This is why it takes me six months to purchase anything.
March 29, 2013 9:21 AM   Subscribe

My Verizon contract expired. I'd like a cheaper phone plan (currently on a grandfathered unlimited text/data plan) and also an iPhone 5. I don't mind paying for an unsubsidized phone if the savings on the plan even out. However...

...the thing is that I'm in NYC which has enough connectivity idiosyncracies that general "which plan is best for me" articles are kind of useless.

So, this is what my usage looks like: ~500 texts/mo., ~120 mins voice/mo., ~2 GB/mo. I can definitely be more judicious about my data use, but the number of texts and minutes used is only going up in the near future (despite the diagram.)

I'm currently paying ~$115/mo for the grandfathered Verizon unlimited plan. If I re-up my contract with Verizon, I can get an iPhone 5 for ~$250 instead of the unsubsidized price of ~$750 but I'll have to pay about $60 extra/mo. for less service. So re-upping the contract makes zero sense because I'll be paying an extra ~$1500 for less service just to save ~$500 on the phone. This is what I want to avoid with any new contract.

So I guess the questions boil down to:
1) Who in NYC has the best iPhone plan for my usage? (Or: how much are you paying right now for yours?)
2) Has anyone here switched from Verizon to AT&T and had a wildly different experience (for better or worse)?
3) Should I just buy an unsubsidized iPhone 5 (from who? Verizon? Apple? Refurbed?) and stick it on my current Verizon plan?
4) Anything I should know about T-Mobile getting the iPhone? I was on T-Mobile for 10+ years and totally satisfied (I even got reception in my living room, which I do not at the moment.)
5) Any other tips, tricks or hints to doing this the best way?

Last thing: anything but AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile is a non-starter.
posted by griphus to Technology (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
T-mobile's "bring your own phone" plans seem to be a great deal: $70 for unlimited everything, $60 for 2.5gb data and unlimited talk/text. Supposedly, you can buy the iPhone 5 from them either outright, or put $200 down and have $20 a month tacked on to your bill. Either way, you're still saving money relative to verizon.
posted by Oktober at 9:25 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

T-Mobile just started offering 4G LTE, like, days ago, and it currently only includes a few cities, New York not among them (supposedly it's coming this summer). It's only a deal if you don't care about data speed at all or if you're willing to take a risk that the 4G service in New York will arrive on schedule and will be comparable in quality to Verizon's.
posted by enn at 9:34 AM on March 29, 2013

Their HSPA+ service is very, very fast though. Nearly as fast as LTE in real world conditions.

(For the record, I'm an AT&T customer with an iPhone 4s, jealous of the speeds my friends get with their Nexus 4s, and considering a switch when my contract is up)
posted by Oktober at 9:41 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oktober, my understanding is that the iPhone on T-Mobile does not use HSPA+:
T-Mobile does not sell the iPhone. Verizon and Sprint iPhones will not work on our network; other iPhones may have limited functionality, including coverage limitations. Capable device required for 4G speeds; the iPhone is not currently 4G capable on our network.
("4G" being what T-Mobile calls its HSPA+ service.) I think your friends with Nexuses get much better speeds on T-Mobile than are currently possible with an iPhone.
posted by enn at 9:44 AM on March 29, 2013

You're correct if the OP was talking about bringing an existing iphone 5 over. The T-Mobile version of the iPhone 5 will support Tmob's HSPA+ (4G) frequencies.
posted by Oktober at 9:48 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been happy with Straight Talk - HSPA+ has been plenty speedy for me, only $45/month unlimited everything (tho realistically, data is unofficially capped at 2gb - they'll send you an email griping about your usage if you go over on a regular basis).

They buy their bandwidth from T-Mobile and AY&T, but they're currently only selling T-Mob sims. Not as big a deal in the city, where everyone covers everywhere for the most part, but gets tricky getting 4G out in the sticks, where AT&T seems to have better coverage.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:46 AM on March 29, 2013

I don't want to be too contentious, but you might want to look at MVNOs. I recently asked about the difference in coverage/quality between them and the major carriers and received pretty convincing answers saying that there is no difference.

You may have to do a bit of research to figure out what network a particular MVNO is using, but once you figure out what carrier's network is best for you you might well get better pricing on the plan and the phone with an MVNO. Plus most of them are no contract so if it sucks you can just switch.

Just a thought.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:47 AM on March 29, 2013

I am also happy with Straight Talk and my unlocked iPhone 4 (bought off eBay). I am not in New York, though. One drawback: Face Time and picture/video messaging do not work because of a software conflict. There is a workaround for this on YouTube involving a separate T-Mobile SIM but I haven't bothered.
posted by fozzie_bear at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2013

I'd personally wait until the T-Mobile iPhones had been road tested to be sure that they work at HSPA+ speeds, but if they do I'd definitely check out t-mobile's pay as you go $30 a month plan. That gives you 100 minutes a month, unlimited texts and up to 5gb of "4g" data. You can get extra minutes for $.10, so you'd probably only spend about $35. I'm on this plan and it's great if you don't talk on the phone much. But I'm using a nexus 4. If the T-mobile iPhone works at the same frequencies as the nexus 4, I'll be buying one.
posted by skewed at 10:58 PM on March 29, 2013

Pardon my belated piggybacking, but (skewed or anybody else) is the $30/month plan really going to continue being a thing? All the press about T-Mobile iPhones gives the impression that the plans start at $50. I (a dumb phone owner wanting to upgrade soon) sure would like that $30 plan if there is any way I can get it, but at least on the web, it doesn't seem to be available anymore.
posted by clavicle at 7:53 AM on April 2, 2013

(May have answered my own question. This FAQ suggests they have officially killed the cheap plan, but "custom value plans" may be available if you go to a retail store and, I assume, give them the secret handshake.)
posted by clavicle at 8:53 AM on April 2, 2013

T-Mobile's big change is concerning their "post-paid" plans, what used to be contract plans. The plan I was mentioning is for their pre-paid plan. For that you need to buy a SIM (you can get them for $2-3 online), then pay for a month's service. Impossible to rack up overage fees because when your minutes or whatever are up, they just stop working. You can also get set up to pay automatically, which makes them virtually identical from a post-paid plan. Check here for T-Mobile's pre-paid plans, look almost all the way at the bottom and you'll see "$30 per month - Unlimited Text and Web". It seems like they're trying to make this a lot less conspicuous on their site, but it's still available for now. Wouldn't be surprised if that changes, but I'd imagine they'd let existing customers continue.
posted by skewed at 9:21 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know where in NYC you live but I've had good luck with T-Mobile 4G the times I've been in the city since using it. (Manhattan, western Brooklyn.)
posted by naturalog at 8:11 PM on April 4, 2013

« Older What places sell maternity clothing that my wife...   |   Self-promotion during self-doubt - the writing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.