Help us pick a shared cell phone plan.
February 10, 2005 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Me and my spouse are looking to get a shared cell phone plan. What plans and phones would you recommend. Any plans to stay away from? Guide me with your wisdom.
posted by chiababe to Technology (20 answers total)
To answer this properly, you need to consider all of the following:

How much of the following are you each likely to do?
- calling each other
- calling other cell phones (and what carriers are those phones on?)
- calling non-cellular numbers
- traveling within the US
- travelling within your own state
- travelling elsewhere & wanting to use your phone
- long distance calling
- calling during the week
- calling on weekends

Do you want all the fancy bells & whistles (camera phone, web surfing - realizing this costs both in the phone and as you use it)?

Are you willing to be stuck in a contract with one carrier? If not, how much are you willing to spend out of pocket to get your phones?

[I'm sure there's more questions relevant, but that's what immediately springs to mind. There is no plan 'right' for everyone. It depends a lot on how you use it.]
posted by raedyn at 11:56 AM on February 10, 2005

Sorry I did not think to include this.

1. We will mainly be using this for keeping in touch together. We wont really use them that much. At least I think so.
2. Not really
3. Yes
4, 5, & 6. We hardly travel. But I would like to have access from anywhere in the States. I live in South Carolina.
7. No
8. & 9. Mainly during the night and week day evenings.

I would like to have a camera phone but internet is not important to me. I have a PDA so I don't really need those features.

I would like to find phones for around $50 each. included with plan is a plus.
posted by chiababe at 12:18 PM on February 10, 2005

Verizon and Cingular have in network unlimited calling. That could work pretty well.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:22 PM on February 10, 2005

With Verizon, unless they've changed recently, you'll have to pay for the in network calling, pay to add the second phone to the same plan, and pay again for the second phone to have in network calling.

My wife and I pay about $95/month total, and we are on one of the lowest airtime plans (Northern VA).
posted by bh at 12:27 PM on February 10, 2005

bh: Verizon has changed their plans from that. You can now get a plan for $60/month (plus taxes and fees) which includes two lines, unlimited in-network calling, and 500 anytime minutes (then $10 each for lines 3, 4, and 5). It's an ad on their home page.
posted by skynxnex at 12:38 PM on February 10, 2005

My significant other and I use T-Mobile's shared plan. We've been very happy with it - we get great coverage in Ohio, Michigan, and the DC area. (At least, we do now. Two years ago we had a lot of trouble out East, but they've apparently put up a lot of new towers.) Phone calls between the phones (and all other T-Mobile phones, which most of my family has) are "free." We also get "free" nights and weekends, and a significant number of anytime minutes.

$49.99 for 400 anytime minutes, $69.99 for 900. That's two lines.

When he moves here, we may switch to the local phone company - $99/month gets you unlimited cell phone, long distance at home AND DSL - you might check with your local to see if they have something similar. Watch out for roaming, though!
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:45 PM on February 10, 2005

T-Mobile offers family shared plans. I would suggest doing some research by asking friends who have T-Mobile or any carrier you want to use and figuring out how their local coverage.

Regardless of which carrier you pick, they all have in-network unlimited calling for a price. With T-Mobile I think it's $7 for non family talk plans, family talk plans have it included.

I would recommend getting a family plan where you get a pool of minutes and both lines use minutes from that pool of course calls to the other phone will be unlimited once you get an in-network add on or if it's part of the plan. This will save you money over two separate plans.

As for where to get the phones from for the best deal. Do not get the phone from a corporate store. Each cellphone carrier offers commission to their resellers and the resellers offer discounts after factoring in the commission. Corporate stores can't do that. So you get better phones for free or often make money via rebates when you get it from a reseller. If there is no one you trust in your area, you can get it from Amazon, their prices are rather decent, you'll end up with either free phones are maybe even make $50.
posted by riffola at 12:45 PM on February 10, 2005

Another wave for the T-Mobile family plan, it's worked fine for my girlfriend and I so far. Granted it's only been a few months, but still. The price is right and neither of us has a cell "habit" so we'll never come close to exhausting the 400 minutes we get.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 12:49 PM on February 10, 2005

I should mention that we HAVE gone over our 400 minutes on occasion, and it's brutal - $.40/minute. I keep seeing advertisements for Sprint that say if you go over, they'll just charge you $10 for 100 minutes, or something, and that seems like an incredibly good idea to me. (I think it's Sprint?)

