Phone help for the technologically challenged
April 23, 2012 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Time to upgrade and consolidate three plans and four phones. We want smart phones but I seriously do not know where to start. Can you help me?

Our family members have very different phones, plans, needs, and user habits. We know that upgrading all of us at the same time will be pretty expensive, but the time has come to move forward. Here's the list:

1. Dad - Has TMobile with no existing contract and uses an old flip phone. Wants to move to modern times with a smart phone, thinks he wants an Iphone. He is self-employed and is a high minutes user. Wants to add a data plan so he can access email, internet, and music. He has an Ipod Touch for casual music listening, a macbook Pro in his music studio, and a Dell laptop in his office.

2. Mom - Has a Verizon Blackberry that is corporate owned but will be turned back to previous employer soon. Will be able to keep the number and transfer for personal use. Has an Ipod Touch but doesn't use it much, has a Lenovo laptop and a Dell desktop. Loves the apps on Iphones and wants a smartphone to replace the Blackberry.

3. Son - Is on Dad's TMobile plan with no exisiting contract, and a fairly new cheapo flip phone. Would love an Iphone and data contract. Not a heavy user. Has an Alienware laptop and desktop.

4. Daughter - College sophomore has an AT&T data plan with some kind of smartphone (maybe a Razr but I'm not not sure). Contract expires in December and is not eligible for an upgrade until then. Is the heaviest user in the family and wants an Iphone because everyone else has one, but can wait until December if necessary. Uses a macbook.

We would like to all be on the same plan for convenience and possibly discounts. Where the heck do I start with this one and how do I get this all done? I need advice on phones, carriers, plans, etc. What should we do?
posted by raisingsand to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your profile says you're in Memphis. Is that correct? Coverage is a big deal, and if you live somewhere that, say, T-Mobile covers totally but is an AT&T dead zone outside of the metro area, AT&T stops being an option regardless of the value.
posted by griphus at 10:57 AM on April 23, 2012

It sounds like some people are heavier data users than others. I know both Verizon and AT&T have committed in some form to shared data plans just as you can share minutes, although neither company has rolled this out yet. Both companies also carry the iPhone if that's what people want, although they both also have a pretty good selection of Android phones as well.

If you are going with AT&T, you can probably roll daughter's line in now. If you go elsewhere, it is best to wait til December (at least for adding her line to the family plan) to avoid the ETF on her contract.

Pretty much all major carriers offer free nights and weekends, plus free calls to other phones on their network. Some also offer free calls to a specific list of numbers you identify that are not on your carrier as well - something to look into if, for example, Dad has a small handful of clients he calls frequently during business hours, or if Son or Daughter are in a serious relationship with someone on another carrier and tend to talk a lot.

And as stated above, do some quality research on coverage in your area - specifically your various home/work/school locations, but around town in general as well. The best plan means nothing if you can't reliably use it.
posted by trivia genius at 11:06 AM on April 23, 2012

As mentioned, most important thing is coverage. This is easy to research on each carriers website ("Coverage Map") but also ask friends/neighbors who live and work near you.

As far as phone choice, from everything you have said, this is definitely a "just get iPhones" situation. You could be happy with some kind of Android phones, but most of your family seems to want an "iPhone" and no one seems against it, and there's advantages to you all being in the same ecosystem. For once, most obviously, you could all use iMessages amongst yourselves (basically Apples BBM, but more integrated). The less app-adventurous among you could also experiment with sharing iTunes accounts, and thus "saving" money (I put "saving" in quotes because even after all these years, I'm still not sure what apple's official position is on separate users using the same iTunes account for app purchases).

Really the only thing to consider (since my advice is to rule out Android), is can you wait until September? That's a pretty dependable time frame for when Apple will release the next iPhone (iPhone 5, New iPhone!, who knows what it will be called). It always feels best to nab an apple product right after it comes out, maximizes the time where you can say you have the "latest and greatest."
posted by Patbon at 11:25 AM on April 23, 2012

Regarding AT&T coverage: I've never had any problems with coverage anywhere in Shelby county, with the exception of a few buildings on the UofM campus, oddly enough. I drive across the state several times a year, and there are a few dead zones for data coverage in spots on I-40, some just outside of Nashvile, for example. I've never noticed any issues within Nashville or Knoxville. (I have an iPhone4).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:40 AM on April 23, 2012

Yes, we're in Memphis. Daughter is in Knoxville with the AT&T coverage and had it here in high school with no issues. AT&T, TMobile, and Verizon all seem to have very little problems with coverage around here, although TMobile seems to drop a lot of calls for Dad. So I don't think coverage will be an issue with any of the options.
posted by raisingsand at 11:56 AM on April 23, 2012

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