So, I have finally decided to make a change to my cell phone provider. I've had AT&T since 2003, and while I can't complain (much) about the service, what Courtney and I have been getting can now be trumped by more current offers. Since the entire phone market is moving the same direction that ISPs have gone (month-to-month without contracts), my requirements were a little easier to meet. Both of the lines I have with AT&T have been active for far longer than two years, and I haven't upgraded phones through them, so we're free to cancel anytime. That being said, here's what I was looking for, in order of importance:
1. Less money than we're currently paying.
2. GSM-based service, for very easy phone changes.
3. Relatively good coverage.
4. No extended contract. Month-to-month only, no cancellation fees.
5. A decent number of minutes.
6. Effectively unlimited texting.
7. Effectively unlimited data (within the 100MB range).
8. No activation fees (because I'm cheap).
There are a whole BUNCH of options if you're willing to forego GSM-based service. GSM means you're going to use AT&T, T-Mobile, or somebody reselling their service. Everyone else uses some other technology. I discovered that there are a whole lot of those resellers out there, from whom you can get some pretty amazing deals, but virtually none of them have any data options. It's awful! You can get unlimited calls and texts for $40 per line from some of these places. But the one or two providers who add data only allow a paltry 20MB or 40MB, and it adds enough to the cost to make it not really worthwhile. Simple Mobile is one of these. They have good options, but not if you constantly check email or something like that. It's very easy to use up 40MB of data with a smartphone without even trying.
Enter T-Mobile's relatively new Even More Plus plans combined with their monthly FlexPay option. They have good combinations of plan options, depending on whether you talk a little or a lot, and whether you want texting and/or data. The FlexPay option means you pay for each month up front instead of on the tail end, and the plans don't offer phone subsidies, so it's almost as easy to get in and out of as, say, TracFone. No activation fee, no contract…they don't even do a credit check because there's no need. If you don't pay, your phone stops working until you pay again. You can get just a SIM card for free so you don't have to buy a low-end phone and sell it on eBay because you don't need it.
Anyway, the plan I picked satisfies every single one of the requirements I listed above, with the possible exception of #7. I need to do some testing to find out if the data option I picked will work with the phone I have. If not, it's still definitely a competitive rate, just not quite as awesome.
The only downside is that there's one particular number that I talk to on AT&T quite a lot (hi Mike!) which no longer qualifies as mobile to mobile. Maybe I'll get a SkypeIn number for those calls or something.
The SIM cards will show up in a day or two so we can test them out. I still have AT&T and a T-Mobile grace period in case it just doesn't work. However, I'm sure I'll have something to write about next week one way or another.