Advice on what new mobile phone to get?

(Need answer two months ago.)

I’m sure this subject has been done before, but recently?

ATT announced a long time ago that their 3G was going to die at the end of February, but around where I live that didn’t happen then. Just the day before yesterday, apparently it did. So it’s time for me to get a newer cell phone. I don’t even know what I should be looking for, or what questions to ask.

My current case: I have a “pre-paid” plan (what they used to call a “GoPhone”), for the last 10 years or so, where I pay a fixed quarterly amount of just $25 for 90 (I think) minutes of airtime, nearly none of which I ever use. It’s a totally dumb-phone that I only use for occasional communication when I’m on the road, and occasional text messaging. It can do internet, but so poorly as to be useless.

ALL I want is a mobile telephone and text messaging.

First, what G should I be looking for? 4G because it’s widespread? 5G because it’s the NEW thing? Both in one? LTE? I don’t even know what LTE is.

That $25 I pay ATT every quarter rolls over the unused amount every time. So after 10 years I have an account of about $600 there, because I use this phone so little. For the last two years, they have given me full-year extensions at NO extra charge because of that.

But because of this, I want to stick with ATT in the hope that I can get a newer phone and roll over this vast fortune.

The ATT web site, which is little more than a massive upselling sales machine, has just too much to choose from and too little information that I can understand about each phone and worse still, about each plan. It does look like their “pre-paid” plans cost about $100 a quarter now, up from $25/quarter in my current plan. Even their cheapest phones and plans are laden with features and gizmos that don’t much interest me.

What should I be looking for? What questions should I be asking? What is the cheapest reasonable phone and plan I could get for my needs, that isn’t just cheep junk?

I suggest walking in to an AT&T store near you and getting whatever suits you.

Any phone made today will be modern enough to support LTE and/or 4G. Sounds like you have no use for bleeding edge tech so no need for 5G (especially since you do not use much data except to send text messages). No need for 5G speeds. 4G/LTE is more than enough.

They will try to upsell you. Don’t let them. Ask them to show you the cheapest phones in the store.

EDIT to add: Do you need a smartphone with a screen or will a flip-phone suffice?

Is 4G widely available and certain to be around for a good while to come?

The ATT stores are mostly franchises, not native ATT stores. Are those a good place to shop? (Around here, there is a native ATT store that doesn’t really have anything to sell, they just to customer service and not even much of that. There is a franchise store a block away.)

Can I get a new phone and roll over all my accumulated account and keep the same phone number? I know, I need to ask them that. The question is how to ask and have any confidence of getting an honest and straight answer.

And a catch: They just sent me an automated e-mail telling me (somewhat ambiguously) that the account is closed now. WTF? Yeah, they seem to have shut down their 3G, but auto-closing my account? Before I even call them to ask, I’m trying to over-think how to deal with the likely runaround I’m going to get about that.

ETA: Just saw your ETA. The dumbest phone ever made should be good enough. My current phone doesn’t flip, has a postage-stamp size screen and a real keypad with real buttons. But I suppose a flip-phone with a bigger screen will be fine.

Since it seems you want the most basic phone with no features other than being able to make a call and send text messages below are a few ideas.

All are flip phones and about as inexpensive as you are likely to get these days (but don’t let that stop you from shopping around). All claim to be unlocked (so can be used with any carrier) so any carrier can activate the phone and make it work on their network. Sometimes you can even do that from home but go to a store if you want help. They can sort it out in minutes.

4G/LTE is likely to be around for a long time. 5G is the newest thing and faster but it has some limitations, is not as widely deployed, and the vast majority of phones out there are 4G/LTE. 4G may go away some day but not any time soon. And, since you barely use data (text messages are tiny amounts of data) you have no need for 5G speed.

NOTE: I have not used any of the phones below but some sites recommend these. I am sure there are others. These are just some ideas.

Thank you for this advice. As I wrote, the offerings are bewildering, at least as seen on the ATT web site which exists just to upsell. Even more bewildering that the physical phones are the available plans, which are only sketchily described.

I guess I got to spend some time shopping around. Ugh.

I’d recommend getting a smart phone (the ones with a flat panel screen) but for your use the flip phone seems what you are used to and happy with. Totally up to you.

Yeah, seems like a flip phone is what I’m thinking of. A dumb phone. Something under $100 with a cheapish monthly service plan. Apparently it’s gone up to 4x what I’ve been paying. I don’t think I’d have much interest in a smart phone. I’m too old-fogey for that in my impending dotage.

Just for what it’s worth- I would avoid ATT at all costs. I’m currently trying to unlock our iPhones, and they appear to make the process as needlessly complex as possible. Customer support is infuriating to the extent that it exists at all. Grrrr.
/rant off

I have a Motorola. Each year or so they release quite a good budget phone with reasonably high specs, so if you want to advance your phone use or need to install some app or other beyond its default, it will be straightforward, reliable, and fast, while also undemanding.

A few threads I’ve posted on that might be pertinent -

The first has some of the then-current pay as you go T-mobile plans, as well as some basic analysis of the non-primary carriers, the last is another user in your situation, and my last post has a link to a number of quality ‘dumb’ phones.

One word of caution, which will ALMOST certainly not be needed - if you get an unlocked phone you will probably be absolutely fine for most of your use. But, you will need to take a little more time researching to make sure that the bands it supports are the bands in the areas you will be using it. Almost never an issue for a basic call or text, but if it touches on data, it can get a lot more squirrely - like an MMS.

