Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ditching My Cell Phone Contract

I’ve had Sprint for about 4 years, AT&T and Verizon before that.  Sprint has the best customer service of these companies and offers some good plans.  Here’s the downside- their high speed data.  They offer unlimited data but it’s not worth anything when I can’t access it and when I can it’s so sporadic and slow that I can’t use it.  My plan gives me 450 mins of talk time (cell to cell, any carrier is free; after 7 is free), unlimited data and unlimited text.  Due to a misunderstanding about Google Voice integration (I ran up an additional $70 bill based on erroneous information given to me by Sprint customer service), Sprint gave me an additional 300 mins every month for as long as I am their customer.
That’s what Sprint gave me for $80 per month.  So I decided to look around and here’s what I discovered- there’s a better way.

 I looked around and decided to buy a Google Nexus 5 unlocked phone  I’ve had good luck with the Nexus phones, they’re usually updated quickly and the price, $349 for a 16 GB unlocked phone that I can take almost everywhere was pretty convincing.  Your mileage may vary and you may not need a phone that accepts a SIM card, but for my plan, I did. 
So, phone ordered, I looked at prepaid, no contract plans.  There are lots of them out there but I was looking for specific things.  Unlimited calling, unlimited text, and unlimited data.  I use my phone for a lot of things, tracking mileage, work hours, research, Facebook Page management, remote assistance and monitoring remote computers.  I was concerned about data usage.  So, using Sprint’s online tools, I reviewed my historical data usage.  Even with doing all these things on my phone, I never exceeded 2 GB of data usage per month.  Armed with this data my choice narrowed.  Since my main complaint with Sprint was slow data speeds and poor data coverage in my area, I knew that was going to be a primary criteria for my search.

After reviewing coverage maps for T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T I decided on Straight Talk.  It uses AT&T cell towers and AT&T has 4G LTE coverage in my area.  It’s a nationwide plan with no roaming.  Unlimited text.  Unlimited data (really capped at 2.5 GB full speed- after that the connection is throttled until the beginning of the next billing cycle).  Sounded ideal for my needs.  I ordered the $45 Unlimited Nationwide plan and using a coupon code easily found online, ordered a microSIM card and a month of service shipped to me overnight(coupon for free overnight shipping), with tax it came to $55.76.

Easy instructions using the StraightTalk website had my phone activated and online in less than 10 minutes.  My seat of the pants testing shows that I have much faster data.  Call quality is just the same (excellent).  On the dog walk this morning (where traditionally I have no service), I was able to stream NPR weekend with no hitches or interruption and then stream music from my Google Music account with no hitches or interruption.

My plan is to use the service for another  week or two in different locales and examine the performance.  I still have my Sprint Galaxy Nexus and will test the connections of both phones at the same time and report back here with my findings.  But right now I’m thinking how happy I am that I will be saving $35 per month and having better service!
Look for my next article, How I Cut The Cord or Living Without Cable, coming soon!