Should I own a disposable phone?

Look at that iPhone. Isn’t it sexy?

With all the talk of iPhones in the air, it’s been hard not to take a side in the epic debate – to iPhone or not to iPhone. Heck even the Handy Millennial chimed in to let people know that their expectations are being inflated. But it turns out that while the headlines are being grabbed with ever increasing iPhone costs, phones are actually being commoditized.  Even phone service itself is being commoditized. What does this mean?

The smartphone is a commodity!

It means that the technology that was once hip and cool (remember the cool cell phone sales guys of the early 2000s?) is now pedestrian and therefore actually cheaper than it used to be. But how can this be when the plan bills just keep getting bigger and the phone price tags keep growing?

Well you see, my dear reader, this is because if we keep you thinking it’s cool and hip, someone (take a guess who) will keep making money. But the truth is you can do a lot better. In my previous post, I discussed unlocked phones. These are phones whose software allows them to be turned on to any network.  But what if you are not some fancy tech geek and you don’t have a clue – nor do you want to have a clue – about fancy terms like unlocking?

Well in this case you have come to the right place! Queue the happy, adorable cat picture click-bait.

You see it turns out that there is another secret that carriers do not want you to know: prepaid phones can also be added to any plan!

But wait, you say, I’m not poor; why should I buy a pre-paid phone, Mr. Handy Millennial? Well you see, today’s fancy phone is tomorrow’s prepaid phone. And as I discussed in my last post, if you aren’t using your phone to double as Virtual Reality super computer, you probably don’t need the latest and greatest iteration.

Pre-Paid Phones Sold by AT&T

Let’s take AT&T as an example. If you go to their prepaid site (Go Phone), you will have a list of phones that you can purchase. Every single one of these phones can be bought and added to an AT&T plan. Here are three phones that AT&T currently advertises:

  • Apple iPhone 6 ($250)
  • Apple iPhone SE ($200)
  • Samsung Galaxy Express Prime 2 ($130)

Now these are name brand phones that you can get for a nice price that won’t make you stay up at night worrying what happens if you drop it in the toilet.

And just as a reminder you can get a few unlocked phones on Amazon and simply slide in your sim card to put them on the AT&T network:

Have I convinced you to give one of these cheapo phones a try yet? Well what do you have to lose? You can always spend more money and get the iPhone.

Using a Pre-Paid Monthly Plan

Now while I have your attention, let finish up this post by discussing phone plans. Or more specifically, what in the WORLD are you actually getting for the extra money you’re spending on a plan?

Okay, lets take AT&T’s family plans for example here. Let’s say you get one of their Mobile Share Plans, here is what you get:

  • No overage charge – if you go over your data limit, they won’t charge you, just slow your speed down.
  • Sharing data over up to 10 phones (yawn).
  • Rollover data – huh? Why should I care, if I don’t have any overage charges?
  • Stream Saver – Something about streaming movies on your phone. Why is this even a thing? Are you buying a data plan for the ONE time per year you will watch a movie while you are on a train?
  • Unlimited talk and text (yawn).

Now let’s customize a plan really quickly and see how much it will come out to be. Let’s say, fictitiously, we have 2 people sharing the plan. And they each use 3GB. So for 2 smart phones on a 6GB plan, AT&T will charge: $60 (plan) + 2*($20) (each phone) = $100 per month.

Keep in mind these numbers tend to go up with taxes, titles, yada yada yada.

Now let’s hop over to AT&T’s prepaid phone website and see what they offer. Our two users each use 3GB; that’s not ideal because the pre-paid plans come in 1GB, 6GB, and Unlimited Data sizes. So let’s say each one of our users takes the 6GB plan. That’s now twice as much data as the monthly plan.

With each pre-paid plan, you get:

  • Unlimited Talk and Text (just like above!)
  • No overage charges (just like before!)
  • Stream Saver (I’m still confused about this)

OK, so basically we have the same features minus the silly ones like data sharing and rollover, but with twice as much data. How much are we paying for this please?

Each prepaid phone costs $45 per month. But if you put your credit card in for AutoPay, you get $5 off!!! So basically our new monthly cost is 2*$40. Holly $#@%! We somehow saved $20 per month simply by using another type of plan – the one that’s for “poor” people!

Conclusion

For those of you playing the home game, you might realize that that’s $240 a year, enough to buy one new cheapo smart phone each year. And given that smart phones are made to last about two to three years (at least mine seem to) our two fictitious characters seems to be making out like bandits.

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