Cell Out

| 19 Comments

Matthew Baldwin and I have been locked in battle for the title of last person on the planet to be without a cell phone, but I'm teetering on the edge of throwing in the towel for an upcoming project. Thing is, I know squat about cell phones. I've virtually never used one. I have DSL at home, so I can't get rid of my land line. A cell phone would primarily be used for incoming calls, and not very frequently. Here's what I'm looking for:

  • low monthy fee
  • built-in camera
  • address book
  • small form factor
  • POP3 email would be nice, but not essential
  • ability to use Google would also be nice, but not essential

    Any suggestions for cell phone models, carriers, and rate plans for someone who wants mobile telephony on the cheap?

  • 19 Comments

    You've happily gone this long without one -- why start now? Isn't that like taking up smoking in your 30s?

    Steer clear, my friend. The good they provide (emergency situations only, IMO) is heavily outweighed by their high annoyance factor. It's 'good' to be unreachable.

    >>...locked in battle for the title of last person on the planet to be without a cell phone...

    No chance. My mother is the antichrist of technology.

    And you want to go from "nothing" to "pictures + web access"?

    Keep your address book etc. on the cheapest Palm or PocketPC you can find, think about how you've been doing fine all this time without email and google every second, and get the cheapest voice-only phone if you really need one for emergencies.

    I agree, buy voice only... and get a phone where you pre-buy minutes (you can re-up when you need more). Then you are only paying for exactly what you need and when.

    I also agree, being reachable is not all it is cracked up to be. Definitely good advice above!

    If you sign up for T-Mobile you can call your partner for free.

    I agree with the above commenters: If you're going cheap, skip the camera/wireless. The cheapest cell phone you're going to find is the free one that most providers offer with their service. And those won't have more than the basics.

    If you go for a service fee (ie not prepaid minutes), Sara & I had a SprintPCS for $13/mo up until recently ... when we realized that the few times we did use it more than our alloted minutes we were so overcharged that we ended up averaging more than $30/mo over the year. So we switched to Working Assets, which is ~$30/mo for basic service & a good # of day/anytime minutes, decent free phone (ring tones, games, address book ... no camera, internet access). Plus you get that do-gooder thing of 1% of your bill going to charity. The service behind it is actually still SprintPCS, which I've found to be quite reliable. We don't use the cell that much, but I've been happy with it.

    Since I've made the plug, I might as well offer a way to follow it up:

    http://www.workingassetswireless.com/

    I checked just to be sure I'd written everything correctly, and I think I did: $30/mo for unlimited night/weekend and 250 minutes daytime ... which is pretty good, I think. (Tho to be honest, I didn't really shop around much; we like Working Assets.) The phone is different than the one I got (maybe they've upgraded since then), but seems good.

    If you do decide to go with Working Assets, let me know: I think if you mention me as a referer, I get something (not sure what) that I'd be happy to share with you.

    (Offer open to other Zombie readers, btw)

    We used to use working assets for our long distance. They were fine, but it was just too expensive to not go with our local carrier as our sole provider.

    And I don't know what this crap is about you and Matthew being the last cell phone hold-outs. I quit a cushy job at IBM partly because they told me I needed to start carrying a cell phone (well, I wanted to quit anyway, but it made the decision easier). I think there are a lot of people out there who like not being reachable all the time.

    Having said that, I would love to have something to keep in my glove compartment that is only for outgoing emergency calls. Something like life alert, really.

    i don't understand everyone equating owning a cell phone with being constantly reachable. i own a cell phone, but i only carry it when i want to be reached. if you wanted to carry it all the time so you could always make outgoing calls then all you have to do is turn it off until you want to use it.

    First off, before considering Working Assets, add up how much you'll be "donating" to random causes based on the size of your phone bills. I did the math and figured I'd be "donating" about $20 per year to a variety of causes chosen by someone else if I switched to Working Assets. So I sat down and wrote a $50 check to a local charity I like, and then said, "OK, who has the best prices?"

