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Phones

Get an unlimited no-contract phone plan for $45

Rok Mobile's new option costs at least $5 less per month than any other unlimited-data plan -- and comes with a surprising extra. Plus: $230 off a loaded iPad Pro and $17 for an amplified TV antenna.

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Twitter!


rok-mobile-unlimited-plan

Rok Mobile's new plan undercuts Sprint by $5 a month. You can use that savings to buy them some vowels.

Rok Mobile

How much data do you typically consume in a month? The average is somewhere around 3-4GB, in which case Cricket Wireless offers arguably the best deal around: $35 a month (with autopay) for a plan that includes 4GB of 4G LTE data. Cricket is a GSM carrier, however, and 4GB may not be enough for everyone.

Indeed, if you're packing a Sprint-compatible CDMA phone and you like to stream a lot of video, you're probably more interested in an unlimited plan. Verizon charges $80 per month for the privilege, while Sprint is quite a bit more affordable at $50. But now there's an even better deal.

Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Rok Mobile just introduced an unlimited Sprint-network plan for $45 per month. That would save you $60 a year over Sprint and $420 over Verizon. What's more, that plan includes 24/7 roadside assistance -- kind of a weird extra, but also a pretty nice perk if you don't already have AAA or the like.

Rok who-now?

Rok Mobile has been around for a few years; the carrier's early claim to fame was a bundled music-streaming service, but that option is no more.

Instead, you're basically scoring Sprint's $50-a-month plan for $45 a month and getting the aforementioned tow-truck benefit.

That plan includes unlimited voice minutes, text messages and 4G LTE data. Is the data really unlimited, though? Rok "may reduce to slower speeds after 20GB of LTE usage," according to a company rep. That's a common practice; I'm pretty sure Sprint does likewise after 22GB.

Another common practice: Rok's "Data Stretcher" streams video at a lower resolution so you consume less data. Curiously, however, this works only on Android devices, according to the carrier's FAQ page.

Speaking of phones, you should be able to bring any unlocked, CDMA-compatible model to Rok, though of course you'll need to do an IMEI-number check before signing up. It's worth noting that many modern phones (Google Nexuses, some Samsung Galaxys, late-model iPhones, and so on) can work on both GSM and CDMA networks, so if you were previously with a GSM carrier, you should be able to make the move.

Deal or no deal?

The other consideration, of course, is coverage. For many users (myself included), Sprint coverage is, um, not excellent. Rok notes that it now leverages both Sprint and "the nation's most reliable other CDMA network," which is MVNO-speak for "Verizon."

This particular plan is specifically identified as a "Sprint Unlimited," however, which suggests to me that you'll be limited to Sprint's network only. I asked Rok for clarification on that; the answer I got was a little vague.

But here's the beauty of no-contract services like this: You try it out for a month or two, and if you're not happy, you move on.

Your thoughts?

Bonus deal: It's not exactly an impulse buy, but if you've had your eye on a big iPad, here's a significant savings: For a limited time, and while supplies last, BuySpry (via eBay) has the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular for $799.99 shipped. Apple charges $1,029.

vansky-amplified-antenna

Pull in local stations (hopefully) with this amplified antenna.

Vansky

What's the catch? These are new, sealed iPads, but apparently they're also the "European model with US charger" -- meaning no discernible difference from the US model, at least according to the seller. And it comes with a full Apple warranty. So if you want the premium, loaded iPad Pro 12.9 for the price of the entry-level model, here you go!

Bonus deal No. 2: Ditching cable usually means ditching local channels -- unless you connect an antenna and take advantage of your TV's built-in tuner. (You remember antennas and tuners, right?)

OK, but can one of those flat, plastic antennas really do the job? Depends on where you live, how the antenna is positioned and other variables. But here's your chance to test-drive the setup on the cheap: Vansky's transparent indoor amplified antenna is $16.99 shipped (with Prime) when you apply promo code IIJUEF17 at checkout.

Promising to pull in channels up to 50 miles away, this mostly see-through antenna will work best when mounted high up on a window. How far do you live from the stations in your area? Visit AntennaWeb to find out. Products like these can be very hit-and-miss, working great for some folks and poorly for others. Fortunately, Amazon makes it easy to return items that don't work, so you've got nothing to lose by trying.