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Author Topic: Coming out of the dark...
PSI Teleport
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I have a confession to make. I'm 26 years old and I've never purchased a cell phone. I'm at a point in my life where I would really benefit by having one, but I have absolutely no idea where to begin. The salespeople scare me (especially the way they grab at you when you walk by in the mall) and I don't feel like I can trust them to really even know what they're talking about, let alone to be straight with me. My only experience is that I briefly used one on my dad's plan. It was ATT/Cingular and I never had a dropped call, even in the middle of the desert. I've tried googling but most of what pops up are advertisement/sales related. So here are my questions:

What is the best way for me to go about finding a cheap plan (for two people) and cheap phones? All I care about is talking and maybe text. I'm trying to stay in budget but I'm shocked at how expensive phones are now. Even the refurbished ones are at least $100 bucks. I keep hearing people say what they spend on plans and they seem a lot cheaper than anything I can find. For example, my dad pays $50 bucks a month to ATT for 1400 minutes (He has been with them for a few years.) but when I go to ATT all I see are plans for $60 bucks with only 550 minutes. I feel so lost!

Anyone have any great plans or insights?

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lem
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Don't do it. I got one for work and have been unable to hide ever since!
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PSI Teleport
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I worry about that, but my husband commutes to work and he works night shifts. I really think he needs one to be safe. I worry about him breaking down in the middle of the night.
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Pegasus
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Definitely talk to cell phone users in your area to see what networks work well in the places that you frequent.

In our rural area only 1 network works well.

--------

My confession is that I haven't had cell service or regualar land line service for many years, and I like it that way, mostly.

Internet only at my house.

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Xavier
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I resisted the cell phone craze initially, but it is just so very convenient that now I can't imagine going without it.

My suggestion is to find a plan you are okay with, and then get the actual phone for free (or nearly so). At least that's what I do with Verizon. My phone doesn't take pictures, or video, or surf the web, or play music, or any of that crap, and I've never felt like I was missing out.

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TheGrimace
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as for phone costs: if you sign up with a 1-2 year contract with any of the major providers you will generally get at least one phone for free (if you're not too picky) and if you are picky you'll probably still get massive discounts (i.e. I payed $50 for a $250 phone this time around and probably didn't get nearly the best deal out there)

As for cheaper plans, someone else can probably recommend one better than I, but check perhaps T-Mobile or Alltell? There's a few out there that do plans specifically geared at those who probably won't use their phones all that much (either pay by the minute, or just very low minutes but for a low monthly fee). Also you can almost certainly find packages within the big companies that are reasonably priced and fit your needs... 30-50/month I think are the normal entry levels for ATT and the like. you may not get 1500 anytime minutes, but most of them have unlimited nights, weekends and in-network calling.

I pretty much exclusively use my cell and have survived just fine on a 350 minute plan for years (though the rollover with ATT helps me a lot). Best Buy and the like also tend to have some decent pamphlets that compare the various service plans that are offered at their store, so you can do a side-by-side between different company's offerings.

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erosomniac
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I second Pegasus' suggestion. No matter what great/horrible stories people will tell you about a particular carrier (generally related to customer service), what it ultimately comes down to is: will the phone you're using work where you need it to?

All other details - plans, phone model availability, customer service, etc. - should be secondary, especially since you're looking at a phone for the sake of emergency.

Prices for plans are going to vary depending on where you are and what level of service you want. Since you want a phone for each of you, it would be in your best interest to get a family plan of some kind, since those plans are universally cheaper than the equivilant two individual phone plans, and often come with free calls between plan members.

Some basic prices for you to compare:
T-Mobile: 700 minutes shared, unlimited nights/weekends, $59.99
AT&T Wireless: 700 minutes shared, unlimited nights/weekends, free mobile to mobile, $69.99
Verizon Wireless: 700 minutes shared, unlimited nights/weekends, free calls to any Verizon customer, $69.99

There are dozens of other providers out there, but those are the three big ones. Again, pick a provider based on how well they cover your area. Don't believe their pretty maps and coverage claims: get some firsthand experience from people in your area.

Every single major cellular provider will be able to offer you a free phone with a 2-year contract; some will be able to offer you a free phone with a 1-year. ANY retailer that claims otherwise is dishonest, and should not be dealt with.

The other option I always urge people to look at, especially if their situation is like yours, is to look at prepaid or pay-as-you-go plans. These tend to work like calling cards, where you pay a flat fee (e.g. $50) and get an amount of minutes (e.g. 400) to use your phone, no contracts, no nothing. This can be way, WAY cheaper than any plan if you don't use your phone very frequently. I used T-Mobile pay as you go phone for years, and a $100 1000 minute refill would last me 7-9 months, effectively $11-14/month for service. The downside is that you usually have to purchase a phone (the low end models typically cost about $50) and don't get any of the plan perks, e.g. free minutes of any kind, internet access, blah blah blah.

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scholar
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I do prepaid as I rarely use my cell phone. My husband does the same. We pay $100 each and that lasts us for a year. We both paid $20 for our phones. The big negative I have found is that I lost my phone and since they don't have any personal info on me I can't transfer the number or anything.
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Synesthesia
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Do not drop it in water or mixed vegetables.
Also, whatever you do, don't buy a cheap phone then upgrade to a snazzy phone in two years as they will GET YOU with all sorts of fancy schancy gadgets and doo dads which WILL COST YOU AN ARM and maybe a toe or two.

