Hardly Using My Smartphone. Should I downgrade? Did you?
December 17, 2011 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have experience switching from a smartphone to a feature phone? My current phone is a Blackberry. (Its Blackberry-ness isn't the issue.) I pay AT&T $90 month. I bought an iPad 6 months ago and my use of the phone has dropped precipitously. I initiate one or two voice calls per week and just a few texts. I never user it to browse the web. I do use it to check mail but I never respond to or initiate email on it. I travel with the iPad, so that relegates the phone to the bench on those occasions, too. In other words, I have much more phone than I need and I'm paying ATT $90 each month for services I barely use. So, I'm thinking about terminating the contract and going pay-as-you-go with a cheaper phone. Has anyone done the same thing for the same reasons? How did it work out? Did you regret it?
posted by justcorbly to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add I'm thinking about using an unlocked phone so I don't lock myself into another contract.
posted by justcorbly at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2011

There have been some threads where people recommend Virgin Mobile, with a no-contract phone for 25/month. I have a tracfone at home, so I could keep my number, and for backup, since I mostly use my work mobile. I find that having to pay per-minute makes me talk a lot less, even though it's not a lot of money.
posted by theora55 at 3:59 PM on December 17, 2011

I downgraded last year (to save money, no fancy replacement device for me). And while I don't regret it, I wish I'd been more careful choosing my replacement phone.

Dumb phones (can) have some pretty horrid UIs. Shop around and find a phone with all the features you want, but that doesn't require a data plan. Then give it a serious test drive. Type out a few texts, set the alarm, turn off the alarm (I so wish I'd thought of that...), plugin the charger, check the time, take a picture, mute, unmute, vibrate, ignore call, anything you do with your phone right now. It isn't always possible, but knowing what your phone's going to do if you get a call while texting can save you a headache later on.
posted by zinon at 4:14 PM on December 17, 2011

I have a friend who went through almost exactly the process you're describing (although I think he had an Android + iPad, not BB). He switched to a dumbphone for exactly the reasons you're considering. Then he bought an iPhone. Admittedly, he's kind of a gadget hound.
posted by adamrice at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2011

I went from an iPhone to a craptacular LG Cosmos Touch. The iPhone was too delicate for me, and I bought an iPad for internet.

It's working alright for me, but what I wasn't prepared for was how absolutely awful the operating system is on this dumb-phone. It's like they have their third-string developers working on it, and no testers. Checking my voicemail is annoying. Text messages interrupt whatever you were doing. Various "upgrades" have caused my phone to freeze if I choose "view text now", and doubled (and then quadrupled!) the last names in my address book. I test-drove it, lots, and these problems cropped up later :-\
posted by Metasyntactic at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2011

One of the annoying things about dumbphones is that they (at least the ones I've seen) don't have text threading (you have an inbox with each text listed, you click on it, and can only see that one text at a time), so it's much harder to have a coherent conversation via text. There are some prepaid options that let you use a smartphone with a small amount of data, and that might be a better option.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:33 PM on December 17, 2011

the LG rumor 2 has text threading, but good LORD, is the UI awful. I went from an android phone to it, and have regretted it since (but I don't have a tablet or other mobile data device)
posted by reverend cuttle at 5:00 PM on December 17, 2011

I downgraded from my smart-ish phone back to my 3 year old LG Rumor when I started being on maternity leave. (Why have on-the-go internet when you aren't leaving the house, amirite?)

I stuck with my provider (Sprint), and just had them switch the service over to my old phone, which I abandoned when I needed to check my email on-the-go a lot; I got seduced by fancy shiny technology, and a free device, but there was nothing wrong with my old phone at all. The plan I have now is basic, 29.99 per month with unlimited texting added for $5.00/month. I did have to renew my contract, so probably not the plan for you, but I've had Sprint for 11 years, so it's not like I was planing on leaving anyway.

It's worked out quite well for me thus far, and it's way cheaper. If you have an old working dumbphone laying around, might be worth it to check with your provider to see if you can switch back to it. That way you know the interface already, and may have contacts/games/media/etc on it that you may have forgotten about. I discovered that I had downloaded Tetris onto mine at some point, which was pretty sweet to have while waiting around during prenatal appointments!
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 5:14 PM on December 17, 2011

I've had an LG Rumour 2 since August 2010, and I think it's awesome if you want to save some money. That being said, the user interface of any dumb phone is a MAJOR sacrifice... are you up to it to save $50-$80 or so a month? I was.
posted by Yowser at 5:19 PM on December 17, 2011

Oh ya, and the keyboard on an LG Rumour 2 is a BEAST. You'll be blasting away texts while the iPhone glitterati are trying to come up with excuses for why they're cooler than you.
posted by Yowser at 5:20 PM on December 17, 2011

Hate to keep thread setting, but the LG Rumour 2 in Canada at least lets you use Google Maps and Opera Mini for $10/month unlimited internet. I think in the states it'll also give you navigation and other features. A pretty cool phone. Set up e-mail call forwarding to your phone and I think you'll find that you can live with the sacrifice.
posted by Yowser at 5:31 PM on December 17, 2011

