Thursday, January 13, 2011

How I do a smart phone on the cheap

I really like having a smart phone, but I don't think it's worth shelling out almost $80-100 a month for service, especially since I almost never use the data services and only make about 70-100 minutes of calls a month.

For the longest time, what I had was an unlocked iPhone Classic with a T-Mobile prepaid plan where I paid .10c a minute, and no data plan. Very cheap - I spent $100 for 1000 minutes in November, and I still have 500 minutes left.

But there are times when I really could use data. But I only wanted to pay for it when I needed it. Also, I have watched various disasters in the last few years and having access to information, particularly through your cell phone, is very very important.

Then, a few months ago, Virgin Mobile came out with a MiFi plan of $30/month unlimited or $10/100MB/10 days. This was what I was looking for. I'm in casual carpool in the morning - I turn on my MiFi, do a little email, turn it off. I'm driving somewhere and want to find a restaurant - just turn on my Mifi, search, get the map, turn it off. I can manage my own costs, rather than paying these huge fees for plans. Plus, I'm on T-Mobile - I don't get dropped calls like many of my friends do.

My iPhone started having problems recently, and I researched the iPhone 4, but it's very very hard to unlock, and it's very expensive. So I researched various Android phones, and I had a colleague who raved about his T-Mobile Vibrant by Samsung.

I finally splurged when T-Mobile offered this for free with a 2-year plan (sorry, this offer seems to be gone now). I have to wait a month for the "buyer's remorse" period to end, then I can cancel the plan ($70/month) and switch to prepaid and pay the $200 early termination fee. All I had to do was replace the GSM chip that came with the phone with my existing prepaid chip - I didn't even need to unlock the phone, Works for me!

I also just found out that T-Mobile just started offering Internet-for-a-day on their prepaid plan. You pay $1.20, and you get unlimited data on your phone for 1 day. Now that's what I'm talking about! Prepaid data as well as prepaid minutes. I am still keeping my MiFi for now, since I use a leetle bit of data every day, so it ends up being cheaper. But I think finally somebody (T-Mobile) is getting the idea that not everybody wants or can afford the big whopping post-paid plans.

Android positive: I can do things Apple would never let me do on my iPhone. Like using an mp3 I bought on Amazon for a ring tone. Like playing Rhapsody in the background. Like easy synchronization with Google calendard and Gmail.

Android negative: nasty battery usage. I have to monitor very carefully, shutting down GSM, Wifi, background apps, display very carefully or I can't even make it through the day. I never had this problem with the iPhone.