Prepaid Phone Plans for 2015
The prepaid phone market has changed a lot in the past few years. Prepaid plans used to be all about talk-minutes and text messages; today, data is the central selling point. Emphasis has switched from pay-as-you-go to monthly or even daily plans. But one thing hasn’t changed: carriers still don’t know the meaning of “unlimited.” Read on for details of the various plans available now...
Which Prepaid Phone Plan is Best?
The market shares of the Big Four wireless carriers are almost exactly reversed in the prepaid arena. T-mobile, the smallest of the majors overall, leads in number of prepaid customers (15.64 million in August, 2014). Sprint, long the prepaid leader, slipped to number two with about 15.19 million customers. AT&T had 11.34 million while Verizon claimed only 6.04 million prepaid customers.
I really don’t think Verizon wants prepaid customers. It offers two plans, both of which are horrible. Yes, there’s unlimited talk and text. But $45 a month buys only 1 GB of data; $60 gets you 2.5 GB at 4G speed; after that, it’s 2G speed for the rest of the month.
AT&T is almost as bad. Its cheapest “unlimited” voice, text, and data plan costs $45 and includes 1.5 GB at 4G speed before slowing to 2G speed for the rest of the month. $60 gets you a whopping 4 GB of data at 4G speed.
T-mobile’s Simply Prepaid™ plan offers unlimited voice and text, and three tiers of 4G LTE data: 1, 3, or 5 GB for $40, $50, or $60 per month. The 4G speed is capped at 8 Mbps. Exceed your 4G data allowance and you’ll grind along at 128 kilobits per second (ouch!) for the rest of the month.
T-mobile boosted its prepaid base by buying MetroPCS in May, 2013. Since that acquisition, MetroPCS has grown from 6,500 retail locations in 15 markets to over 11,000 in 55 markets. MetroPCS’ simple, “$X unlimited voice, text, and data, period!” marketing message appeals to budget-conscious customers; the price even includes taxes and fees. MetroPCS actually offers what I would call true “unlimited” 4G LTE data, for $60 per month. Other plans offer 1, 2, or 4 GB of monthly data usage, for $30, $40, or $50, respectively.
Shrinkage, Love and Throttling
Boost Mobile is another prepaid brand that has recently risen in consumer awareness; the brand name is used by two widely separated companies. Boost Worldwide, Inc., is a U.S. subsidiary of Sprint, and is not to be confused with Australia’s Boost Tel Pty Ltd. (although Boost Worldwide was founded by the Aussies who founded Boost Tel.) In the U.S., Boost Mobile’s “unlimited everything” plan starts at $50 per month; under the Seinfeld-inspired “Shrinkage” program, one’s bill shrinks by $5 for every six months of on-time payments one makes, up to a maximum total savings of $15/month. So you can get your bill down to $35 after 18 months.
Virgin Mobile USA is also owned by Sprint. Its “unlimited” plans look a lot like Boost Mobile’s. Virgin also offers a $20/month “WiFi Lover’s Delight” that is even more disingenuous than its “unlimited” plans. It works only over WiFi. Even so, you cannot use the Internet; there is no data allotment. You get unlimited text messages but only 300 voice minutes per month. What is there to love, exactly?
Republic Wireless remains my favorite among prepaid carriers. A similar but better deal – WiFi-only, unlimited talk and text, no data – costs only $5 per month. Forty dollars a month buys unlimited everything at the fastest speed available, be it WiFi or 4G LTE. No caps, no throttling, no nonsense. The same deal at 3G speed is just $25, and $10/month gets you unlimited data on WiFi only, with unlimited talk/text on WiFi or cellular network.
PrePaid or Contract? Some Tips to Help You Decide
Prepaid cell phones are great if you don't use your cell phone that much. They simplify the process of owning and using a cell phone by allowing you to buy the phone that you want and prepay for minutes, text and data that you will be using during the upcoming weeks. You don't need to have a credit card, you don't have to sign a contract and you can cancel your relationship with the cell phone company at any time. Some prepaid plans allow you to bring your own phone. Others require you to purchase one from them, and the selections may be limited or dated.
Prepaid can be a good deal for singles, or if you want to give a cell phone to a child or senior who will only need it on an occasional basis. But if you have a family of 4 or 5 mobile phone users, a contract deal may be best for you. It all depends on how much you talk, text and the amount of data used.
Here's my advice... talk to friends or neighbors in your area, and find out which carrier has the best signal and coverage in the locations where you plan to use the mobile phone. It's not uncommon for phones from one carrier to work great in a certain location, while another carrier has a weak signal or none at all. Then use the information above to compare the pre-paid plans offered by the cellular companies that have good service in your area. Try a pre-paid cell phone for a month or two, and see if it makes sense for you.
Do you have something to say about prepaid wireless phone service? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 May 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Prepaid Phone Plans for 2015 (Posted: 7 May 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved