help for the technologically callenged, please
May 20, 2008 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find a cell phone plan. (Please make it not be with Verizon)

I've been on a family plan for a very long time. I'm looking to part ways, from being on my father's bill, and from dealing with incompetent Verizon employees. I'm up for a new phone/contract, so it seems like a good time to make a change.

If you have any suggests for plans, I'd be most appreciative. This is, in some ways, very new for me.

Here are my needs:
- I don't use my phone all that much for calls. 450mins a month with free evenings/weekends is fine.
- Unlimited texting would be good.
- e-mail and web access are turning into must (I do not have this now, but am finding it something I need)

Phone musts:
- PDA with calendar, notes, general PDA-like stuff, *without* a Windows interface (Treo 755 is nice)
- Not a fan of the blackberry. I can't get used to its design with the roller ball thing.

I can do a one year contract, and if possible, a plan that would let me do month-to-month after that. In a little bit over a year, I'm not sure where I'll be - I might be working abroad. I might join the peace corps. I'm not sure yet.

Clearly I'm technologically retarded and have been spoiled by being on someone else's bill for a long time, but I'm looking to change this.

This is very jumbled, but if anyone has some thoughts on direction based on some of this criteria, I'd be very appreciate. Thank you.
posted by raztaj to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: ...and I spelled challenged wrong in the title. nice.
posted by raztaj at 1:59 PM on May 20, 2008

Well, I wouldn't shy away from Verizon that quickly. Their service nationwide is tough to match. Otherwise, you probably might want to head to AT&T, or if good in your area, Sprint.

AT&T is a great carrier so you can't really go wrong with them. You can do a 450 minute plan for $40 and add a $20 data plan that includes 200 text messages or you can increase that to 1,000 for about another $5. You can get a 1-year contract with them but you won't be eligible for nights and weekends since that's internally considered a promotional contract feature (IIRC).

Sprint offers the "SERO" plan which is $30 for 500 minutes with unlimited texting and data. It's a not-so-secret plan that you can find by Googling "Sprint SERO" and using a Sprint employee's company email address. If you want more minutes, you can do 1,250 minutes for $50. Of course all lines require a 2-year contract with a $200 ETF.

Finding a company that will give you the same perks with a one-year is difficult. I'd just take a two year. Also, consider who has 3G data in your area, 3G means fast internet and email speeds at no added cost. AT&T is lagging behind VZW and Sprint in their rollout right now, but is pretty good.

Stay away from T-Mobile. Seriously. I signed up when I was out of contract with AT&T and it was a huge mistake. Sure it's cheap, but it doesn't work in half the areas I go. Once AT&T/Apple bring out the 3G iPhone, I'll bite the bullet and pay the ETF to go back to the good service of AT&T.

As for the phone you choose, for Sprint, check out the Instinct that's coming out. It's an iPhone knock-off but it's not too bad. I'd really suggest you give the BlackBerry another shot, I've had multiple BB models and loved them. It's an acquired taste, but try it again. Currently I have an iPhone w/ AT&T so I'd suggest giving that a shot if you think you'll be interested in going online much. Rock-solid stability and interface too.
posted by cgomez at 2:22 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have been very happy with T-Mobile.

If you are concerned about coverage, look at the places you commonly go and check with others in your area. If you are concerned about price, check into the cheapest plans at the right price points. The cell phone companies all suck in pretty much the same ways, just in slightly different amounts. You should consider what is important to you (price, coverage, high speed of data services, customer service) and work from there. Don't trust what others say too much, as pretty much every cell phone company out there has millions of lovers and haters. It sounds like you are new to making decisions about these things on your own, so don't let others tell you what to do - make a decision for yourself. Try the various comparison sites. I haven't looked recently at what the popular ones are, but there are a bunch, and I am sure that others will recommend some.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 3:06 PM on May 20, 2008

I've also been very happy with T-Mobile. Check out their nationwide plans online—they usually have pretty good specials, and they definitely offer various models of the Treo, as I recall.
posted by limeonaire at 4:19 PM on May 20, 2008

Sprint offers the "SERO" plan which is $30 for 500 minutes with unlimited texting and data.

Wrong. I have SERO and text messages are 20 cents a pop. Otherwise, it is a pretty freakin' awesome plan.
posted by Dec One at 4:22 PM on May 20, 2008

Dec One: From time to time, Sprint will offer unlimited text with SERO signups. They offered it when I signed up a year ago, and it looks like they are currently offering it.
posted by zsazsa at 5:29 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have SERO and have paid nothing beyond the standard 30 dollar fee. One notably unproductive month I sent over 800 texts.You can also tether the phone on EVDO and use it for broadband PC access as well.
posted by meehawl at 6:23 PM on May 20, 2008

Dec One said "Wrong."

posted by cgomez at 10:19 PM on May 20, 2008

You can use to find the best deal if you know approximately how many minutes/texts and how much data you will use.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:09 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ask your friends what kind of service they get off of their networks in your area and in places you'd like to go on a regular basis (i.e. large destination cities in your region, etc.).

I did all sorts of number-crunching and took copious notes on the pros and cons of different plans when I went from pay-as-you-go (Verizon) to a real contract plan and.....all that went out the window when I started asking around about where my phone would actually WORK.

Verizon has the "best network" on paper, but it didn't get ANY signal at my workplace, or at my parents' home several states away. I was excited about trying Sprint, but it got bad reviews for network "bars" available and dropped signals in my town from friends. T-Mobile, on the other hand, was cheap AND happens to have the strongest signal in the places where I actually want to make calls (home, away, work, etc.). FWIW, I've had a great experience dealing with their customer service as well, both in person and online.

That's for my geographic region, though; YMMV. That's why you need to ask around. The best cell phone plan is the one that leaves your phone a useless paperweight in the least number of places where you're gonna want to make a call. Getting a dial tone consistently (and not dropping calls all over the place, particularly if it's your primary means of making calls) is worth an extra $5-10 a month, trust me.
posted by availablelight at 8:46 AM on May 21, 2008

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