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Old 08-20-2014, 07:36 PM   #1
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Time to re-evaluate cell phone service

We are retired and want to receive the most value for the money that we have earned and now spend. Earlier this summer we began celebrating our independence from pay TV by buying an indoor antenna and cancelling our cable TV service, which is now saving us $900/year. A new law this summer, "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act", makes it easier for consumers to change their cell phone service. So we are now re-evaluating our cell phone service, usage, costs, and value.

We bought our first cell phone in 2006 (when we purchased our trailer) to be used especially when traveling away from home and used in case of emergencies. We still have and use this one Verizon flip phone with no texting or internet data use for $43.86/month (we have an AT&T land line and we do not have a need to text or get on the internet via a cell phone.)

Earlier this year, I was surprised to read the Consumer Reports January 2014 issue on choosing the best phones and plans, which reported that Consumer Cellular was the leader in customer satisfaction, based on value, data, and support.

I found it interesting that Consumer Cellular got many excellent reviews on the Open Roads forum thread, "Anyone use Consumer Cellular phone service?". I can see why: Consumer Cellular has inexpensive plans that require no contract and can be changed at any time without a service fee, uses AT&T network, is the exclusive wireless provider for AARP and gives discounts to AARP members, has a low-cost family plan that lets family members share minutes, and calls between phones on the same Consumer Cellular account are free. (Otherwise, there are no free mobile-mobile or free night and weekend minutes.)

I looked back at our Verizon cell phone usage over the years and saw that we rarely go over 200 minutes/month (including mobile-mobile, nights & weekends), so the corresponding Consumer Cellular plan of 200 anytime minutes/month would be $15/month ($14.25 for AARP members). This is so inexpensive that we are now considering getting two new flip phones (the Envoy from Consumer Cellular) for $35 apiece. Adding one additional line would cost another $9.50/month resulting in the total monthly service bill of about $26, including surcharges, fees, and taxes. (A savings of over $200/year.)

Nearly cutting our existing wireless bill in half, while gaining a second cell phone seems to be in our future.

Is Consumer Cellular the best value in cell phone service? What cell phone and service plan do you have and are you re-evaluating it? If you could change your service plan right now without any penalty or fee, which service plan would you choose?

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Old 08-20-2014, 08:16 PM   #2
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Consumer Cellular Envoy

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Old 08-20-2014, 08:45 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by SilverGate View Post
Is Consumer Cellular the best value in cell phone service? What cell phone and service plan do you have and are you re-evaluating it? If you could change your service plan right now without any penalty or fee, which service plan would you choose?
I guess the answer to that question depends on whether Consumer Cellular's network covers where you travel, and are going to travel in the future.

I am not especially happy with Verizon's rates, but I keep my Verizon phones (one smart phone, one dumb phone, and one LTE modem) for three important reasons:

1. Coverage
2. Coverage
3. Coverage

For example, at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, I have a faster internet connection on my Verizon MiFi modem than I do with our DSL connection at home.

Come to think of it, I can't remember a campground in the last couple of years where I haven't had cell phone coverage, and usually 4G LTE internet coverage. Whatever you may think about Verizon, they have put the money into their network.

Back when I was working, I was involved in the ground end of air-to-ground flight tests in the Nevada desert. We are really talking "out back of beyond" here. There were times when I was the only one on the crew whose cell phone worked.

Low price is great, but no coverage = no bargain.

Just my $.02 worth.
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Old 08-20-2014, 09:41 PM   #4
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Just last week I was in New Mexico and Colorado....Only those of us with Verizon had cell service at all.
"If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted
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Old 08-20-2014, 09:51 PM   #5
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We have been with Consumer Cellular for about a year now and like it. Have not had any problems. But then we have not been all over the country either. They do use AT&T but also piggy back on Verizon for some of their data coverage. They also offer an AAA package, which is what we signed up with.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:49 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Melody Ranch View Post
Just last week I was in New Mexico and Colorado....Only those of us with Verizon had cell service at all.
Wow! We travel in New Mexico and Colorado quite often, use ATT and very rarely have a lose of service.
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:09 AM   #7
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I have AT&T service and it provides coverage almost everywhere I go. I go with friends who have Verizon and many times they use my phone because I have service and they do not. But I also use theirs on occasion because the tables have turned. My opinion on switching carriers is you are just changing where your dead spots are.
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:27 AM   #8
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We use our phones strictly as simple phones and don't even use them that often at that. For this purpose, our two phones work just fine. We use T-Mobile prepurchased minutes. Our cost: $100 per year for each of the two phones; 1000 minutes per year per phone, which is way more than enough for us.

Oh, and I ordered my phone via Walmart and paid $29 for it. (Maria's was a free hand-me-down from a friend.)

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Old 08-21-2014, 09:35 AM   #9
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take a look at Rebublic Wireless

We are going through this analysis too.

Republic Wireless is a new business model. They keep rates low by offering only 2 model phones that always default to using WiFi instead of cellular to place and receive calls. It uses sprint network when it switches automatically from wifi to to cellular.

They provide an app to help keep track of wifi connections and to connect. This is the key to them keeping cost low because they buy bandwidth from Sprint.

You could for example use cellular on the road all day and then it would switch over to the campground wifi when parked.

All plans are unlimited talk, text and/or data. No contract.

Unlimited talk, text and data on wifi-only plan (non cellular) which is great for a home phone number that we can also take on the road. $5/month

Unlimited talk and text (wifi and 3G cellular) plus unlimited data on wifi is $10/month

Unlimited talk, text and data (wifi and 3G cellular) $25/month

Unlimited talk, text and data (wifi and 4G cellular) $40/month

You can switch across these plans with no charge twice a year.

