Finally getting a smart phone: which provider do you recommend?

Background:

I’ve had the same flip phone for about 10 years now, ever since hubby and I signed up with Verizon. But times have changed and we need to move up to smart phones.

I am happy with Verizon in terms of being able to use the phone anywhere without a problem. On our plan, though, we have to pay for every text we send and receive.

As far as choosing a plan, we aren’t going to be texting very much so unlimited data isn’t a big requirement. I’m more wondering if we should stick with Verizon in terms of value for our money. IOW, is there a provider with a better network in terms of where you can get a signal, etc.? Or a provider that’s really good for people who don’t need unlimited texting?

I’m trying to research this but there’s so many claims out there it’s really giving me a headache. I’d really appreciate on-the-ground experiences.

A recent thread. IME, unlimited texting is pretty much standard these days.

Texting and data are different offerings. Carriers used to offer unlimited data and charge for texts, but now they all generally provide unlimited texts and charge for data. This means that you don’t really have any choices to make about voice or text. (You also may find yourself texting more, since it’s much easier on a smartphone.)

The only question, then, is data. As I recall, most carriers will offer a default plan that includes 2 Gigs of data per month, but if you ask, they will generally have a 1 Gig option that is a few dollars cheaper.

I tend to think that the most important factor is good coverage in the places where you tend to use the phone most. Otherwise, it will be a constant frustration. If you are happy with Verizon’s coverage, then, you probably can’t go wrong by sticking with them. T-Mobile may be a bit cheaper, but its coverage may be spottier, particularly outside urban areas.

FWIW, woot.com (Amazon clearance outlet) is selling refurbished Galaxy smartphones today. GSM (ATT & T-Mobile) only though.

Check out Straight Talk. Unlimited Text/Calls, 5GB of data per month. $47 a month total - no contract. Works on ATT towers. You can supply your own phone or buy one from them.

Questions like the OPs really depend on how you use the phone. Texts are mentioned but nothing average month usage for voice or data.

E.g., we get by just fine with Tracfone pay-by-the-minute plans. Once a year I get a 30 minute “card”, they offer an extra year of service for cheap, I add that and for very little money we get a year+ of service with minutes rolling over. With my smartphone, there’s a certain amount of data to go-with, but I’m not really using that either.

And saying you’re “heavy”, “medium”, etc., user doesn’t mean much. Some people’s light usage is other people’s incredibly, amazingly heavy usage.

(Note my Tracfone-using smartphone uses the AT&T network. It was originally a Verizon phone(!) before I modded it. You can often go with “off-brand” provider if they properly piggyback on a major carrier.)

Straight Talk also has CDMA service over Verizon towers.

I’ve never been happier than with Cricket. I ditched my old iPhone/AT&T* plan, on which I was paying $120/month and still being charged for every text and even voice overages some months. Now I pay $35/month for unlimited text/calls plus 2.5GB data, which I’ve never come close to exceeding, and they gave me a perfectly nice Nokia Lumia 635 for free. As far as I’m concerned it’s superior to the iPhone in every way but style.

*I’m aware Cricket runs on AT&T’s network. Not sure why/how they’re able to do it so much cheaper, though no doubt I’d been wasting money for years by not bothering to look into a cheaper rate structure.

Same way MCI and Sprint were cheaper in the old long distance wars days despite using AT&T’s network.

You own a bunch of cell towers and some spectrum. These aren’t used 100% all of the time. You earn $0 on the unused part. Someone comes along and offers to pay you for piggybacking on that unused part. Now you’re earning money on something that earned squat before.

Okay, how much can you charge? If you charge enough that the buyer will have to charge their users the same as you, they don’t have a viable business so no one’s going to take the deal. So you have to give them a decent deal so they can make some money.

Another factor is that companies like AT&T are really good at milking long term customers*. They get people signed up and just charge them and charge them and charge them for years. Too many people are too naive to understand that being charged for a text at all is ridiculous, never mind what some companies charge.

People who like to shop around for a better deal aren’t going to make them money. Signing up, transferring numers, complaining about extra fees, etc. eats into profits. So let other companies have them.

*There are still tons of people out there with landlines paying a monthly in-house wiring maintenance fee that’s about 100 times more than what it should be, let alone generally unnecessary.

It’s largely branding. Like how I can buy Rite-Aid brand ibuprofen for like 10% of the cost of Advil, despite being the same thing.

