How do I choose a phone and plan?
April 22, 2009 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Iphone or Sprint phone? How do I choose and why is this so confusing?

My Sprint contract is up in May and I want to upgrade to a phone with internet connectivity so I have a choice:
#1 get a Sprint phone (I think I can get a pretty steep discount since I'm thinking of leaving Sprint after almost 10 years)
#2 get an Iphone (and move to ATT, right?)

Are the Sprint phones anything like as good as an Iphone? I know they don't have the apps, but can you surf comfortably?

It looks like you have to pay $130 a month for the Iphone plan (for sufficient minutes) while with Sprint I can pay $99 for unlimited everything. Is that right or am I missing something?

Is there another plan or phone I should consider? How do other people make this decision?
posted by kristymcj to Technology (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
you are about right. if all you want to do is get a phone which surfs, you can go through any carrier and pick a phone right for you that will be cheaper than an iphone, but won't be as much of a status symbol.
posted by the aloha at 2:15 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: My roommate works for Sprint and deals with the Instinct on a semiregular basis. She far, far prefers dealing with my iPod Touch.

But really, there's no substitute for getting your hands on the different phones and giving them a try if there are Sprint and AT&T stores nearby - I've yet to come across a store for either company that wasn't trying to stuff their phones into my hands like I was some sort of phone turkey.
posted by Rendus at 2:17 PM on April 22, 2009

(for sufficient minutes)

Do you plan to use more than 1350 peak minutes?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on April 22, 2009

The Palm Pre will be coming to Sprint soon (possibly May) so you may want to consider it. It's the phone I'm most excited about coming out, although I personally won't be moving to Sprint as I prefer GSM phones for traveling abroad.
posted by sharkfu at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's always a difficult choice for me, too. Not to complicate your decision, but the Palm Pre is coming out for Sprint relatively shortly. Some say it will be a strong competitor with the iphone, but others have their doubts.

Generally, once my contract has expired, I weigh the benefit of paying month to month, the availability of cell phones I want with my current provider, the rates of other providers, and the coverage of other providers' services (3G, for example). It's never an easy decision for me.
posted by boeing82 at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Palm Pre is definitely worth watching out for. My Sprint contract is about to expire but I'm going to stay on so I can get the Pre. It will be interesting to see how the Pre compares with iPhone 3.0 which is set to come out this summer, but for now it looks like the Pre has the upper hand usability-wise.
posted by zsazsa at 2:24 PM on April 22, 2009

If you've been a longtime sprint customer, write to their email support and ask what deals they can offer. I got an extra $100 off a phone and unlimited internet for $5/month.

I'm thinking about the HTC Touch Pro. It's not awesome, but it gets solid reviews. I try to avoid Windows, but I avoid Apple even more. In this case at least, the Windows Mobile apps are mature.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 2:34 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm almost in the exact same position as you. Like the others above mentioned, I'm waiting fr the Palm Pre because I think it'll compete nicely with the iPhone. The other plus for staying with Sprint is that, I believe, The Everything plan is cheaper and provides more features than what AT&T least it was when I last checked.
posted by SoulOnIce at 2:39 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Blazecock Pileon: No
posted by kristymcj at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: Wait until June or July, when some claim that a new iPhone will be revealed. Keep in mind that ATT's service is notorious. It's a little like talking on a phone back in 1999, when dropped calls were just part of the deal with cell phones. You develop a rhythm with it, and since most everyone you're talking to ALSO has an iPhone, you can just blame it on them.

And if you're not going to use 1350 minutes, then you don't need to spend $130 for ATT, because $130 is for unlimited voice + iPhone surcharge. It's $110 for 1350 minutes, $90 for 900 minutes.

In the end, you're just going to get an iPhone after tons of hemming and hawing. There's a reason they've become so ubiquitous.
posted by incessant at 2:45 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in Chicago, and have excellent service with my iPhone on AT&T. I don't doubt that some areas might have worse reception, but for me it's been 100% fine, even deep inside office buildings downtown. Even in elevators.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:57 PM on April 22, 2009

My iPhone bill is about $85 / month. Not sure how many minutes I have on it, but probably not many as I don't talk on the phone that much.

I've found the voice service to be better than a lot of people say, with not many dropped calls.

I love having internet access at all times (well, anywhere in the 3G network, which is most places I am). I've also gotten in the habit of not looking up locations of things in advance, because I have google maps on my iphone.
posted by pombe at 2:58 PM on April 22, 2009

Surprised no one has suggested the T-Mobile G1. Though they should be releasing a G2 sometime soon. I have full internet and unlimited text messages, but only 700 minutes. I'm on a family plan with my girlfriend (regular phone, no internet,) and our combined bill is less than $120 every month. My portion of that is well under $100 but I'm not sure exactly what it is.

