Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to Choose a Cell Phone Plan

It can be incredibly difficult and complicated to choose an appropriate cell phone plan to suit your needs.

In the past it cost an arm and a leg to get a plan which committed you to thousands of dollars and  a 2 year contract.

The newer no contract phones and plans still cost money and may not deliver the goods.

Here, as in many places, there are 25 cell towers within 5 miles and much variability in coverage and carriers.

Over the years I have tried a lot of carriers and never been fully satisfied, even with a no contract T Mobile service which covered 3 phones in a family plan for $135 a month.

The problems were many. Right here at home voice service was spotty throughout the community, although very good in the shopping centre only a few miles away. You could get high-speed 4G service in downtown Lancaster but not here.

So recently I set down what I needed and decided to find out how to service those requirements. Ultimately I was able to drop the cost by half and get far better coverage.

What did I need? I laid down my requirements as follows.

Most essential was traffic coverage enroute somewhere. We needed to know where the hangups,would be in advance, and we needed quick alerts where there were hazards, using the fairly new Waze navigation. This was a matter of safety and was foremost.

My wife then needed to be able to listen to radio broadcasts during the night. They put her to sleep very nicely.

She needed voice calling everywhere she traveled.
We needed good coverage along the route we traveled the most together.

My needs were different. I needed my music library everywhere, and I needed internet access while exercising or traveling.

I needed a different phone, since here older phones had insufficient memory for my huge music library and for documents.

We both needed access while waiting for services anywhere such as in the doctor's office.

Our tMobile service would actually enable us to watch movies on such occasions, but more memory would enable us to carry them with us and not use high speed LTE 4G service.

Further, I had learned over the years that 4G is a mixed and expensive blessing. The older 3G is more widely accessible and although just a trickle of 4G, still plenty for email, reading, and dictating away from home.

I often use time traveling to catch up with communications and even maintenance of my website.

It developed that I could meet these requirements far more cheaply than in the past and more effectively.

Here is how it worked out.

First, I needed a new phone with enough memory capability. These had been few and far between in the past.

Surprising myself, I picked a Windows Phone, both easy to use and the largest potential for storage. It was $90 directed from Microsoft.

But more than two cell phones would be required to meet all needs.
I also needed a backup internet service which would work with my home requirements when Senior Internet service was not working, often in the middle of the night when my wife needed it.

Experimenting with different services, I had learned from past experience that three different services would combine to provide me what I needed at a fraction of the earlier cost for tMobile.

Although Sprint coverage is not as good as tMobile in many places, it was far better here for my purposes, as 4G would not be needed. I only needed 4G for videos and movies and more memory would allow me to take them along with me.

Republic Wireless provides voicce service for a phone cheaply, just $10 a month for unlimited voice and text.
I selected that service for both of our primary phones. For data Republic also offers 3G at $25 a month but I had a better solution.

I chose Freedompop hotspot service to provide high speed data wherever I would need it. I have two hot spots. The monthly cost is under $20 for both. One of these can actually serve as my router and hotspot at home when needed.

Both services use Sprint. Coverage maps show Sprint all along the roots we normally travel, despite Sprint's reputation for not having generally good coverage elsewhere.

Freedompop service is cumulative so that any minutes not used this month are added to my reserve. That is handy when my wired service quits for a day.

Finally, I added Puretalk voice service on my Windows Phone for $10 a month, also cumulative. I get a 130 minutes a month. Puretalk is based on AT&T, so that I am not limited to just one service which may not be available in any particular area.

Converting over from my old service required transferring of telephone numbers, changing SIM cards and the like, a story worth another posting in the future.

In summary, I cut my costs in half and met my needs much more effectively.

To call all my phones from a single number I used Google Voice.

(Dictated quickly and without editing, which I will do later.)

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