Category Archives: Save on Wireless

Material on saving on wireless phone charges

Amazing smartphone strategy

There’s a lot to like about a smartphone — voice and text, together with Internet access and email and apps. But the service is so expensive every month. Is there any way around it?

Yes, there is. Here is how I have smartphone service for under $10 per month: I bought a new, unlocked LG Optimus T for $185 from a well-regarded eBay vendor. I got AT&T prepaid GoPhone service, put $100 on that, and bought 100MB of data for $19.99.

Now, here’s the key: I use as much data as I want without charge wherever there’s free wifi (including my office, my home, and my favorite restaurant). When I’m out of range I use data for any reasonable purpose — but don’t stream any music or videos. The result: 100MB of data lasts a long time. To keep my data current, I roll it over once a month for $4.99. Text + data + voice runs less than $10 a month, on average.

This is not for everyone. If you want instant access to Internet, music and video anywhere — or if you spend a lot of time talking and texting — you’re better off with an unlimited plan.

Finally, for those who think $185 is a lot to pay for a phone and get one “free” with an unlimited plan for only $60 a month: That adds up to $1440 over two years. My approximate expense for those two years is about $240 for service plus $185 for the phone, or $425.

For more on this strategy, here’s a thread with full details that gave me the idea. Update: If you look at this link, you’ll see that AT&T — and others — are trying to eliminate the strategy I’m suggesting. For now, my AT&T limited data plan is still working. If it’s eliminated, I’ll probably go to this T-mobile plan (not nearly as good a deal, but possibly the best that can be had for now).

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.

Can you have an inexpensive prepaid smartphone?

Judging from various cellphone forums, there’s a lot of interest in having a smartphone — but without the high monthly charges that would ordinarily be required. Here’s an approach that works for me.

I got a T-mobile Pay as You Go account with its associated SIM card and put enough minutes on it to qualify for Gold status. Now my minutes don’t expire if I keep renewing the card. I then bought a Nokia 5800 unlocked smartphone from Dell for $228 (after rebate and coupon) and put the SIM card in. The phone works great with T-mobile. All calling features, plus my contacts’ phone numbers from the SIM, came over just fine. Text messaging is a breeze too.

The Nokia’s standalone music player, camera, and other bells and whistles work just fine.

When I want to surf the web or check email, I’m usually within range of a Wi-Fi network, which the Nokia handles very easily. No charges there.

But what about those times when I want to use the Nokia smartphone and I’m not in range of a Wi-Fi network? Well, that’s when it would be nice but expensive to have a data plan. Even then, I can get the information I want by using 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.

There you have it: Smartphone music and camera features when you want them, web browing and email free whenever you’re in range of Wi-Fi, cellphone calling and easy texting from anywhere — and Google SMS for travel data from the web. And all this for far less money than, say, an iPhone with a data plan.