Not a Virgin Mobile Virgin
November 24, 2010 12:56 PM   Subscribe

What's a cell phone plan comparable in scope and price to Virgin Mobile's $25/month?

I loathe phones in general, so my cell phone is my only phone, and even then I tend to use mine minimally: talk and occasional text. I have been using Virgin Mobile and one of their LG phones since 2007 without much complaint. The phone was totally obsolete even then, but it works. More importantly, the plan is perfect for me, $25/month.

It figures, of course, that the one place my phone doesn't work is at my new job. Every attempt to make a phone call is met with a man yelling at me that I am inside a Sprint private network. (Psst, dude: Sprint owns VM.) I've decided to consider other providers, but I've been repulsed by prices that are occasionally 100% higher for equivalent service.

What options do I have if I want to stay as close to Virgin's low price as possible? The important variables:
  • Don't need many minutes, don't text much. Pay-as-you-go used to work, but it started biting me in the ass every time I made a half-hour phone call, so I gave that up.
  • I work for a faceless megacorp that gives me 10%-20% off plans for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and a couple other carriers.
  • The service has to be good enough to pierce the mystery outage bubble cursing my north Austin office building.
  • We all want iPhones or Droids naturally, but until the US catches up with Asia's data plans, I'm always still content with even the crappiest of phones.
posted by spamguy to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
as far as i've seen, the closest thing to virgin's pricing is page plus cellular talk and text. it's $30/mo., it uses the verizon network, it includes 1200 sms and voice but the data is a paltry 50MB. if your phone doesn't have a fancy web browser that shouldn't be a big deal.

unlike virgin, they don't care what kind of phone you use. as long as it works on the verizon network (but i dont think they'll help you try to unlock it).

i have to add that their customer service is pretty piss poor. their operators are only available at certain times of the day and even when you do talk to them you're guaranteed a long hold time. plus they have no retail or marketing presence on the west coast so you'll have to do all your purchasing and support on the phone or internets. but for something that cheap it was worth it to me.
posted by sammich at 1:50 PM on November 24, 2010

Have you looked at PagePlus? They use the Verizon network, so you can use any old Verizon phone that you pick up from eBay. Prepaid rates are as low as 4 cents/min. and for $29.95/mo. they'll give you 1200 minutes, 1200 text messages and 50MB of data transfer. My wife and I have been prepaid customers for almost a year, and are happy with it.
posted by jon1270 at 1:54 PM on November 24, 2010

Straight Talk is another one that uses the Verizon network.
posted by oceano at 3:49 PM on November 24, 2010

My first recommendation is to second Page Plus (Verizon's network) but if that doesn't give you coverage my next recommendation is T-Mobile's prepaid plan - $30/month (+ taxes I think) for 1,500 minutes or texts and 30MB data.
posted by ChrisHartley at 4:08 PM on November 24, 2010

"Page Plus doesn't care what kind of phone you use" is of mixed truthiness. You can use any Verizon phone on their network, but if you run into a problem with your service and aren't using a phone you bought from them, they will/can claim it could be a hardware issue and that they don't support your phone, even if it's obviously an issue on their end.

Also - they are no longer allowing certain smartphones (like blackberries) to be activated on their network. Check out the forums on Howardforums for more details.

That said, I've been pretty happy with them since I solved my SMS issue.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:45 PM on November 24, 2010

The reason you want to leave the Sprint network and go to the Verizon network is that the coverage is much better (hopefully including your floor of your office building — you can check this with anybody's Verizon phone). Thirding PagePlus. I went down to my big-box discount stores and picked out a bottom-of-the-line Verizon phone for $22 that does everything I need and activated it with PagePlus. Like you, I don't talk many minutes a month, don't message much, and the phone has no web browser, so I use their no-monthly-fee plan that requires a $25 replenishment at least every 90 days. I'm a happy user.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:29 PM on November 24, 2010

Somebody's got an Airave around there somewhere and it's jacking everything up. If you can get them to turn it off, your phone will work presuming that the regular network has some coverage at your office.

On a side note, it's completely shocking that this has been a known problem for over two years now and nothing has been done to fix it.

On the bright side, it won't be a problem when using other providers, as long as you don't pick another Sprint-based MVNO, which is quite a few of them. As long as you stick to one that uses at&t, Verizon, or T-Mobile you should be good. Wikipedia has a list to help you out.

Some of the at&t and T-Mobile MVNOs will also allow you to use whatever phone you like, in which case you can buy an unlocked smartphone and use data only over wifi, if you'd really like to have that smartphone without the monthly bill. ;)
posted by wierdo at 9:35 PM on November 24, 2010

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