May 11, 2014

Smarten my Phone

8-yr-old Staphylococcus Flipper
This is my daily carry, a crusty Samsung flip phone, circa 2006.  Its capability checklist includes:

1)  Sending and receiving phone calls.  
2)  Sometimes it makes random spaceship beeping noises.
3)  That is all.

I'll pause now so you can go ahead and mock and taunt me.
That's it, get it out of your system.

This is what CNET said in 2006:  "The Samsung SPH-M500 is a decent option for a low-end multimedia phone. Just don't expect too much."

One time a friend texted me.
I responded (which took a long time, 3 letters per key):  "Please call, texts cost 20 cents each."
He texted back: "OK."

Everyone's read by now phones are filthier than toilet seats.  After 8 years of use, my Samsung's begging for three big squirts of hand sanitizer or the incinerator.

Why I've Waited
I'm not anti-technology.  That's certainly not the reason I haven't upgraded to one of those newfangled non-flippers. Heck, I write software for a living, check daily to see what's coming down the techno pipe and hang out on  

My main beef with smartphones is the $80 a month data plans that latch on with a two year contract.  $2,000 in fees over two years is not cool.  Also not a fan of parents giving kids unbridled access to web phones.  That one sure PO'ed some people.

I'm Ready
Lately though, the cost/benefit on phones has improved.  And you don't necessarily have to sign a contract.  

There are now options.  

I'm ready to buy, but unsure which phone and plan.

The iPhone 6 with larger 4.7" hi-def screen is releasing this August.  Finger scanner, image stabilization on the camera, big battery.  I'll check it out at the local Apple store as soon as the Chinese factories crank her out.

I'm not locked in on Apple though, and will consider all the options.  HTC One, Samsung Galaxy, and I hear Nokia is pretty good.  Is Blackberry still putting out?  I hope not.  

Please let me know what phone you love or hate, and why.  
Have any of you gone the pre-paid route?  Do you like it?  What's the deal with Boost Mobile?
Anyone forgo the contract and pay full price up front for your phone?



  1. Don't get an iPhone. Constant software updates and way too easy to drown. I love my Droid Lite.

  2. You've saved THOUSANDS! Way to go! We don't do data plans either. We can power everything in our house and even a few neighbors with wifi for less than one phones plan. ;)

  3. I recently upgraded from an iPhone 4 to a 5s and really like it. The camera is waaaaay better and it's faster. But my husband just went from an iPhone 4s to a Samsung Galaxy 5s and his phone is a better deal. He was paid to get it after trading in his iPhone and with a rebate plus the camera is better and the battery lasts way longer. I'd probably recommend his over mine, mostly because of the cost.

  4. Urban Wife5/11/2014

    Congratulations on saving thousands of dollars in the past 8 years. I applaud you, in a non-ironic way of course. Aio wireless is decent, clocking in at two Jackson's a month for the smartphone plan. Upfront cost hurts some in the pocketbook but long-term there's the freedom of no contract and coverage is provided by AT&T networks, so it is optimal. Worth a look, for sure. Good luck.

  5. I was on a T-Mobile prepaid "dumb phone" for years, then upgraded last fall to the iPhone 5C. I'm very happy with the phone--intuitive, decent camera, large selection of apps, etc. T-Mobile lets you pay upfront or pay for your phone over 24 months, but separates the cost between your phone plan (month to month) and the payments on the device. You can start paying over 24 months but make extra payments or pay the whole thing off at any time if you decide to. And, not that I've ever used it, it now works many places abroad without extra fees. If the coverage is decent in your area, I would definitely recommend it.

  6. Anonymous5/11/2014

    If Sprint has decent coverage in your area, you should definitely check out You pay for what you actually use. The downside is you have to pay for your phone outright. They have "dumb" phones and smart phones. If you have a compatible device, you can port it over too. My husband and I pay no more than $40 per month for 2 lines. But I barely use my phone though. Also, if you get a referral link from someone who is currently using Ting, both of you get a $25 credit.

    Now that I'm done sounding like an overeager salesperson, you should check it out. ;)

  7. We have been with a company called Republic Wireless for the last couple of years. We've had a great experience with them, and it's very reasonable. We pay $25 a month, so $50 total for two phones with everything included-calls, texting, email, data, etc...We have Motorola phones, which have worked just fine for us. It's a good feeling knowing that we don't have such a steep cell phone bill each month!

    1. Kathryn5/12/2014

      how is the coverage with Republic?

  8. Anonymous5/12/2014

    If you go the smart phone route, I <3 my android. I use tmobile. I used to have a google branded phone (not sure whether they're offered through other carriers), which was GREAT. I have a samsung now which is ok. Not as great as my old phone but still pretty good. My favorite function is google navigation. It's rarely wrong and works really well. My techie husband says the reason so many people love the iphone is that it's really user friendly, idiot proof. Android tends to be a steeper learning curve but offers better/cooler capabilities if you're good with computery stuff which you've already said you are. You're right about the cost, though. If I were single I would never have bought a smart phone. It is spendy. The great part is that a lot of companies offer a family plan so each extra line isn't much more. If you have friends/family you'd trust enough to share a plan with you could save some big bucks.

