Which cheap Android phone/plan should I use, to work for Amazon Flex?
April 17, 2016 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I got my onboarding notice for Amazon Flex. I need to be able to take this job, as I'm barely scraping by, and this pays about double what I'm currently making. Stumbling block: it requires an Android phone, I have an iPhone. I need to get an Android, but I'm going to have to borrow money to get one. So I need to know how I can get the cheapest phone that will work, along with a cheap data plan.

My iPhone plan is with AT&T. I have always used an iPhone and I intend to keep my current phone, so I need to figure out the cheapest way to add an Android just for this job. I will most likely only work this job for a few months before moving to an area that doesn't have this sort of job available.

I need to emphasize cheap. Right this minute, I have about $250 to my name, and my phone bill just came in and it's $213. (I currently use a tremendous amount of data delivering for one of those restaurant delivery companies, I'm just not making any money doing it. Obviously, I should change to an unlimited plan if I stick with one job.) I am going to have to borrow money from my mother for this. Mom doesn't do online transfers, she only mails checks, so I need to know how much to borrow ASAP.

If I add a phone to my AT&T account, I'm assuming they will want me to be current in my bill. (I've been waiting till the last minute to pay it because I just don't have the money.) What would be the best plan on AT&T? I currently have a plan with 5 gigs of data, and last month I needed an additional 5 gigs. If I can make Amazon Flex work, I will most likely not do the restaurant delivery gig anymore, so I won't be using much data on that phone at all. So I'm thinking maybe a family plan with shared data?

Should I look at something like Cricket, or Ting?

Assume I know nothing about any phone that isn't an iPhone. A friend who already works for Amazon Flex says the phone needs to be fast, in order to grab orders before other people do.

Possibly relevant:
I'm in Houston, Texas.
I'm eligible for an upgrade.
My current contract ends October 15, 2016.


1. Which phone do I want?

2. Which plan do I want?

3. Or which phone company do I want?

4. If I call mom today to borrow money, how much should I ask for (keeping in mind that I may have to bring my account current to do all this.)

I'm off to watch my two hour, online video orientation now, but I will check in to see if there are any questions. Thanks!
posted by MexicanYenta to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If this is just a temporary phone, go to Walmart and get buy a cheap phone and put it on one of their their smart plans. It's unlimited, no commitment and you just buy the phone, which may or may not cost as much as adding another to your AT&T plan. But you won't have to commit for another two years, which you would if you add another phone to your AT&T plan. I know nothing about Amazon Flex, but i'm assuming you need a smart phone. People will argue for DAYS about which phone is better, but if this is -- for all intents and purposes -- a burner phone, why worry about that? Get a tosser from Walmart and do what you need to do with it. It's been awhile since I bought a phone with them, but last time I did, a smart phone with them cost about $150 and the first month was about $50. But looking on their website, it looks like you can go much cheaper than that.
posted by patheral at 10:36 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't need much voice and stick to being in a city, the Walmart $30/month prepaid T-Mobile plan is hard to beat. Unlimited data (throttled after 5 GB), unlimited SMS, but only 100 voice minutes.

In the longer term, you're way overpaying with AT&T and should look to porting over to a cheaper provider.
posted by Candleman at 11:07 AM on April 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

So this may be a dumb question, because I don't know exactly how Amazon Flex works, but assuming you're keeping your iPhone, could you "inherit" a slightly older Android phone from a friend (heck, I'm sure there are dozens of MeFites with last month's Android sitting in a box somewhere) and run it on WiFi off your iPhone's personal hotspot? If you're considering switching to an unlimited data plan for your iPhone anyway, this might not cost you anything.

FWIW, my spouse's job required him to run multiple Android phones (for dev testing purposes), and he selected T-mobile as the most cost-effective option. His phone needs are complicated enough that I threw up my hands and let him figure everything out, so I don't know the details, but it looks like T-Mobile has an unlimited data plan for $95/mo. I think my part of the family plan for two devices (iPhone and iPad) was about $62/mo last year, way way down from the cost with either Verizon or AT&T, by at least a factor of 2, possibly 3.
posted by instamatic at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Moto E ($75), rated as cheapest acceptable option by the Wirecutter:

"The 2015 Motorola Moto E manages to avoid the pitfalls that make other cheap phones aggravating to use on a daily basis. The build quality and the grippy, soft-touch plastic shell are nicer than what you get with other phones in this price range. The software isn’t too laggy, and the 4.5-inch screen allows easy one-handed use. The display has a lower resolution (only 960×540) than the screens on our other picks, but it’s bright and power efficient: The Moto E’s battery lasted for two days of use in our testing. The one truly bad feature is the camera technology: The rear camera is only 5 megapixels and lacking a flash, and the selfie cam is only 640×480. It might as well be a potato.

