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Author Topic: Another Cell Phone Thread
Hobbes
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I'm also thinking about joining the ranks of cell phone users. After becoming about the last person my age to go without I believe it's time. I've been using Skype for years now, but where I am, it hasn't worked well. Personally I think my ISP is throttling my data to try and make me pay them more money for a better connection but since I'm not going to do that it doesn't matter if that's the issue or something to do with Skype or... something else.

I mention it because there's two things Skype did for me that I liked a lot. The first was that it was cheap, about $10 a month all told, and since I rarely make or receive calls I appreciated not having to pay a lot for it. The second was unlimited, in-country calling. I'd occasionally have long conversations with a friend in Utah and those could go on for some time. These things taken together make me think, aside from trying to find out what service he uses and get that, a low-minute plan with rollover might be good for me.

But the big question is should I get a smartphone or just buy the cheapest thing that can connect to the mobile network here and stick with using a phone hardly at all? I guess I'm looking for advice on things like how much a person actually ends up paying once they sign up for these kind of plans, and how much data it actually used. Or any advice at all. This is a world I know nothing about.

Hobbes [Smile]

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CaySedai
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I have a Tracfone, which is a prepaid phone. I buy minutes (usually 90, 120 or 200 at a time) when I need to. My phone gets double minutes, so 90 = 180, etc. Plus you can get codes online to add minutes. So I pay about $30 for 90 + 90 and get another 30, for a total of 210, for example.

Why do I like this? Because one of those cards lasts me 2-3 months usually. I don't pay $45 or more each month no matter how many minutes I actually use. (Although I know people who use the prepaid $30-45/month plans from Boost Mobile or Straight Talk.) And I'm hoping to get a phone that has triple minutes pretty soon.

And some of the prepaid plans do have semi-smart phones (they sort of look and act like smart phones but don't have access to the full range of apps the regular smart phones do). The irritating thing is that you can't access the apps store for Tracfones unless you already have a Tracfone that can take the apps ... so you can't choose a phone based on what apps it will use.

As far as Straight Talk and Boost Mobile, you can get a plan that has unlimited talk, text and minutes for $30-45/month, but I think you have to have the plan for so many months and the price goes down. My sister and niece have one of these (I can't remember). My sister had a problem - she ordered a $150 phone and they couldn't port her number, so she ended up sending it back.

So, for my own purposes, Tracfone works just fine, I just want a phone that has triple minutes and is a little fancier (MP3 player maybe, or apps, for example).

Sorry for the book-length answer (possibly actually longer than my effort for this year's NaNoWriMo, as a matter of fact).

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MattP
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I love my smartphone to death and couldn't imagine not having it. I know few people who have one that don't feel the same way, but having held out on even getting a basic cell phone this long you might be one of exceptions.

Cost is definitely an issue. On top of whatever minutes plan you get you'll spend at least another $15/month on the data plan. I have a $15/200MB plan right now and I occasionally go over the 200MB toward the end of the month, but infrequently enough that even paying an extra $15 those months cost me less than switching to the $25/month plan. But I've got two email accounts and occasionally listen to Pandora or download apps when on the mobile network. It's pretty easy to keep the data usage down if you are even a little bit conscientious about it.

The premium phones sometimes also require you to purchase something above the lowest-cost minutes plan, so it's possible to get a smart phone under contract that you'd have to buy more minutes than you would actually use.

To get more specifics just head to Amazon or the web sites for the big cell carriers in your area and just start shopping. They'll tell you how much everything costs and which phones require which plans. You don't have to checkout and provide a credit card number if you don't want to sign up yet.

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Hobbes
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I appreciate the feedback. I've decided to go for the smartphone, why not, right? Looking around it appears that AT&T and Verizon each offer $40/month plans with 450 minutes of calling. Those seem to be the lowest cost plans (and I have yet to find the details of them, like limits on data) and they're more than sufficient for anything I can imagine needing calling-wise. I'd like something cheaper (with less minutes) but $40 isn't out-of-bounds. Now I need to pick a phone. I figure I'll go for Android but that leaves me with about 200,000,000 options. Right now I figure on relying on reviews from Amazon. I guess my needs aren't high but I'm wary of getting something to out-dated just based on computer experience. They're all pretty small and since I don't plan on having it with me everywhere, I don't need any of the ultra-light features. A screen that I can read things on would be nice but probably my biggest problem at first will be keyboard. I'm not very thumb-nimble so it'll take me a while to get-used to using it. I don't know if it's better to just go with the touch-screen since it gives less weight an more screen space when not typing or if getting one with a real keyboard is worth it (or if the reduced size makes it no better than a virtual one).

