Cheap data plan for cell phone?
December 12, 2011 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Is there a cheap cell phone plan with data in the US?

I am not a big phone user and am happily using T-Mobile's prepaid plan. I use my phone mostly for quick calls like letting someone know where I am. Now I'd like to be able to find an address or look up a price or maybe check my email once in a while.

  • I'd rather not carry around both my phone and another device, but that may be unrealistic.

  • I really don't want to pay $80 per month for a unified service since I barely use the talk and text minutes. Typically I pay about $150/year for my prepaid minutes.

  • Is there anything out there that lets me just pay for the data I use? I will be buying a new phone, so I am not tied to a particular OS.
    posted by AMyNameIs to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
    posted by griphus at 9:51 AM on December 12, 2011

    Virgin mobile has a $35/month plan that includes unlimited data/texts and 300 minutes.

    Page Plus has a $30/month plan that includes enough data to find an address/check an email/look up a price (and allows you to use a wider variety of phones, at least unofficially.)
    posted by needs more cowbell at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Sending Virgin Mobile; I am very happy with it.
    posted by Wordwoman at 10:16 AM on December 12, 2011

    I'm not currently using it, but Consumer Cellular has some inexpensive options. I've been using them for voice / text for four years now, and recommend them.

    You are limited to the phones they offer, though, I believe.
    posted by ryanshepard at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2011

    I don't use their service so I can't offer a recommendation, but Republic Wireless recently launched a $20/month voice+data plan. If you use little voice / data, it's cheap. If you use more, instead of charging you they warn you. Not a bad deal. And they help you keep your voice/data usage really low by allowing you to route voice calls over wifi networks. So any time you're on a wifi network, not only are you avoiding using your data (which is how it works on every carrier) you're also not using any minutes (which is awesome).

    Like I said, it's new and I haven't tried it. But it's possible that it fits your needs.
    posted by Tehhund at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2011

    T-Mobile currently has a $30/month plan. Unlimited text/data (throttled at 5GB), 100 voice minutes. No contract; bring your own phone.

    Just make sure it's a GSM phone that works with T-Mobile's 3G frequencies. Something like a Nexus One/Nexus S would be most ideal, IMO.
    posted by bhayes82 at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2011

    Republic Wireless is beta-testing a $19.00 a month hybrid cellular/wifi calling plan (the idea being that it defaults to voip & wifi data when you're in wifi range, and to Sprint's network when you don't have wifi coverage). Unfortunately they're not taking any new signups at the moment.
    posted by zombiedance at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

    If your current phone supports the internet features you want (my 6 year old Sony Ericsson phone is internet capable on its tiny screen, and I can download Opera mini and it also has push/imap pop email) then the $30 T-mo plan would be easiest. If your phone can't do data stuff, you might want to jump to Virgin.

    What is really too bad is T-mobile recently ended its day pass data thing. I used that for the once in a blue moon need to get online from that phone (it also allowed bluetooth tethering that worked). It was $1.50 which would add up if you had to use it more than a few times a month. But alas, they dropped it (it wasn't really advertised, but if you accessed the web from your phone it would come up as an option).
    posted by birdherder at 10:33 AM on December 12, 2011

    Here's a review of the Republic Wireless plan. If you're up for experimental and are mostly on wifi, it definitely seems worth a shot!

    If not that, I think I would go for Virgin Mobile, just because the people I know who are using it are very happy with it and it's nice not to be locked into a contract.
    posted by Salamandrous at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2011

    Here's the review, sorry.
    posted by Salamandrous at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2011

    I just went through this process because T-Mobile cancelled their day pass. I settled on AT&T because I can keep my T-Mobile GSM phone. You can buy prepaid blocks of data with AT&T pay-as-you-go. T-Mobile was gracious enough to give me the unlock code for my phone.

    Voice: $0.10 per minute
    Data: $5 for 10MB or $15 for 100MB. Expires after 30 days.

    Unfortunately, T-Mobile 3G phones are limited to 2G (Edge) speeds on AT&T's network because AT&T is using a difference slice of the spectrum for 3G. So internet is slow, but it works well enough for low bandwidth things.

    If you do switch to AT&T, go to a corporate store (not one of the mall kiosks or BestBuy). They'll give you a free SIM card, other places charge for them.

    Republic Wireless is still in a limited beta, unfortunately. The best you can do is put yourself on a waiting list.
    posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:15 AM on December 12, 2011

    Oh, I should also add, if you switch a T-Mobile phone to AT&T, you'll need to reconfigure the APN settings to get data to work.
    posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:18 AM on December 12, 2011

    I use Straight Talk. You have to buy a phone through them, but then it's 1000 minutes talk, 1000 texts and some amount of data that I've never used up (and you probably wouldn't either, judging by what you've outlined above) for $30/month prepaid. Obviously you're paying primarily for the talk/texts but it's still as cheap as any of the options here so I thought I'd throw it out there.
    posted by geegollygosh at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

    If you can get in on the TING beta, it's set up to be as flexible as your needs.

    So for someone like you - you might pay:
    $6 for the device to be active
    $3 for 100 minutes of call time
    $0 for text (but if you do use this you'd pay $3 for the first 100 texts)
    $3 for 100mbs ($13 for 500, etc)

    Total monthly charge before taxes: $12

    Disclosure: I am registered for their beta, but I have not had the opportunity to sign up for a plan yet. Hopefully right after the first of the year when I have my head on right.
    posted by FlamingBore at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2011

    I have been using iwireless from Kroger for the past 8 months or so. It's not great, but at $5/month for $0.10/minute service and $5 for 100 megabytes of data when I need it, the price is right (for me). I don't really use that many minutes or much data, but I love having my gmail/gchat etc. on the phone. All the phones they offer are mostly awful for tasks beyond basic stuff, though, and you have to purchase them up-front. But whenever I spend $100 at Kroger, I get 20 free minutes, so it's not all bad.
    posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2011

    Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I'll keep my eye on Republic and check out the plans from the main carriers. I'll need to pick out a real phone, but I'll save that for another question.
    posted by AMyNameIs at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2011

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