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August 13, 2008 3:58 PM   Subscribe

What cell phone plan should I take in BC, Canada?

I am about to enter into a new contract and want a phone that I can also use to do email

I am incredibly confused as to the options for Canadians. All I want is to be able to either visit or use some sort of outlook type program to send and receive emails. A bonus would be being able to use wikipedia or google.

When I talk to the customer service agents, they talk to me about portals and things that I should understand but don't.

posted by ouchitburns to Technology (11 answers total)
In order to help you better, it would be helpful to know your requirements in terms of voice, as well as the amount of money you're intending on spending (both as a monthly fee and on your actual phone). Sometimes, you can get a better deal on a combined voice+data package (also, if you'd like to share a plan with your SO or family member, there's usually a pretty good discount).

I did a bunch of research on this recently. Essentially, there are data-capable phones that you can get Unlimited Browsing on (from Fido, generally considered to be a budget provider but with poor availability outside major metro areas, this is $7 per month). This is WAP only, and you can only use the built-in browser on approved phones. The experience is pretty crappy, and isn't really worth the slightly more expensive phone and $7 per month, IMO. However, as far as I know, you'd be able to access gmail and wikipedia.

On these phones, you can also get non-restricted internet access for ridiculously high prices for ridiculously low amounts of data transfer.

If you want a 3G smartphone (the ones with full keyboards and full, non-restricted internet access), I'd highly recommend Rogers or Fido. They have decent combined voice+data plans for the newer 3G smartphones, as well as a 6GB for $30 add-on option.

Steer clear of Telus or Bell. They'll screw you with charges for incoming text messages.
posted by mebibyte at 4:26 PM on August 13, 2008

I use Telus. I have a Nokia 6265i that I can use to surf the web without using EVDO, but it's slow, via Wireless Web. Runs $7/month in additional to my calling plan. I've used it to surf Metafilter and Wikipedia. Again, slow.

You'd probably be better off getting a Blackberry if you mean to do any serious surfing with it. Telus has the Curve 8330 for $150 with a 3-year plan. You get access to Gmail, Facebook, and so forth with it. They have a special promotion that gives you unlimited web and voice for three months, but the web plans aren't cheap. The top end plan is $100/month for e-mail and web alone with a limit of 1 GB transfer.

That's on top of your voice plan; I pay about $45/month including all fees for my voice plan. I use my phone rarely, but that's about the least I can pay without having to worry about one or two long calls hitting me for extra charges. Better to pay $45/month than to pay $35/month half the time and $120/month half the time.

And that's pretty cheap for Canada. Canada is amazingly expensive for handheld web access.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:27 PM on August 13, 2008

There are three dominant cellphone providers in BC:


Rogers and Telus offer similar and similarly priced services; Bell can be cheaper, but it can have poorer coverage.

If you want to connect to the Internet and use webmail like Gmail, you should be aware that Canadians pay higher prices for mobile internet usage than in the United States, so it's important to shop around for a good data plan (that's what you should be asking your customer service agent).

I myself am considering purchasing a Blackberry Pearl in a couple of months; Blackberry has good, out-of-the-box email synch and a crude Internet browser, as well as mobile Google apps. relative has a good plan on Bell with the HTC Touch (a Windows Mobile machine).

When talking to customer service reps, just focus on the data (how much are you going to pay to do what) and then figure out what kind of phone you want.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:31 PM on August 13, 2008

Response by poster: gah!

I have bargained with Fido for $42:

100 daytime / 1000 evening and weekend
unlimited texting
unlimited incoming calls
call display
unlimited WAP whatever

Virgin has the same deal-ish for $48

I want to know which between Virgin and Fido has a better internet plan because I am completely unable to figure it out. The Virgin plans seems to involve unlimited Web Access, but I am just not sure.
posted by ouchitburns at 4:50 PM on August 13, 2008

If you can get your plan adjusted for unlimited evenings and weekends, try to do so. 1000 minutes sounds like a lot, but it's only about half an hour a day of outgoing calls. That $7 "Mobile Web Access" plan isn't access to the web; it's access to a subset of the web, I think, with your gmail access via POP.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:55 PM on August 13, 2008

I'm a Rogers customer, and I would recommend them. They have some technology on their side: they genuinely do have the most complete coverage in Canada, and they offer sim-card-based service over a 3G network. Fido is owned by Rogers and uses the same network, so if you're in a Fido area, you should make your choice based on price.

Since it's a sim-based service, you don't have buy a device from Rogers/Fido if you don't want to. You can buy any 3g-compatible "unlocked" phone, even second hand, and insert the sim card Rogers gives you into the phone. "Unlocked" means the phone doesn't have restrictions limiting it to a single cell provider. Typically you can't get a decent phone at a decent price from Rogers (or anyone) unless you sign a contract. Providing your own phone gives you more flexibility in that regard.

