For a lot of people, a cell phone is more than just a way to communicate with the world. It's a status symbol, a statement about its owner. Millions of people are iPhone devotees, while millions of others swear by their Androids. And, indeed, many of these phones are quite nice to hold and behold -- elegant meetings of form and function.
And then the bill comes. Hundreds of dollars up front for the phone, and monthly data plans that can run into three figures. And you're likely locked into a two-year contract with an astronomical early-termination fee.
The good news is, you can save a bunch of money every month if you're willing to make some sacrifices, as evidenced by two new cell phone plans rolled out this week.
T-Mobile has launched its GoSmart Mobile service nationwide, aiming for consumers who are mostly into talking and texting and not so much into surfing the internet from their smartphone. GoSmart offers three tiers of monthly pricing: $30 for unlimited talk and text, $35 for unlimited talk, text and web, and $45 for unlimited talk, text and 3G web.
As for phones, you can bring your own and activate it with an $8 SIM kit. Or, you can buy a phone from GoSmart -- either the Alcatel OT 838 for $49, or the ZTE V768 for $99. The latter runs Gingerbread, an older version of the Android operating system.
You can buy GoSmart Mobile at any of more than 3,000 stores nationwide.
The other new plan comes from upstart Republic Wireless. The company made a name for itself last year with a $19 unlimited talk, text and data plan. That plan requires you to pay $249 for the Motorola Defy XT, the only phone that works with Republic.
Now, Republic has debuted a new option that cuts the upfront cost of the phone to $99, and raises the monthly plan to $29.
The secret to Republic's low price is wi-fi. If you're connected to wi-fi when you make a call or send a text, Republic will route it that way, instead of over a more expensive cellular network. (Republic's service does allow you to make calls and send texts over Sprint's cell network.)
There are those sacrifices we mentioned -- a review in the Wall Street Journal found fault with Republic's choice of phone, its call quality, data speed, and transfer problems when you switch from wi-fi to cellular.
But if you can take the good with the bad, you can save a lot of cash. How much? Republic says a family of three would save $2,715 in two years on Republic's $19 a month plan, compared to a two-year contract at $80 a month with a full-service carrier.
Republic's phone and plans are available only through the company's website.