Verhasselt: Cutting ties with all the lies: Switching to prepaid cell phones

Heath Verhasselt

As we enter into the 2011 holiday shopping season, I’m willing to bet that many of you probably have a smartphone on your wish list. Whether it be an iPhone 4S with its dual core A5 processor, Siri voice assistant and its crazy-fancy camera, or the new HTC Rezound with its Beats Audio, 4.3 inch 720p display and 1.5ghz dual core Snapdragon processor if you’re the Android fan, whatever your preference, I might suggest that maybe you’re going about it in the wrong way. Almost every cell phone carrier has a lineup of smartphones to choose from, so perhaps instead of shopping by phone, it’s time to shop by carrier.

Many of your are on your parents’ plan, but it might be time for them to re-evaluate their family’s cell phone provider as well. Seeing as how Verizon, Sprint and AT&T still don’t have family data plans, this is something you might bring up with them. T-Mobile is the winner here with a huge selection of Android smartphones from almost every manufacturer and so many family data plan options, not to mention 4G coverage in Ames/Des Moines and free Wi-Fi calling.

My question for you is, have you ever thought of going prepaid? Now when I think of prepaid, I think of an old person with a TracFone, Net10 or some kid with a Firefly phone. But that’s no longer the case, as there’s several prepaid phone providers that offer several very nice smartphones, with great plans and almost unbelievable pricing. I’m talking about the likes of Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and SimpleMobile. Boost for example has unlimited everything plans starting at $50 ($55 for Android handsets) that actually drop in price as you pay your bill on time.

Virgin Mobile has its BeyondTalk plans with Unlimited Text, Unlimited Data, and 300 anytime minutes for $35 a month, while their unlimited everything runs for $55. Because with Skype and Google Voice, who needs minutes anyways? Both carriers have a surprisingly impressive lineup of smartphones, with everything from HTC, Samsung and LG, and several running on Android 2.3. Both of these carriers piggyback off of Sprint’s network, meaning your have fairly decent coverage nationwide.

Another prepaid carrier, also the inspiration for this column, is SimpleMobile. They offer a $40 a month unlimited everything plan. What’s interesting about this company is they promote a BYOP, bring your own phone, meaning you don’t have to buy a phone to use their service, you can use almost any GSM handset you might have. They piggyback on T-Mobile’s network and offer 4G plans as well. They might very well be the best prepaid carrier out there. I mean, you can call up TracFone and ask about their 4G plans but I’m willing to bet you’re not going to get very far.

The best part on all of these is that there’s no contract to sign, and no cancellation fee. And if you want a new phone they’re not $600 because “You’re not yet eligible for an upgrade.” The point I’m making in this article is that with all of these alternative plans out there, why even bother signing a contract? The iPhone being the exception, as there isn’t a prepaid option. It’s even peaked the interest of larger carriers, as T-Mobile and AT&T both offer unlimited everything prepaid plans for $50 a month. Why bother with anything else?

Many could argue that 2011 is the year of the smartphone, but I beg to differ. 2011 is the year of the affordable cell plan, and we’re all winners.