Roger's network is reliable and brisk. I can't claim first-hand experience with Telus' or Bell's data networks, but I hear far, far more complaints from those companies' customers than from Rogers'. And more compelling complaints, as well.

Roger's is a terrible company with a track record of mis-leading marketing & belligerent customer service and I have personally found them nearly impossible to deal with over the phone. Their website is either poorly built and utterly unhelpful or is a work of exquisite genius designed to keep customers from ever changing anything. Rogers will insist upon you extending your contract with any change to the service or (Rogers-supplied) hardware you use, and they make it virtually impossible to discover the prices of services, let alone sensibly compare packages and price-points to one another.

But they are Canada's best cell-service provider, so I recommend them. Sigh.
posted by chudmonkey at 4:56 PM on August 13, 2008

Read the fine print about internet services. My Rogers plan has that but closer reading also sees that it doesn't cover any 3rd party app. Hence no Google apps. Use of 3rd party apps kicks in at 15 dollars/for the first 5MB. Even w/ their "unlimited mobile plans". It can get tiring using their slow browser to surf to and check mail.
posted by beautifulcheese at 4:58 PM on August 13, 2008

The internet access that both those Fido and Virgin deals are offering are not really in the spirit of what you asked about, I don't think. Maybe you can't get what you want for your budget, but WAP internet access always gets you filtered versions of pages that are (always? or just usually?) devoid of graphics, and even the best wap-specific subsites that the major content providers have developed are lacking in any interactivity; useless for gmail and aggravating for googling things or reading wikipedia - both things I've struggled to use it for.

With that said, they seem like decent, typical deals. Make sure that "unlimited incoming calls" means that you have unlimited minutes during incoming calls and not simply that you can receive an unlimited number of calls.

I don't want to be a douchebag who recommends outlandish things with no regard for budget, nor do I want to come across as flaunting my own over-priced doohickey, but if the iPhone offering from Rogers is do-able, then I really think you'd be happy with it. The 6gb/month for $30 is the best data deal any Canadian provider has offered, ever. The browsing experience is terrific, and suffers none of the typical internet-on-cellphone limitations except not supporting Flash. and the phone itself is more elegant and easy-to-operate than most, even if it doesn't quite live up to the hype. I've been using mine since October and it still makes me happy, which is rare for a gadget in my world.
posted by chudmonkey at 5:11 PM on August 13, 2008

Keep in mind that WAP browsers really suck. They're painfully slow even on the "mobile" version of websites.

Everything chudmonkey says about Rogers/Fido is spot on. They're awful, but they're better than Telus or Bell. Fido is actually the better of the two, since their evenings start earlier and they bill by the second (Rogers rounds up to the next minute, even if you're only two seconds in). Weird their conditions are separate since Rogers owns Fido, but that's the way it is.

Also like chudmonkey, I picked up a iPhone, but I got a 3G one about a month ago. The speed of the 3G network was actually surprisingly fast in both Vancouver and Victoria. My fiancée went to Victoria last weekend and being able to use the GPS + Maps application to get directions, find restaurants, etc. was insanely useful.

The $30/6 GB is actually a pretty good deal, but (of course, because it's sodding Rogers) it requires a 3 year contact and is supposedly going away at the end of August. It's geared towards iPhones, but doesn't require them, so it would be possible to buy a cheap N95 in the states or something and use the 6G plan with it.

I think Bell and/or Telus has unlimited email plans with Blackberry-esque phones. If you only care about email and not web browsing, that might be worth investigating.
posted by Nelsormensch at 10:31 PM on August 13, 2008

GET A BLACKBERRY!!! I signed up in Feb with Telus, got a free BlackBerry Pearl (the small one) I am posting to metafilter from my phone right now! Anyway, if you sign up for a $30 a month plan, then you can add unlimited email (includes data too, like gMail, gCal etc..) for $15. So for $45/month I can surf, download, do my online banking, even sync my gMail with by BlackBerry, laptop, desktop and webmail! I love it - wouldn't give it up for anything. Oh, and did I mention that it had a GPS. I've downloaded google maps so now I can map directions on the go and even get sat images of the area! Oh, and if you care the BlackBerry's sold in Canada are even made in Canada!
posted by saradarlin at 10:20 PM on August 14, 2008

Oh, and I should mention that Telus adverts say "unlimited email" but it is actually unlimited data!! For real, just ask the guys that work there. Their internal docs say data. I've had no problems for 6 months.
posted by saradarlin at 10:54 PM on August 14, 2008

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