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Is a non-contract cell phone service enough to make you switch carriers?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / March 26, 2013 8:10 AM PDT
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One second after my current contract expires I am GONE, GONE

We can cut our costs by over 50% by going to an unlimited, no contract plan. I lived in the Philippines for a few years where you could change carriers (if you wished) several times a day by simply changing your sim pak. The competition for your business was EXTREMELY fierce! Sure, you had to pay full price for your phone, but if you got just a basic phone the cost was minuscule! And I prefer to OWN my phone and be able to change carriers when the performance is substandard.........

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Two year contract - Not really.

A two year contract is not really two years until I decide to stay with a phone for 2 years.
I have a 2 year contract with AT&T that started in January of 2012 when I got a Samsung Galaxy S II for me and a standard flip phone (AT&T Z331) for my wife.Just yesterday, March 25, I "upgraded" to a pair of well reviewed HTC One X's for $.99 each. While there is a $36.00 "upgrade" fee for each line, that is a still a great price for a phone that is retail listed at $499 that is getting great reviews. Yes I did renew for 2 years but if I can change phones every year at a minimal fee it works for me.
I agree that I am paying a higher rate but as I have had a long term relationship with AT&T, I am "grandfathered" at an unlimited data plan for a low rate. Assuming I am amortizing the phone over two years, that equates to $25 per phone per month. But as I will probably only keep the phones for 1 year before flipping them over, My cost is still relatively cheap.
In addition there is a nice market on eBay for my phones and I will basically recover my additional cost within the next month. Could I have kept my Galaxy S II for another year and left AT&T next year? Yes but why?

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Made the switch years ago.

Having been on various plans since the early 90's, we made the switch several years back. We went from a cell bill of around $100/mo. to under $20/mo. Do I have all the features I enjoyed in my old plan? No, but to the tune of saving over $80/mo, I don't miss them a bit. I have better connectivity (far fewer dropped calls) than I ever had with any plan and we enjoy saving almost $1000/yr. Color me happy!

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No single aspect is enough to make a decision

The value of a service is determined by how much you get for how much you give.

If I give up a two-year commitment, I might gain in terms of special rates over that time ... or not. For me to compare a month-to-month with a two-year plan, I would need a projection of overall value. Perhaps the two-year plan offers cheaper unlimited texting, or a better international plan, or a better rate for families. If the competitor's rates are higher, but not much higher, the two-year company might contract to always match the rates of certain competing companies.

My guess is that company's like Verizon will start offering something like an "Easy Out", where you can drop out after a certain point without incurring a penalty, and offer persistence incentives for those who don't drop out, perhaps in the form of free apps (especially games) or other special services. It is also likely that will offer company-linked options that create dependence on the company (like Comcast's seven free e-mail addresses which would be a real pain to give up).

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Already switched...

On Virgin Mobile. Recently upgraded from LG Optimus V to iPhone 4S. Now $30 per month for 4 times the amount of minutes I typically need/use, unlimited data and text. The coverage may not be as great as Verizon, but it works every place I go (except parts of Montana and Utah, which isn't very often).

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Virgin Mobile
by pamelad / March 26, 2013 6:44 PM PDT
In reply to: Already switched...

Virgin Mobile user for about seven years. Never a problem with it, and it's cheap, cheap, cheap! You know Virgin Mobile runs on the Sprint network, right? Not as fast as AT&T, not quite as widespread as Verizon, but it almost always works for me. I've only had two dropped connections.

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I'm already on a prepaid plan

I have never used a contract phone. I started out with Virgin and have been with them for several years. Customer service will help in the decision making process. I've had good customer service with Virgin, and right now, I don't think i'd change, just have to wait and see. jmk

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Already on prepaid plans

I don't have phone envy therefore I'm not glued to mine and just use it for calls and an occasional text. I have been with net 10 for years. If you are happy spending large money on data etc. so be it. SemiRetired so 100.00 at 1500 min. gets me thru the year and then some. I generally use my Magic Jack for VOIP to do serious calling. Virgin mifi for trips and 40.00/mo. unlimited works fine in my travels. I'm no road warier and can understand having everything at hand so I'm not against smart phones by any means. I use messenger for texts as well as video calls and GoToMeeting are saving me gas money too.

