For a family of five on a single income, we are constantly evaluating how we spend our money. We live very lean and save a lot of money. However, I felt there was still one cost that I thought I could improve… our cell phone bill.
Over the years, we had switched from Sprint to Verizon. Our bill when I started looking into this was around $170/month. This included only one smart phone and a dumb phone with 500 texts. We spit 700 talk minutes between the two phones.
Note that when I signed up for my plan, I signed up for $129/month. I have no idea how it got to $170. I never could figure it out.
That’s a terrible deal. I started looking around the other plan options with all the major carriers. My preference was to end up with two smart phones for around $120/month. What I ended up with was way better.
After talking with and studying major carrier plans, I started to consider third-party providers like Virgin, Straight Talk, Page Plus, etc. It turns out you can get some serious deals through these providers. There are some compromises you make.
The third-party providers use the major carrier networks through partnerships. However, the data rates are usually limited and your calls are first to get bumped when the major carrier needs bandwidth.
Page Plus for the Wife
My first attempt at moving away from Verizon I moved my wife’s phone to Page Plus. The porting of her number was a little odd for me to figure out. However, once I got it over, I noticed no difference in the service she was receiving. I went with Page Plus because they use Verizon’s network. Verizon is better at our house than Sprint’s network. The best part though, her bill went down to 29.99 a month for 1200 minutes, 3000 texts and 500 mb of data. Remember that before we shared 700 minutes, she had 500 texts and no data. So her bill went from $85/month to $29/month. Off to a great start.
Google Voice Experiment
For my phone, I thought I might attempt to cheat and go with a solution that has no bill. I had an iPhone 4 and I had used Google Voice for several years as a secondary business phone number. I read many articles where people had switched fully to Google Voice for their phones and just relied on wi-fi for use. I spend 80% of my time or more within wi-fi range at work or home. I went for it. I didn’t like it. Google Voice is useable on iPhone, but doesn’t integrate very well. There are several free apps, but they all have heavy ads and they weren’t very consistent. Also, I was getting many complaints about the call quality. MMS wasn’t possible. SMS didn’t integrate with the native messaging app. I decided to try something else.
During my Google Voice experiment, I had heard of another third-party company that had developed the ability to seamlessly switch calls from wi-fi to cell service. The company is Republic Wireless. Now because the seamless switching is proprietary, you have to buy their phone. This meant my iPhone would have to do something else (remember I mentioned having two smartphones).
Moving My Phone to Republic
The downside to Republic was that they use Sprint’s network. However, the use of wi-fi for calling means it didn’t matter if the Sprint network signal sucks at our house. I decided to go for it.
I ordered their Moto X phone for 299 and signed up for their $10/month plan which gives unlimited calling and text over cell and data only on wi-fi. In order to get cell data (3g speed) you have to bump up to the $25/month plan. As a nice benefit, Republic allows you to change your plan 4 times a month. This means that if you were going to take a long trip and want Pandora and GPS on the road, up your plan. Then decrease it when you get back.
Who won’t this work for?
Anyone who is a very heavy data user. These third-party guys don’t like heavy data users. Republic actually doesn’t care if you are on wi-fi (but then again, no company does). Also, the support from the third-party companies are historically more difficult to deal with.
It also won’t work very well if you are not tech savvy. Switching phone providers, porting numbers and figuring it all out is not for the faint of tech heart. Make sure you’re ready to do your research and do some of the legwork on your own.
In total now, we are paying $29.99 for my wife and $10.89 for me. Our total monthly bill is now 1/4 of our original bill when I started the search.
I’ve been very impressed with Page Plus’ support. Contrary to the reviews online, they’ve been very responsive to me. My uncle and father actually switched their phones over to Page Plus as well and have also been pleasantly surprised.
Republic’s support is less than stellar. You must go through email. However, they’re concept is very cool and I hope as they grow, their support will improve.