I need a cheap replacement cell phone, fast.
July 28, 2007 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I left my cell phone a few thousand miles away from my house and will probably not be able to get it back for a few weeks. Alltel is my provider. What's a good, cheap, old cell phone I can use temporarily?

Not having a phone has put my life on hold. I really need one and can't wait the few weeks it will take to get my other phone back. I want a cheap phone that will work with alltel. I only need to be able to make phone calls. Durability and battery life are my main concerns. What's my best bet?

I assume m cheapest bet is not to get a replacement through alltel. I was thinking about getting something really cheap online and spending the extra money on shipping. I prefer Nokias.
posted by Telf to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unlocked phones are a feature of GSM phones. Alltel does not offer GSM service. In the US, that's only T-mobile and ATT. Most CDMA phone companies like Alltel, Verizon and Sprint will not accept phones on their networks that weren't provisioned by them. So you can't switch a new or used GSM phone to your Alltel account.

So what you should do is get a prepaid phone like a tracphone or an offering from any of the carriers for a cheap phone and prepaid minutes. [search ask.metafilter.com for prepaid cellphone for recommendations on the best/cheapest. Good things have been said about Virgin's prepaid service]. Once you have your old phone back, you can keep the prepaid one around for emergencies or try and sell it or give it to a friend or charity.

If you're happy with your Alltel service, you could call them and see what sort of deal you could get on a new phone from them. 99.9% sure it would involve extending your contract but it would be a cheap option to get back with your old cell # right away. When you got home, your own phone wouldn't work. Since Alltel sold you that old phone they'd re-activiate it making the new phone not work. The only downside here is you're stuck with Alltel for the life of the contract. Again, if you were happy with them anyway, that's not a big deal.
posted by birdherder at 9:44 AM on July 28, 2007

Tracfone. I've been using it for years for occasional use and would never go back to the big carriers.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:50 AM on July 28, 2007

I would try finding a used Alltel phone. Ebay, craigslist, local cell phone store. Activate it on your account and then switch back when your original phone makes it back to you.
posted by sulaine at 9:55 AM on July 28, 2007

Virgin Mobile has a pay as you go plan (usually minimum of $20 airtime every 3 months; about $0.18/minute I think) and you can buy phones as cheap as $10. I've been using it for the last couple years, and I never have trouble getting a signal, while my ex-wife was on Sprint and couldn't get a signal in our neighborhood, despite the fact that we are in the middle of a city. Because I don't use the phone much, I spend an average of $10-12/month and love it.
posted by papakwanz at 10:39 AM on July 28, 2007

WalMart and Radio Shack both sell Virgin Mobile. You should be able to spend $40 - 20 for the phone and 20 to prepay airtime, and be connected again quickly.
posted by COD at 11:16 AM on July 28, 2007

If I were you, get a used unlocked phone on ebay, find a local seller. Get a tmobile prepaid for now, and later port over to tmobile or at&t to get into GSM
posted by thilmony at 11:22 AM on July 28, 2007

Oops, a GSM phone that is.
posted by thilmony at 11:22 AM on July 28, 2007

For some reason I was under the impression that prepaid phones were a scam, but looking into the above suggestions was eye opening. These virgin phones seem to be a much better deal than I had thought.

posted by Telf at 12:14 PM on July 28, 2007

Personally I would either get my phone couriered or buy a new one -- just because obvy if you buy a prepaid kit you won't have the same phone number.
posted by loiseau at 12:29 PM on July 28, 2007

GSM is nice, but T-Mobile and Cingular can't cover nearly as much area as the CDMA providers can at this time. Go to Alltel's site and check out their coverage map.

Wal-Mart sells Simple Freedom prepaid phones in many stores. Alltel now owns Simple Freedom. You might be able to use the phone with your account. Otherwise, you can use the phone for a while (I got 120 free minutes with my $40 phone) and then sell it on eBay when you get the old one back.
posted by azpenguin at 12:56 PM on July 28, 2007

I bought a Virgin Mobile from Radio Shack when I was in NYC last month and was connected within an hour. I can add the $20 every 90 days via PayPal to ensure it'll still be valid next time I visit the US.
posted by essexjan at 1:13 PM on July 28, 2007

I've been on Virgin Mobile for the last two years and I love it. If you register your debit or credit card on their website, you only have to pay $15 minimum every 90 days to keep your service and number active. I do often use more than $5 a month in calls, but nothing that would make a standard contract deal worth the investment.

I'm on one of their phased out plans though, $.25 each min for the first 10 min of the day, 10ยข/min afterward all day.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:30 PM on July 28, 2007

If you do get another phone, then get a number from Grand Central, point it to your pre-paid, and give out the Grand Central number. You get instant number portability, and if you leave your phone on the other side of the phone you aren't stuck.
posted by rdr at 9:18 PM on July 28, 2007

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