My mom and I both use Virgin. She has a nicer dumb phone, and I have a smartphone, and we're both very happy with them. Dunno what she pays, but I pay $45 a month for 1200 minutes and unlimited data, which is lightyears cheaper than every other plan I looked at. Definitely check them out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:31 PM on December 17, 2011

My understanding is Page Plus is introducing a $12/month plan with 250 minutes and 250 texts, if you don't need data (there's a trivial 10mb per month of data on the plan.) They have other plans but that one is actually sufficient for a lot of people. They run on the Verizon network.
posted by azpenguin at 5:52 PM on December 17, 2011

I actually have to become an internet addict to hit 10mb per month of data on my dumbphone.
posted by Yowser at 6:13 PM on December 17, 2011

My friend did this and uses a Google Voice number for his voice mail from his phone. That way, he gets emails on his ipad of the transcriptions and can play them too if he wants. All texts go to his GV number which he does not forward to his dumb phone. The only use he has for the dumb phone is to make and receive calls. I have seen him leave the phone at my house and not even call to ask about it for a few days, he uses it so little. I am pretty sure he could get rid of the phone altogether if he pressed it. In an emergency, he can text from his ipad.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:18 PM on December 17, 2011

You don't need to change your phone - just get a cheaper plan. If it's unlocked, you could even switch to t-mobile's prepaid, $0.10/min service. By staying with a smartphone, even with basic service, you'll maintain contacts and calendar sync, which feature phones are terrible at.
posted by unmake at 6:21 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

They may have gotten better recently, but I tried a Page Plus pay as you go phone 2 years ago. Avoid them at all costs! I had consistent problems with the network being too busy to make calls (like 4:1 failure:success), which made it worse than useless. Also, buying more minutes was a much bigger pain than it should have been.
posted by Metasyntactic at 6:32 PM on December 17, 2011

unmake: He may have to change his phone to use the lower end plan, depending on his carrier. I tried just downgrading my plan on my smart-ish phone, but Sprint seemed to somehow require the more expensive, data filled plan for that model, and I couldn't switch the plan without swapping it out for my more low-tech device.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 8:00 PM on December 17, 2011

You don't necessarily need to downgrade to a dumbphone to get an inexpensive plan. I'm using an Android phone on AT&T's pay as you go $0.10/minute deal. Data costs extra, but isn't necessary for voice calls. My girlfriend is using her iPhone 4 with the same plan - which supposedly isn't allowed by AT&T, but it works fine.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:13 PM on December 17, 2011

You don't have to downgrade your hardware just to drop a data plan. I pay $45/month for a data-less plan with my Sprint Blackberry. I don't have any web anymore and I got Sprint to block all incoming texts. I bicycle commute to work so I have no need for data when I'm in between my broadband environment at home and my network at work. It's actually kind of nice to be off the internet completely when I'm mobile. It's also cool to have all the contact info, documents, pictures, etc. in my phone that I need and not pay for a data plan for the privelage. You can use Blackberry desktop software to move files and contact info back and forth between your computer and your phone.
posted by Rafaelloello at 11:25 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live in the UK, where the mobile phone situation is rather different, but for six months or so I had an iPod Touch and a dumbphone -- the actually really rather nice Sony k800i; and if you decide to stick with the dumbphone idea, I can recommend the Sony lines as having straightforward UIs, nice tappy keypads, useful alarms (repeatable 9 minute sleep, progessive volume, can use an mp3 as an alarm tone), and good cameras that are easy to use (dedicated button, and the camera app opens automatically when you flip open the lens cover). The mp3 playback is also very clear -- better than on my iPod -- but many have crappy non-standard headphone jacks so you can't plug in real cans.

However, I found myself wanting more features -- a better texting interface, GPS, mobile internet -- and wavered over a featurephone before deciding that the same money would buy me a basic Android phone, the ZTE Blade. I picked it up for £100, rooted and unlocked it and now it happily runs the most recent version of Android that Cyanogen put out. It was very simple to do, and now it's a great mobile maps/twitter/internet device as well as being my phone. Being on pay as you go I only flip the 3G on when I need it, so I don't go over my 500mb/month pay as you go allocation.

So, long story short, if you can't root and unlock your current smartphone so you can bang in a pay as you go sim card, you can get a perfectly fine cheapo Android device and get a smartphone UI on pay as you go prices.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:01 AM on December 18, 2011

If your current blackberry is unlocked you could switch to t-mobile, though you might not get 3g data speeds depending on your device. Monthly plans start at $30 for 1500 minutes/texts per month, more than enough for what you do. It also has 30mb of data per month which is enough to check e-mail pretty much as often as you want.

If you're not comfortable with t-mobile's coverage, you could try h20wireless, which I am currently on. You can get unlimited talk/text for $40, and it works with AT&T's towers, so you'd get essentially the same coverage and service as you are getting now. Customer service on H20 is terrible, but after you set things up, it's fine. I loooooove not having a contract, paying $50 a month for all the service I want at a much lower price than any provider offers with a contract.
posted by skewed at 10:24 AM on December 18, 2011

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