Avoiding Cell Phone Hostage Plans?
September 27, 2015 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Currently out of my contract with Verizon Wireless and am reluctant to lock in to another 2-year contract requiring a new phone purchase and expensive monthly fees.

I like Verizon as I haven't had any problems with data or dropped calls and there isn't another carrier that has the level of coverage they offer. I hate that they have a monopoly on cell phone services in my area. If I could go "off the grid", I so would; however, that's not exactly an option.

I'm considering the Walmart plan, but I'm scared to make the change as I'm so unsure about the connection.

Anybody have any ideas or suggestions? Or any experience with Walmart plans?

My Samsung S3 still works, but has had some issues recently and my battery is no longer holding a charge for very long - so I'm going to have to do something soon. Either buy a OEM battery or get a new phone/contract.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
posted by funfunfun to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"The Walmart plan" is a T-Mobile plan. T-Mobile's coverage isn't as good as Verizon's, and as a prepaid customer you also can't roam onto another carrier when there is no T-Mo coverage. It does have Music Freedom though (music streaming is not counted toward your data usage) which makes the 5GB LTE data allowance go a long way. I used it for quite some time and was happy with it (only changed because my wife moved to T-Mobile and putting my line with hers gave me the roaming and unlimited data for $10 more a month.)

T-Mobile's regular plans are also no-contract these days. You don't need to buy a new phone but if you do, you simply pay it off in no-interest monthly installments. If you cancel service before you pay off the phone, you have to pay off the phone, obviously.
posted by kindall at 7:09 PM on September 27, 2015

RootMetrics has coverage maps and coverage reports for the US, and you can check to see whether switching major carriers makes sense for you based on the information in those. If you decide you should stick with your known-good coverage with Verizon, you can switch to an MVNO that resells Verizon coverage. If you don't end up needing the Verizon coverage specifically, MVNOs using other host networks may be a good option as well. Personally, I like Ting a lot and haven't had any complaints with either their CDMA (Sprint) or GSM (T-Mobile) coverage in my area and while traveling.
posted by asperity at 7:11 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

StraightTalk (Verizon network) or Cricket Wireless (AT&T network) are two of the more commonly mentioned MVNOs. Neither requires contracts.

Note you can do no contract with Verizon also if you own you phone.
posted by LoveHam at 7:20 PM on September 27, 2015

Contracts for US carriers are basically dead (I believe Sprint still makes you sign a contract.) Now you pay for service and have to buy a phone--they'll still sell you one and you pay it off in installments. You can stay on Verizon, get a new phone from them, and have no contract.
posted by Automocar at 7:26 PM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by harrietthespy at 7:29 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

A new OEM battery for an S3 is going to be $10 or less.
posted by AugustWest at 9:47 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

What everyone has already said with an additional note that the Walmart T-Mobile plan is awful for coverage unless you're in an urban area and don't travel much. Even on interstates in states with generally good coverage, there'd be huge areas (hundreds of miles) with no signal.
posted by Candleman at 9:52 PM on September 27, 2015

Not to too far off track, but depending on what you mean by the "walmart plan", there is also an att version, wherein the user prepays $45 for unlimited talk and text plus 2.5 gb data (which rolls over to the next month). When I first signed up for it, I had to call att and tell them I wanted to the Walmart plan and then I also made sure that the terms are spelled out. I've experienced way better coverage with att than tmobile but of course ymmv.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:49 PM on September 27, 2015

My three-year-old Virgin Mobile smart phone was becoming erratic and wouldn't hold a battery charge for very long. I was paying $35.00 per month and didn't need the data capability, as I get my wireless net coverage from Verizon. I just needed a phone, so I went to a Dollar General store and bought a five-buck Trac phone. The minutes I need just cost ten bucks per month, and the coverage to my remote SE AZ location seems to be good. Not all phones need to be smart!
posted by Agave at 12:51 AM on September 28, 2015

Get the Verizon Edge plan, keep your current phone. No contract, less expensive.
posted by alms at 4:50 AM on September 28, 2015

Project Fi from Google has been great for me. (But I long ago accepted that Google already has access to all my personal information.)
posted by cessair at 5:04 AM on September 28, 2015

I also switched to Project Fi, but note that it only works with the Nexus 6. So you'd have to be OK with 1) waiting for an invite, 2) buying a phone and 3) having a HUGE phone (I love it, but it's not for everyone). Amazon recently dropped the price to $350, which is a tremendous price for an unlocked phone of this caliber.

If you want to get a battery for your current phone, you don't necessarily have to go OEM. Anker makes nice batteries--I bought one for my Samsung before I switched to the Nexus and it worked flawlessly.

The nice thing about prepaid plans, like the T-Mobile $30 plan (if that is indeed what you mean by the "Walmart plan"), is that there's no commitment. If you try it and don't like it, you can port your number out to another carrier. It's a bit of hassle, but the stakes are pretty low, considering. I had the T-Mobile plan for several years and really liked it; service was great in Chicago and other places I tended to travel. The rub for me was that it only included 100 voice minutes, so I used wifi calling whenever possible, which was not ideal. It's only 10c/minute if you go over the 100, but I still tried to avoid going over.
posted by mama casserole at 5:11 AM on September 28, 2015

My wife and I have been using Verizon MVNO's for several years. It has saved us a lot of money compared to what we used to pay directly to Verizon, and our phones have worked pretty much like they did when we were Verizon customers. Customer service, on the other hand, has ranged from mildly irritating to awful, and not every MVNO facilitates automatic payments so the whole arrangement requires more care and feeding than a traditional plan with a big company. If cost is your main concern then I'd suggest investigating some of the Verizon MVNO options. If you're willing to pay a premium for a better customer:company interface, consider the non-contract plans offered by Verizon. Either way, HowardForums is a good place to find out what serious cellular geeks have to say about various providers and plans.
posted by jon1270 at 5:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ting is great, I highly recommend it.
posted by odinsdream at 5:39 AM on September 28, 2015

A word of caution about T-Mobile prepaid: You'll be a second class T-Mobile citizen.

It's a completely separate account system. When you try to get support (and after waiting on hold for 20 minutes), the T-Mobile support operator will act annoyed and tell you that of course they can't help you because they don't do prepaid accounts. Then they'll try to transfer you to the "prepaid support" department, which will put you on hold for another 20 minutes and then hang up on you.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:28 AM on September 28, 2015

Page Plus, a Verizon MVNO. My family has saved so much money since making the switch.
posted by merejane at 8:04 AM on September 28, 2015

Have you considered Republic Wireless? They're great if you live in a decent Sprint area and you make a lot of calls hooked to Wi-Fi or a cord-cutter. Republic Wireless expects you to make at least 35% of your calls and data while hooked to Wi-Fi. Calls while hooked to Wi-Fi approach corded landline in terms of clarity. The expectation to use Wi-Fi for calls and data is the reason for their savings. Another catch is that you've got to buy one of their two Motorola phones and buy it from them.
posted by dlwr300 at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2015

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