That said, it’s only mostly branding. AT&T does cap the data rate of Cricket to 8Mb/s, which may or may not bother you (I’m guessing not): http://www.cnet.com/news/whats-the-catch-with-off-brand-prepaid-wireless-services/.

VirginMobileUSA also has this rate for phone, text and data. I’m not sure what limits there are on data because I don’t use much data, limited mostly to map directions and very occasional browser use. You have to buy your phone, of course - they do have some good Android phones (my LG Volt was $99) but if you want the latest iPhone it will cost you $550 and up. I think they use Verizon’s network, but I’m not sure.

well i suggest NOT going with tmobile… we didn’t have good signal soooo many places and their service just ended up costing a lot more… we switched to verizon about a year ago and happy that we did… would have been less even if we kept smart phones, HOWEVER… we switched back to flip phones because we were spending too much time staring at the browsers on those things and 1 we weren’t spending the time we were spending together, with each other… but rather basically with our phones simply sitting near each other barely communicating… yes, could be fixed by simply putting the phones down… but it was easier to just delete that option from the choices period… plus those phones were SO glitchy! half the time things weren’t working right… or it would randomly shut itself down all on it’s own… two different phones, two different manufacturers… the apps were always having a fit about this that or the other, when a call would come in and I’d swipe to answer -it decided not to work half the time… I could really just go on and on and on… worse of all I spent so much time browsing on that tiny screen it worsened my eyesight way quicker than the normal rate. we are SO much happier since we switched back to the older style phones and the batteries last way longer. I still have a camera on my phone in case i need it for some reason, but I usually don’t need it. when we want to search for something on or use the internet it’s an intentional act of pulling out a computer to do it with. But, with Tmobile I had such terrible reception sooooo many places I could not use the internet when i was out and about half the time anyway… so most of my browsing was at home anyway… so this has not really impacted/changed anything for me… since if I wanted to find info when out and about I’d have to wait til I got home anyway… and we have both owned vehicles that came with the navigation system in them for a few years now anyway so i don’t need that feature… which btw would randomly stop working in the middle of a trip which isn’t good when you REALLY don’t know where you’re going… and we are in our 20s and 30s and still elected to go back to flip phones so it’s not like I felt like dang this new techology I just can’t get used to it… i just thought dang this technology is ticking me off really bad and I don’t really need any extra aggravations in my life these days.

I also second cricket based on other people’s experiences they’ve had with them and told to me-military community so I hear a lot of reviews on a lot of companies all the time… I kinda wish we’d gone with cricket, honestly… but we didn’t and whatever… perhaps because we signed a contract with verizon, when that contract is up maybe i can get hubby to agree to at least let me switch to test it out… and then if I have a good experience then perhaps we’ll both switch? if I don’t like it… I could maybe just go back to verizon? hard to decide… verizon isn’t too much per month with flip phone though so i might be content to stay.

Cricket, TracFone, those, they all are great if you are on a tight budget and don’t mind constantly running out of data. Once you make the switch to smart phones, you may find yourself wanting to use all the shiny new features. Do you want to stream any movies/music/YouTube videos? You may want to go with a major carrier. If you discover the joys of Netflix for mobile, or if you check email or Facebook a lot, unless you only do these things over a wifi connection you can see your data allowance evaporate quickly.

IME, T-mobile’s signal strength seems to depend on the topography where you live. In the hilly East Bay area (California) reception can be hit or miss whereas in flat Phoenix there’s always a good signal. They did away with contracts a while back - it’s all month to month now - and I’m fairly satisfied with them as far as cellular providers go.

Virgin Mobile uses Sprint’s network.

It is crazy-making for sure.

Texting (as long as you’re not sending photos) does not use data. As another poster noted, many / most plans these days include unlimited texting.

We finally switched away from our grandfathered unlimited data plans (on 2 of our phones; the other 2 had 2 gig a month for 30 dollars apiece) a month or so back because we really weren’t using enough data to make it worthwhile. We switched to a plan with 12 gig a month which is way more than we’ve ever needed, unlimited calling and texting. I still hate giving up the unlimited data but the Veridiots had just jacked the price up enough that I really couldn’t rationalize spending a fortune every month now for data we might need years from now.

Verizon does seem to have the best coverage but they are NOT the cheapest. T-Mobile is about the only major carrier that still offers anything like unlimited data.