Cheap Cell Phone Plans Comparison
Comparing Ultra-Cheap Cell Phone Plans
We identified three ultra-cheap mobile phone carriers that might appeal to anyone eager to escape the burden of costly phone bills. Some plans even start at $0.00 (yes, that's zero) a month. Oh, and there are no contracts or early termination fees to worry about. Compare that to the mobile phone fees at the big four carriers and you'll find hundreds, if not thousands, in savings to be had. And while these carriers don't tack on abstract "administrative" fees, the taxman always cometh.
How can a company offer free, or very cheap, cell phone service? By being a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). MVNOs buy the right to transmit data, text, and calls from larger carriers at wholesale prices and then sell the services to customers. This means users get the same coverage and service as they would from the primary provider but because the MVNOs don't have to build and maintain the network infrastructure the savings are passed on to customers. New technology has also allowed MVNOs to experiment with further cost-cutting measures and advertising and overhead budgets are kept to a minimum. The one drawback we found with the three services we researched is the lack of support for sending texts with pictures; even when a friend sends a picture text, customers are not notified.
Larger MVNOs, such as Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, enjoy some name recognition, but the smaller MVNOs offer the cheapest cell phone service.
*$.01/MB for customers with paid plans.
All FreedomPop services run over data lines -- the company's technology can distinguish texts, calls, and Internet use -- so customers need an Internet connection to dial out and receive calls, send and receive text messages, browse the web, and use email. Service quality depends on the strength of the Internet connection, and some users have reported static or delays even with a 3G signal. FreedomPop buys coverage from Sprint and Clearwire.
Currently, users must purchase a cell phone directly from FreedomPop. Two models are available, the HTC Evo Design and HTV EVO 4G, and both cost $99. FreedomPop's marketing vice president told us that within a year users will be able to sign up with their own unlocked CDMA Android phone. People who live near strong 4G signals or don't mind seeking out Wi-Fi in order to make calls will enjoy the savings.
There are no contracts with this company but customers must pay an annual $55 membership fee and can choose among four plans, with price points of $17, $19, $25, and $30 a month. In ascending order of price, the first cheap cell phone plan comes with unlimited talk (no texting); the second includes unlimited talk and text; the third adds 500MB of data; and the last includes 1GB of data. Texts and megabytes over the limits cost $.02 each.
At the moment users must buy a phone from Mobile United ($99 and up, depending on the phone), but soon they will be able to use any unlocked GSM phone. Mobile United is a start-up whose founders have launched a crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGoGo that runs until December 10.
At present, subscribers must bring their own unlocked Sprint device, but RingPlus is creating a marketplace where the company and members can sell, trade, or auction cell phones. Cheap cell phone plans range from $6 to $35 a month with the lowest tier being pay as you go -- $.02 for each minute, text, and MB of data -- and the most expensive including unlimited voice and text and 1.2GB of data. RingPlus also offers a completely free ad-supported plan that generates revenue by having subscribers listen to ads instead of a ring when making calls. Enrollment for the free plan opens only occasionally; the next opportunity is December 10, when between two and five thousand lines will become available. According to the company, the supply is often claimed within hours.