Just about the time that Verizon Wireless utters the words, “We’ll let your network speak for itself,” is the time that they usually end up bowing to the competition and doing something nice for their customers. The More Everything plans are exactly that. A bit more data and a tiny bill cut will help ease the blow that many VZW users feel when they see their monthly statements. It doesn’t drop them down to T-Mobile like levels yet, but every little bit helps.
The new plans begin with the same $40 smartphone/$30 basic phone connection charges, or the $10 Tablet/$20 USB Modem-Jetpack fee and let you add a bit of data to them. This is where the plans really get a bit better. You can now outfit your family with as little as 250MB of data for $15. This means an iPhone can now run on Verizon for only $55 a month. Of course, that only includes 250MB of cell data, but that might be enough for the lowest data users.
If that’s not enough, you can add data by the GB after 500MB tier at $30. 1GB runs $40, 2GB is $50 and 3GB is $60. That’s about where the sale ends though. While this is a great move, we sure wish they would give a larger break to those 10-20GB share plans as well. As it sits, for 5 smartphones and 10GB of data, a user is staring at $300 a month plus taxes. For the same plan on T-Mobile with Unlimited data you are looking at $210 a month plus phones.
For now, we would continue to steer users to the non-contract forms of service. If you need the Verizon network, stick with the Moto G and the prepaid $60 a month plan. 5 lines on that plan will cost you the same as the contract rates, but you won’t be stuck in a long term deal. If you are open to other carriers, check out the offerings from Red Pocket Mobile (AT&T) or Spot Mobile (T-Mobile).
We shall call this the era of killing the carrier. Yes, that is a good name for these upstarts that are, frankly, killing the carrier. Some time ago, Republic Wireless broke on to the scene with their Wi-Fi calling hybrid system that changed how some looked at cellular service. Then along came companies like Ting, where you pay small amounts if you use a small amount or larger amounts if you used more. Scratch Wireless is taking this bill cutting a step further than the two aforementioned companies by offering FREE service using their devices over Wi-Fi systems.
Scratch is banking on the fact that their users will be around Wi-Fi most of the time. For some, this wouldn’t be an issue if there is Wi-Fi at work and Wi-Fi at home. It’s even better for one that is using the device as a home phone replacement as the existing Wi-Fi connection is all they need to worry about each month. Scratch publishes on their website that people are around Wi-Fi 80% of the time. This includes being at home, school, work and even cafes. Just in case you were wondering what happens if you happen to be somewhere without that precious Wi-Fi, you can still text anywhere you have Sprint coverage.
Now, if you want to chat while you are on vacation, or don’t have access to public Wi-Fi at some points in time, you can simply purchase a day pass to use your device or purchase a 30 day pass as well. The 24 hour pass is $1.99 and offers either 30 minutes of cellular calling or 25MB of data. The 30 day pass runs $14.99 and is good for 250 minutes of talk or 200MB of data. Note these are not “and” prices, they are “or” prices. You can purchase a voice pass or a data pass or both, but you cannot split them between the two.
Scratch has chosen the Motorola Photo Q as their device of choice for running their software. The Photon Q is a bit aged in design, but still holds it’s own against today’s more advanced handsets. The 4.3” display is powered by a 1785mAh battery pack that provides up to 7.5 hours of talk time. The 1.5GHz dual-core processor hums along nicely. The 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage will keep multitasking people moving as well. The addition of a MicroSD card slot allows for up to 32GB of additional memory for media as well. The last “great” addition to the Moto Photon Q that is often overlooked is the full QWERTY slide out keyboard, that is perfect for messaging and email.
While we continue to check out new comers like this, something to consider is the startup cost. The Motorola Photon Q will set you back $269.99 (or darn near the same price as the Moto X from Republic Wireless) but the monthly service charge of zero is a nice addition to the mix. Taking a look at the overall pricing though, unless you are living in a land of Wi-Fi, those day passes will probably be something you get more often than not – if not for the reason that you need to call someone, but more for the reason that they might need to call you. For that reason, we have to give Scratch Wireless a mid-range recommendation here. The per minute cost while off Wi-Fi is just too high for us.