You buy the android phone from them - only their phones work because of the seamless wifi switching.

The $25/month plan saves us $900/year over our sprint plan.

I am also transferring our home phone number to the $5plan. It uses wifi at home, Then when we hit the road I will upgrade to the $10/plan so it works on cellular too! That will save us another $300/year

(btw thier MotoG phone is 3G only so the $40 month plan is not available for it)
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:46 AM   #10
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I find it amazing that the rest of the world has cell phone service that is almost free and I sit here in Princeton NJ with 1 bar on my I Phone 5 and am paying Verizon through the nose for that.

I can drive less than 5 miles from the state capital of Trenton and have no service at all.

Verizon had an agreement with the state to provide Fios service to the whole state. They have just reneged on that agreement saying it would cost too much to cover south Jersey. This is a company that makes 6,000 percent margin on text messaging.

Thank God and the FCC for competition.
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by HowieE View Post
I find it amazing that the rest of the world has cell phone service that is almost free

Thank God and the FCC for competition.
The FCC long ago abandoned its role to somewhat protect consumers. They interfere with free market competition - now in collusion with corporate lobbyists. The Chinese call this model "state capitalism"

However, it is no better in other countries which are even more regulated. The low monthly rates you may see must be peeled back. In many places the caller pays a fee to connect to a cellphone. Unlike copper/fiber phones, cellular will always be limited by the bandwidth. That is what drives the pricing along with hefty fees to connect back and forth across cellular and landline (POTS) systems...and we have state, federal and local taxes and regulatory fees now at insane levels.

All in all though we have more option for lower cost cellular in the US. And we could do way better if we got the taxman and regulators out of our pockets.

For example, I can take my deacivated cellphone that has a voip app on it and call someone on Skype or another VOIP phone for free using wifi on my internet. But if I use it to call a traditional landline I have to pay all sorts of regulatory fees and taxes.

This is why the FCC now wants to regulate the internet. They are working hard with lobbyists to pass "Net Neutrality" regulations which is anything but, and will kill freemarket competition .

There is another effort to stop the FCC by prohibiting them from classifying the internet as a "utility".
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:05 AM   #12
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I have used Tracfone for many years and have been totally satisfied with the service. I have a standard cell (currently an LG500g for $30. It does have Internet access that uses phone minutes) that does voice and text. I got a ZTE smartphone for the wife ($49 at Target) and she loves it so much she said I could get rid of the house phone. (She has disliked every other model of cell phone I've had. The ZTE is the only cell she will use.) My son has a standard flip phone ($17 from Tracfone web site, shipped USPS to me), also only voice and texting but with the same Internet capability as mine.

My wife's is on Verizon and mine is on AT&T. So far one of us has always had access. Since her's is a smartphone we use the GasBuddy, Good Sam and many other apps as we travel. She's getting to be quite the navigator.

Tracfone is 'pay as you go' but you need to buy time every 90 days. If you don't use all your minutes, they roll over as long as you don't go past your due date (minutes and due date are displayed on the screen). If you run out of minutes before your due date you purchase more and another 90 days is added to your due date. The phones you buy are double or triple minutes (and data) for life. Buy 120 minutes, get 240 minutes. If you buy a different phone you transfer your number, minutes and due date to the new phone.

You buy minutes via their web site, at retail stores or you can set up your phone to buy minutes by using the phone's features. You buy what you want, when you need it. So far this system has worked very well for all of us.

I use mine more, so I buy minutes more frequently. My due date is May of next year. My wife and son use theirs less, so they both have a ton of rollover minutes but I have to buy more every 90 days.

I calculate that our phone service costs us less than $10 per month per phone.

Rich & Yvonne
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:10 AM   #13
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Hi, we had Verizon cell phone service for years. The phone service was great as in no dropped calls Etc. Dealing with Verizon wasn't always so great. Several years ago we switched to Trac-fone [dumb phones] We paid $20.00 per phone and $100.00 per year for minutes. The one year card was good for one year and 400 minutes, but doubled to 800 minutes with our phones. We recently updated to smarter dumb phones [$35.00 each]that are easier to use and we now text and send pictures The service has been great. Our new phones triple the minutes, so when we buy a 400 minute card we get 1200 minutes. During a promotion we get an extra 250 minutes. So for $100.00 we get 1450 minutes. I think we get the best bang for the buck.

At our new home, we chose to not have a land line.

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Old 08-21-2014, 10:23 AM   #14
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In Canada, Bell and Rogers are the two largest cellphone suppliers, and they of course, give the widest coverage. There are other supplies, such as Telus, that want you to think they are a national supplier, but I don't find that to be true. They are based in the west, and that's where they do the best job.

There are other smaller and regional or urban-based suppliers, but they all buy coverage from one of the top 3, so it's not hard to see the 'roaming' message light up if you get about a lot.

But only Rogers have a real Pay As You Go system that I have found. Since I retired, my use is almost all "Emergency" (We're out of bread, Amy needs help, and so on), compared to what I was used to when I travelled for work.

The Rogers system is great. I don't have to pay for a data plan that I don't need (I just find a WiFi spot if I need to do that stuff) and there is no monthly "must buy" amount. I buy airtime in advance in lots of $100, and it doesn't expire for a year. Not that I don't use it before that, but there is little use in the winter for me, and purchases of time of lesser amounts DO expire faster.

I haven't spent more than $200 a year in the six years since I retired. The PAYG plan is perfect for me.

I have an unlimited Canada-USA plan on my home phone, that I can use on my cell, so I never spend a nickle on long distance either.

Comme la vie est belle, as the French say.

If it's to be, it's up to me.
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