How much do you pay for your cell phone monthly? I’m not on the most expensive plan, but I still pay nearly $80 a month. While the price of my plan hasn’t increased in recent years, primarily because I haven’t upgraded my phone, I still feel $80 is too much. On top of it currently being too expensive, if I decide to upgrade my phone at a subsidized price with my current carrier my monthly bill will go up (to about $100 per month), my unlimited data plan will go away and I will be locked into the carrier for another two years. So, over the past many months I’ve been agonizing over how I should change my cell phone plan in order to get a lower bill with reasonable cellular coverage. Here are some of the options I’ve come up with.
T-mobile has been one of the leading contenders for price and coverage. Their unlimited talk and text plans start at $50 per month with 500 MB of high speed 4G data and unlimited slower speed data after you hit the monthly cap. T-mobile has been pushing their ‘un-carrier’ branding, which is basically them trying to say we’re not like the other big carriers out there. The biggest difference T-mobile has right now is the customer pays for the phone outright. You can pay the entire cost upfront or finance it over a two year period. Once the phone is paid for you can cancel service at any time. It’s an interesting idea and much closer to the European cell phone market, but it still basically locks you in until the phone is paid off. With other carriers, long after your subsidized phone cost has been recovered by them you are still paying the same monthly price for your cell phone service. From a cost perspective, if I was to get a new phone and update my plan with my current carrier, it would cost approximately $900 more than going with T-mobile over a two year period.
The other potential contender is a relatively new company called Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator (or MVNO) like Boost Mobile or Virgin Mobile. MVNOs do not own the cellular network infrastructure, but lease the use of a cellular network to build their mobile operation. The unique selling points for Republic Wireless are the cost and the use of WIFI calling in addition to traditional cellular network calling. To start, you buy the phone outright. There isn’t much selection, but their top end phone right now is the Moto X which will set you back $300 (this is cheaper than buying the phone at full price from other carriers). From there you can pick from four different plans that go for $5, $10, $25 or $40. These plans range from being WIFI calling only to having regular cellular coverage with 4G data. Of those plans, the $25 plan fits my needs as I will get regular cell service with 3G data and access to Republic Wireless’ unique WIFI calling. If I was to get this same phone and update my plan with my current carrier, it would cost approximately $1600 more over a two year period. That is not an insignificant amount.
With both of these options there are drawbacks of course. T-mobile has decent coverage in the Reno/Sparks area, but I know when I leave metropolitan areas I will definitely not get the coverage I currently get with Verizon. Republic Wireless runs off the Sprint network, which is probably the last carrier I would choose if I was going for one of the four network operators (ATT, T-mobile and Verizon being the other three). Republic Wireless also has the downside of having virtually no phone selection and because of their unique WIFI calling feature the phone is locked to them and can’t be brought to other carriers. So, now I have to weigh the downsides, which are less financially impactful, with the savings I could have by switching to a different carrier from my current one. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do, but I’d love to know what you think and what your experiences have been with different carriers.