December 18, 2014

Thoughts...in brief: Contract, no contract, or screw it all?

thoughts_in_brief

If you have read my bio, you know I am a mother, wife, writer, and low-grade tech junkie. I’m no expert when it comes to technology, but I easily learn from experiences and thoroughly enjoy listening to what others have to say.  With that in mind I was sitting in my office last week reading through a vast array of headlines and thought to myself, I would love to start a piece where others could easily voice their opinions on what is currently happening in the Android world. So ladies and gents, here we go…

Contract, no-contract, or screw it all?

gphone_old_schoolThis week I want to talk about phone plans. There are so many options anymore it can make your head spin. This may date me a little, but I miss the days when I could walk into a cellular dealer, pick out a free brick phone, tell them I don’t want to pay any more than $30 a month for data and minutes, and walk out with a smile on my face and a new brick phone in my hand.

Now if I want to look at a new plan or purchase a new device I have to take a day off and spend endless hours waiting in lines, going through credit checks, and researching plans (all the while hoping I choose a plan that gets me the best deal.)

That brings me to options. Anymore, companies are changing their plans so much it is a wonder anyone can keep up. I have been recently looking for a new plan (I already have a phone,) but one that really caters to MY needs and doesn’t break the bank. My husband receives a pretty decent discount at one carrier, so my first thought was to check them out. What a mess! This certain un-named carrier, colors are black and red and they use a very large ‘v’ at the beginning of their name (but we will leave names out and be respectful) was beyond busy. So much so in fact, that I had to sign in and patiently wait while I watched my name on a large flat screen move up and down.

Once it was finally my turn (almost 25 minutes later) it seemed like all the agent wanted to do was sell, sell, sell. I understand a lot of them work on commission, but at least try to listen to what I have to say. Oh, and when it comes to credit checks I could really go crazy. My husband is the one who “brings home the bacon” in this household. To get more specific, if you look at my credit, the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom who works a little from home yet has school loans out the whazoo is not a good thing. That evil credit score number only looks at your individual debt to income ratio, so I’m screwed. I left frustrated and confused.

angry

After settling down a bit I wondered what a no-contract plan would be like. I have one or two that I am quite interested in, but the amount of options out there is so great I get a headache just thinking about them. The fact that I need to research if the company covers the areas I travel most in, as well as what the true data caps are (and so on) really aggravates me. I also would like to be able to go to an actual location and speak to someone about an issue if one arises, and that slims down the no-contract pickins quite a bit. What to do!

Honestly at this point, I don’t understand how anyone would put up with all of this. The hassle and frustration people go through just doesn’t seem worth it to me. It may sound crazy, but I’m really thinking about saying screw it all and just use Google Voice. Simple to set up and simple to use.

Now it’s your turn…

Please ladies and gents tell me, what do you love or loathe about your plan or service? What is it that drives you to stay with a contract carrier? What is it that made you leave and try no-contract? Maybe your stories and advice can help this lost gal see the light.



  • yippiedad

    About half a year ago I was having the exact same thoughts as you. I hate contracts, tried Google Voice on a data only plan and experienced the lack of service by Straight Talk. At the time that my frustration was at its highest, T-Mobile revealed their new un-carrier strategy made for frustrated consumers like me. I switched and have been happy since that – paying $90 for a family plan of three for unlimited talk/text/data with first 500MB per line high speed.

  • SmithTech

    Luckily I am still on an unlimited data plan. If I ever have to give that up I will definately be going off contract with probably straight talk.
    I also use google voice to cut down on my minutes(unlimited data but only 200 min.), my biggest issue with GV is lack of MMS support. I originally started using google voice for its forwarding ability so I can change carrier when ever I want, even ported my phone number. So I can get calls and texts no matter what carrier I am with and don’t have to deal with the porting that takes days to weeks.
    Google if your paying attention, add MMS to GV already!

    • Mexican Superman

      You already have MMS w/Google. It’s called Gmail. Unless all your friends are still using feature phones which can’t do email, then I can’t understand why people still pine for MMS on GVoice.

      An alternative is to get all your friends on Hangouts, which allows you to send pics.

  • Anne Marie Larson

    I’ve been using no-contact phones ever since I got a cell phone. Currently I’m with Virgin Mobile; their coverage is good where I use it, and the $35 plan with 300 minutes, unlimited texting & data (2.5 GB at full speed) fits the way I use my phone. Their telephone service is outsourced, but they have a US based team that works social media and is quite responsive.

    A potential drawback is that you buy a phone outright, and can only use Virgin Mobile specific phones. They do currently have a pretty good variety, but if the particular model you want isn’t carried by them, you’re pretty much out of luck.

    Not having to worry about overages, contracts, billing and all that has made my cell phone experience fairly painless – plus being able to tell everyone that my fancy LTE phone only runs me $35/month is pretty nice too! It may not be the best option
    for everyone, but I’d say no contact service is worth serious consideration.