We give FreedomPop’s 2 year pricing the nod for the value plans once again as the cost is the same as Scratch Wireless’ offering, but it includes unlimited talk, text and 500MB of data each month on the cellular network, compared to Scratch Wireless’ daily or monthly passes at a higher cost. That said, you can only get much older, refurbished hardware from FreedomPop at the moment, but it’s a small price to pay for a $11.25 a month cell phone bill. Of course, the better deal still is FreedomPop’s Basic plan, but not everyone can get by using just 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB of data each month.
By The Numbers:
Scratch Wireless – Wi-Fi Calling Plan
$269.99 Device Cost + $0 per month = $269.99 over 24 months
Cost per month over 24 months = $11.25
Republic Wireless – $5 Wi-Fi Calling Plan
$279.99 Device Cost +5 per month = $399.99 over 24 months
Cost per month over 24 months = $16.67
FreedomPop Wireless – Basic
$159.99 Device Cost + $0 per month = 159.99 over 24 months
Cost per month over 24 months = $6.67
FreedomPop Wireless – 2 Year
$159.99 Device Cost + $110.00 2 year service payment = $269.99 over 24 months
Cost per month over 24 months = $11.25
Upstart “freemium” wireless carrier FreedomPop has a new device in its product lineup. Starting out late last year, FreedomPop offered up potential users a great deal on a $99 HTC Evo device. After the beta period ended, the Evo’s price went up, but for a bill-less cell phone, it was still a value at $199.99. Moving forward to today’s announcement, FreedomPop has run the Galaxy SII (WiMax edition) out for their users to enjoy. Even with it’s aging specs, the GSII is still a very solid device.
The Sprint-tastic version of the Galaxy S II shipped back in late 2011, but still has some specs that keep up with today’s lower cost Android handsets. The 1GB of RAM might struggle a bit with some of the more ‘multi-task’ oriented folks, but for the average user, 1GB is more than adequate. Also, the 16GB of internal storage is plenty to suffice, especially when you consider you can add in a 32GB MicroSD card for storing media. The device is equipped with the WiMax 4G radio as well as the EV-DO Rev. A (incase you are worried about WiMax going away soon) that operates at 3.1Mbps downlink.
The 8MP camera will capture amazing images and the 2MP front camera is perfect for selfies and video chatting. The 4.5” screen is still at the “about perfect” size range and the 800×480 resolution isn’t tops in the game any longer, but it’s far from a bad looking display. As far as we could find, the last version of Android that the GSII (Sprint) version had was 2.3.4 (Gingerbread). The Dual-core 1.2 GHz Exynos chipset inside should keep performing well for quite some time as well.
But what does this $160 investment in a dying phone get you? Well, if you are the low use cellular type that is usually just playing with Facebook and Pinterest on Wi-Fi, you can get a bill-less cell phone from here on out. That’s right, you get 200 minutes of voice, 500 texts and 500MB of data for free. If you need some additional talk time, for $10.99 you can upgrade to unlimited talk and text with 500MB of data. Then for the ones that really want to save, you can subscribe annually to the unlimited plan and get it for $6.67 per month (a one-time payment of $79.99) or even go out a full 24 months and bring that cost down to $4.58 per month (a one-time payment of $110.00 for 24 months of service). There isn’t a cheaper plan available.
Now, for those watching those penny pinching bills even more, you need to note that voicemail is an additional $2.49 a month unless you subscribe to the annual or 2 year plan. One quick way around this of course is to hook your Google Voice number to your Freedom Pop number and use this for voice mail and messaging.The 500MB of data will probably go pretty quickly for those that aren’t living by Wi-Fi, but again, for such a low cost, it’s hard to kick a deal like this to the curb.
That said, the new FreedomPop offering is very exciting to see. With ultra-low cost 2 year plans becoming more and more available, it’s only a matter of time before the big boys take notice and start dropping rates – we hope…
By The Numbers:
2 Year Cost – FreedomPop Unlimited Plan
$159.99 Device Cost + $110.00 2 year service price = $11.25 per month
2 Year Cost – Republic Wireless – $5 Wi-Fi Plan (Wi-Fi Only Service)
$279.99 Device Cost + $120.00 2 year service price = $16.67 per month
2 Year Cost – Spot Mobile Unlimited Talk & Text (Wi-Fi Only Data)
$79.99 Device Cost + $599.76 2 year service price = $28.32 per month
More details about FreedomPop can be found at www.freedompop.com.
