Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 2 - What I'm using instead.

Toady I wanted to go over what I chose to use instead of a $94/month AT&T iPhone plan.

As funny as it may sound it wasn't easy to decide on which service to replace my expired AT&T contract with. I knew a few things for sure.

No Contract 

I knew that there was a chance that within 6-12 months I was going to be moving back onto a traditional 2-year contract plan and that meant I didn't want any sort of contract at all. This meant that I was looking exclusively at what we call "pre-paid" service.

the thing I didn't know at the time was that pre-paid cell phone service comes in two major flavors: "no contract" and "pay-as-you-go". No contract is very similar to traditional cell phone services in that you pay a set amount and get a certain service for one month.

This is essentially for people who want the benefits of traditional cell phone service but don't want to be locked into a 2-year contract. Pricing for these plans seemed to average around $35-50/month. An improvement from my current $94/month. Read more after the jump.


Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) is where you but a certain amount of airtime/text messages and there is no monthly charge. The minutes/text messages are used up when you use them up. When you run out you refill the minutes/text messages and keep going.

This is nice for people who don't want to even commit to paying on a month to month basis or who will be using the phones very little or plan to regulate their usage carefully. You have to read the fine print on these because even though you don't have to pay month-to-month the mintes/text message credits often expire (after 90 days for example).

The best plan for PAYG I found was T-Mobile with offered $0.10 per minute and $0.10 per text (sent and received) and once you had added $100 to your account the minutes/texts didn't expired for one year.

This seemed great for someone who wanted the absolute most flexibility as you wouldn't be charged any sort of monthly fee and once you did your initial set up of $100 added to your balance you wouldn't need to do anything else for the year except add money as needed to keep yourself in minutes/texts.

T-Mobile Wins

The above PAYG plan was the one I was leaning toward the most. It seemed to give the most flexibility and most importantly because it had no monthly fees it would allow me to best regulate my spending as saving money was very high on the list of reasons to make the switch.

What I ultimately decided on was a hybrid of a no-contract and PAYG style of pre-paid. I went with a T-Mobile pre-paid plan that offered $15/month for unlimited text message (no-contract monthly) and 10 cents a minute for talk (PAYG).

My wife and I were both going to be moving over to these plans and the one huge downside we saw was that we would have to pay attention to not only all our calls but also all out text messages. This was going to be a major change for use who had been used to 450 anytime minutes/month and 1500 text messages/month on our old AT&T iPhone contracts.

Once I heard about the unlimited text messages for $15/month I knew that was what we should do. Having either talk or text be unlimited would allow us to have at least one line of communication unfettered. this was something I thought was really important as it would allow us at least one way to "talk" as much as we wanted.

We were already pretty heavy texters but with unlimited text we could readjust our communications to be 90% text and 10% talk. This would help use save on the $0.10/minute talk minutes but using mainly text.

We ultimately wet with cheap $20 T-Mobile pre-paid phones with the first month $15 for unlimited tet and a starter $10 for 100 talk time minutes. This allowed us to start new service for just $38 each. Wow that was cheap.

So Far So Good

So as it stands now I switched my pre-paid SIM into an old Motorola Razr we had from when we were with T-Mobile years ago and my wife put her pre-paid SIM into my old original iPhone I unlocked.

For her things are fairly similar when it comes to texting and talk as she has an original iPhone. She doesn't have data and so the iPhone is only for talk/text but she has the advantage of the great texting interface the iPhone offers.

I am using the Razr which has its own version of the T9 interface for texting. To say I am rusty on my T9 texting skills is an understatement. I can't believe that at the time this was the best interface we had for texting. I can see now why phones that had full QWERTY keyboards gained popularity.

Going Forward

Ultimately I think that if text is how my wife and I are going to communicate that I am going to need something with a much better texting interface. Since money is a big concern I have little/no money to purchase a new phone but perhaps if I do some research or get lucky I my be able to find one for very cheap.

Today we are going to volunteer for an OctoberFest celebration and I will get to see how I fare without the "digital pacifier" of my always-connected iPhone.

I think this project will ultimately be less about technology and more about changing human behavior.

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