Sunday, September 14, 2014

More under $30 cell options for light data users

In a recent posting, I disappointingly identified 3 under $30 per month cell options for light data users.  Since that time, I have continued to meander on with AT&T where I am pre-paid for the next 3 months or so, but have also continued to investigate alternatives.  I am a very light cell phone user and consume primarily data with a very occasional voice or text message.  While wi-fi is becoming more and more the standard at retail locations, it is still not a given and I value the power that access to information via a smart phone provides.  Thus, having cell service that includes data is important to me and while cheap voice and text plans are abundant, cheap voice, text and data plans are few and far between.  In this post, I am going to identify 3 more under $30 per month plans that include data for light cell phone users.

1.  Net10:  My initial posting identified Tracfone and Net10 is a sibling of Tracfone with some distinctions.  For me the most important distinction is that I can bring my unlocked GSM phone to Net10.  With Net10, you really have to search a bit to identify that there are options under $30 that include data.  Net10 definitely focuses on upselling customers to their monthy unlimited plans that start at $35, but with some searching you can find 30 day plans and pay-as-you-go plans that are under my $30 target and which it appears you can use to consume voice, text or data.  However, as with Tracfone, I found it near impossible to obtain a clear understanding of how much data actually costs.  Moreover, I found it very confusing to try to figure out the difference between their 30 day plans and the pay-as-you-go plans.  Their FAQ indicated that one has rollover and the other didn't, but on their main plan page "Carryover" was stated on 2 of the monthly plans which according to the FAQ did not have the carryover feature.  My impression is that Net10's customer service is on par with Tracfone which in my experience as a long Tracfone customer was not that good.  If I were willing to pay $15- $25, I would certainly try Consumer Cellular first and save myself some likely grief.

2.  Red Pocket:  Red Pocket has plans where you can bring either an AT&T (plans end with "A") or T-Mobile phone (plans end with a "T") or you can bring any unlocked GSM phone.  As with Net10, you need to look for what Red Pocket refers to as "PayGo" for the cheap options.  For $10 for 30 days of service, which can be used to purchase voice, text or data as follows:  10¢ per minute 10¢ per SMS (domestic or international) 10¢ per MMS, 30¢ per MB data.  This is not cheap data (for illustration, I pay $5 to AT&T for 50mb; 50mb with Red Pocket would cost $15 under this scheme).  My impression of Red Pocket's customer service based on a sampling of reviews is that it is similarly mediocre and likely in the neighborhood of what you'd find with Net10 and Tracfone.

3. H2O:  H2O is the plan that I found most intriguing.  Let me state upfront that based on my sampling of reviews, H2O customer service is abysmal and my impression is that it is notably worse than other wireless providers.  That being said, I found that due to its pricing I found H2O the most compelling option... as long as you can figure it out and get set up smoothly online without needing customer service.  Specifically, a $10 purchase with H2O can get you 90 days of service - wow, that's approximately 3 months; so the easy math is that you can almost get a year's service for $40 if you are a light service.  Your $10 can be used toward services at these rates:  5¢ per minute for domestic calls or text message, MMS (text with picture) is 10¢ and data is only 10¢ per MB.  As I seldom use the 50mb that I purchase from AT&T monthly and seldom make a call the potential of having cell service for only $40 per year may entice me into gambling $10 to try H2O for 90 days despite their atrocious reputation for terrible customer service.

Tip:  While you can purchase SIM cards for the plans above at their sites or in many stores, you can save additional money by going to Amazon where SIM cards for these plans are commonly sold for only 1¢ and with free shipping.