DH and I are always together so we only have one cell phone, and it's a VERY old Sprint plan.. like 10 years old! The point is I don't know anything about this stuff since an employee set up the first and only phone for me, and I haven't delved into that world since.
Anyway, we've decided to convert our land line to a cell phone and OMG there is too much information! I think I'm starting to get a handle on it, but one thing confuses me. If I can get an unlimited talk, text and web plan at say Boost or AT&T, no contract, etc., then why do so many people pay double that for their cell phone plans? I don't get it. What am I missing?
It's hard to compare apples to oranges without knowing more.
In general, no contract plans do not subsidize the cost of the phone so phones are more expensive and many styles might not be available.
People have pay as you go for different reasons. In my experience, the people I know with non-contract phones generally don't use the phone as much but they have pay as you go plans - e.g. their cell phone needs are minimal.
I have a contract with AT&T. I have low minutes which are more than adequate because I don't talk much on my cell phone. I don't have a text plan because I can text for free with an APP I downloaded from the Apple data store. I could probably go with the least expensive data plan from ATT because I don't stream music or movies using the data plan. When I am running around I am generally just checking emails which don't use much data. I save data intensive stuff for when I am home or with a Wifi Hot spot.
You would need 2 phones - you might do just as well with a contract that has a family plan since pay as you go doesn't offer family plans (or I don't think it does).
And the major variant would be the phone as there are limited models and they are more expensive.
The first thing I'd do is narrow down your choices based on coverage. When I started looking at looking at pre-paid, I quickly found that T-Mobile (and several of the others) was not an option for us at all because where we live, those plans only gave us coverage on the major highways. I also eliminated Verizon because it does not cover well near my home or the roads I drive to work. That was a deal-breaker for us, though I know many in my neighborhood who have Verizon and live with it. I also often see people sitting in the elementary school parking lot a lot and wondered why until someone told me that's where the Verizon coverage goes out!
As far as prepaid versus a regular contract, the prepaid unlimited plans are much cheaper than a contracted unlimited plan, but they are close in price to some pretty decent contracted plans. With a contracted plan, you have the added benefit of a free upgrade every two years, paying less for your phone, and better coverage. You just have to decide which is more important - the benefits of a contract plan or paying less for more.
Another note on coverage - AT&T's coverage is not as good with prepaid as it is with their contracted plan. We've had a few problems with spotty coverage with our prepaid plan, but it's mostly been fine.
If you are not a heavy user, prepaid can be much cheaper. I have a prepaid smartphone on an AT&T plan with unlimited texting and 250 minutes per month for $25.00 per month. This is plenty for me. I do the 10MB data plan for $5.00 per month and then top it off every once in a while by buying 500MB ($25.00) - I figure I'll have to do this about twice a year, since I'm not a heavy data user. So, for about $35.00 per year total, I have most of what I need. Unlimited would be nice, but I don't really need it. I rarely talk on the phone and mostly only use the data plan when I need to look at something when I'm not near my computer. If I don't use it "just for fun" all the time, I can keep my usage pretty light.
I will say, though, that I use my phone every day for something. I don't make a lot of calls - I mostly use it for texting and internet usage. I just don't use it a lot for things like video or games. When I use the data, it's usually just for a quick check on Facebook or to upload a photo or something like that. I also use wireless wherever possible - that helps keep the data cost down quite a bit.
And actually, technically, your choices on phones are not limited with prepaid (at least at AT&T) - you can get any phone you'd like and make it a prepaid, but you will have to pay the full cost of the phone which is very high for the nicer phones. I went with the LG Thrive smartphone which was about $179.00. They are coming out with more and more prepaid phone choices every day. They also offer a lot more choices online than they do in the store.
I like my plan but prepaid can be a pain - you have to set up automatic refills and I've been having a problem with them working correctly. It's a little more work than having a contract, but the savings is worth it for me.
I hope that helps a little. I did a lot of research on phones and I know it's confusing!
