Advise me about smartphone and tablet data providers/plans

I’ve been considering getting a smart phone for a while, but I find that my ipod touch + finding a wifi spot meets most of my needs (combined with a prepaid cell because I don’t make many calls). Wasn’t worth the extra money to have a data plan.

But my new job would be aided a good bit by having a smart phone, so I’ve been rethinking this.

Work offered to get me an iphone 3gs through their business account, with the condition that it’s their phone, and that I can only use it for work related purposes. But after discussing it, if I wanted, I could chip in the extra money to get an iphone 4s, and then foot half the bill ($40/mo) and use it as both a work and personal phone. In the event that my employment ended, they’d transfer the phone/bill to me.

I’m thinking about it simply because it’d be nice to have a smart phone for my own uses too if I’m only paying $40/mo vs the normal $80, it’s a pretty good deal.

On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about getting an ipad 3 with data plan when they come out. There’s a rumor that verizon is going to release a plan that allows you to share the same data plan over multiple devices (currently you have to buy seperate data plans at $30+/month for each device). I’d hate to get locked into a 2 year deal with AT&T a few months before Verizon comes out with a much more reasonable plan. Or get stuck with a seperate smartphone and tablet data bill.

I also don’t really know much about the capabilities of either network. My current work non-smartphone (at&t) seems to get a good 3g signal everywhere, so AT&T seems adequate, but Verizon is reputed to be better in general. If the Ipad3 is LTE, how do their networks compare?

On the other hand, I don’t know if I can wait for this Verizon rumor to materialize to get something. Do you think they’d allow current customers to take advantage of multiple devices on one plan, or would it strictly be a new policy type of thing?

AT&T does provide a better mid-range data plan, 3gb for $30 rather than Verizon’s 2gb for $30.

What sort of advice can you give me to make a better informed decision about this?

Here’s an article about the pros and cons of AT&T’s data plans: http://www.pcworld.com/article/197992/atandts_new_iphone_data_plans_pros_and_cons.html

Another article worth reading about “throttling” users after 1-2 GBs: http://www.dailytech.com/ATT+Throttling+Unlimited+Data+Users+After+Only+12+GB/article24009.htm

I am biased against AT&T because I was a customer for nearly 3 years and they essentially screwed me over when my iphone was stolen, so I switched to Sprint. With Sprint I pay $80/mo for unlimited data and texts + 450 minutes (I hardly ever talk on the phone).

ETA: It should be noted that Sprint does not engage in “throttling” like AT&T does, probably because there are less people on the network. I was not impressed with AT&T even before my phone got stolen because I would randomly not be able to make calls/send texts and their explanation was “New York City has a lot of people.”

I’d advise against waiting for something that’s rumored to be “coming soon.” Even if it actually materializes, by the time it does, there will be *another *rumor about something even better.

Find your best deal now, take it, and accept the fact that it will be second best (or third, or fourth) within a month. That’s the nature of the industry.

I don’t really think that’s the nature of the industry in this case. I mean - the actual phones themselves - there will always be something better in a few motnhs. But in terms of the plans offered, those can stick for years, and you’re committing yourself to one for 2 years by choosing one.

Having family data plans (or multiple device data plans) is a fundamental shift in the way providers supply data - and it could potentially save me a rather large amount of money over 2 years if I could do that.

So your half of the iPhone 4S bill is forty bucks a month? I think you should accept the work-only iPhone 3GS and use your own phone for personal calls.

Isn’t the standard iphone bill somewhere around $80/mo? You could cut out the texting and mobile to mobile call packages, but it’s still going to be $40 for the minimum on minutes, $30 minimum data plan, and various fees.

But yeah since I rarely make calls I’m thinking maybe my needs would be better served by a data ipad plus a prepaid cell phone, so I’m leaning towards just letting work get me a phone. The only question then is if I want to chip in $200 to get a 4s instead of a 3gs. It wouldn’t be my phone - if I quit I’d have to give it back - but I’d be using it every day so if I’m with this job a while it might be worth it to have the more useful device.

Well, since you don’t make many phone calls, my plan might be good for you.

I use this Tmobile 30$ plan from walmart that gives me 100 minutes, 5 gigabytes(@4g speed, unlimited @2g speed) of data and unlimited texts. It’s 30$ flat. And even slightly cheaper if buy refills online. I think I average 28$.

http://instoresnow.walmart.com/tmobile.aspx

I just ordered the Sim chip from tmobile and popped it right into an international galaxy nexus (GSM, not CDMA like Verizon’s) that I bought full price. I’m not sure what TMobile’s policy is about data sharing (tethering). But I’ve done it on occasion and had no problems. I get anywhere from 3-8 megabits here in the Los Angeles county area. Fast enough for me.