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I will NEVER, EVER, EVER, have another contract...

Generally, I am in favor of free enterprise and capitalism. But I can make an exception for the whole telecom sector. My contract HAS expired and it's time for MUCH reduced costs AND they will stay competitive with no contract...

Who should I switch to to use my EVO with minimum cost ???

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Had a no-contract for several years

I never wanted a cell phone, but was forced into it by circumstances. So, I ended up with one. Net 10. Original phone cost was $20. Costs me about that per month (although multiple months can cost less per month). I use it very little. But the wife (known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) has one of those expensive ones (I have NO idea what company) and we've been many places where hers won't work, but mine will. Will I change? Nope. No reason to. And I will let SWMBO stew when hers won't work but mine does.

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Virgin Mobile

I switched to Virgin Mobile almost three years ago and have never looked back. I pay $27 per month for 300 minutes and unlimited data and messaging. I paid for an LG Rumor Touch up front, but made my money back in less than a year from my Sprint service at $65 / month. True, it is not a smart phone, but I can access my email, Facebook, and the internet and that works for me.

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It Depends on cost and coverage

I'm primary on a family plan for four. It costs a bunch of money, and we all get new phones (Android) as soon as we are eligible because we're paying the phone subsidy every month. It doesn't make sense not to. I would rather pay retail price for a new phone when the price and the phone are right, and pay less for the service (much less, but that's another survey), than feel pressured to get a new phones because the two years are up and I'm already paying for them.

On the other hand., I live out in the country, so my choice of carrier is dictated more by coverage than anything else.

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pre pays

I have had T-Mobile no contract phones for several years and by and large have fit my needs and the service has been reliable. However, I just recently switched to Tracphon bought on one of the shopping channels for the same price as T-Mobile received 40% more minutes, will get a better deal when adding more minutes and effectively received two new, current phones. Actually, you buy the phones and get the minutes included. So far the service has been mostly reliable and I am more than happy.

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From what I've seen locked phones only exist in America.

Everywhere else in the world (I've been to), buying a phone on a plan means you have to pay for that plan until it expires but you can walk out of the shop with your discount phone and buy and use any prepaid card or plan with another carrier unrestricted.

That means, if you have a phone in the family without a plan, you can buy your new phone and stick its sim card in the phone without a plan and buy yourself any plan you want with whoever you want for the new phone.

Travel overseas and you are unrestricted to using any pre-paid card.

Obviously, this is the way it should be world wide.

The only thing that's important is that the supplier gets the money for the period they require for the discout on the phone. All other factors should be irrelevant.

I can only assume that the method used in America is done because American phone companies don't trust Americans. That's just sad!!!

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Will a non-contract offer cause me to switch carriers -- No!

I have been with the same carrier (AT&T) for approximately 16 years. My service has been overall pretty good. I have travelled to Mexico, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, VI and had no problems using my phone. Of the places I have travelled where my service is not good, one place Verizon will rule and for another it will be T-Mobile with all of the others being not good. Switching carriers just means I would switch places with bad service. There is no point. I do not like to change equipment any more than I must so the two year contract is not a problem. It usually takes longer than that for me to want to change phones anyway. T-Mobile needs a business model that will allow it to make money over the long run so I cannot see how over an extended period of time, they will save me a lot anyway.

I will stick with what I have.

. . . . TA.

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I use TMobile prepaid. $100 usually lasts me 3-4 months.