"The Moto E runs Android 5.1 with most of the same features found on the Moto G, including a clean, stock Android UI and the wonderful Moto Display notification screen. Unfortunately, it’s stuck there: Moto won’t be updating it to Android 6.0."
posted by WCityMike at 11:21 AM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have used and liked the Blu Studio Camera C which is under a hundred bucks at Amazon and is quite functional. Blu has fancier models in the $150 range too but the Studio C was quite usable in my experience.

As for the plan, that depends a lot on how much data you will need to use and how fast you mean by fast. Ting asks you to pay only for what you use, so it could be a good deal if you aren't using much or could be quite expensive if your data needs are large. Cricket has a 35 dollar a month plan which includes 2.5G of fast data, or a 45 dollar a month plan that includes 5G of fast data. I don't know about ATT but it seems like it'd be worth a call to see what they could do for you in the form of a pay as you go phone and plan.

As a final consideration Cricket uses the ATT network and Ting uses the T Mobile network (unless you get a CMDA phone from them directly, in which case they sell Sprint network access) so you might check a map to see if T Mobile is good in your area before signing up with Ting.
posted by hungrytiger at 4:09 PM on April 17, 2016

If you don't need much voice and stick to being in a city, the Walmart $30/month prepaid T-Mobile plan is hard to beat.

Seconded. If you need unlimited minutes you'll end up paying $50 a month or more, depending on how much data you want. If you need a modern fully functional android phone for cheap, get the samsung galaxy core prime, also from tmobile.
posted by mammal at 12:45 AM on April 18, 2016

Virgin Mobile has cheap unlimited plans and cheap phones.
posted by duoshao at 5:20 AM on April 18, 2016

Get off AT&T ASAP. For your primary line, Cricket (which uses AT&T's network) just introduced a truly unlimited plan for $65 per month. Assuming you need truly unlimited data for the first phone, that's $65. The second phone will cost you $30, so $95 for both. If you can get away with less data on the first phone, you'll save some money.

Cricket has an LG Risio Android smartphone for literally $10. It's a crappy phone with a crappy screen and a small battery that probably won't be incredibly fast and will never get an update, but if it's strictly a burner phone for this one job, that won't matter. It will function just fine.

Speed of the phone isn't likely to determine who gets a job. It's more likely how quickly you can pick up the phone and accept a job when it comes in.
posted by cnc at 9:52 AM on April 18, 2016

T-Mobile sometimes pays for your transfer of service, and will wrap the cost of the phone into your monthly bill. Not so bad, really. T-Mobile is month to month, even with the cost of the phone in your bill. I got a nice LG smartphone, and buy a 32 gig card. Then you have lots of room for images, and music.
posted by Oyéah at 4:45 PM on April 18, 2016

So, here's an update - turns out the phone has to be Android 4.4 or above, and it needs 2GB of RAM. This is per Amazon, so I'm assuming the app won't work without it. I'm supposed to have this phone by 9:30 A.M. on Tuesday the 19th, for an online orientation. (It would have been lovely if I could have gotten more than a day and a half notice about this.)

I went to Walmart, and they don't have a single phone that has 2GB RAM. Tried to go to a T-Mobile store, but I'm in Houston and every single store I called was closed due to flooding. Virgin Mobile, Cricket, etc., all don't seem to have 2GB RAM phones.

Oh, and I don't need any talk time at all, but I will need anywhere from 8GB-10GB+ of data every month, because I'll be using the GPS all day long.

A friend who's already working for Amazon Flex said the only thing I need the phone for during the orientation is to download the app at the very end of the orientation. She advised that I go ahead and do the orientation, and then contact Amazon later on and tell them I had trouble downloading it, and ask them to email me a link. So that's what I'm going to do. And then I'll spend the rest of the day tomorrow at the T Mobile store, trying to make this work. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I'll update again to let you know how this all works out.

Thanks for the answers, and if anyone has any more advice, I'm all ears!
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:26 PM on April 18, 2016

You should try to get a decent amount of storage, too, because you should be able to cut your usage by caching maps while you're on wifi. The new "get home area" wants about 300MB, but you can probably manually cache more than that.
posted by anaelith at 3:59 AM on April 19, 2016

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