Smartphones On the Cheap

If you were at MLA you would have seen the latest in librarian accessories, the smartphone.  Everywhere I turned it seemed everyone was whipping out their phone to look at their calendar to find their next meeting, monitoring the Twitter feed, tweeting, or texting somebody. 

I bumped into a few friends who were still stuck with “dumb phones” and many of them said the main barrier to getting a smartphone was cost, as they glanced at my iPhone in my hand.  That is when told them that they didn’t have to break the bank to get a smartphone.  In fact, after the meeting (and at the end of my billing cycle) I will be dumping my iPhone and getting an Android. 

Why am I moving?  You know me as the Krafty Librarian, but you could also probably call me the Thrifty Technology Librarian (or just call me cheap, that is fine too).  Currently my iPhone has unlimited data.  Still, I pay about $85/month for it.  Add my husband on to the plan and our cell phone bill is well around $170/month.  As a mom of three kids on a budget…ouch. 

Theoretically we could go back to dumb phones, but really both he and I are hooked on smartphones like kids to sugar on Halloween.  So my husband began the process of looking for a cheap smartphone.  Oxymoron, right? Not really.  He discovered that there were pay as you go plans for smartphones.  Until recently there just weren’t a lot of pay as you go smartphones. 

One such pay as you go outfit is VirginMobile.  If you buy the phone out right you have your choice of three pay as you go models.

  1. 300 minutes talk, UNLIMITED text, UNLIMITED data for only $25/mo.  
  2. 1200 minutes talk, UNLIMITED text, UNLIMITED data for only $40/mo. 
  3. Unlimited EVERYTHING: minutes, text, and data for $60/mo.

Yes you read that correctly you could get a smartphone plan with unlimited data and texting for $25/month.  Now I know you are saying, ”what savings is that if the phone isn’t free and I have to buy it?”  If you got an iPhone you still would have to pay $200 for the phone and anywhere from $60-$100/month (depending on your minutes, text, and data plan).  Many times, depending on the phone, you are going to end up paying for the phone in one way and sometimes multiple ways. You have realize that if you get the phone free and are on a plan, that plan is always more expensive because they are supplementing the cost of the phone.  So pay as you go is almost always cheaper than cell phone plans. 

For us, moving to something like VirginMobile gave us a savings of around $100/month.  That was too much savings for us not to try out.  Mike, my husband, jumped ship first and tested the LG Optimus V and VirginMobile to see if it worked well as a smartphone and got reception.  I was chicken, I stayed on AT&T with my iPhone and watched his experiment.  Afterall, I am a data hog, I use at least 2GB of data each month (sometimes more) and I did NOT want to lose being grandfathered in with AT&T unlimited data plan if the experiment failed. 

VirginMobile is on the Sprint network and it does pretty well in most major cities, but if you live in the country or out in the Western Plains States it might not be the network for you.  Mike was able to get a signal and service everywhere we go in the Cleveland area.  So he let me take his phone for a week to test it.  I wasn’t able to get a signal everywhere in my building at work but I could get signal outside no problem.  The phone itself is ok.  If you once had an iPhone you will think the LG is a little clunky and not as intuitive (I really like the one home button concept on the iPhone) but it worked and it had all of the apps I like and use. 

In the next few weeks I will bid a teary farewell to my iPhone and begin to use an Android.  For a savings of $100+/month I can’t justify staying with AT&T and my iPhone. 

So if you have been wanting to get a smartphone but just felt it was too much money, you might want to check out VirginMobile, at $25/month it is cheaper than some dumb phone plans.

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