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Mint SIM vs. Red Pocket: Which carrier has the better $240 annual plan?

If you're willing to pay for a year in advance, you can score a pretty robust plan. So which carrier offers more bang for the buck?

red-pocket-unlimited-plan-240

Red Pocket Mobile

Psst. You with the phone. How does a $20-per-month service plan sound? With unlimited everything and 5GB of LTE data? Pretty great, right?

Here's the catch: You have to pay for a full year up front. So pony up $240 right now and you're good to go until April, 2019.

You may think I'm talking about Mint SIM, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) utilizing the T-Mobile network. Mint SIM has long offered some of the best amortized rates around. And you're right -- but I'm also talking about Red Pocket Mobile, which just unveiled a seemingly identical plan via its Ebay store: One full year of service for $240.

How identical? Both plans net you unlimited calls, text messages and data, with the first 5GB of that data being the high-speed (aka LTE) variety.

So, assuming you've got $240 to spare, which carrier is the better deal? Let's take a closer look at what your amortized $20-per-month buys you.

Network

As noted, both of these services are MVNOs, so they are piggybacking on the network of one -- or more -- of the existing big 4 wireless services. Mint SIM runs on T-Mobile's network. As far as phone compatibility is concerned, that means you can bring most unlocked GSM phones to the service. In the US, that would be an unlocked phone that works on T-Mobile or AT&T.

Red Pocket Mobile offers broader phone compatibility because it taps both GSM and CDMA networks (the latter would be Verizon, Sprint and their MVNO partners). That means you can bring just about any unlocked phone to the service, including those from Sprint, Boost, Virgin Mobile, and Verizon. Just be sure to read the help section for clarification on phones already active on Sprint or one of its MVNOs.

You can check compatibility for some phones on both services, but note that you'll need to provide identifying details from the devices and/or the SIM cards. At least both sites are using secure HTTP, however.

Check compatibility for Mint SIM

Check compatibility for Red Pocket Mobile

Features

Whenever you're switching from a big four carrier (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) to an MVNO, make sure to check the features you probably take for granted -- like visual voicemail and the ability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot.

Mint SIM, for example, doesn't support visual voicemail at all. Mobile hotspot functionality is available, but only for Android users.

As for Red Pocket, you can get visual voicemail if your phone is running on their CDMA network, but not if it's on GSM. Same goes for mobile hotspot: It's included if you're on CDMA, but only Android users can leverage it on GSM.

Extras

As you might expect based on the pricing, these are pretty bare-bones service plans. However, Mint SIM includes free calling to Canada and Mexico, while Red Pocket lets you call those countries and over 60 others (including China, India and the UK).

Beyond that, well, don't expect free Netflix, unlimited Spotify streaming or anything like that.

Verdict

So is there a clear winner in the clash of the $240 annual plans? Red Mobile does have a slight edge, with broader phone compatibility and the free international calling. But if you're bringing a GSM phone (one from AT&T, T-Mobile or most international carriers) to the party and you don't need to call overseas, it's kind of a wash. (I do think it's a hassle, and a bit of a head-scratcher, that Red Pocket offers this plan online via Ebay, and not on its standard plans page.)

fluance-rt81

Fluance

My question for you: Are you game for this kind of prepayment option (which is somewhat akin to a 12-month contract), or would you prefer to pay a higher monthly rate with the knowledge that you can switch carriers at will?

a-river-in-darkness-cover

Thrilling read, free for a limited time.

Amazon

Bonus deal: Happy World Book Day! Comes earlier every year, am I right?

Yeah, I'd never heard of it, either. But Amazon has, and for a limited time it's offering nine free Kindle books from around the world.

I recently read the first one, "A River in Darkness," and it was riveting, enlightening and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it (even if you miss the chance to get it free).

What's not to like? Grab some great ebooks from international authors and expand your horizons -- without spending a penny!

Bonus deal No. 2: Speaking of made-up holidays, tomorrow is Record Store Day! So go hug your local shop that specializes in FBC (flat, black and circular).

Haven't joined the vinyl movement yet? For a limited time, and while supplies last, you can get the Fluance RT81 turntable and a free RT10 carrying case for $249.99. That's after adding the RT81 to your cart and applying promo code RSDCNET -- at which point the case should appear.

The latter is for your records, by the way, and it normally runs $50. As for the record player, it's definitely a premium job, with all the things audiophiles crave.

So break out those old Police albums and indulge your inner hipster!

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phonesgadgets 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 Facebook and Twitter!