From the last time you asked that question:

Thanks for reminding me of that earlier thread, including the link. I thought I knew we (including me) had discussed this a while back, but I wasn’t sure if anything said way back then (what, two months ago?) would be still relevant. Technology advances so rapidly!

I have a spare prepaid phones in both cars because I occasionally forget to bring my primary. T-mobile charges 10 cents per minute/text message (minimum $3 per month), which is less than half of AT&T’s rate.

The only reason to consider 5G is because it probably will be around longer than 4G.

@Yelnick_McWawa , immediately above, touches on a related question that is perhaps of even greater concern: What mobile service provider should I wish to deal with?

By all accounts (without exception that I know of), ALL telecom companies have the worst plans and customer service of all – Every one of them is worse than all the others, which is mathematically impossible, but they manage it anyway.

This probably answers your question about which carrier you want. If you have that much of a balance, and they will keep rolling it over, AND you use it as little as you mention, then why throw it away. You’re currently rolling a $0 payment if we understand. All you need is a new(er) phone, move/resize your SIM, and pop it into the new phone. Still gold. $100 a year is still a great rate if you have to go back to your quarterly renewals for your usage.

For that matter, see if that $600 can be applied to a new phone - yes, the carriers charge a huge amount for their feature-lite phones, but if it’s from credit you already have…

Your remarks help explain why I am starting by posting these questions here. I am so cynical about the kind of customer support and up-sales-pitches I expect when I ask ATT about these things, such that before I even ask I already don’t trust anything they will try to tell me. So, before I begin, I want to have some ideas about what questions I should ask and what kinds of answers I should be expecting.

Everything you say about the $600 “investment” and rolling it over to a new phone and using it to pay for a phone – all that is stuff that I should hope will work as you say. But I want to be prepared for the (inevitable?) run-around I anticipate I will get.

Okay, call me cynical, everybody. You aren’t wrong.

There’s also this: The same day they finally shut off 3G (I think it was just this past Monday), I also got an automated e-mail from them suggesting (somewhat ambiguously worded) that my account has been canceled. That makes no sense at all. I need to call them and ask WTF that means. What are the chances someone on the customer support lines will tell me something that is (1) coherent and intelligible, (2) acceptable, and (3) accurate?

Fair questions. When I worked for T-Mobile, I would probably have given you all of the above . . . but even when I left, they were in the process of making sales a performance metric - and that was in Tech support :roll_eyes:

So, giving you my best guess, you won’t get (1) as you’re likely to hit non-US based service, (2) will likely be probable as long as you push and (3) is a maybe. What I’d probably suggest is that you try one of the online chats - less time on hold on the phone, and you can copy the entirety of their communication as a hardcopy. That way, if there IS a future “that’s not what you promised” you have a copy of the exact communication to browbeat them with.

Again, guessing, I’m betting they’ve looooong since grandfathered the plan/program you were on, and may not choose to maintain it as they transition their service, especially if the subseller is no longer a distinct entity anymore. Whether or not the credit is applicable to anything is way beyond my ability to guess however.

What I’d probably advise is that you confirm which carrier the contract is with: ATT, a Prepaid Subsidiary, or something else entirely. Once you know, pick (with our help happily) a feature-lite phone from the carrier IF they will let you apply the credit, and in the same vein, pick a low cost plan from that specific subcarrier. With luck we can find something that will still only run you 20ish a month or a bit less.

If the $600 isn’t actually applicable in any way, then, yeah, I’d say only look at the monthly costs of what you can find. Again, from my history, I’m much more familiar with T-Mobile, so I’ll share their current lower-cost/lower-service pre-paid plans:

Which, at it’s cheapest (and should be plenty for your needs) is $10 per month (before taxes and fees sadly). And that’s 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1 gig of data. So a touch more than the $100 a year it looks like you were getting, but a lot less than $20 per month you might look at on some other prepaid plans with more of, well, everything.

Okay, I spent a good 3 hours today trying to “research” ATT offerings on-line, and I can see I’ve only scratched the surface. There are too many details, and the stuff it seems I would need to know is scattered hither and yon.

(It’s taken me a few days because I got suddenly deluged with a shitload of other minor-ish emergencies to deal with in addition to this one.)

For example, I see a cheap(ish) plan and a cheap(ish) phone to buy. NOWHERE did they bother to mention that the phone comes without a charger – I will have to buy that separately. I only discovered this fact when I chanced upon some Q&A page that mentioned it.

But there are a whole bunch of phones I could choose to buy, and there is a separate page of “accessories” with a couple dozen different chargers I could buy – and they don’t mention up-front which chargers work with which phones. I had to dig deeper to find their “compatibility” page with that information.

Apparently my late lamented plan is defunct (I think) although it’s prepaid through next December. Maybe I could get some of that applied to the new plan I will have to buy. But NOWHERE have I found instructions on-line to buy a new plan and a new phone and apply what’s left of my old account to that.

I did find an ATT forum where the users are griping about everything ATT. One commented “ATT is still doing everything they can to irritate their customers”.

ETA: I can see that this thread will very possibly be a full-on Pit Rant before it’s done.

Just go to the AT&T store and talk to a rep. You’re making this too hard on yourself.

I agree but be careful. In my experience the people working those stores are worse than used car salesmen. I got upsold big time by the woman I dealt with.