Here’s a curiosity: There’s a little pricing kink in phone service that allows some phone users to get better phones and service at a lower cost. That kink is just that “prepaid” plans are much less expensive than “postpaid,” and if you shop around you can find great phones to go with them. Here are the top two prepaid alternatives I have found:
- Project Fi. I have been testing this plan and it’s working great for me. Under this plan, you pay $20 a month for unlimited talk and text, and then $10 per GB for the data you use. I usually use about .5 GB in a month, so my bill is $25 plus tax. Better yet, the phone is built to seek out Wi-Fi networks to get you free data when possible. When you’re out of Wi-Fi range, the phone looks for coverage from Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular — and picks the best. Critics complain that only a few phones are Project Fi compliant — but to me it’s worth it to get one of those phones. (Check out the possibilities; more may be on the way; to really save money, get a refurbished older Project Fi phone).
- Republic Wireless. A family member is testing this for me, and he reports great results. With rates similar to Project Fi, a tendency to use free Wi-Fi when it’s available, and the Sprint network otherwise, it’s a worthy competitor.
- Total Wireless. My Project Fi coverage is great — but, let’s face it, Verizon still has the best national network. If you want access to that network with a prepaid plan, check out Walmart’s Total Wireless. You don’t get the best selection of phones, but you do get that Verizon network and you’ll still save a lot over conventional Verizon service.
Important note: If you are taken in by a phone that’s “free” but costs you every month in higher charges, you probably won’t like a prepaid plan. In prepaid plans, you pay a real up-front price for the phone and then save every month. A “free” phone can end up being quite expensive!
I’m not sure why conventional (“postpaid”) wireless is such a bad deal. In the U.S., by historical accident, prepaid became the less prestigious option (think “burner” phones used by bad guys). But prepaid is the norm in other parts of the world and it’s the best deal in the U.S.