Cell me a phone (hur!)
June 6, 2009 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a minimalist cellular phone and rate plan in Canada (specifically southern Ontario)?

My three-year contract with Bell is finally coming to an end in a couple of months and I am in the market for a new cell phone and a new provider. I'm pretty sure Bell is ripping me off completely. My latest bill was $40 for their "Uber 20" plan (100 daytime minutes plus 1000 evening and weekend minutes), plus three text message "events," and voicemail, plus the $8.95 "system access fee."

For this, the service seems really touchy; I don't get very good reception in many locations that other people have no trouble with, and frequently incoming calls just don't make phone (a Samsung A920) ring. (The phone will be sitting in the same place for an extended period of time, and then I get a voicemail notification from ten minutes ago.) I've also had a few frustrating experiences with their customer service and will be glad to be shot of them.

But enough ranting. I'm interesting in thoughts on a low-cost, low-frills cellular phone provider that is preferably not Bell. I don't use my cell phone all that often. Most of the calls I make and receive are short, with the odd exception. I also receive far more calls than I make. I use text messages infrequently (three times in the last month, for instance). I don't make a lot of long distance calls, but when I do, I do it through Yak, a service I am happy with.

I have no interest in a phone that is also an mp3 player, web browser, or even a camera. It seems that all phones have at least some of these features now, but I'd be happy with one that is just, well, a phone. I am interested in call display and possibly voicemail.

What should I do? Pay-as-you go? A minimal rate plan? What company? I am in London, Ontario.
posted by synecdoche to Shopping (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For a phone that is not only minimalist, but also quite small (and inexpensive), I've used the Pantech C300 with some success. Fair warning: lots of people will make jokes about it being a Zoolander phone.
posted by dhammond at 4:22 PM on June 6, 2009

Pay as you go, dude. I have pay as you go service from 7-11 (yes, 7-11) that I like a lot. Best thing about it really though is that purchased minutes last an entire year instead of a month or three months. The phones are kind of crappy, but it piggybacks on Rogers which means that it's got a SIM card which can be put into an unlocked phone. That said, I have the crappiest phone that 7-11 offers, the Nokia 1208, and it's an awesome phone really.

Only problem is that you have to buy a phone; 7-11 will not sell you just a SIM card.
posted by the dief at 4:27 PM on June 6, 2009

Oh, and I think that Petro-Canada also sells pay as you go phones that are roughly equivalent to 7-11's. Might be worth investigating, especially if you don't have any 7-11s in London.
posted by the dief at 4:28 PM on June 6, 2009

You've got a Canadian cell phone plan, which as far as I can tell means you're being ripped off completely.

I've got Virgin's pay-as-you-go plan, which seems reasonable enough. It's $15/mo whether you spend that much or not, which is annoying as I don't (most of my real calling is through Skype). Also it doesn't work in the States, even though there's a Virgin US. And you had to buy your own phone, but the no-frills is pretty cheap ($40?).
posted by Casuistry at 4:49 PM on June 6, 2009

Depending on your plan and how you use the phone, the Koodo can be your cheapest option, even over pay as you go. Worth looking at. Free phone, too, if you buy it right.
posted by lockedroomguy at 5:13 PM on June 6, 2009

PAYG is your best option, and I'd personally vote Virgin.

Koodo is owned by Telus, btw. They've gone to some pains to hide the relationship, but it's their bargain-bin arm to catch the market segment that won't go for 'premium' service.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:16 PM on June 6, 2009

Yeah, I also have Virgin's pay-as-you-go. Pretty decent. It's a back-up phone though at the moment.

My main wireless service is with Rogers, which I would not recommend or even wish upon any potential enemy's, especially if you do any long distance calls. Customer service, when you can get someone on the other end, sucks. Also, like Bell, they tack on numerous extra charges.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 6:56 PM on June 6, 2009

I had a good experience with Virgin pay-as-you-go also. The only reason I stopped with them was to get a blackberry (long before they started offering them).

For good coverage, I'm on Rogers now and they definitely have reception in places where my old Bell phone didn't (for example, driving across New Brunswick - almost no coverage throughout on Bell, full coverage throughout with Rogers),
posted by Billegible at 7:24 PM on June 6, 2009

I think Virgin uses Bell Canada's network, so you may run into the same problems.

Telus pay-as-you-go works really well for very light usage. You start off with $50 at $0.25/minute, and as long as you keep filling it up before your minutes expire, they roll over and you keep the same rate. You can also auto-deduct from your credit card, so basically the phone costs $10/month. If you want more, you can tack on add-ons or messaging bundles (but you may end up back in rip-off territory). The cool thing is that you only pay for what you actually use, and if you don't use your phone often (ie: less than 40 minutes/month) you end up collecting tons of minutes to use however you want (ie: in an emergency or if you're out of town).
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:00 PM on June 6, 2009

...is with Rogers, which I would not recommend or even wish upon any potential enemy's

Weird. We have Rogers for home phone, cable, and internet (and I'm thinking about re-getting a cell, and it'll be with them), and they have always been fantastic to us. Unlike the Seventh Circle of Hell that is dealing with either Sympatico or Bell Mobility support. I mean fuck, the people at Sympatico have actually driven me to bashing the phone repeatedly into a desk solely so I didn't chuck the thing out a 17th-storey window.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:00 PM on June 6, 2009

Well, I was in a an Office Depot today, and for some unrelated reason I was drawn to the Fido pay-as-you-go phones and prices. (I think I have freedom envy, as I'm currently in the beginning half of an Rogers 3 year iPhone contract). Anyway, looking at their website, you can get a $15/month plan (and no system access fee) or pay as you go -- 20c anytime or 5c weekend and evenings. I cant recommend them as I've never actually used them, but Fido is essentially the same company as Rogers, with SIM cards and usage of the rogers network. I've been with rogers for 10+ years -- as troublesome as they can be, to me the alternatives are much worse. At least check Fido out.
posted by cgg at 10:50 PM on June 6, 2009

Sorry, yes Rogers is better than some alternatives, and I've been with them for some time. There has been up's (after repeated nagging) and down's (which I'm currently experiencing). I do agree with the extent of the Rogers network though.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 11:18 PM on June 6, 2009

I had a bad first encounter with Rogers, at one of their mall stores - salesman wouldn't discuss why the same phone and plan were $200 cheaper at another place in the mall who also worked through Rogers. But the second place I tried was great, and they've given me stellar customer service - calling to change my data plan for my BB when the plans got better for BB's, etc. Ths is in Montreal... ymmv in Ontario, dunno.
posted by Billegible at 8:35 AM on June 7, 2009

If you don't leave the country, Pay As You Go. I used Telus for awhile and really liked that choice.

If you do leave the country, be aware that your phone will not roam internationally on a pay as you go plan, which proved to be such a giant pain in the ass, that I switched to a subscriber plan at 3 times the price.

Another alternative, however, would be to get a pay as you go phone in the US when you get there if you want US roaming.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:20 AM on June 8, 2009

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