I already use TMobile prepaid. I paid for my phone in advance and have an unlock code. $100 usually lasts me 3-4 months. Mostly rely on our ATT Uverse WI Fi for data on our phones. Downloading books and other text and map data in advance. When my phone calling will total more than $2/per day( 20 minutes at 10cents / minute). I buy a $2 / day plan for unlimited calls and text and 2G data or a $3 / day plan for unlimited calls and text and unlimited 4G data. I have an alarm set daily 10:20 pm, to remind myself to cancel the daily plans and return to $0.10 / minute calls and texts. Careful management and use of home or public wi fi can extend one's prepaid balance. My wife's phone used primarily as a e-reader and for home web access and some phone calls and texting has lasted over 9 months on her first $100. The hotel/motel chain at which we regularly stay has free wi fi provided in room. ATT wi fi/ internet subscribers have access to many ATT wi fi hotspots around the USA.

Selected apps which make use of downloaded data offline can minimize data needs. e.g. NavFree USA provides excellent GPS navigation.

TMobile's new rates might be good for heavy data users, but for me they are not attractive. It would be great if T Mobile would make tethering available to prepaid customers.@ e.g. $4/day.

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I'm on prepaid

I have a pay and go phone and it's on o2. It's a really simple phone and I don't use it that much so pay and go is all I need Happy

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Love My Plan

I love Virigin Mobile and never understand why $25 - $35/month without high taxes is not discussed more by Cnet and other sites. It is a no brainer. Of course phone selection is limited, but that is the only reason not to use this non-contract carrier..

I wonder if T-Mobile will keep corporate discounts on plans at 15% with new plans.

I have no problem paying phone up front or over 6 months (no interest). What I have a problem is with contract phones are the monthly rate and taxes.

Does anyone know why you do not pay those taxes on Virgin and Metro PCS?

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Until T-Mobile puts up it's own towers

it's a no-go for me. Years ago, I was impressed with T-Mobile, but their presence is virtually non-existant where I live, so it's not a good value for me. With our best provider Verizon (a new comer even) we still have too many null spots, so what is a carrier without any towers going to do for me. I would love to go with them, but until they make a full blown effort to cover us it won't happen unless I move to NM where I hear they are absolutely the bomb and I don't expect that to happen in this life time.

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been wanting this so bad

absolutely will change. & i love my carrier.. Sprint/ Credo Mobile. (Credo supports good causes). But I am so tired of having to re-up another 2 yrs every time one of my family members loses or breaks their phone. Yes, I know, phone insurance...but another monthly charge! I would just have the phone users on my plan get their own phone. .&...if it gets lost or breaks... if they don't want to buy themselves another phone.. I could drop them from my plan. But the way it is now is too much of a trap. Also, I think the price of all these phone will come down once this happens too because it's already mucho inflated.

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Been Gone for Over a Year

I dropped Verizon in February of 2012 and switched to Straight Talk. True, I don't have all the bells and whistles I had with Verizon, but my cellphone bill went from $110 a month to $30. That's a 73% monthly savings and with that in mind, I don't miss Verizon or their 2-year contract one bit. Straight Talk rules!!

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Already on a No Contract Plan

I voted in your poll, already on a no contract plan, I have a TracFone, I pay for minutes as needed. There is no up front cost, no monthly cost either. Why would I pay $40 or more a month for the use of a phone, when I only use 50 or 60 minutes a month.
Also, with Trac Fone I have an LG 800G so I can surf the web. Don't really need anything else.

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It depends on what other carriers do.

T-Mobile doesn't offer service locally (voice & text work through AT&T). Plus, I am currently month to month on a family plan that originated with Alltel before being purchased by Verizon, with unlimited data. Even T-Mobile's current plan would cost me more, and I would HAVE to buy new phones, even for those people in our plan who are happy with what they have.

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Yes, but...

I have to split my time between two opposite end of the scale markets. The major would be no issue and would save me beaucous bucks...however the minor is a roaming area for some of the larger offerers, and most of the smaller ones. So that has to be factored in along with the need for net access and subsequently hot-spot capabilities.