AT&T MVNO Aio Wireless announced three new plans today and three new devices to match. Available soon, the Motorola Moto G ($149.99), the ZTE Sonata ($79.99) and the Nokia Lumia 520 ($99.99) will run on the new Aio service plans. These new plans include the new Basic Plan, Smart Plan and Pro Plans.
Basic Plan: $35 after Auto Pay credit ($40 without Auto Pay credit), unlimited voice/text/data, including 500MB of high speed data (same price as before but double the data);
Smart Plan: $40 after Auto Pay credit ($50 without Auto Pay credit), unlimited voice/text/data, including 2.5 GB of high speed data ($5 less/month plus an extra half GB of data); and
Pro Plan: $55 after Auto Pay credit ($60 without Auto Pay credit), unlimited voice/text/data, including 5 GB of high speed data ($10 less/month with 5 GB of data).
We are going to assume that the Smart Plan is supposed to be $45 a month based on the mention of a $5 savings provided as an account credit at the end of each billing cycle that is on the page.
Now the good news on this deal is that Aio uses the AT&T LTE network. This means for $55 a month, you can land yourself 5GB of LTE data along with unlimited talk and text. You also get unlimited 2G data after breaching that 5GB limit. If you aren’t that data hungry, the $35 and $45 plans are also an exceptional deal and perfect for the more budget conscious person.
Visit the source link below to see more on Aio’s new offerings and check back at their site for actual availability of the new devices.
As we continue through our testing of the Best Wireless Value of 2014, we stumbled across how many things have changed since we did our 2013 reviews. Funny enough, one of our favorite MVNO’s came on board with quite a few changes in the last year. From adding iPad data only plans that use the T-Mobile network to CDMA plans for Sprint devices, Red Pocket Mobile has something for everyone.
Coverage: We have to break this into three areas for this year since we are technically looking at three separate networks.
First off, the GSMA phone network runs off the AT&T network. This is the largest GSM network in the country. Voice and data reception was great in all four of our test markets and you get more data than AT&T’s comparable GoPhone offerings. One limitation that Red Pocket Mobile has with their GSMA service is that the LTE network does not appear to be active on their offerings at this date.
The 4G Mobile Internet plans are available for data only subscribers. These would primarily be for tablets or mobile hotspot usage. These plans run off the T-Mobile HSPA+ network. Coverage is a bit rougher on this network, but for $10 a month you can add a 1GB hotspot to your laptop bag that will work very quickly in most major cities.
The CDMAS plans run off the Sprint network and, if your area and device supports it, will use the LTE portion of the network. If you currently use Sprint, your coverage may drop off slightly as Sprint does not allow MVNO’s to roam on to their partner networks. Again, if you live in a good Sprint coverage area, this plan could save you as much as $80 a month over Sprint’s current rates. The plan offerings from Red Pocket Mobile are virtually in line with those from Virgin Mobile, another Sprint MVNO.
Costs: Again looking at the three options, there are three different price points. Pricing is one that Red Pocket Mobile hasn’t really crushed the competition on in the past, but their affordable rates and tax savings alone will make switching from that native network really something to consider.
GSMA – With plans from $5 a month to $59.99 a month, there is something that will fit everyone’s needs. PayGo pricing is $.10 a minute and can be purchased in as small as $5 increments. The monthly plans start at $19.99 for 250 minutes and 500 texts. From there you increase to add more talk time and data. The $29.99 plan is perfect for those with a feature phone. The unlimited talk and text plan has 100MB of data added to it for use with mobile browsing and MMS messages. Going to the $39.99 plan, you increase the data to 500MB and add unlimited international calling to select destinations. The $49.99 plan now includes unlimited data, but after 500MB speeds are throttled to an almost unusable rate. $54.99 takes you to 1.5GB of capped data and $59.99 takes the total to 3GB of capped data. There are no overages or throttled speeds with these two plans. Something worth noting though, the $54.99 and $59.99 plans both include up to 200 minutes of free international calling every month.
4G Mobile – These plans are much more simple than the voice calling plans that are offered on the GSMA selections. You have three choices, all of which are unlimited data with certain allotments of 4G speeds. You can select 1GB for $10, 3GB for $30 or 5GB for $50 a month. After reaching those caps with your device, your speeds are dropped to 2G (100kbps) until your next billing cycle. For the lighter user, these can be the perfect compliment to your tablet or laptop.
