Cell Phone Help!
February 17, 2012 4:49 PM   Subscribe

I need to cut my cell phone bill, but still want a capable smartphone. Help!

My needs from a mobile device do not justify the $95/month I pay to AT&T. My contract is up, and I want to drastically cut my bill. TMobile's web exclusive plan has unlimited web and text with 100 minutes (plenty for me) for $30. It is also 4g. I would like recommendations on a good Android smartphone for use with this plan. (People tell me that not every GSM smartphone works with Tmobile.) Features I'd like, in order of how much I need them:

* Sideload apps so I can install Amazon app store, which is where all my apps are.
* Google maps with turn by turn GPS enabled
* MicroSDHC slot
* Front facing camera to video chat with my kids
* Tether or hotspot use occaisionally would be very nice. (For when I travel)

What's the cheapest phone that either fits the bill, or nearly fits the bill? I was also looking at Virgin Mobile and the Motorola Triumph. $35/month with unlimited 3g. Thanks in advance my geeky friends.
posted by Crotalus to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
An alternative would be Simple mobile - they offer unlimited everything for $40. And works with AT&T and T-mobile frequencies. (So you can get full speed regardless of the phone).
posted by wongcorgi at 4:57 PM on February 17, 2012

I have Virgin Mobile and love love LOVE it. I have the LG Optimus V phone and the lowest plan, which is plenty for me. $25/month for 300 minutes, unlimited text and unlimited data. Coverage is on the Sprint network and I've been pretty happy with it.
posted by altopower at 5:05 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, forgot to mention -- 4" screen or bigger would be nice. Also, Simple Mobile requires that phone have the 1700mhz band. Isn't that TMobile?
posted by Crotalus at 5:06 PM on February 17, 2012

I have Virgin and an LG optimus slider, and am also very happy with it, but wanted to interject that as of next month the "unlimited" data will get throttled after you pass a certain # of page views. Still! The phone is great. It has most of the features you want (though no front-facing camera, and tethering is forbidden if not technically impossible).
posted by feets at 5:14 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had the same deal with ATT on my iphone 3g which I just recently upgraded to a 4s. Here's what I did. I called ATT and told them this:

Me: Yeah, hi, I pay $95 a month, but I can't justify paying that much anymore. I don't use my phone enough.
ATT rep: Oh, I see. You're not thinking of leaving for another carrier, are you?
Me: Well, I'm not sure. I just don't want to pay $95 for a service I rarely use.
ATT rep: I understand. How much would you like to pay?
Me: Uhhhmmm, $40 a month?
ATT: I can do that for you.

I get the same service for less than half the price. YMMV, but it's definitely worth a try.
posted by brynna at 5:42 PM on February 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

My whole (data driven) family has Virgin with the Optimus V. The Optimus V is getting a little long in the tooth as a smartphone and has very low onboard memory, but with a few upgradey things, I'm super happy with it and haven't had many "oh I wish my phone could" moments. The service is typically as good or better as my friends' expensive plans.
posted by Gucky at 5:45 PM on February 17, 2012

Virgin Mobile is damn good for the price. Their customer service is (IME) ridiculously incompetent, and there can be outages, but you really cannot beat 300 minutes plus unlimited text and data for 25/month. It's on the Sprint network, so check that when you're looking into coverage. The only place I don't get signal is inside hospitals. No idea why.

I carry around a Kyocera Loft (or, a lobotomized Blackberry clone) a bit over a year old, and except for its inability to multitask - which all the new smartphones can do without problem - I have no complaints with it.

A friend of mine has... I don't even know, whatever the fanciest newest Samsung Android iteration is, with VM, and she's delighted after years of T-Mobile.
posted by cmyk at 6:06 PM on February 17, 2012

I will confirm that byrnna's approach will work for AT&T, though I did it in person at a local AT&T store. The first time I went I got an unhelpful, poorly trained and uninterested customer service person. I left and came back the next day and got exactly the opposite. He made stuff happen. (I didn't even have to play the "The Verison store is just across the street" card.)
posted by Ookseer at 6:23 PM on February 17, 2012

Our family of 4 is all on Virgin Mobile. The $25 plan is grandfathered, $35 is the current low cost plan, but it's still a good deal. You'd have to consume a ridiculous amount of data to hit the limits.
posted by COD at 6:27 PM on February 17, 2012

I just switched to Virgin from T-Mobile and got the Android Intercept with the $35/mo plan. The phone was on sale recently but is only $99 normally. The screen is just a little smaller than the Optimus, and it has a button keypad. So far, so good. I am a very light phone user, so what really appeals to me is the all-you-can-eat data. The new throttling cap kicks in after you use 2.5GB of data, which is a helluva lot on a smartphone.
posted by briank at 6:42 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this helps, I believe that all Android phones have turn-by-turn Google Maps (which, I won't lie, is the only thing I miss about Android).
posted by radioamy at 9:19 PM on February 17, 2012

I've been thrilled with Ting for the past couple of months. Coverage will be the same as with Virgin, as it's the Sprint network, but my experiences with their customer service have been downright pleasant. I couldn't justify buying an actual smartphone right now, though, so can't speak to that stuff.
posted by asperity at 10:10 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you want Verizon's coverage but don't want to pay an ungodly amount, you might want to check out Page Plus Cellular. I've been with them for two months now, and they're pretty decent. Customer service isn't great (long hold times, but at least they've always straightened things out), but given the prices and the coverage I'm willing to put up with it.

Regarding the phone selection: if it works on Verizon it should work on Page Plus. I don't know if they support the iPhone though -- I've heard some stuff about Verizon blocking MVNOs from activating Apple ESNs.
posted by -1 at 11:44 PM on February 17, 2012

They are currently in a closed beta, but one company to keep your eye out for would be Republic Wireless. $19 a month for unlimited everything. The catch is that it's a hybrid wifi/cell phone. It makes calls using wifi whenever possible, and switches to a cell network if wifi isn't available.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:27 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

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