I spent six months reviewing those very options nearly two years ago, and am starting the same process again now. I would dearly love to drop my $200/mo bill down to the $35-50 range with the same or more service, but I have issues with overpriced initial phone cost vs. coverage and/or additional services (internet accessability, road service, phone insurance). Plus, realistic advances aside, I am not a 'must have the newest thing' person, and am really torqued about having spent so much time and energy choosing my current phone, which I am now used to and have invested accessories for, only to be told I cannot use it on a different carrier. They finally fixed the number portability (admittedly reluctantly), why not the equipment? Just how much money does corporate America need to steal??

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I wonder
by oterrya / April 1, 2013 6:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Yes, but...

$200 per month seems high. I pay far less for four phones including one unlimited data plan, one standard data plan and more minutes than we can possibly use. Since we have a back up pool of several thousand minutes, that would be another loss if I were to switch carriers.
. . . . T.

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To clarify,
by l8rb / April 1, 2013 9:55 AM PDT
In reply to: I wonder

As I mentioned in the opening line, I have to consider 'both ends of the spectrum' coverage due to my useage needs. Because of that I have a 'Big-Boy' sevice for my primary smart phone, which runs $100/mo plus taxes, That covers me fine 70% of the time, but when I am at the other location, their coverage and service is not-so-good. This is also a locale that has NO access to CATV or DSL, and limited view for satellite coverage (also expensive!) so I have to use a secondary company's phone for better cell coverage and to get internet access. That runs another $85/mo plus taxes. Ergo +/- $200/mo.

I would dearly love to have either A) better internet options, or B) a more level playing field of actual cell coverage, but we're nowhere near that yet due predominantly to a greedy yet wimpy government. But that's just my rack of socks to bear <];-}

But, Thanx fer your concern...!

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I see now
by oterrya / April 1, 2013 1:52 PM PDT
In reply to: To clarify,

My main line with an unlimited data plan (not sharable) uses up most of $100. The other three lines (that easily share my unused minutes), one with a small data plan for one of them increase the base by almost 50%. Since you need two essentially full bore (or close) accounts with two different carriers, it makes sense. My carrier works excellently in my home area. Since I am retired, usability other places is normally less critical. In our travels, at one resort I had to go down to the main lodge and out on its back deck to get good reception. One other place, I actually had to leave the valley the town was in and go to the top of a nearby hill to use my phone. In both places, I did have email from the resort included Wi-Fi so it was not too bad. I can see where it might be different if I were still working -- fortunately for me, when I was, it was always in large cities where I had no problem whatsoever with my carrier.

Yes, why can't these carriers get along and share a little bit better? That would make our lives easier.
. . . . T.

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If I may keep my number

The advantage of a contract is that, when I want to change, I may keep my number. Otherwise I would prefer a prepaid account. On a similar topic, I recently changed contract provider and calculated the difference in price between (a) buying a sim-free phone and a sim-only contract or (b) getting a traditional contract with a discounted phone. With solution (b), the "discounted" phone would have cost just under double what the sim-free phone would have cost - in other words, the "discount" was a surcharge of over 85% on the price of a new phone...

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I've been with ATT since cell phones got small enough to carry in a pocket.
Would I switch? In the blink of an eye! Except my 40+ daughter is a social media junky and requires the smart phone.
The biggest complaint I have is the DATA plan requirement. $30 a month minimum plan and if using Wi-Fi only 0 data plan is used. So data plan is not necessary, but we have to pay it anyway. Highway robbery!
My and my wife have cheap phones that make and receive calls. Is it really necessary that it do more? If I need/want to surf the net I fire up the old desk top or lap if traveling.

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Stop advertising on CNET

I wish CNET would not run commercials like this. I look to it for honest frank advice, not product or service promotions.

Of course it is better to buy an unlocked phone and then choose the cheapest prepaid service.

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