cheapest smartphone plan with good coverage?
September 2, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Three people would like to get on smartphones as cheaply as possible. We are willing to take a two-year contract to accomplish this. Any US Mefites on a plan that we would like?

Our current thought is to open 3 lines on a family plan with Verizon or T-Mobile, and each get one of the free phones offered. (Any advice on these phones is appreciated.) This would probably put us at around $50 per person per month, phone included.

This would give us a lot more minutes/texts than we need, however. Is there any way we can go cheaper? We basically just want apps, internet access on the road, and to make the occasional phone call. The reason we are looking at big companies like Verizon is because good coverage is also important to us, especially in NJ/NY/MD.

Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by segfault to Technology (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Sprint is often overlooked but I have only had good experiences over the years that I have had them. They have had the cheapest unlimited everything plans for smartphones. I think that still holds true. I've been all over the US including NY and have never had problems with coverage.
posted by fieldtrip at 2:21 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're not overly picky about the phones you might look at Ting. You have to pay for the phone upfront, but they have a Kyocera right now for $145 on the low end.

Your monthly outlay is then whatever you use and a $6 fee per phone and you'd likely end up paying much less over the life of your service. No contracts. Here's a link to their plans and you can play around and see what your monthly cost would be for all three phones. Depending on how much data you need you could be looking at around $50-60 a month for all THREE of your phones.

Oh, and they run on Sprint's network.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:31 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been looking at Virgin Mobile. If you'll front the unsubsidized cost of a phone, your two-year TCO is about $500 less than if you get a two-year plan with one of the big guys. And you're not on a contract. So (for example) an iPhone will set you back $700 up front, but your monthlies will be as low as $35.

Virgin is a MVNO that uses Sprint's network, so if you're happy with Sprint's coverage, they should be OK.
posted by adamrice at 3:00 PM on September 2, 2012

Seconding Virgin Mobile. No contract, pay $35/month for 300 voice minutes + unlimited text and data. You do have to pay upfront for the phone, but you can get a decent smartphone for $150-$200. I have HTC One which they currently sell for $159 as a Web Exclusive price when you order online.

I've been happy with the service and the phone so far; no difference between what I have now and what I've had the past two years on contract with Verizon, paying over $70/month (Verizon did offer more voice minutes, but I almost never use them, so don't need them).
posted by Ender's Friend at 3:28 PM on September 2, 2012

Straight Talkhas unlimited everything for $45/month, and can run on Sprint or AT&T. The AT&T network advantage is that you can use any unlocked GSM phone (off of eBay or Craigslist), so you have a bigger pool of devices to pick from versus a Sprint/Verizon CDMA network. This can potentially save you some money up front, which may or may not balance out the additional monthly cost over Virgin (and it's unlimited minutes vs 300).
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:35 PM on September 2, 2012

Best answer: T-mobile has the refurb Galaxy S 4G, a 2011 high-end phone, on the monthly 4G, no-contract plan. I have this very thing and like it a lot. You have to buy the phone for $220 (atm) then, based on your particulars about usage, I recommend the web-exclusive $30/month plan on this page to get unlimited text & data + 100 talk minutes per month.

TCO for 1 year, 220 + 360 = $580. You could run 2 to 5 of these on the $30/mo T-mobile plan for the TCO of a single iPhone 4S.

Or you could get a Comet or a Dart for $100 + plan, minimum TCO $460.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 3:48 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I advise against Verizon. We've been on a family plan (3 people) for years, and with the new "unlimited talk and text" it will up our price $30 a month when (if) one of us gets a new phone. It's a pretty stupid new plan, since they're emphasizing what people use less of to make more money.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:45 PM on September 2, 2012

Right now, I'm hooked into AT&T and an iPhone for another year at almost $100 a month, but after buying a Google Nexus 7 tablet and getting properly introduced to Android and Ice Cream Sandwich, I'm bolting for an Android phone next (probably a Samsung) and Simple Moble.
$40 a month.
posted by THAT William Mize at 4:55 PM on September 2, 2012

A Sprint service reseller, similar to Ting and Virgin Mobile, PlatinumTel has a completely prepaid, no fee except minutes used plan, but you can use the prepaid minutes for data too, which you can't on Virgin Mobile. And it's even less expensive just for phone minutes than Virgin. For people who rarely use the phone minutes, it's easily the best deal I've found. The only drawbacks I've found are that top-up isn't automatic, and that they only have one Android phone. Mine is a little flaky, but easily does everything I want.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:19 PM on September 2, 2012

Take a look at Howard Forums. You may find something or post a question. I am a prepaid fan. Bought HTC One X for full price and got prepaid from Airvoie wireless (at&t MVNO), so far so good.

Lifehacker also ran an article a week or so ago, couldn't find it, may be you want to dig through.
posted by zaxour at 6:20 PM on September 2, 2012

Don't. Buy. Contract. Phones.
posted by devnull at 1:37 AM on September 3, 2012

Do you care if it's the latest and greatest smartphone? My brother gave me an unlocked iphone 3gs after he upgraded and it does everything I need it to except for some fancier apps. You can buy those from other people for around $100 I believe. Then you can sign up for a SIM card and the $40/month plan from Simple Mobile.
posted by pinetree at 5:11 AM on September 3, 2012

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