Cell phones can be downright expensive, but they’re also an awfully handy device to have around. Even though just 10 years ago almost no one had a cell, we’ve come to rely on them so much that many of us couldn’t imagine living without them. Certainly having the ability to communicate with our loved ones, conduct business from virtually anywhere, or calling for road side assistance in the unfortunate event of an accident are all very good reasons to own a cell. In this article we lay out the basic plans from the “big 4” cellular companies and compare them to some of the prepaid alternatives that are available.
Comparison of the Basic Plans from the Big 4
Depending on your needs, the major companies offer affordable plans and the best coverage. The downside to this is that you are locked into a contract, usually two years, with additional fees of anywhere from $150-$350 for early termination.
Verizon’s basic package offers nationwide calling with 450 minutes per month for $59.99. Additional fees are charges for texting and data services. An upgrade to a calling plan with unlimited minutes is an extra $10 per month. The basic unlimited texting plan is $89.99 per month, and unlimited data will tack on an additional $29.99 per month.
Sprint boasts the 4G network which is supposed to be the fastest network available, and Direct Connect push-to talk-technology. Their basic plan starts at $29.99 per month for 200 minutes. An upgrade to unlimited data and 450 minutes per month is available for $69.99. You can get unlimited everything for $99.99 per month. Check local coverage in your area first, since sprint doesn’t have as large of an area as Verizon.
T-Mobile offers a service where you pay less up front for your phone, but have an additional fee of $10 a month tacked onto your bill. Basic service starts at $29.99 per month with 500 minutes. Unlimited text can be purchased for an additional $10 per month, and unlimited data and voice for $30. An unlimited voice, text, and data plan is available for $79.99 per month.
AT&T’s basic plan starts at $39.99 for 450 primetime minutes, and 5,000 weekend and night minutes. Unlimited voice is available for $69.99 a month. AT&T doesn’t offer any unlimited data plans, but the basic one starts at $35 a month. The basic iPhone plan starts at $74.99 and goes up to $129.99 for the top of the line package.
While prepaid services have a reputation for inferior service, some newer companies are making this segment of the cellular industry more competitive. While the service these companies offer may not be quite as good as the major telecoms, they offer a no-hassle, contract free experience that can save you a fair bit of money.
Boost mobile has established themselves as one of the better contract-free competitors to the traditional cellular market. They have a basic unlimited voice, text, and data monthly plan for $50. They also offer a $2 a day plan that only charges you on days you use your phone. Customer service is reported as generally being good with native English speakers who are able to effectively communicate. They offer a more modern selection of phones than some of the other prepaid; however, you may need to visit a brick and mortar store to get your hands on one.
They offer the lowest unlimited monthly rate at $40, but have limited regional availability, slow internet service, and large roaming fees. If you live in the Southeast or Midwest they may be worth checking out.
Owned by Tracphone, this service comes with advantages and drawbacks. They offer unlimited voice, text, and data for $45 per month, while their cheapest plan offers 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 30 Mb for $30 per month. If you are interested in a smart phone they have them available. They do however have a reputation for poor customer service, a buggy website, and dropped calls.
They offer a basic unlimited plan for $35 per month, and plans for Android and Blackberry phones starting at $55 and $60 per month respectively. They are well regarded for their selection of smart phones, but have limited coverage, mostly catering to the West Coast.
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching taking the ACT as well as preparing for college. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.