Also, we rarely go over our minutes.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2009

Just got the HTC Pro and am enjoying it very much. A bit bulkier than any phone I've ever owned. Awesome camera and the display is just beautiful.

It doesn't have a ton of additional applications available like the iPhone does. I've never cared though if my phone could make me coffee or wipe my arse.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:19 PM on April 22, 2009

Honestly, if you want the most bang for your buck, get an iPhone. It's pretty close to having a real computer, and with all the Apps and such available for it now, it's just about the most useful thing possible.

Plus, well, have you SEEN what the WWW looks like on non-iPhone mobile devices? It's like having one eye plucked out and one hand cut off.

The iPhone is far from perfect, but it's about to get a huge bump forward with system 3.0 about to be released, which will be a free upgrade. That's going to take care of a lot of the complaints the current OS has.

That said, I'm interested to see what the Pre will be like. There's a lot of buzz around that one.
posted by hippybear at 3:27 PM on April 22, 2009

As an IT professional: if web surfing is your criterion, the only real choice is an iPhone, maybe a G1. Nothing Sprint currently offers comes anywhere close, and while the Palm Pre may or may not be good, who knows if Palm itself will be around long enough to support it?
posted by The Michael The at 3:48 PM on April 22, 2009

In any case wait until summer for the new Pre from Sprint or iPhone from ATT. I've had the iPhone since the first model came out in 2007 and been quite happy. I pay $85/mth for 400 minutes (including unlimited nights and weekends and unlimited mobile to mobile minutes). Since I rarely talk on it, I have about 4000 rollover minutes. I haven't had a problem with dropped calls or data outages -- except when a cable was cut an that impacted everyone not just iPhone users.

The new iPhone allegedly will have a better camera with video and a radio that supports faster 3G speeds and possibly look a little different. Those things you won't get with the software upgrade. The other features and bug fixes will be available on the older models. As an iPhone fanboy from day one, I am excited about seeing the Pre and new Android phones because it forces Apple to raise its game.
posted by birdherder at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2009

It's Verizon for me. Not because they have the best prices or phones, but because they have the best coverage (and most of my family is VZW). However, I will say that I do like my Blackberry Storm. Unlimited Data is $30. In spite of being on a family plan with 1400 minutes, I'm fortunate enough to have a Google Voice account. With Google Voice, my Storm, VZW's Friends and Family, and GVDialer, I've managed to create a solution for unlimited outbound calls. Read more about what I'm doing over here.

There are Google Voice apps for the iPhone, but AT&T does not have a Friends and Family option. Next, I'd suggest the G1 and T-Mobile (and their Fave 5).

Check to see if coverage is a factor for you. Talk to others in your area with the respective services. That's probably more relevant than the hive out here on the internets.
posted by nmabry at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are the Sprint phones anything like as good as an Iphone? I know they don't have the apps, but can you surf comfortably?
These are two different questions. I'm not going to try to convince you that Sprint phones are as good as an iPhone, though having poked around on a friend's iPhone, I prefer my Sprint phone to that. (I realize that saying that may get me kicked off the internet. iPhones are, obviously, popular for a reason.)

With that said, I have a Sprint Motorola Q and I certainly surf comfortably. It's not perfect, but it's certainly adequate for my needs, and for several months it was my only internet connection at home. I've used it to read Google Reader, Metafilter, LiveJournal, and Wikipedia without problem, and it doesn't have any problems handling various email services.

If your primary concern is seeing the internet the way that the pages display on a computer, the iPhone is probably a better bet, but if you're just worried about reading pages and surfing comfortably, there are many less expensive phones and plans that will probably serve you just as well.
posted by MeghanC at 7:19 PM on April 22, 2009

Perhaps the best way to think about it is to think of the iPhone as an information appliance or extremely portable computer. I can do most of my web surfing on it (not typing, though, where Blackberry definitely has the edge), plus I can get a lot of apps that do interesting things (such as Distant Suns, an astronomy app) and/or waste my time compellingly (Rogue Touch). I agree that having an iPhone makes it more likely that I'll either not look things up ahead of time or will cursorily glance at destination specific materials because I know that I can look them up when I get where I'm going. Also, on the odd chance I get lost, it's almost as good as having a GPS in my car (note: I don't have the GPS enabled 3G version).

If it's not obvious from the above I'm not a big talker, so if you are your mileage may vary if you want to use it primarily as a phone. I've been extremely satisfied with my iPhone as a phone, and have few complaints about it as a mobile computer/internet in pocket/information appliance type thing. Everyone I know who has gotten an iPhone has said it has been a life changing experience, for the better. I'm sure users with specific needs and criteria have and will be disappointed by it, but the people I know who have gotten one have been uniformly impressed and delighted by it.
posted by mollweide at 7:56 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a Sprint and an AT&T account. On Sprint I have a Palm Centro, and on AT&T I have the iPhone 1st gen unlocked/jailbroken. The iPhone is great, but for my time/money, the Centro phone and Sprint plan are better deals. It sort of depends on what you want to do. There are full touchscreen phones for both Sprint/AT&T that will do everything that an iPhone does (granted without as slick an interface) but without the required $30/month iPhone plan.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Sprint offers loyal customers (10 years plus) the ability to upgrade every 12 months instead of the normal 18-22 months.