Unfortunately this plan wouldn’t work well with the iphone since I don’t believe it has the same 3G bands as Tmobile. But there are plenty of android devices that’ll work great with it.

I have the same Tmobile plan (which is only available online or in WalMart, not in a regular Tmobile store) and a different Android phone and couldn’t be happier with it. Just last night I was at a friends condo, two people with $80-ish plans from AT&T and one with Sprint had NO cellphone signal at all indoors, and spotty/slow data, and had to go outside for a decent signal to talk. (They had a decent WiFi signal, but of course, since that’s right there in the house.) Meanwhile, my $30 Tmobile plan phone was at full bars for voice, and solid 8-10 Mbps on 4G data.

It is all dependent on which carrier has the best signal in the area that you spend the most time in. But this was in a major metropolitan area in flat South Florida where there really is no excuse for having a bad signal unless you’re in the middle of some huge cavernous building not equipped with repeaters. (femtocells/whatever the correct terminology)

And with that Tmobile plan, if you’re worried about only having 100 voice minutes a month, it’s only 10 cents a minute if you go over. You can also setup Google Voice (free) and an app called GrooveIP ($5 one-time cost in the Android market) to make and receive calls through either WiFi or the 4G data connection without using any minutes whatsoever. You can also get a second phone number (also completely free through Google Voice) to facilitate that.

My free Google voice number is my main number I give everyone for my cellphone, (only a select few people have my direct cell phone#, and even they know to call my Google Voice# as my primary number) and it forwards calls to ring my landline, cell phone voice, and cell phone data (WiFi or 4G) simultaneously. I can then choose which phone to answer - if I’m home I usually just answer the landline and talk without using any minutes. If I’m away from my home landline and any WiFi connections, I can still choose to answer my regular voice cell phone line and use minutes as normal, or if there’s a good 4G data connection (there usually is) I can answer through that and still not use any minutes while I’m out. The end result is that it’s actually hard to even use the 100 voice minutes a month, since anytime I’d be prone to have a long phone conversation I’m usually at home talking for free through WiFi. So if I’m out and about and get/make a call, I usually just use minutes for that since I’m rarely anywhere near going over 100 for the month anyway.

But if you’re deadset on an iPhone instead of Android, (though I don’t personally understand why) you *can *still use an Iphone designed for AT&T on Tmobile’s network, (both carriers use GSM phones with simcards, not old CDMA networks like all the others) but it will be limited to slower 2G speeds. I’ve also heard tell that iPhone has a similar app to GrooveIP, called Talkatone, that also allows calls through the data connection, but I don’t know if it’s as good as GrooveIP and can’t vouch for it’s performance. And you would pretty much have to use it through WiFi only, since the 2G data speeds you would be limited to with an AT&T iPhone on Tmobile probably wouldn’t be fast enough for streaming calls through data.

Sorry about threadjacking… but,

Do you find grooveIP to be acceptable quality? I find it pretty much unusable unless I’m actually at home on my wifi connection.

Did you do any special configuring?

I’ve also used Sipdroid and found it to be better. But still too unreliable for on the go calling. I’ve thought about buying a skype online number and having it route through my google voice. It’s the only VOIP solution I’ve found that has reliable quality on the go.

When I’ve got a good 4G signal it’s about the same as my wifi. I actually get slightly faster average data speeds on my phone than I do on my wifi at home. With a 4G connection, my phone averages ~6.5 megabits, usually swinging from 3.5 - 10+ megabits depending on signal quality. My DSL at home is a consistent 5 - 6 megabits.

And yes, I have tweaked the settings on GrooveIP a bit. Under “Settings” “Audio/Echo” “Echo Cancellation” I have the “Adaptive Echo Canceler” and “Post Processor” settings checked. Then under “Troubleshooting” I have “Audio Processing” checked.

I’ve heard that SipDroid has better fault tolerance with spotty connections, but if you have a solid connection GrooveIP/Google Voice is better.

Have you tried testing your speeds while on 4G? There’s a good free app called “Speed Test” made by Ookla that lets you test your speed and ping rate on wifi and data. Try that out and see what kind of speeds you’re getting. Since your phone isn’t specifically a Tmobile phone, maybe it’s similar to how AT&T/iPhones don’t connect at the highest possible speeds on Tmobile’s flavor of “4G”