Hobbes [Smile]

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
I love my smartphone to death and couldn't imagine not having it.

It's not too long a time between getting your smartphone and feeling sort of vaguely uncomfortable when you go to the bathroom and forget to bring it along.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:
... Now I need to pick a phone. I figure I'll go for Android but that leaves me with about 200,000,000 options.

Take a close look at the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus line usually has better software support from Google as their "flagship" line, so I managed to update my Nexus S to ICS relatively rapidly plus there isn't any carrier branding/skins/junk. The Nexus S is relatively cheap due to run-up to/release of Galaxy Nexus.

Also, try out Swype or the voice dictation if you hate typing as opposed to getting one with a physical keyboard.

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Hobbes
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Thanks, good tips. So here's a question: I know buying a phone you get massive discounts when you buy it bundled with plans (many at basically $0). I don't mind doing that, I'll have to get a plan anyway and I like the idea of saving several hundred dollars. But I recall discussions on buying locked phones that come with irremovable frills that slow them down, and without full access to Android's app market. And possibly other drawbacks. Can anyone comment on the unseen cost of buying a phone bundled with service?

Hobbes [Smile]

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Goody Scrivener
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I'm on Virgin Mobile Prepaid, which (at least in the Chicago area) runs on Sprint's network. I have 300 minutes a month, plus unlimited data and texts, for $35 a month plus a very small amount of tax. I bought an Optimus Slider (android) at Radio Shack for $199, largely because I wasn't willing to play the auction game on eBay.

In contrast, the Sprint contract I had that just ended was $34 a month plus over $10 in taxes for 200 minutes, 300 texts and no data at all. Before that, the college student and I were on a family plan with 550 shared minutes, 300 texts each and no data for $70 a month plus nearly $25 in taxes. Since Virgin is on the Sprint network, I have absolutely no change in my coverage or call quality, the benefits of android and the freedom to switch any time I want.

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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
I love my smartphone to death and couldn't imagine not having it.

It's not too long a time between getting your smartphone and feeling sort of vaguely uncomfortable when you go to the bathroom and forget to bring it along.
I, uh, did not know there was an app for that.
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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
I love my smartphone to death and couldn't imagine not having it.

It's not too long a time between getting your smartphone and feeling sort of vaguely uncomfortable when you go to the bathroom and forget to bring it along.
I, uh, did not know there was an app for that.
There is. It is called Bejeweled Twist. At least for me it is....That infernal game has me addicted right now.

Hobbes, if you already have a Skype subscription, you could consider just buying an ipod touch and loading the skype app on it. You would only be able to get and make calls when you are in a wifi hot spot, but it is an option that wouldn't cost a lot.

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Goody Scrivener
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:I, uh, did not know there was an app for that.
There is. It is called Bejeweled Twist. At least for me it is....That infernal game has me addicted right now.
What, you haven't been sucked in by Angry Birds yet?
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Hobbes
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So I'm getting ready to pull the trigger. My one outstanding question is really should I buy one bundeled with service or not? With no more information I'll take the massive discount on the phone and pick a service I want. I'm just worried I'll be stuck with permanent installs I don't want and lack of access to things I do. Any comments?

Hobbes [Smile]

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Mucus
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Usually, it helps to consider the total cost of ownership (and to think of the carrier subsidy as financing rather than a discount).

In Canada at least, you usually pay a large premium for the carrier subsidy on a cellphone spread out over the entire lifetime of your contract. So if you calculate out 3 years * 12 months * monthly fee + cost of buying the phone (added with the probability you will need to terminate your contract early for whatever reason), you'll find that there is no significant "discount" when buying a phone bundled with service compared to without.

