If you’ve finally reached the end of your smartphone contract, what are your options? You certainly don’t have to renew. A lot has changed recently, and the competition between wireless service providers, particularly on shared plans from AT&T and Verizon, has shifted in the customer’s favor, making it well worth your while to shop around for the best savings.
Basically, what you can do boils down to these three choices:
- Buy a new phone – In the past, you could start a new contract to get a new phone at a fraction of the cost, but note that phone subsidies are on the way out and companies are looking for ways to charge you full price for the phones. Or you can take the cheapest service plan and find yourself a deal on unlocked phones at Amazon, Walmart, or Virgin Mobile. If you go with the last generation phones, you’ll get essentially the same technology at a cheaper price.
- Buy a used phone – Many people sell fully functional phones after only a short time through eBay, or you can find refurbished preowned models on sites like Swappa, MobileKarma, or Gamestop. See good tips at this link. For $2.99 you can check the history of any used device at CheckMEND to make sure it’s not stolen.
- Keep your old phone – It was once the latest model when you bought it, and may have great features that you still like. You can continue your current plan with no contract, switch to another provider, or find a prepaid no-contract plan. It all depends on your needs, but most customers who switch to a prepaid plan are able to cut their cell phone bill in half. Verizon, the provider with the best coverage, has even launched its own BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) flexible prepaid plans with no contract or activation fee, see details here.
When your contract ends, you’re not obligated to renew it unless you want to get a new phone and stay with your current provider. Being off-contract gives you the flexibility to take advantage of special promotions and switch plans. If you do sign a contract, wait until the end of the quarter so you can get any special deals designed to boost sales for that quarter. Choosing the cheapest phone plan is not easy, and can be a real headache. This is your chance to save some money on your wireless service, but there are several things you should check out before switching.
- Coverage – There are only four nationwide providers that are host networks – Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. All of the smaller MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) may offer attractive and competitive discounts, but they all lease from and provide their service through one of these four host networks. So be sure to check coverage first, your location will dictate which of these options are viable for you.
- Features – You have to decide which features are important to you, because all plans are not equal. For example, T-Mobile is the only company that supports free wi-fi calling from anywhere in the world. This is very handy if you’re in an area with a poor signal or no coverage, but it only works with select phone models. A drawback to switching from T-Mobile’s prepaid to postpaid plans is that the conditional call forwarding feature is disabled, so you wouldn’t be able to use Google Voice for voicemail.
- Phone Compatibility – Verizon, Sprint and their associated providers are CDMA compatible, while AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM. So if you’re using your old phone on a new network, you have to make sure it can work.
- ETF – If your contract is still in effect, your Early Termination Fees can be prohibitive. To offset that problem, T-Mobile’s new Uncarrier 4.0 Plans also come with the offer to buy back phones and pay ETFs up to $350 per line.
- Comparison Tools – If you find this all very confusing, so do we! Maybe these links will help: Consumer Reports, Wall Street Journal’s Wireless Savings Calculator, Time comparison, My Rate Plan, Phone Arena plan comparison, and the best cheap prepaid plans you’ve never heard of.
- Save the monthly charge for text messaging by using a free app like TextMe or Pinger. It will add unlimited free SMS texting and calling to any Apple or Android device.
- You can earn free wireless service with Solavei by advertising on social media. Every referral earns a $5 discount, see their rate plan data calculator. This service requires GSM phones compatible with T-Mobile.
- Cricket will merge with AT&T’’s Aio and become the new Cricket, see details here.
- Ting supports Sprint CDMA phones and is owned by TUCOWS.
- It’s interesting to note FreedomPop’s free cell phone plan launched in beta last fall with 200 minutes of talk time, 500 texts (and unlimited texting between FreedomPop subscribers), and 500 MB of free 3G/4G data. Two other plans are available for $7.99 and $10.99 per month. So far, service is spotty with limited phone compatibility, but it’s a concept worth watching. It’s backed by the founder of Skype.
Add commentApril 21st, 2014