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advice for robots
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I second the pre-paid thing. I rarely use the cell phone, but I like to have it occasionally. Pre-paid means I can buy some minutes when I think I'm going to need them, and not have to pay for a crazy amount of minutes I'm never going to use.
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cassv746
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Yeah the pre-paid thing would be best. I've had Sprint (before it was sprint/nextel), ATT, Cingular (before they were combined), Virgin Mobile, which was a great pre-paid phone, and now Verizon.

Verizon's been by far the best phone company for me. They have pre-paid plans but I don't know how good they are.

Wow I've gone through all the major phone companies except T-mobile....

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PSI Teleport
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Thanks for the info so far!

One snag I seem to be hitting with the prepaid is that they all have a 1.00/day usage fee (but only for the days you actually use them) which means that if you use your phone every day, you're paying $30/month plus the ten+ cents a minute. That sounds like a lot. I would probably use the phone most days, but only for a few minutes at a time. So a ten minute phone call on Monday would really cost me 20 cents a minute. Yikes.

So, do you all think that the phone is more important than the provider for being able to make calls in all areas?

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ElJay
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No. The provider is the only thing that matters as far as coverage, the phone is almost irrelevant.
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PSI Teleport
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*nod* That's what I thought, too, but I seem to be getting mixed signals.
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scholar
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In my experience (having the cheapest lowest phone on the market), it is entirely the coverage. However, I have noticed that people who paid lots of money for their phones like to claim better reception and so forth because of their phone.
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SteveRogers
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*pats* It's ok. I'm one of few people in my age group who doesn't have a cell phone. All of my friends keep asking when I'm going to get one. And I have no answer.
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Reshpeckobiggle
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I highly recommend T-Mobile. I've had them for 6 years and they are one of the best companies I've ever encountered.
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pooka
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We had a tracfone for when my husband would ride a bike to work, in case he had a problem, but so we wouldn't be out anything if it got dropped or something. There wasn't a per day fee. I'm not sure how they work their coverage network. We live in a fairly dense metro area, as opposed to the desert. P.S. I guess it's possible for Tracfone minutes to expire, but you have up to 90 days to use them. Their bottom of the line phone is free with a $10 airtime purchase. As I've bought airtime, the expiration dates snowball so that it's over a year away now.

Your dad probably has such a good plan because he's been a customer for a while. Would your dad go to a store with you? Can you get on a family plan with him? Both of my sisters had phones for like $10 a month, my one sister through her in-laws and my other sister through our dad. He offered it to me too, but my husband wanted to keep his Utah number.

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PSI Teleport
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My dad has offered to let us be on his plan, but that leaves the problem of having to pay full price for phones, instead of getting the "plan deals". I had heard that refurbs were a good deal, but I haven't found any good deals yet.
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Uhleeuh
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I used to work at a call center for T-Mobile in the Pre-Paid department.

The only phone that had a $1/day fee was the Sidekick. Otherwise, your per minute rate varied, depending on the value of the card you bought (best deal was $100 - 10 cents/minute, compared to up to 32 cents per minute with a $10 card). If you bought the $100 card, you had a year to use the minutes and would simply have to purchase another card to extend the life of the service another year (at least, that's what I seem to remember...it's been a few years).

The only advice I have is to read the fine print before activation if you go the pre-paid route; too many people didn't and then got mad when they had the rules explained to them.

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pooka
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Well, check the coverage maps for tracfone. I think most major highways are covered now, even in Wyoming. You also might look for old phones on craigslist or freecycle. That's how I got my razor (though a razor is like $20 with a contract these days.)
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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by Synesthesia:
Do not drop it in water or mixed vegetables.

Are unmixed vegetables OK? What about a fruit salad?
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tt&t
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:
So a ten minute phone call on Monday would really cost me 20 cents a minute. Yikes.

Holy smokes, we pay $1.49/min here. 20c/min for on-peak calling is a GREAT deal. [Razz]

Also, I recommend pre-paid as well, we find it very convenient but also if it gets stolen, they can only spend money you already have on the phone. A friend of ours who was on a contract phone had his stolen and he didn't realise for a day or two - and by then the thief had made a 4-hour call to Tonga. He only ended up having to pay half the bill since it was stolen, but half is still a lot (especially considering our calling rates seem to be a LOT higher than yours). Probably a rare occurrence but still a possibility with a contract phone.

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Boris
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I actually kinda like my Verizon pre-paid phone. It's got an annoying 99 cent fee for each day I use it, but I don't really use it too often, so it's not incredibly noticeable. It costs 10 cents per minute to talk, but I can talk to my mom on her cell for free since she uses Verizon as well (kinda handy, and is probably the only thing that will have this thing sticking around after I get settled down here in Colorado)
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Kwea
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tracfone works almost anywhere, but they measure it in UNITS not minutes. In your home calling area one One unit = one minute, but in roaming it is 3units = 1 minute.

That sounds horrible, but it isn't, because trackfone piggybacks off of other carriers towers/signals, so regardless of where you are calling, if there is a cell tower from almost any provider, you can get your call though.

For people who use their phones as an emergency phone line, or just use it rarely, it is almost ideal.


My parents had one for years and loved it.

[ March 03, 2008, 02:43 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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