  Total cost to me is about $1,051 for 2 years.  Not the cheapest option, but the service looks great, I could end up paying less, and I can have a family plan and port my old numbers.  There is even a possibility to keep my current phones in the future, but I would like to upgrade from a feature phone.  Ting looks like it will be my option and by switching over, I'll save about $531 over two years for a better phone.  Not too shabby in my opinion.

I'll write about my experience again in the future once I have a couple of months under my belt, but I just wanted to show you the type of analysis I undergo when completing a large purchase.

Wonderful Moment of the Day: Saving big on phone service!

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