Monday, November 23, 2015
Saving $$: Smarter Smartphone Carriers
As we approach Thanksgiving and the Season-o-Shopping, here's a smart way to fatten-up your wallet.
In the Fall of 2013, many stars aligned that led me to a better path on saving money each month on my cell bill.
First, I received a brand-spanking-new Galaxy S4 as a product test (see here for sites that offer product tests) & got to keep the phone after the testing was over. For the past four years, I had been with At&t using iPhones & my most recent contract was finally up. I had never used an Android phone & the Galaxy was light-years fancier than the iPhone 4 I had. I held on to the phone & was able to easily switch over from At&t to the discount carrier Aio which then merged with Cricket Wireless.
My bill went from about $85/month (& that was with an existing corporate discount I had) to $40/month.
I loved the phone but it was big & clumsy in my small hands - so, it was no surprise when I accidentally dropped it on a tile floor at the gym.
I then needed to figure out whether to get it fixed or see if I could find a better phone (for me) & better deal overall.
Enter the blogosphere & the many personal finance blogs I follow: I kept reading over & over again about two companies: Ting & Republic Wireless. Both are mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs.
Ting lets you bring your own device (gsm or cdma networks - according to their website, that's about 80% of all phones out there) or you can buy a new or refurbished device. Lots of phone options are available - both iPhone & Android. From there, you pick a plan size from XS - XL. If you use less, you spend less. Basically, you pay for what you use and nothing more. Ting was a tempting option, but at the time (early '14), they only allowed cdma devices (At&t/Cricket = gsm) so I knew I would have to buy a new or used-new-to-me phone.
I then looked into Republic Wireless (RW):
RW is the only MVNO carrier that subsidizes the costs of their phones. Meaning you aren't paying full retail for a new phone - with any other discount carrier, you pay for the full cost of the phone upfront (no upfront deals or paying per month for your new phone). The only limitation is they only use Motorola phones, so if you can't imagine parting with your iPhone (& I totally get it) this carrier is not for you. I decided to sell my cracked Galaxy via Glyde & used that money towards RW's Moto X. I love the Moto X & you can read all about it here. I have the original version & I love that it's not a super-giant phone.
RW's model is that you run your phone as often as possible on wi-fi. Most of us have access to lots of wi-fi, so it can be a great fit for many people. The original monthly plan I had was for $30/month (tax included) for 3G access with unlimited text & data. But they have recently switched up their pricing & now you are paid back for any available data you don't use each month. My bill averages $18/month.
They have responsive customer service (via email) & I've never had a problem. When I'm not on wi-fi, my phone searches for nearby 3G or 4G networks (usually Sprint) & can switch back & forth without a hitch. I have no immediate plans to change carriers anytime soon, but have been a bit tempted by the invite I got from Google for Project Fi. It works in a similar fashion to RW but it currently only supports Google's Nexus phones. I would love a beautiful, shiny new Nexus, but my Moto X is still going strong.
Going from $85/month to $18/month has been a huge savings - there is only one Apple app I miss on my phone (Day One - but can still use on an Ipad), besides that, my phone does everything a smartphone should do. I will never go back to having a contract; there are too many great options out there these days.
If you'd like to learn even more - checkout these links:
I Finally Switched To an Off-Contract Phone Plan, and It's Awesome
Republic Wireless Review
Five Best Pre-Paid Cellphone Carriers
Google Just Became a Cellphone Carrier with Project Fi
The Cheapest Cell Phone Plan Worth Having
ps: when I was on the bus heading to our staff retreat a few weeks ago, the co-worker sitting next to me mentioned he uses Republic Wireless. It was like we were long-lost-money-saving twins! (cue the heavens parting!) Both of us sang Republic's praises - he is using their original beta-test phone & it's still works some three years later - his bill has never been more than $13/month. Awesome!