CDMAS – Again, they did a much nicer job of pricing out these new plans than their GSM plans. Three simple options and no real hard choices to make here. We start off with the $29.99 plan that includes unlimited talk and text. It also includes 100MB of data, primarily for MMS, but it would also support a feature phone very nicely. The $34.99 plan flips directions and limits your talk, but gives you unlimited text and data. The 300 minutes of talk on this plan is perfect for those that never use their phone as a phone, but want the communication features of texting and unlimited LTE data. Check your area for data speeds before considering this value plan as many times (see the pink area of the map above) you will find yourself at a crawl instead of a Sprint. Finally, there’s the compromise plan with a $49.99 price tag. This plan drops unlimited talk, text and data in your lap for one low price. LTE speeds are available where Sprint has rolled out their network. WiMax and Spark should also be available in their respective markets as well.
Performance: Overall, the test devices performed well in our markets. We were a bit distraught by the fact that Sprint doesn’t offer LTE in some major markets, like Seattle, but hopefully they will be fixing that soon. Our tests of the GSM network was as good as usual with great voice quality, high data speeds and the ultimate level of device compatibility. Virtually any AT&T or unlocked GSM phone will perform beautifully on the GSMA plans. Data speeds routinely hit 15Mbps with an HSPA+42 compatible phone. This is back to where the performance was back in 2012 when RPM was our first choice in wireless providers.
The 4G Mobile data plans were also impressive with similar speeds and easy setup. Our USB stick took no time at all to get running and the Wi-Fi hotspot was just as easy to use. Overall, we were impressed with the fact that we could grab a pay as you go hotspot from Wal-Mart and be up and running in about 10 minutes. Speeds were a bit slower than our cellular connection using the same network, but overall, speeds in the 10-12Mbps range were about average on the network.
The CDMAS network was probably the most underwhelming option for us. Voice quality was still strong, but data speeds in 3 of our 4 markets were terrible. Downloads averaged between 300kbps and 1.2Mbps. We were able to get an older WiMax powered HTC Evo 4G activated in the Seattle area and achieved speeds of nearly 8Mbps, but when paying for unlimited data, we expect more in today’s market. The $49.99 plan is definitely a steal if you live in one of the orange areas on the coverage map above.
Overall Impressions: Setting up service with Red Pocket is almost too easy. You simply bring your old Sprint phone, AT&T device or any unlocked GSM phone to the network and they just work. iPhone setup has become too easy with a simple App from the Red Pocket website and Android devices are still just as easy as they were on day one. Even Windows Phones set up rather quickly with the right adjustments. Once you are registered on the network, the service you receive is a great value and dealers are becoming more and more popular across the country.
While there is better pricing out there, the coverage that Red Pocket offers is second to none. Overall, RPM and their new plans did nothing more than offer more options for more people to use. We love more options, and more options from Red Pocket Mobile is a win-win for everyone.
Consider this our Dear John letter to Sprint and Softbank. It’s this time of year that we usually begin to publish our Best Value In Wireless Results, but frankly there are a few more services this year that we are testing. Of course, usually a few of those services are from Sprint’s native network, which is where this editorial is coming from. So, without further ado, here is our editorial letter to Sprint…
As one that used to tout your network’s speed, quality and performance, I feel very pained in writing this to you today. Normally, I like to try and say kind things to the carriers that offer great values, but this is not going to be the case today. While your “Framily” deal is great, I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind that lives within 50 miles of me signing up for your service, which just leaves me a $130 a month bill for unlimited 3G cell service.
You see, I live in the Seattle area, one of the first areas where your first 4G WiMAX network rolled out. Unfortunately, we still have that great 4G WiMAX network, but no phones that work with it. To make matters worse, it seems you forgot to bring LTE here when you started replacing our WiMAX handsets with LTE ones in your stores.
Now, that said, I noticed on your new LTE Markets list from January 27, 2014 that LTE is now in Bremerton, Centralia, Longview, Olympia, Pullman, Spokane and Tacoma. That pretty well shoots a 50 mile hole around the densely populated areas in Washington State. Centralia is 100 miles from Seattle. Bremerton is just a ferry ride away, but it has quite a body of water between it and where people live. Tacoma starts to get populated, but it is still a good 20-30 miles away from Seattle. The question is, why do you leave the biggest market in Washington without any 4G coverage.