  • Andy_in_Indy

    While I don’t “shop” the contract carriers constantly, I do read enough Android sites to be aware when something is changing. I have been with all 4 of the major US carriers and in my area (Indianapolis, IN) but enough time passes between uses that the “personal experience factor” is meaningless. When I try to decide if a program is go for my, look at things in this priority:

    1) Can I get signal where I am? I look over a few of the signal map sights and see what the signal is like in the places I live, work, and normally hang out.

    2) What kind of reception will I get? If I get 3G signals from Sprint that are the same speed as the 2G signal from Verizon (Yes, it was like that in Indianapolis 2 years ago) or the service repeated drops text messages then it doesn’t matter how much I save, I can’t afford the service. I find that CDMA phones tend to get better sound and data while driving (easier to switch between towers?) than T-Mobile or AT&T’s GSM phones.

    3) Can I get a phone I am happy with? Because the US is “technology locked” this has to be a higher priority. Most carrier have a mix of high, medium, and low end phones, but every now and then, I get a hankering for certain features that I can’t get elsewhere (i.e. the Lapdock for the Motorola phones was worth the loss of an unlocked bootloader, but it was hard to stay with Verizon because of that). I won’t go with a Nexus phone because of the lack of replaceable storage (I have lost too much stuff or been asked to help recover stuff from mostly dead phones to often for that) Also, with the cost of Data I watch what point an extra $50 for storage going to equal by cost of streaming.

    4) Can I afford the monthly cost? If I am getting the phone, reception, and usability I want, then it is time to question price. It seems silly to cut 25% off my bill only to find I don’t have something that does what I want!

    5) What is the Down Payment (or other costs to get it switched)?

    The Credit Check is a non-issue. It will not effect your price or down payment, and you need to have a bad payment history and/or outstanding bills to get turned down (Seriously, who wants you as a customer if you can’t pay your bills).

    I usually sign up online (Better deals to be found there) so I don’t fight the lines. I am only in the sales offices for service or to play with a particular model before buying it elsewhere.

  • macr0t0r

    Generally, unless you get one of those $550 phones or higher, it is cheaper to go without a contract. The Nexus 4 is an amazing deal for something that can handle both T-Mobile and AT&T. Also, since most U.S. citizens have a warped concept of their phone’s value, I find that I can get many good Android phones for really cheap on the used market. One of my sons is still using a Samsung Captivate that I bought for $90…nearly TWO years ago! A used phone (or Nexus 4) coupled with a non-contract plan is always cheaper.

    You definitely have to consider what carrier even has coverage in your area. The U.S. is kind of a fractured mess right now. I’m in the California Bay Area, so T-Mobile is pretty strong here. I got a Nexus 4 and the $30 unlimited data/limited voice plan from T-Mobile. It’s been perfect.

    Once my wife finished her 2-year contract with AT&T, we switched her to Straight Talk for $45/month. Her family is in an area that AT&T gets better coverage. Straight Talk is certainly economical, but the tech support is a serious nightmare. It took nearly three days to finally get her data and account all setup properly. I’m not sure if I’d recommend them yet. However, not even AT&T has a non-contract offer for smartphones. It’s Straight-Talk or bust, and the Sim cards are very hard to find.

    Verizon is king of coverage. My parents use them. But…man…I spend a lot of time being the middle-man with tech support. They are expensive, condescending, and pretty much full of themselves.

    So…if you have good coverage by either T-Mobile or Sprint, then buy your own phone and use an off-contract plan. Otherwise….take your medicine.

  • Matt

    What personally made the switch to prepaid. It really came down to math for me. I pay half what I did on Verizon and I have no contract. Win/win.

    Stephanie you should check out my blog as I detail several prepaid options and my experience.

    Prepaidwirelessservice.blogspot.com

    It comes downto where you live too. Some prepaid carriers are crap n non urban areas.

    Best of luck to finding a great service.

  • BillJude56

    I think anyone looking to go prepaid should look at Ting.com. It’s not suitable for everyone (heavy data users, for example). But if the coverage fits, their customer service and tech support are very good.

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  • slanier

    Thanks to everyone for your comments! Yippiedad and Anne Marie Larson, you have each won a Cruzerlite gift card from AndroidGuys. Send us your info via the contact page and we will send them out! Congratulations!

  • Daniel NL

    Check out Snoobe, which uses your phone’s data to suggest the best plan for you! Personnaly, I stick to contract-free and upgrade phones every 12-18 months by selling mine and getting one that’s a year old. For example, you can get a Galaxy Nexus for like $150 on Kijiji.

  • suzhi236

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt..

  • Nicole Santiago

    A no-contract wireless service that is worth considering is GIV
    Mobile. GIV Mobile is not only financially smart with their “Unlimited
    Everything” plans that are $40/month for unlimited talk, text and data, but
    they are also socially conscious. They are the first consumer conscious
    no-contract mobile service that is dedicated to donating 8% of a customer’s
    monthly plan to a non-profit charity of the customer’s choice. These
    organizations include United Way Worldwide, Doctors Without Borders and
    American Cancer Society.