As a follow up to the most popular post on the site, “How To: Activate Smartphone On Verizon Without Data Plan“, we decided to detail alternatives to the mainstream cell phone company plans. This is mainly looking at smartphones, and the best plans for those who use data on a regular basis. Verizon slows speeds for users temporarily if their cell towers get ‘jammed’ after 2GB for 3G service, so keeping that in mind let’s get started.
- ($35-55/mo + phone) Virgin Mobile – Now owned by Sprint offers plenty of basic phones, Android phones, and even iPhone 4s’s (at a high price). Plans start at $35 ($30 if using auto pay) and include unlimited data and messaging with 300 minutes at the lowest tier. Of course after 2.5GB’s of data you get to enjoy 256KBPS or slower speeds.
- ($19/mo + $199 phone) Republic Wireless – The newest player in the cell phone “game”, still in beta at the time of this writing but supposedly doing well with the first batch of customers now enrolled. They tout a ‘hybrid’ calling plan which uses (your) wifi for the majority of the data, and the Sprint network for those times when your away from wifi access. $19/mo gets you unlimited everything – with no contact. Hopefully the beta goes well and the price sticks.
- (Free/ $10/GB after 1GB Free + $99 sleeve) FreedomPop – Not truely a phone service or provider, but if you have an iPhone it’s an interesting idea. Add the FreedomPop “case” ($99) to your iPhone 4/4s and get 1GB of free 4G internet on your device. $10 more gets you another GB, and so on. Available for preorder, (we plan to review it here if they send us a demo unit). Perhaps with a jailbreak or “flash” this could be used without being tied to an existing carrier? Time will tell.
- ($55/mo + phone) Boost Mobile – Sure, go ahead and laugh, but at $55/mo unlimited everything, it becomes a contender. If you have a certain number of on time payments with them the cost begins to go down – as low as $40 for the Android unlimited ($55 originally). Of course like the others your speed will get slowed after 2.5GB, although to what speed is not clear from their site (at first glance).
- ($55/mo + phone) Cricket – Gives unlimited messaging and calling, and 2.5 GB of full speed data before slowing. Although the price does NOT decrease like Boost Mobile does.
- ($40/mo + phone) MetroPCS – Offers “unlimited” 3G and 4G phone plans starting at $40/mo with unlimited calling and texting. Speeds are slowed after either 250MB (4G) or 2.5GB depending on the plan.
- ($30/mo + phone) TMobile Monthly 4G – $30 a month gets you unlimited web/text with 100 minutes, with no contract. Sim cards are available at retail stores or online. Supposedly any unlocked/TMobile GSM phone will work, just insert the SIM card and go.
- ($41.25-45/mo + phone) StraightTalk/Walmart – Option to buy phone from them, or bring your own unlocked GSM phone to use their SIM. $45 plan gets you unlimited texting, minutes, and data (which is most likely slowed at some point – around 2GB’s). If you pay for a whole year the price per month drops to $41.25.
Just to put these into perspective, here are the prices of similar plans from the major carriers for an individual user with a smartphone (with contracts):
- TMobile ($50-70 + phone) for 2GB Data
- Verizon ($90-100 + phone) for 2GB Data
- Sprint ($110/mo + phone) only *unlimited carrier remaining
- ATT ($70/mo + phone) for 3GB (4G phones are more per month)
So if you don’t like the alternatives, Sprint is the best for heavy data users, followed by TMobile or Verizon or ATT depending on the device you want (3G or 4G). The websites for these plans are extremely confusing to navigate, and fees are often added for “premium devices” like smartphones. Best to review the prices for yourself before making a decision. Just as text messaging was once unreasonably expensive, it is likely that data will soon come down in price with advances in cell speed (4G services and beyond), and new features that consumers will care about more.
Know of a better deal not listed? Leave a comment below and we’ll add it in.