When it comes to unlimited cell phone plans, consumers have multiple choices. Most service providers require two year contracts in order to receive discount-priced or free cell phones. Those who end plans early can be hit with steep cancellation fees ranging upwards of $350.
In my quest to find the best unlimited cell phone plans, I compared the major providers including Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Virgin Mobile. For years, I was a loyal Virgin Mobile customer, but converted to Verizon last year. My daughter had entered into a 2-year contract, but was always using more minutes than her plan allowed and racking up huge cell phone bills.
I agreed to take over her plan because I am a minimal user and Verizon’s basic plan was close to what I was paying through Virgin. When my cell phone usage increased I changed plans and was shocked at how little I receive for the money. Since the plan expires in a few months, I have spent quite a bit of time researching which carrier I prefer to hand over my hard earned cash to.
Currently, I am on the fence about whether to switch to a Blackberry or Smartphone. Both offer features I like. My research compared both types of phones and required plans, along with contract terms and early termination fees. Let’s take a look at each.
If I enter into a new 2-year contract with Verizon I can upgrade to a Blackberry Bold™ for $99 or a Droid Incredible HTC™ for $149.99. The cost of Verizon’s unlimited talk and text plan is $89.99. I could knock this price down to $69.99 by eliminating the texting feature, but I use my phone more for texting than talking.
Both the Blackberry and Droid Smartphone require data plans which are an additional $29.99 per month. This brings the monthly unlimited talk, text, and mobile plan to $119.98, plus taxes, fees, and surcharges. I don’t know about you, but to me $130 to use a cell phone is a waste of money. Even if I took it down to the basic package of 450 minutes talk with unlimited text for $59.99 the cost will still be over $100 a month to have a Blackberry or Droid HTC.
Over the course of 2 years, it will cost between $2500 and $3300 to have unlimited calling, texting, web surfing, email checking, navigation system in the palm of my hand. If I bailout early, I could be assessed a penalty of up to $350.
Verizon Wireless offers prepaid unlimited talk and text plans for $94.99, along with unlimited data packages for $30. However, you have to pay full price for the phones. Retail price for the Droid Incredible is $579.99, while Blackberry models range from $364.99 to $509.99.
Verizon is currently offering $100 mail-in rebate for most Smartphones to customers who enter into a 1- or 2-year contract, but no rebates are offered to non-contract customers.
At the time of writing, T-Mobile is offering the Android Optimus T™ at no cost to customers ordering via the Web and entering into a 2-year contract. If I elect to use T-Mobile without a contract, the Optimus T will cost $239.99.
T-Mobile is introducing the new Blackberry Bold™ on November 17th which will retail for $129.99 with a 2-year contract, or $449.99 without a contract. The Blackberry Curve is offered at $79.99 with contract or $329.99 without a contract.
T-Mobile offers two types of unlimited plans. Customers who enter into a 2-year plan pay slightly higher amounts than those who enter into a non-contract plan, but pay substantially less for phones.
The Even More SM 2-year plan is $99.99 per month for unlimited talk, text, and Web, while the Even More Plus SM no-contract plan is $79.99 per month for the same features. The price difference between contract vs. non-contract phones hovers around $250. The bulk of this cost would be absorbed during the first year of service. To maximize savings it is best to enter into the Even More Plus no-contract plan and pay for the phone upfront.
T-Mobile assesses a $35 phone activation fee and early cancellation fee of up to $200. The small print reads that changing plans could result in a cancellation fee and require an additional activation fee.
Over the course of 2-years, it will cost between $2000 and $2500 to have unlimited calling, texting, and web services through T-Mobile. This is a potential savings of between $500 and $800 compared to Verizon Wireless.
Sprint offers the HTC Hero™ 3G Smartphone for $149.99 after mail-in rebate and a 2-year contract or $429.99 for month-to-month. The Blackberry Style™ is available for $99.99 after mail-in rebate or $399.99 with month-to-month plans.
Sprint offers two unlimited plans. Simply Everything® includes unlimited talk, text, and Web for $99.99 per month. Everything Data with Any Mobile, Anytime SM includes unlimited talk to any mobile phone, along with unlimited text and Web.
With Everything Data, customers must select a calling plan that includes minutes for calling landline phones. Plans with 450 minutes cost $69.99 per month, while plans with 900 minutes are $89.99 per month.
