Cell Phone Conundrum

My wife and I are now in the market for a cell phone. I’m currently making do without one, while she borrows my pre-paid phone that I used to use. She had been on her family’s plan, but the time has come for us to strike out on our own.

I’m ambivalent toward cell phones in general. While I like being able to contact others, I’m not very happy with being “on call” at every moment. Of course, I’m under no obligation to answer the phone at all times, but there is some social pressure that is placed on you once you do have a cell phone.

For me a pre-paid plan through Tracfone worked very well, I could use it only when I really needed to, otherwise it was simply not affordable to take calls. Buying the full year card, I had about 20 minutes a month to use, and the net cost was about $15 a month, including the phone itself. This works well for me because obviously I don’t use this phone very much.

The major drawback for me, though, is that I’ve lost the wonderful world of wireless data. To be able to uses the internet anywhere is a pretty amazing ability to have. The latest phones also have GPS all included in one device for all those times on the roadways that I inevitably get lost on.

These abilities of course come with a cost. Billshrink.com comes up with an excellent break down of the comparison of costs between the latest smartphones out on the market: The iPhone 3GS, the Palm Pre, and the Android G1. Ultimately, over the life of the contract (and hopefully the phone) the iPhone costs $3800 vs. $3150 for the G1, and $2600 for the Pre. This is, however, for unlimited service. Right now, with my raggedy pre-paid TracPhone, I would be paying about $15 a month. For the next two years, assuming the phone holds up that’s a grand total of $360.

$2240 is a significant investment for the functionality of the Pre and $3440 for the iPhone simply seems extravegent when compared on a dollar for value ratio.

However, there’s also a new plan out called Straight Talk, which seems to be a new branding mechanism for TracPhone. The idea here is that you pay $30 a month for 1000 minutes, a 1000 texts and 30MB of data with no overages. It seems to be offered through Wal-Mart, which is a bit of a problem since there are no Wal-Marts very close to New York City. Also, the web pages link to the phone selection is down, so you can’t see the upfront costs and phone selection. The way this plan works is that you can either have the phone automatically renewed for $30 each month, or you can buy additional cards to extend the service, but if you are not subscribed for a 30-day period, you lose your cell phone number.

This may be the perfect way to split the difference. $720 plus the cost of the phone over two years is still a lot less than the $2600 for the Pre.

At this point, I’m still torn between all of my options. If you have any ideas, please add them to the comments.

Should I stick with the basic Tracfone serive, upgrade to StraightTalk or go whole hog with something like the Palm Pre?

Decisions, decisions…

4 Responses to Cell Phone Conundrum

  1. […] Cell Phone Conundrum « TeCheap […]

  2. rockinrich says:

    Depends.

    If you’re satisfied with your phone and service, why change?

    But the Straight Talk deal IS very good and available regardless of location through the Walmart website.

    You say that you lose your number if you fail to buy another 30 days worth of service. I checked and was told that you DO lose whatever minutes etc. you have after 30 days whether you reload or not. But you have a 60-day grace period before you lose your nunber (on Day 61).

    But if you use significatly less than the 1000 minutes/1000 txts and 30MB of data, though, your TracFone is probably sufficient.

    As for the Pre or iPhone, if money is no object, go nuts.

    But money is always the object, isn’t it?

    ;>)

    It IS nice to have access to the Internet wherever you go, but having a contract or “postpaid” phone can get quite expensive.

    A possible solution may be to get an iPhone Touch, which is the iPhone w/o the phone. If you have regular access to wifi, you’re all set. No contract either. In tandem with Tracfone or Straight Talk, you’re good to go!

  3. […] Cell Phone Resolution, Mostly In case you have not been following the blog, (shame on you) last time I talked about cell phone options for my wife and me. You can read more about it here. […]

  4. zargonddg says:

    Thanks for your great comment.
    Yes, money is definitely always an object, but that is just the TeCheap way.
    The ultimate question is value for the money. As you’ll see in the next post, we ended up going with the Straight Talk plan.

    My reading of the terms of service, which says…

    “If you do not refill your Straight Talk account within 30 days after the Service End Date, your Straight Talk phone number will be lost.”

    is that it is 30 days after your time expires. If you are counting from when you first activate the phone, then it is 60 days.

    Thanks again, and TeCheap on!

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