Some of the Samsung phones for both Sprint and AT&T (I'm thinking the Instinct and the Impression respectively) are really nice. I would agree with above commenters' anticipation of the Pre.

Seriously, I think a new iPhone is a waste of time and money. I would rather have an iPod Touch or a used, unlocked iPhone. You're right about the plans too. For the unlimited plan on AT&T you pay $140 instead of $99 on Sprint (same price difference for Verizon too I think). As far as reliability goes, I have to go with Sprint again on this one. The only places in San Francisco that I have lost signal are between subway stops and on the boat to Alcatraz. My iPhone will just randomly cut out in places where my Palm is fine.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:57 PM on April 22, 2009

Is there another plan or phone I should consider? How do other people make this decision?

Check Howardforums - there are some amazing deals right now, like unlimited talk plans for $50/mo.
posted by zippy at 12:11 AM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

agree with everything. disclaimer that i don't work for sprint, and i am a diehard blackberry fan who gets the latest devices sometimes more than once a year (but only if they are functional, i'm a tech geek also).

yes, if you really want the glossy and stylish and fun, iphone is unbeatable. i have had sprint for years and switched to att for a specific device, which got a cracked screen within the first 30 days. att politely told me i was s.o.l., as they don't insure "smart devices."

replacement screen would've been almost $300, so not only did i have to pay for the device (even with the new account discount, it was almost $300), i had to still pay the early termination fee, and the salt in my wound was when i was re-signing up at sprint, they told me that in addition to offering fairly comprehensive insurance (have to sign up w/in 30 days), they also replace cracked screens for free!!!

that killed att for me for life, however, the coffin nails include their mile-high prices, and if you travel extensively (i do) they can be thousands of dollars in additional usage and fees, as they don't offer (m)any international plans. i travel often with a co-worker who has an iphone, and for any time we travel together, he's not even able to use the web or phone often (due to prohibitive costs), whereas sprint offers unlimited international BB data plans for $40/mo. Fairly unheard of. And, i've often had reception in intl areas he hasn't, which is always amusing considering att's entire marketing plan. get an itouch (you can still access wifi internet if that's really what you want) and a blackberry (if you like email and internet-it's not as pretty but totally functional. i access my bb internet sometimes even when i'm AT my computer!)
posted by canijusa at 12:12 AM on April 23, 2009

All of the above. I think this point:

Perhaps the best way to think about it is to think of the iPhone as an information appliance or extremely portable computer.

is especially relevant. The iPhone's biggest weakness is its functionality as a phone.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:39 AM on April 23, 2009

How so, foxy_hedgehog? I have no problems using my iPhone as a phone - although as others have mentioned, it does so much more as well.
posted by salmacis at 3:16 AM on April 23, 2009

I am going through the same thing. Our Verizon plan reached expiry, and the very best that they could do was an extra $50 on a one new phone (but not two, even though we're a two phone family). They weren't interested in keeping us, so we decided to go with Tracfone for a few months until the Palm Pre/Apple iPhone releases, and then decide.

If monthly price is a major factor, take a look at, recommended to me by the folks at Billshrink can analyze your bill and suggest alternatives that might save you money.

Good luck!! It's very confusing, I know!
posted by paddbear at 6:18 AM on April 23, 2009

Check out

If you enter in your cell details, it will check out how you use it and recommend a better plan for you ;)
posted by namewithhe1d at 6:52 AM on April 23, 2009

PS.. the company is run by a friend of mine, so they're legit.
posted by namewithhe1d at 6:53 AM on April 23, 2009

The rumor mill is saying that a new Android phone (HTC Hero) will be coming out on Sprint in October. I'm also a Sprint customer and love having the cheapest "everything" plan out there. The only drawback has been that the phones on Sprint are not the best--they're tied with Verizon IMO for crappy phones. But no longer! Of course it's just a rumor, but I'm pretty stoked for October.
posted by alexherder at 8:53 AM on April 23, 2009

My friend just switched from the Sprint Instinct to AT&T/iPhone. Only the HTC phones with Windows Mobile have a reasonable usable web browser on Sprint, the Instinct's sucks. The Plam Pre might too once it's out.
posted by exhilaration at 2:03 PM on April 24, 2009

I'm on AT&T now with a regular phone and I'm holding out until June for the new iPhone and the Palm Pre to see if I'm going to jump to Sprint or renew with AT&T.
posted by wcfields at 12:25 PM on May 13, 2009

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