    Next, when it comes to cell phones, technology and coverage are important. The best technology is CDMA. The best digital coverage is CDMA 800MHz, because it's the oldest and has been building out longer, and because it's the most bandwidth-efficient, which means they don't need to split cells as often.

    That leads inevitably to Verizon, which uses CDMA exclusively, and in most areas (including Seattle) owns the 800MHz spectrum.

    Get the cheapest phone Verizon makes, and get them to throw in a free car charger (they always will if you ask). You'll be happy.

    When I looked for a cell plan 1 1/2 years ago, I looked into prepaid minutes because I knew I won't use by cell phone much (mostly when I traveled). Anyway I discovered that back then (don't know if it has changed) the prepaid minutes expire if you don't use them. So even if you don't use many minutes, you still have to buy more minutes every so often.

    It appears that after taking into account the price of minutes, there is cost associated with just having a cell connection. (It make sense, if you have your cell phone turned on, you are using resources even if you don't make or receive any calls). When I was looking, that price was somewhere between $15 and $20 a month.

    I recently switched to Verizon and have been very happy with the service. It's local all over the USA, unlike my old service, which is nice when I go visit the folks in Florida and still need to keep in touch with work.

    I got a LG model 6100 (has a camera and can do Internet if I was willing to pay for it) which cost me $50 after rebate - but if you are not in a rush you can get it for free after rebate at amazon. I had to switch quickly and wanted to keep my old phone number so just paid the $50. Anyway, the phone is nice, pictures are decent, and if you buy a cheap USB transfer cable you can dump ringtones and images back and forth with your computer for free.

    Oh - I forgot to comment on the "alway in touch" thing... If you don't want people to call you don't give them your number. Or leave the phone off. Or leave it in privacy modem (it just vibrates so it won't bother anyone) and let them get voice mail.

    But that's no reason not to have the phone with you pretty much always. Mine fits in my front pocket with no problem - I tend to forget it's there. And why would you NOT want to be able to call a tow truck (assuming you have a car of course) or the police or whatever if you need to, whenever you need to?

    What you've described wanting is pretty much the same as me (apart from the camera). The problem is that US mobile phone companies are a total rip-off for us.

    In Australia, I have a tri-band (GSM, of course) phone ($20 on ebay), SIM card (free, but they usually cost about $20) and no plan fees. I simply pay for calls I make. My bill for the last quarter was a little lower than average for me: 86c. Total I've paid for calls in 2 years is a little under $14. That's AUD. About USD10.

    In the USA, AFAIK, there are no pay-as-you-go options. Everyone wants to sell you an expensive plan than includes 100 times as much call time as I'd ever use. US pre-paid SIM cards only seem to last about a month (ours are 6-12 months), making the pre-paid option 6-12 times as expensive too.

    If anyone knows of any cheap option in the US, I'd love to hear about it.

    There are valid reasons not to get one. People do get pissed if you have a cell phone and don't answer it. It's one thing to screen your calls if you're not home - it's another when you know the person has the phone on them. I'd just as soon not piss people off (even unintentionally). But that's me.

    Plus, I imagine it's like cable tv and most other things of that ilk - if I have it, I'm going to use it. A lot. I already know I don't want to be one of those people who is on the phone all the time (people who are really annoying), and I know I have no self control, so I don't get one. That's me.

    screen your calls if your not home? That's not what screening your calls is... you screen your calls when you ARE home. Maybe that was just a typo?

    Anyway, if you have no self control and think you will use a cell phone all the time, then by all means don't get one! I use mine when I need to, and do everything I can to not use it in crowds / stores / restaurants, etc... I'll walk outside most of the time, unless it's just a quick question of some sort. Anyway, my point was I agree that people who seem to have the phone implanted and can't stop talking are annoying - so don't become one of them, please :)

    Yes, a typo. Moo moo.

    The rudest people on earth are cell phone users. They will leave you standing and answer that damned phone without a "Do you mind if I answer this call?". They are rude and and inconsiderate. The next person that does that to me will be extra sorry and will never do it again.
    Eric-Gunther;Oberhauser

    i need to know the reason how the process takes place when its not reachable

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