  9. I use Tmobile and have an LG phone I'm OK with. I don't use the internet with it, but I could. I just phone, text and take photos and "movies". It works for what I want. Seems to me that iPhones are like $600-700? Can that be?

  10. I'm on iPhone 5S, must confess that I might only use a zillionth of it's functions, but I love the camera. Read my blogs, FB, newspaper, educational games for kids, banking etc. My husband has some or other Samsung (is there a S4?) and he swears by that.

  11. Anonymous5/12/2014

    Beard, thanks for this post. I have an basic (read: cheap) TracPhone and have begun to look at upgrading probably to a non-contract phone. Looking at all the options and plans is making me crazy! Will be lurking to see what others say.

  12. Anonymous5/12/2014

    I'm an apple convert, but only because my employer pays for a portion. They buy all their equipment outright, but have a righteous corporate plan. I have my iphone, ipad & air book all covered under one plan that they pay a portion of & the remainder they take out of my check. It's around $40 a month total & that includes apple care which is awesome since Ive had to rescue my phone from watery depths twice (have since gotten life lock cases for all my handheld devices). I havent had a landline for almost 18 yrs so my cell is my only phone. I'm on Verizon which some people hate, but it works best for my area & I wouldn't have a choice w/ what network my employer chose anyway. When my friend from the twin cities complained how high her & her husbands cell bills were I asked if she ever inquired w/ her employer (large banking chain) if she would be able to get on their plan. She asked & was able to, plus add her husband for $10 more a month. Sometimes you just have to ask.

  13. Anonymous5/12/2014

    I lucked out. My brother gave me his old iPhone 4. I swapped out the SIM card for a GoPhone SIM card, and now I pay about 10 bucks a month for my phone. You could do something similar if you purchased a used iPhone on Craigslist or something. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube about how to do the SIM card thing.

  14. I wrote a long response and it was eaten. Short version: I've had a Droid, a Blackberry and an iPhone. Two of each, actually. All of them have their pluses and minuses; it depends on what you want to use it for. Also, it's easy to dismiss having a data plan as a luxury, until the day it allows you to respond to something at work while you're on the go instead of having to drop what you're doing and go in, or schedule a handyman right then and there instead of having to wait til you're home in front of the calendar, etc. You just have to keep a tight reign and not allow it to take over life.

    Good luck.

  15. Anonymous5/13/2014

    I had an iPhone, then an android and I have to say I would NEVER go back to android! They are not very intuitive at all and there is so many layers of useless apps/programs etc. that they can be very confusing to use. I only lasted 6 months with the android and then got rid of it to the first taker! I would hold out for the iPhone 6 if you can, they really do get better with each new phone they introduce!

  16. Anonymous5/13/2014

    I had a phone like yours, mainly because I am cheap ;) I finally decided to bite the bullet and went with Virgin Mobile. I went to Radio Shack, bought the Samsung Galaxy 2, and a plan that suited my needs. I have 1200 minutes and unlimited text and web...It has been great! The only drawback is that Virgin uses the Sprint Network and sometimes reception sucks. Overall, though, I am a happy camper. I pay $45 plus tax, so around $48 a month. I have it automatically drafted from my bank account. It works for me, a wife and mother of two girls, 10 and 7yrs. This is also considered a pay-as-you-go phone service, similar to Boost. You can also buy the phone off of their website, but, I wanted it now, so I went to Radio Shack. They have more phone options on-line. I LOVE the Galaxy and will be upgrading as soon I can justify it ;) I love the android operating system. All apps are from the Google Play store. I must confess its harder now not to be "connected" all the time, so that is something to think about!

  17. I use Republic Wireless - they offer Motorola phones (Moto X or Moto G) that run on Android platforms. Sprint is the cell carrier but the big difference is that they mainly use WIFI for phone/text/data. I use the $10/month plan that includes unlimited WIFI and talk/text cell. They also have a $25/month plan that is unlimited WIFI and unlimited talk/text/data cell. Works great for me and I have no complaints about the coverage or phone.

  18. Anonymous5/14/2014

    check out Straight Talk through Walmart. you have to bring/buy your own "appropriate" phone but if you plan on keeping the phone for a long time and not switch to new one every 2 years...pays off.

  19. I have a Galaxy S4 (and previously the S3) and I have no complaints. The S3's bloatware was awful and the battery decreased with age, but the S4 does everything I could ever want and is so easy and intuitive. My fiance had an iPhone 3GS and really liked it... until he got a Galaxy phone. He's experiencing the same battery issues my S3 did but otherwise also votes Android over Apple.


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!