Why is life so bad for us in Seattle? Why did you take away our 4G network before you got us a new one? Is this part of the plan to get us Spark before the rest of the planet? There are so many questions left unanswered by this move, and until some of them get answered, you can bet you don’t have much in the way of Framily here…
A very concerned Seattlite!
This just proves why someone like T-Mobile can run rampantly through the carriers and add so many subscribers so quickly, and why Sprint can’t keep the ones they have happy. I remember moving to Sprint when WiMAX launched, which we didn’t have in the Seattle area yet, but it was coming. I immediately got a new HTC Evo 4G and watched my downloads hit 11 Mbps. Life was great. Now, the HTC Evo 4G LTE that I tested last week was pulling 600 kbps in the same locations. At the same moment the HSPA+42 connection from my Spot Mobile powered Nokia Lumia 925 was pulling down 16 Mbps without blinking – and that wasn’t even on an active LTE line!
Sprint and Softbank don’t have the ability to suffer much longer. That’s why they are making the power play to buy T-Mobile USA from Duetch Telekom. Their $110 individual “My All In” plan is based off decade old pricing structures. Their “Unlimited, My Way” plans only become a value if you can find enough people to make it a deal. A typical 5 line plan on T-Mobile will run you $110 where as the Sprint plan will cost you $160. Even the single line “Unlimited, My Way” plan will set users back $70 against T-Mobile’s $50. Face it, the value carrier is now one of the more expensive ones. Your service is competing with T-Mobile on coverage and AT&T or Verizon on price. It’s a war you won’t win – unless you get that LTE conversion rolled out to the major markets that were burned by your last rollout.
So, before you go thinking that buying another network will help, please finish what you started. If Softbank didn’t want to bankroll the network rollout, they should have thought about that before they destroyed your network and the MVNO’s that use it. I can now go to Radio Shack and pick up a worthless LTE phone that gets me those 500kbps download speeds in most areas that I travel. Unfortunately, my $50 AT&T GoPhone gets me 10x faster downloads and still only runs me $60 a month. Just roll out that LTE and get with 2010.
If you are looking for that next phone and want the latest technology at a bargain price, the BLU Life Pure from BLU Products should be somewhere near the top of your list. The $324.99 price tag pins the Life Pure in the mid-range of the no-contract crowd, but the feature set places it closer to the top end of the spectrum. The 5.0” IPS display (~440 ppi) runs a full HD resolution and includes BLU’s NEX Lens and Infinite View Technology that creates a new standard in multimedia performance. The 7.7mm thick unibody housing fits into smaller pockets and won’t add any bulk to a purse or laptop bag.
The 1.5GHz Quad Core processor is backed up with 2GB of RAM for an incredible multitasking experience. The speedy processor drives even the most complex Apps with ease and the 2GB of RAM will let you switch quickly from one App to the next without worrying about the normal lag and stuttering normally associated with devices in this price range. The PowerVR 544GPU also drives the 5” display without any issues at all, even under the most extreme gaming situations. The 32GB of internal storage will also give you plenty of room to store all those Apps. It is worth noting that BLU skipped over adding the SD card slot to the Life Pure, but with the 32GB of internal memory, it’s not likely that you will need more room than that on most occasions.
Moving on from the raw power of the device to the media features, the 13MP rear HD camera will capture those memories in an instant. The 5MP front shooter will not only provide amazing video calling, but will let you shoot higher resolution images of yourself while on vacation, at a concert or even just hanging out with friends. Overall, the camera selections on the Life Pure are second to none in this price range.
Finally, we get down to the gesture controls. The new controls from BLU allow you to control many functions of the phone without even touching it. If you are in the market for a non-contract, unlocked handset for use on any of the T-Mobile or AT&T MVNO’s or a replacement device for either of their networks, the BLU Life Pure certainly holds it’s own against the higher priced models, and blows away the lower priced ones without spending much more.
- GSM Quadband 850/900/1800/1900, 4G HSPA+ up to 42 Mbps 850/1900, Android OS, v4.2 (Jelly Bean)
- 5.0" IPS Display: FHD (1080 x 1920) with 1.5 GHz Quad Core Processor
- 13MP Camera with LED Flash with HD recording (1080p), 5MP Front Camera for Video Calling and instant self portraits.
- 32GB ROM, 2GB RAM Keep it simple with Gesture Controls