You can consider purchasing a prepaid cell phone plan, also known as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ plan. You can purchase the plan if you
- are not a heavy cell phone user,
- are interested in buying an economical phone plan
- are comfortable using a phone without any contract
The advantages are quite obvious.
- Prepaid phones are cheaper than other phones are priced in the range of $25-$100.
- The cost of talking for 100 minutes a month can be as low as $10. Compare this to the 900 minute nationwide plan for $60 offered by AT&T. If you are a heavy phone user, you must consider purchasing a phone contact. To figure out which plan would work best for you, start with a prepaid phone for a couple of months and if your monthly bills are high you can quickly switch to a postpaid plan.
- The voice quality of prepaid phones is quite good. The phones are light, have limited features, and have workable displays (typically low-resolution).
- You can recharge your phone online or go to a nearby store.
- Minutes expire after a certain period of time. If you add more value to your account (as low as $10-$15) you can get the minutes to roll forward.
- There are many flexible options for consumers: pay in advance, monthly fee for a fixed number of minutes, and other plans. Usually the cost per minute is as low as 5-20 cents. The cost of text messaging is about 20 cents. For example, The Verizon Prepaid Unlimited Talk plan offers unlimited domestic voice calling to anyone on any network and 1 text messaging. The Verizon Prepaid Plus plan offers unlimited mobile to mobile calling, night minutes, and unlimited weekends. There are other plans as well: Prepaid Core and Prepaid Basic.
- All the major carriers in U.S. such as AT&T, Veizon, Sprint, Nextel offer prepaid plans. The major carriers have their own cell phone towers. There are other carriers that use the towers of the major players and typically have no towers of their own. For example, Virgin uses Sprint’s network. These carriers also offer competitive prepaid plans. Overall, T-Mobile, TracFone, Virgin, & Verizon are popular among prepaid phone users.
Some of the disadvantages are:
- There are no free minutes for weekends and evening/night calling. For users that use a lot of talk time and text messages, prepaid plans are not a good bargain.
- Many LG and Nokia prepaid phones like LG Flare and Nokia 2610 do not offer smart-phone like capabilities such as 3G support, GPS navigation, Bluetooth, camera, music player, etc. Others like Motorola offer many high end features.
How to get started on a prepaid phone
Since there is very little variety in this market, it is better to choose a carrier first and then purchase a phone. There are many exclusive online offers. You can browse the offers on the websites of major service providers. Choose a plan that works within your budget and gives you sufficient talk time. You can order a phone online or in-store. It is always good to compare deals across many providers and check network coverage before making a choice.