I do, too! That’s why I’m thinking about changing cell phone service providers. 🙂
As a long-time Verizon Wireless customer, the thought of switching providers made me a little queasy, but I decided earlier this year that I wanted to cut spending in this category.
Let’s be honest about iPhones.
Before age 18, the phone I used was attached to a wall in a house. Can you believe it? A phone in a house. No GPS. No Siri. How’d I ever manage? 😉
Humans have lived (and many still live) without 100% connectivity. Breathe. You can tweet later, Claudia.
I could get a home phone, which can be cheaper than a cell phone. I want a cell phone, but I’d like a lower bill. I’m even willing to consider a basic phone over a smartphone. Maybe even Google Voice and no phone at all.
Now that I’ve come to terms with my decision, I searched for lists of questions I should consider before switching service providers. This article from CNET helped me identify questions and concerns I should consider to help me be a little better informed.
- What’s the best network with nationwide coverage?
- What are the networks that serve my area?
- Which companies use which network?
- What plans do these companies offer?
- How much are these plans?
- Can I bring a phone with me or do I have to buy a new phone?
- If I sell my iPhone, what phones do these companies offer?
This is where I get super nerdy.
Do I need nationwide coverage?
While I’ve quit my job in favor of running my own business, Garrett has a location-dependent job, so we don’t travel that often. His three weeks of vacation in 2017 are planned–three trips to major cities. Consequently, I’m not that concerned about connectivity this year or next.
Since we spend 94% of our time in south central Pennsylvania, I set out to find the best network for our area. For this step, I went to RootMetrics to assess performance and coverage for Lancaster.
For this area, Verizon is the winner in terms of overall performance, but T-Mobile is a close second. Based on the notes from RootMetrics, it looks like T-Mobile’s LTE coverage has increased significantly, which is great news for iPhone owners.
Network reliability for Verizon is nearly 100% and T-Mobile is over 95%. However, for network speed, T-Mobile and Verizon reverse positions, likely due to T-Mobile’s investment in LTE.
Call performance is of concern. Verizon is at the top of the list and T-Mobile comes in last of the Big Four networks.
Do I need my iPhone?
When the iPhone 6 was released, it was part of an iPad bundle–“you buy the iPad and you get the iPhone for free” deal. Since this was two years ago in our inflated lifestyle days, this was pre-personal finance blogging. Post-personal finance blogging, I know that this phone was not free. I’ve been paying for this phone each month for the last two years during my contract. I’m out of contract now, so I can either keep the iPhone or sell it.
I’ve gone back and forth on this. Some days, I want a basic phone. If you read enough content online, you’ve undoubtedly read about smartphone addiction, black holes of infinite scrolling, and the need for screen-free days, my interest in a basic phone comes as no surprise.
But then something funny happens that I want to tweet and I need my iPhone. (FOMO, anyone?!)
What else do I use the iPhone for that I may not be able to do with a basic phone?
- Take pictures of cats.
- Use social media networking apps.
- Ask Siri to remember things.
- Send text messages.
- Listen to podcasts.
There was a time in my life that I didn’t do any of these things with a phone. I used a desktop computer to send messages. I wrote stuff down on paper that I needed to remember. I got by.
Could I use more of the features of an iPhone? Maybe. Am I using more features than I think I’m using? Possibly, but not likely. I look at the list of apps I use most frequently and it’s Mail, Twitter, and Safari–apps I can replace with their desktop equivalents if I switch to a basic phone.
How much does a basic phone plan cost and how much does the smartphone plan cost?
To find plans, I need to identify companies that will meet my needs!
In the months leading up to now, I read a lot of reviews for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) from other personal finance bloggers; Republic Wireless and Ting are well-known MVNOs and many bloggers love them!
Basically, MVNOs are companies that lease service from the Big Four host networks like Verizon and Sprint. Here’s a list of MVNOs on Wikipedia. I assumed I would go the MVNO route, but I decided not to rule out the Big Four right away.
If you click through to the Wikipedia link above, you’ll see which MVNO leases services from which of the Big Four networks. You’ll also see which MVNOs allow you to bring your own device. Super helpful!
I copied and pasted the table from the Wikipedia article to Google Sheets so that I could filter out irrelevant information.
Since AT&T and Sprint weren’t highly rated for my area by RootMetrics, I filtered those out.
I eliminated MVNOs that prevent me from bringing my own device. (Whether I keep the iPhone or not, I can find a cheaper phone on eBay.)
I filtered out anything that didn’t include LTE coverage.
At this point, I’m left with 41 options, so I tried to visit the websites of each to quickly differentiate one network from another. If I couldn’t quickly identify plans and pricing, I moved on. If the website didn’t explicitly state the plans are “contract free,” I moved on. If it was associated with a big-box retailer, I moved on.
Six hours later…
I’m down to 8 options with T-Mobile and Verizon in the mix.
Next, I put together a pricing table to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the plans offered by these 8 companies. For basic phone plans, I tried to use 1,000 text messages and 1,000 minutes of talk (or the closest option). For smartphone plans, I used the same talk and text needs, but I added 1 GB of data. In a busy month of texting, these numbers are accurate for me. If there was a discount for auto-debit, I included that.
Few companies offer the ability to port iPhones from another network. Uh oh. In fact, I found only 3 companies that met all of the aforementioned criteria AND that allowed me to port my iPhone. Here’s what I’m left with.
- Page Plus Cellular: $12/month for the basic plan + $2.57 for taxes & fees / OR $27/month for the smartphone plan + $3.96/month for taxes & fees
- Ting: $29/month for the basic plan & $45/month for the smartphone plan + $1.66 estimated for taxes & fees + $9 for a SIM card (one-time fee)*
- Verizon: $55/month for the cheapest phone plan (basic or smart)
*Ting makes you pay for what you use, so if you use less, you don’t pay as much. Here’s my first review of Ting Mobile that discussed the initial switch. I estimate I will pay about $30 per month, including taxes and fees, which is a savings of $300 per year.
I’m leaning toward keeping the iPhone and moving to Ting. I like this “pay what you use” model. Using a link from another blogger, my first month’s bill was about $0.
However, Frugal Claudia sees the value in selling my iPhone 6 for a couple of hundred bucks, purchasing a basic phone, and then using the difference to pay for several months of service.
Literally, two days after I finished writing this post, my iPhone found itself in a reboot loop. The Apple store gave it a look and said I should buy a replacement phone from them for $299. The Verizon store said this is why I should buy insurance for a new iPhone 7. Oh yeah, I am out of contract/warranty by two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Conspiracy, anyone?
Frustrated, I started to give real consideration to a phone-free life. No smartphone. No basic phone. Just Google Voice.
I can port my number to Google Voice and use Hangouts for my calls (no on-going fees, so long as I make calls in the U.S). If you haven’t looked into Google Voice yet, check it out. It’s amazing. Tons of features. Porting my number is a one-time fee of $20. I can sell my broken iPhone for $78 online, so I’m still in the black.
Every app I use has a desktop equivalent, so why not switch to a desktop phone service?
I’m a Ting customer! I ordered a replacement iPhone 6 from Apple ($299) and I ported my number from Verizon to Ting. **If you use my link, you can get $25 off your first bill at no cost to you!