Prepaid plans are available through Boost Mobile and can be paid month-to-month, by the day, or by the minute. Monthly unlimited talk, text, Web and walkie-talkie plan is $50, while unlimited Blackberry plan is $60 per month.
Boost Mobile offers incentives for paying prepaid plans on time. When customers make 6 payments on time they can reduce their bill by $5 per month to as low as $35. Customers must purchase phones compatible with prepaid plans.
Boost Mobile offers the Blackberry Curve for $249.99. The Motorola iL Smartphone is only sold through retail stores and no retail price is available on their website. Details of Sprint’s prepaid plans are available at BoostMobile.com.
The cost for Sprint’s unlimited talk, text, and Web plans with a 2-year contract range between $1700 and $2400 plus the cost of the phone. The cost for similar month-to-month plans range between $1200 and $1450 plus the cost of phone.
Switching to Sprint could result in savings of $100 to $800 per year over T-Mobile or $1100 to $1300 over Verizon.
AT&T offers the Samsung Captivate™ Smartphone for $199.99 when ordering online and entering into a 2-year contract or $349.99 with no contract. The Blackberry Torch™ can be purchased for $199.99 online, with contract or $499.99 without contract.
AT&T offer pay-as-you-go prepaid plans through GoPhone®. Unlimited talk and text, plus 200 MB data is $75 per month.
AT&T contract calling plans for the Blackberry Torch range from $39.99 to $69.99. The $39.99 plan includes 450 anytime minutes, 5000 nights and weekends, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile. Unused minutes rollover to the next month. Customers must also purchase a data pack plan which range between $15 and $45 per month. The cost of unlimited talk, text, and data is $114.99 plus the cost of the phone.
Entering into a 2-year unlimited talk, text and Web 2-year plan with AT&T would cost around $2800, while the prepaid plan would be $1800. Even with the most expensive phone, the prepaid plan would yield savings of about $650 over the course of two years.
The total cost for two years of cell phone service would range between $1320 and $2800. Compared to Verizon, switching to AT&T would yield a savings of $500 to $1180. AT&T unlimited plans would cost between $120 and $400 more than Sprint, while T-Mobile could yield savings of $680 or cost an additional $300. Much depends on whether entering into a 2-year contract or prepaid plan.
Virgin Mobile only offers prepaid cell phone packages. Virgin Mobile recently introduced Beyond Talk Plans which range in price from $25 to $60 per month. Each plan includes unlimited text, data, email and Web. 300 anytime minutes are included in the $25 plan, 1200 anytime minutes are included in the $40 plan, and the $60 plan offers unlimited talk time. Those with Blackberry and Smartphones will need to purchase a data pack for an additional $10 per month.
The types of phones offered through Virgin Mobile are somewhat limited. Presently, there are five web-browser phones including the Blackberry Curve and Samsung Intercept™. Both can be purchased for $249.99. The remaining phone choices range in price from $89.99 to $149.99.
As mentioned earlier, I use my cell phone primarily for texting, so Virgin Mobile’s $25 plan with 300 minutes would be sufficient. But, for fairness in comparison, let’s use the 1200 minute plan which costs $40, along with the $10 data pack for Blackberry and Smartphone.
At $50 per month, the Virgin Mobile plan would cost $1200 for 2 years. Add in the cost of the phone and the total cost would be $1450.00. Using the unlimited plan for $60 per month, plus the $10 data pack the cost for 2 years of service, plus the phone would be $1930.00. Even with purchasing the phones, Virgin Mobile offers the lowest cell phone plans.
Virgin Mobile does not charge activation fees, early termination fees, reconnect fees, or hidden fees. Plans are assessed taxes and surcharges which amount to about $6 per month.
Over the course of two years, Virgin Mobile could yield savings of nearly $1400 compared to Verizon, $470 over Sprint, $570 over T-Mobile, and $870 over AT&T.
In today’s economy every saved penny counts. Each of these providers offers basic calling plans, but if you want a fancy Smartphone or Blackberry you’ll need to pay extra. While it can be tempting to enter into a contract that offers free or deeply discounted phones, it’s important to do the math to determine the true costs.
Sprint Boost Mobile Prepaid
AT&T Go Phone Prepaid