This is pretty region specific to whether you have a low-cost carrier that has a business model that doesn't rely on people buying phones from them though.

The other issue is, yes, buying an Android phone from a carrier often results in a phone marked up with branding, annoying apps, etc. on top of the annoying junk that the manufacturer may add as well to Android.

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Hobbes
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I would want a carrier that is national, as I plan on using the phone in other states, does that make a different? I'm so out-of-date on cell phone technology and pricing... it's kind of embarrassing. I'll try to look into service providers and see what I can find. I think most of the phones I was looking at were two year contracts. If it saves me $350 dollars on the phone that would mean I needed to find a contract that met my needs as well as the bundeled one did but at a cost of about $15 (not counting TVM) a month cheaper. Not out of sight but that seems like a lot, is that realistic?

Thanks for the answer! Those annoyances, are they normally un-un-installable (like the double negative?) or can you get rid of them?

Hobbes [Smile]

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Mucus
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Well, in Canada (you really should ask a knowledgeable American), the low-cost non-subsidized phone carriers aren't limited to specific provinces rather, they are more limited to urban areas though they are expanding. Check coverage maps?

$15 in our case is definitely realistic, bundled contracts often do charge an arm-and-a-leg for data, but for America, I don't know.

Well, the physical branding can be very difficult to get rid of. The skins in the GUI and apps are often impossible to get rid of without rooting the phone and/or installing a third-party ROM.

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Hobbes
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All good to know, thanks. [Smile] And if any American does stumble in here... well there opinion is certainly welcome. [Wink]

Hobbes [Smile]

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Hobbes
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Just a note: cell phone service cost is ludicrous. And where do they get off charging $0.20 a text when it's virtually free for them?

Hobbes [Smile]

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MattP
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Hobbes,

The $40/month plan is minutes only and will not cover any data costs. The cheapest AT&T data plan is $15/month for 200MB but you can also get a $25/month 2GB plan. Verizon's plan is $30/month for 4GB (limited time promotion) which is the better deal if you think you may use a lot of data.

If you buy a smartphone under contract to get the up-front discount then you must buy a data plan as part of that agreement. You can get away with no data plan if you buy a smartphone off of contract if you are OK with only having data services when on wi-fi.

I just switch from AT&T to Verizon where I now have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus on the $40 minutes/$30 data plan. I'm blown away by the phone's capabilities and the beautiful high-res screen, but battery life is not awesome. It does have a user-replaceable battery though so I just keep a spare charged.

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Hobbes
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Thanks Matt, appreciated. I have been discovering that going over the various plans. I'm backing down from my bold plan to join the 21st Century and thinking maybe I'll just start small with a basic cellphone. Not that it makes anything cheap, but I don't know that I can justify paying ~$60 a month for a phone when right now I use mine at most once a week. I still haven't actually paid money for anything of course, I'm not that proactive. [Wink]

Of course I'll probably have to get texting too. I don't imagine I'll do much of it but that seems to be the sole form of communication for people my age.

Hobbes [Smile]

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MattP
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I don't actually use my cell phone very much as a phone - maybe 3 minutes of talking for every hour or two of email/blog reading/games. For me it's primarily an ever-present internet device. It's also a decent flashlight. [Smile]
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scifibum
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I've easily spent more time using the GPS navigation on my smartphone than speaking to another person through it.

I've probably dictated more speech-to-text than speech-to-someone-else, too.

I'm sympathetic to hermits, though.

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Hank
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I love my smartphone and am definitely an addict, but it sounds to me like it might not be the best choice for you.

Here is what I use my smartphone for most often:
Camera
GPS navigation
email
texting/actual phone calls
browsing
Pandora
calendar/listmaking apps

A "dumb" phone will certainly take care of texting and phone calls, and may well have a built-in camera as well.

If you are in a desk job, then you won't really need a phone to be on top of e-mail, or to use as a browser, or to listen to Pandora (I am not, and I would otherwise not be able to respond to e-mails for most of the day).

As for GPS and calendaring, you would know better than I whether that's something that appeals to you enough to justify the extra cost.

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