3 of the Best Cheap Smartphone Plans

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Remember when a cell phone bill could reach $200 or $300? Back in those days, cell phone plans included 200 or so minutes, and features like 411 and texting came at an additional cost. Roaming charges were astronomical, and if you traveled out of your cell phone service area, you could be looking at a ridiculously high phone bill at the end of the month.

Even further back, like during the days when Zack Morris called Kelly Kapowski on his comically large mobile phone, he probably paid a monthly fee of around $45 just to have his phone function (this equals around $82 worth of today’s money.) For each call he made, he paid anywhere between 25 and 95 cents per minute (between 46 cents and $1.73 in today’s money.) Therefore, if we were still subject to the same prices today that we were in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we’d be looking at a cost of anywhere between $27 and $104 for an hour long phone call, which is the type of call most of us make on a regular basis.

What changed? Prepaid cellular plans became a popular option for cellular customers during the late 1990s and early 2000s. These customers did not have to worry about a credit check or any type of commitment as they could simply purchase phone service for an allotted time period. Phones became throw away for many customers as the price of materials declined and more and more providers entered the industry. By the time the iPhone hit the scene in 2007, millions of consumers already had cellphones, but the level of usage was set to increase dramatically.

As of 2014, a startling 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone, according to Pew Research. Of those ages 18 to 29, 98 percent of these adults are cell phone users. Cell phone use spreads across all races, ages, and demographics as technology of these phones rapidly increases. In the seven short years since its introduction, 58 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Smartphones have had a profound impact on our society and considering the high level of usage, these phones are a regular expense that impact our monthly budget.

These days, multiple providers are competing with each other to recruit customers. With so many providers offering no-contract plans, it can be difficult to determine the best deal. We’ve listed some of the smartphone plans we think are a good deal. Most carriers offer unlimited talk and text, but the differences generally lie in the amount of data you receive (and what happens after you use all of your data), customer reviews, and also the details involved with obtaining a device.

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

1. H20 Wireless 

Talk and Text: The cost of H2O Wireless plans start at $30 for a monthly plan, and the most expensive plan is $60 per month. All monthly plans offer unlimited nationwide talk and text and each plan offers a various amount of international talk credit. The $30 plan offers $5 of international talk credit, the $40 plan offers $20 of international credit, a $50 plan offers $40 of this credit, and the $60 plan offers $20 of such credit.

As for international texting, each plan allows users to send 100 international text free of charge and receive unlimited international texts, with the exception of the $60 plan, which allows unlimited sending and receiving of international texts.

Data: Each H2O plan offers a different amount of data. The lowest level plan — the $30 plan — provides customers with 500 MB of data, which will allow users to send a few emails and play a few games here and there, but heavy users will need likely need to connect to a home wifi network. For moderate users, the $40 plan offers 1GB of data and the $50 plan offers 2 GB of data. The $60 plan provides unlimited data, and when compared to other $60 plans from competitors, this is an excellent value. The network receives overall good reviews from users and it appears to be pretty reliable.

Devices: H2O customers have several phone options to choose from, ranging from a basic Pantech Pocket device to an iPhone 5s. The provider offers older model iPhones, including the iPhone 3s 8G for users who do not want to shell out too much money and customers can also apply for monthly payment options. The best value phone appears to be the Motorola Bravo bundle, with a cost of $199.

Contract: H2O does not require any sort of contract from users and plans are month-to-month. Users also have the option to purchase pay-as-you-go plans as well.

Nokia-Lumia-520

Source: Nokia

2. Cricket Wireless

Talk and Text: Cricket offers unlimited nationwide talk and text and also three levels of plans — a $40 basic plan, a $50 smart plan, and a $60 pro plan. Smart and pro plan customers receive unlimited text messages to 35 countries and the wireless provider also offers a $5 discount for auto-pay and a family discount of up to $90.

Data: Crickets data plans are among the best. The basic plan provides 500 MB of data at 4G speeds and when that data runs out, you can still use your phone’s Internet, your speed are dramatically reduced (to a max of 128kbps), however, until your next billing cycle. Reducing speeds, as opposed to adding on additional charges when data runs out, allows users to purchase minimal amounts of data without being concerned about overage. For Cricket’s smart and pro plans, users receive larger data quantities of 2.5 and 5 GB, respectively.

Devices: Cricket offers a variety of smartphones. Currently, the provider is featuring the Nokia Lumia 520 for $49.99 with a $50 mail in rebate, which renders the phone free of charge. Customers may receive the same deal with the ZTE Prelude. Customers also have the option to purchase pricier smartphones like the Lumia 1320 (for a cost of $279.99), the Galaxy S4 (for $479.99), or the iPhone 5S 16 GB (for $649.99.) Considering the large upfront cost associated with the more expensive phones, Cricket is perhaps an ideal provider for someone who is content with a budget smartphone.

Contract: Cricket does not require any sort of contract from customers and users are on a month-to-month arrangement.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Net 10 Wireless

Talk and Text: Just like most other providers, Net 10 offers unlimited talk and text. Net 10′s smartphone plans start at $40 per month and the pricier plans will run you up to $75 per month. That is, if you add on features like unlimited international calling and texting, for instance. You can also share a family plan where up to 4 people can pay between $37 and $43 per month for Net 10′s unlimited services. You can also receive discounts for auto-refill services.

Data: Net 10 is another provider who slows data after you hit your usage mark, as opposed to charging you extra or cutting off your phone. This helps save you a bit of money. The lowest level data plan is for 500 MB of data, and that plan costs $40. The next plan jumps up to $60 and that plan offers 2.5 GB of data. After that, you’re looking at a pretty high cost of $75 per month, but you receive 5 GB of data. When you compare the cost to data information to the industry competition, Net 10 is a really good value.

Devices: Net 10 customers can purchase a value smartphone, like the LG Optimus Q, ZTE Midnight, or the Huawei Glory for under $80. However, those looking for a Samsung, iPhone, or another in-demand phone are going to have to pay a pretty penny. The iPhone 5s comes with a price tag of $650 and even the older model iPhone 4s will put a $300 dent in your wallet. Want a Galaxy S4? You’re looking at a cost of $499.99.

Contract: Net 10 customers do not have to sign any sort of contract, and users are on a month-to-month arrangement.

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