Two inexpensive smartphone options

Note to readers: Events have overtaken this post, as inexpensive smartphones have become increasingly available. I’m leaving it up for old times’ sake.

Remember, you need to look at the overall cost of having a phone for its service life. If you get a “free” phone with a required $60 per month service plan, that will cost you $1440 over two years. Paying a couple of hundred dollars for a phone, and then getting a far better deal with prepaid service, can save you a lot of money.

I continue to use my Nokia 5800 with AT&T GoPhone and T-Mobile Prepaid, with excellent results. If I were looking for a new phone today, I’d go with a T-Mobile Comet.

Finally, just for your interest, below is the original text of my post — from a time when it was very difficult to get a prepaid smartphone.

Continuing the quest to save money on a wireless smartphone, two approaches:

1. First: Here’s something that really works nicely: Get an unlocked smartphone (I like the Nokia 5800) and sign up for AT&T prepaid GoPhone service. Put about $100 on the prepaid account, or less if you want to test reception first. Then as an option to your GoPhone account, buy the Feature Package that gives you 100MB of data for $19.99. Now, do this:

  • Use free WiFi service for Internet wherever you can — at your local coffee shop, or your home if you have a wireless router, for example.
  • When you’re away from WiFi, use your AT&T GoPhone internet service.

Then, check on your data usage. If you’re like me, you won’t be using the AT&T Internet all that much. Finally — this is important — before your unused data expires in 30 days, buy another 1MB of data for $4.99. This rolls your unused data from the 100MB plan over for another month. Continue renewing for $4.99 a month until you need more MB of data.

For more on this plan, see what Hook has to say.

2. Second: And, for something really inexpensive, take that same unlocked smartphone and get T-Mobile Prepaid. Use free WiFi whenever you can. When you’re out of range of free WiFi, try this very inexpensive substitute for having Internet service:

Use Google SMS. Example: I was headed toward Roanoke, Va., on the Interstate but concerned about the weather, so I texted weather roanoke to 466453 (“GOOGLE”) and got back the weather summary via return text message. You’d be surprised how much information you can get that way (restaurant search, movies, air travel updates and more) — see http://www.google.com/mobile/default/sms.html for details.

For more on this approach, see my earlier post.