Saturday, February 23, 2013

My $30/mo Smartphone

A month ago, Katie and I were still paying Verizon around $125 a month for 2 feature phones (aka dumbphones). We are now paying $60 a month for 2 smartphones. Here’s how:

Here are the details.

Verizon’s feature-phone plans are barely cheaper than their smartphone plans, and both are expensive. The price we see on our bill is always way higher than the plan price Verizon lures us with. And I don’t like being bound by those 2-year contracts. Time to ditch Verizon.

After considering several options, including using only an Ipod for all communication, I arrived at the following solution.

I found a prepaid carrier called Page Plus. They use the Verizon 3G network, which means coverage is identical to what I already enjoyed. They offer a no-contract monthly plan of 1200 minutes, 3000 texts, and 250MB data for a measly $30. I ported my phone to Page Plus, a very quick and easy process, and they terminated my contract with Verizon for me. Of course, I made sure that my 2 year contract with Verizon was up, lest Verizon charge me hundreds of dollars for early termination.

So at that point, I’d cut my cell phone bill in less than half, while keeping the same coverage, flip phone, and number. Sweet! But why stop there?

I then purchased a mint condition, manufacturer refurbished, Samsung Galaxy Stellar off Ebay for $110. The Stellar is a stripped down version of the Galaxy S3 (today’s flagship Android phone), but casual / first-time users like me don’t notice a big difference. The Stellar was just released in Sept 2012, and Verizon currently offers it free with a 2 year contract. This makes for an ideal smartphone to buy used on Ebay, as it’s very new and inexpensive.

Because Page Plus is a 3G only carrier, 4G phones like the Stellar aren’t officially compatible or supported. But with the right expertise, a 4G phone can be “flashed” to work with Page Plus. There are several services out there to accomplish this. I went with a fellow named Janarian; he charges $40, performs the service remotely through the net, takes under 2 hours, and accepts PayPal. The process involved cutting and inserting an H20 sim card.

The Page Plus $30 plan provides only 250MB of data, but several friends told me they never exceed that if doing just basic web/email. It’s the YouTube and other streaming media that gobbles data. But of course there’s no data limitation when connected to wifi, which is the vast majority of my time. So basically no YouTube when outside, no big deal. The email, chat, and calendar notifications are a huge benefit at work.

So now I’ve got a smartphone with the same coverage, the same phone number, and have cut my phone bill in less than half. At under $160 total, the smartphone is paid for by just 5 months of the savings I earn by ditching Verizon.

After confirming that everything worked beautifully for a month, I got Katie onto a Stellar and Page Plus as well.