Sorry for the slow response but wanted to thank you for your replies and great info! I didn't realize, for example, the coverage on a contract AT&T plan is not as good as the coverage for a prepaid plan. We want one of the phones to be an unlimited plan because we will no longer have a land line, and my goodness you can spend so many hours with tech support, which we seem to need to do a lot lately with all of our various electronic needs. And then there's family that live far away that like to talk for a long time. Although we do use Skype quite a bit. I don't really care about a data plan, but I might change my mind once I have one.
The other reason I want to go prepaid is so that I can downgrade while we're in the Bahamas for months at a time. At that point I'll just need to keep the number and have it take messages, so my needs are somewhat unusual.
I guess the thing that most confused me is I know so many people that pay more than $100 a month for a contract plan and I couldn't figure out why they don't go with a $50 unlimited prepaid, but you've given me a lot of good insight on why that is and will help me make my decision.
I just changed our phones to prepaid. I'm trying to save money and I was paying $172.00 a month for 3 lines with Verizon on Family share. We had 1400 minutes and unlimited texting, NO web at all. I started using my work Blackberry as my cell phone (no charge for me) and changed my kids to the Verizon prepaid $50/month unlimited talk, text, web. I can't belive I didn't do it sooner. The choices of phones were limited and the kids (teenagers) were balking at first, but now they love being able to access the web, email, etc. The phones we got were $129.00 each (LG -can't remember which model - they are touchscreen). Verizon has the best coverage in our area which is why I went with them, plus, we were able to keep the same phone numbers.
I think a lot of people want iphones and so are willing to pay the huge monthly fees. These prepaid phones aren't "smart" phones, but they do access the web.
Just to be clear, it's actually the opposite. Coverage is NOT as good with prepaid as it is with the contract plans. Wasn't sure if that was a typo or if you read it wrong.
Originally Posted by JulieM
I am not sure that prepaid plans are necessarily less expensive.
The problem with contract plans is that people over-estimate how many minutes they need.
I don't talk much on the phone so the least expensive calling plan is fine for me.
I use a free texting APP on my iphone so I don't pay for any texts.
I would have gone with the least expensive data plan because I use data mostly through WiFi and check emails on the 3G network but my discount doesn't apply to the leasat expensive data plan so I opted for the higher one which cost the same.
When I looked at prepaid plans, my monthly bill was lower with a contract plan.
I do have a corporate discount but my friend who works someplace else asked if there was any corporate discount for her company and it turned out there was. If you work for any kind of corporation, it doesn't hurt to ask. My discount is 30% but her discount is 20%.
Thanks for sharing your experience! Maybe you found the prepaid plan being more expensive than contract because you went with a plan that didn't include a lot of minutes? I really need an unlimited plan since I'll no longer have a land line and will use the cell phone for all of my phone use, including business since we have our own business and work from home.
Originally Posted by amarante
That's probably true since you are comparing apples to apples since you know you need unlimited minutes.
Originally Posted by JulieM
However, for most people paying for unlimited or very high amounts of minutes isn't necessary because most people don't spend a lot of time gabbing on the phone anymore - especially during the week. Most plans provide almost unlimited minutes during the weekend FWIW - not good for business use of course.
From what I have read, many people "overbuy" because they over-estimate how much they might need. I don't know if it's still true but at one time, my AT&T plan enabled me to buy additional minutes for a month when I knew I would be needing them.
That is true amarante, my Sprint plan is only 300 minutes, but if I run over I can buy 100 minutes for $5.00, up to a total of 500 minutes each month, as long as I purchase the minutes before the end of the monthly cycle.
Originally Posted by amarante
Honestly, I don't know how many minutes we use the phone each month since much of it is on a land line. I suppose when we go with the unlimited plan, something will show me how many minutes we've used, and maybe I'll find I need less minutes than I think.
We're on at&t 1100 minute plan with five phones and have never gone over on minutes. With free long distance, free at&t to at&t calls, and rollover minutes, minutes roll off without being used even though all of us are power users.
Originally Posted by JulieM
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