I have been with the same cell phone company, Sprint, for almost a decade at this point, but later this month I am finally taking the leap and moving to a different carrier.  For the first time in that decade history with Sprint I have made the 2 years without needing a new phone.  Although I have to admit I cracked the screen back in December making a mad dash to the car in a snow storm, but I knew it was my goal to get out of the endless hamster wheel so I dealt with the cracked screen.  It was just before that heroic dash which left me with a cracked phone that I decided I was just sick of the $147/mo after discount bill I received every month!  The Wife and I were stuck with paying an average of $75 a piece; I felt like there had to be a better way outside going to the other national carriers.

This left me with two things to research, a cell phone and a plan.

Finding a reasonably priced Unlocked Smart Phone

There are plenty of personal finance and early retirement bloggers that would scoff on “needing” a smart phone, but I am just not that extreme enough to go down to a dumb phone.  Naturally I started on the newer phones that just came out.  I was shocked to find that the sticker price on an unlocked phone of the upper caliber cost more than my laptop!  Those new subsidized phones that I have always paid $200 for, cost almost $700 when unlocked!

I was able to narrow down to two reasonably priced phones under $400:

  • Google Nexus 5 – Bought straight from the Google Play Store for $350.
  • Motorola Moto X – Priced at $400 but with a $60 discount with an .edu email address which I borrowed from a friend.  Total cost $340.

When I look back at this post in a year or two those prices are going to seem ridiculous when compared to the phones that are out there, but at this point it is what it is.  I decided on the Moto X, because reviews said the battery was better.  I also liked the fact that the Moto X is the same size as my current phone so I didn’t have to get used to a new sized, bigger phone.

When ordering my Moto X I chose the unlocked GSM version.  That means I can use bring it to ATT, T-Mobile or any MNVO that uses their towers.  An MNVO is a cell phone company that buys time on the 4 main carriers’ network at wholesale costs and then resells it to the public.   This is your H20 Wireless, Net10, StarightTalk, basically every company that isn’t worth in the billions.

So, since almost every phone is priced at a subsidized $200 I need to take that $140 difference and divide it by the amount I am going to save per month to determine my cross over point.

Deciding to Go With a Prepaid Plan

I originally felt like I was going to go with Republic Wireless due to Mr. Money Mustache’s Review, and the fact that it feels like they are the cusp of changing the industry.  If you aren’t familiar with Republic Wireless MMM has a great review, but basically the phone uses your WiFi connection to make calls, receive texts and obviously for data. As such they can bring down the amount you use on the main carrier they are piggy backing off of (Sprint). This leads to extremely low prices…unless you want 4G which brings you up to $40 a month.  When you compare it to the other MNVOs out there it is pretty standard.  Republic Wireless’ technology basically makes their phones worthless if you don’t want to stay.  So even though I am not in a contract…it basically is!

So it was time to do some research to figure out which MNVO I would use.  Reviewing my old Sprint Bills I use about a gig a month in data.  Something I could probably bring down if needed, but I knew that was where around the mark I had to be.  I don’t think going through each option would be useful as the plans will always be changing.  A great resource to check out is the MNVO section on HowardForums.

Basically I was looking at:

  • AIO Wireless for $35 a month with unlimited talk and text with 500MB Highspeed data
  • H20 Wireless for $40 a month with unlimited talk and text with 1gig of Highspeed data
  • StraightTalk for $45 a month with unlimited talk, text and data

I should mention that T-Mobile and ATT have their own prepaid but they were higher than the prices above.  From what I have read those plans provide a better ping rate (the time it takes for your page to start loading…not loading but that first millisecond before the data loads).  T-Mobile was starting at $50 but provided 2.5gigs worth of data.  I tried to call and see if they had a lower plan but they didn’t.  ATT started at $65 so they were out.

I figured since I have never gone above a gig I would be good with H20Wireless.  My office will be getting WiFi in the very near future so I’ll be using even less data than I am now (which may lead me to jump ship since I don’t have a contract!).  With a call into Sprint, I have found that I could probably get a deal at $55 a month on their terribly named Framily Plan.  This would provide me with that same unlimited text and talk with 1gig of data.  $15 is not a lot of money to save a month, and if I had known this I may not have gone through the effort but the first CSR I talked to didn’t let me know I was eligible!  Regardless, where I live it is widely believed that ATT has better service than Sprint, so to save money on what may be better service makes it still worthwhile.  This brings my cross over to a bit over 9 months.

 

I am not sure what is going to happen in the future, but it seems that the main carriers are in the midst of pushing people away from subsidized phones.  If that happens the industry will continue to change at a very rapid pace – and since I am no longer on a contract I can take advantage!

 

Who is your current provider? What do you pay?