T-Mobile is running some specials online right now with some good deals on phones. We've had good luck with their Samsung flip phones - avoid the Siemens (I think they're getting out of making cell phones, anyway). I also second using Amazon to get them - my niece works for T-Mobile and says they have the best deals. Generally, the corporate stores will match deals from elsewhere, but they stopped matching Amazon, at least at her store.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2005

I've used T-mobile for 4 years - the 600 minute + free LD plan - and I'm delighted, couldn't be happier. Their customer service is top notch, good reception, and the phone works in all the places I go, which is basically NYC, LA, SF, and SD.

Before that I've had bad experiences with Verizon both wireless and land-line. They have this policy where they seem to feel if they charge you wrongly and can put 8 or 9 hours of customer service barriers and escalations between you and your money, then it rightfully belongs to them. They still owe me $600 for DSL line charges auto-billed to my CC after I closed the account (confirmation number and everything) and moved away. I gave up on it when I hit the 10 hour mark, mostly hold time, trying to get them to refund my money, and since then I've been pleased to badmouth them to anyone who'll listen.

Plus, their reception around NYC is poo-like.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:26 PM on February 10, 2005

My former SO and I had the Verizon Family Share plan. It worked out so well that we eventually dropped our land line phone service and stuck with a 500 minute plan.

Since being single I've maintained my Verizon plan and have convinced all my friends to switch. If they won't? I just don't call them. ;)
posted by FlamingBore at 1:37 PM on February 10, 2005

Sprint has a similar plan. Get a package for $40, add a phone for $10, and add unlimited in network calling for $5.

My sisters in Texas and Denver are both on sprint. I've used it all over the country, including South Carolina. They have good coverage there.

I used to have T-Mobile, and the coverage sucks compared to the coverage I get with sprint.
posted by gus at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2005

If you're not using it much why not get prepay? It'll cost you $100/phone upfront but then there's no monthly fee and calls are fairly cheap/minute, especially in-network. I had a Virgin Mobile when I was in America and it worked great all over the country.
posted by cillit bang at 2:00 PM on February 10, 2005

Cingular service in the Illinois area has been disappointing. Here in Chicago, we can't even use our cellphones inside our apartment. Forced us to get a land-line (and yet another monthly bill). My old Sprint service worked nicely, but don't know what their shared plans are like.
posted by MrZero at 3:05 PM on February 10, 2005

Pay a visit to HowardForums. They have tons and tons of cell phone addicts and afficionados with info on upcoming plans, existing plans, service, etc. Many of the posters are actually CSRs for cell phone companies. If you're looking at a particular phone (after narrowing your search) or a particular carrier in your area, this is the most thorough source of information I've found.
posted by hindmost at 3:57 PM on February 10, 2005

I have three phones on my plan with Sprint, all sharing the same minutes and all with unlimited calling to each other (not to all Sprint customers, however). Considering I also have the Vision (internet) plan on two, the fact that our monthly bill is usually under $80 impresses me.

That said, I get the feeling that other providers might have better "share everything, free to each other" setups. I'm stuck with Sprint 'cause (1.) I've been with them for years, and (2.) I had to have a Treo 650 early. Heh.
posted by pzarquon at 4:21 PM on February 10, 2005

I like Sprint too, and I've used it all over South Carolina. We have 3 phones on the network, 700 minutes to split between the three of us, it's always free to each other, and to everyone everywhere after 7:00 pm & on weekends, and the bill is usually around $100 - $125.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:28 PM on February 10, 2005

posted by nj_subgenius at 6:21 PM on February 10, 2005

I have to spoil the party and say that T-mobile was a nightmare for my boyfriend and I. Horrible reception in Chicago, especially indoors we got absolutely no service; don't even think about using GSM outside of a major city (more major than Chicago so that leaves Europe, London, NYC and LA). GSM service nationwide is spotty so if you guys aren't international travellers, I'd say stay with CDMA for much more reliable US service. We switched to T-mobile b/c all of our friends were on it = free calls, and their nifty commercials. Since then we've just been waiting for our contract to expire, and we also moved to NYC so, better service.
posted by scazza at 7:24 PM on February 10, 2005

I second Sprint. They didn't even say anything when my girlfriend and I were putting 3000 minutes a month on our free sprint to sprint. Plus it's a national plan, no long distance, just a pile of mintues you take from.
posted by princelyfox at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2005

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