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Cheaper and Better Cell Phone Services
Mobile Technology In A One Tower County
February 2017

iving where we do means basically one cell phone carrier – Verizon. Although some have witnessed success with AT&T, there is only one cell tower in all of Pamlico County. It’s Verizon, on Kershaw Road. So does that mean you have to get a Verizon contract if you have a Verizon compatible phone?

Not necessarily.

geekThere are Verizon resellers, that is, companies who lease Verizon tower cell service and sell under their own brand. But wait! You say you already have a long-term Verizon contract for your phone service? Well, not any more. Your Verizon contract is for that phone you purchased from them and the monthly cell service fee is added on which makes it easy to drop their cell service and get a different provider, one that uses the same Verizon towers nation-wide.

This article examines the resellers which the Village Geek has used and compares them to Verizon.

What Are The Reseller Pros?
1. Mainly – you save money. In some cases you can save half of your monthly phone bill.
2. The resellers use the same Verizon towers so you get the same coverage.

And The Reseller Cons?
1. It is possible that your data stream could at times be slower than if you were paying Verizon directly. This would not affect your phone calls, only data streaming. Having used these kinds of services for the past 5 years or so, this geek has yet to see this actually occur. It is much more likely in a high population area. We are not in a high population density area, unless you count the shrimp.

2. One other issue to consider is the customer service you will get. All companies have online and over-the-phone service if you have a problem and some have degrees of in-house service available in New Bern. However, you might think twice if you are really happy with service at the Verizon store.

hotspot3. There are some services that Verizon-native service provides that you cannot get with the resellers. One service is that of a WIFI Hotspot. Verizon makes it easy with a toggle to turn your Android or iPhone cell phone into a WIFI transmitter. Then you can use your laptop or tablet where there is no WIFI signal. (It is possible to do this with resellers, but it involves hacking your phone. Not easy for non-geeks.)

4. Two other services that Verizon-native service alone provides are WIFI Calling and High Definition calling, the latter improving the quality of cell calls. If you have spotty cell service at home and if your newer phone supports it, you can use WIFI Calling. This means that the phone will automatically connect to your home WIFI signal (presuming you have one) when you come within its range, and then it will make and receive calls on WIFI. When you get out of WIFI range and it switches back to a cell signal. How do you find out if you have WIFI calling? Check out settings on your iPhone or Android phone and look for the feature. If it’s not there, bummer.

What phones will work with the resellers?
Any phone that works on the Verizon network regular plan will work. So your existing Verizon service phone will work when you switch services. The exception to this is if you have a cheap Verizon no-contract phone because these do not have a replaceable sim card which is needed with reseller services. Read the label when buying because some $30 Wal-Mart phones will work with resellers. You can always call the service providers and ask if your existing phone will work.

On to Verizon and Verizon reseller services. None of these are long-term contracts, just monthly only.

Verizon Wireless
geek$35 per month plus $20 per line plus taxes and fees gets you unlimited calls and texts and 2 gigs of 4g data which carries over one month if not used within the first month and plus you have the option of paying $15 for each additional gig. For one phone this basic plan amounts to $55 plus but you get the extra Verizon services mentioned above including the safety mode when you use up your data allotment a slow speed data streaming mode kicks in. Keep in mind that the two phone user cost would be $75 plus taxes and 3 phones for $95 plus.

  • $50 per month plus $20 per line plus taxes and fees gets you unlimited calls and texts plus 4 gigs of data with everything else working like their $35 plus plan.
  • $70 per month plus $20 per line plus taxes and fees gets you unlimited calls and texts and 8 gigs of data with everything else working like their $35 plus plan.
  • $70 per month plus $20 for one line plus taxes and fees gets you unlimited calls and texts and data plus HD video streaming, mobile WiFi hotspot, and unlimited service to Mexico and Canada. This service for two lines is $140, for three lines $162 per month and for four lines is $180.

Straight Talk Wireless
geekThis is a Tracfone company which is available online and at Wal-Mart. They sell phones which could be used with any Verizon or Verizon reseller service. The Wal-Mart in-house service may or not be great depending on the employee who waits on you.

  • $30 monthly gets you 1500 minutes, unlimited texts and 100 megs of data and with auto-refill you get 200 megs of likely 3g data.
  • $45 monthly gets you unlimited talk, text and data with 5 gigs of 4g data and then 2g speeds after that. (At 2g speeds the streaming is lot slower and there will likely be lousy video.)
  • $55 monthly gets you unlimited talk, text and data with 10 gigs of 4g data and then 2g speeds after that.

But wait. There’s more!

PagePlus Cellular
geekThe service with the cheapest possibility is – tada – PagePlus Cellular. There is a New Bern store which provides service for PagePlus as of this writing called Cell Phones Plus, They also sell a few used and new phones at their store on Neuse Boulevard and I have always been impressed by their service.

Prices below all assume you sign up for auto-refill:

  • $10 a month gets 250 minutes, 250 texts and 10 megs of 3g data for those of you who are casual cellphone users. If you go over the call limit there is a 5 cents per minute charge. The bad news is that you cannot activate a newer 4g phone on this plan.
  • $27 monthly gets you 1500 calling minutes, unlimited international texts and 1 gig of 4g data.
  • $36 monthly gets you unlimited calling minutes, unlimited international texts, and 3 gigs of 4g data and then unlimited 2g speeds data.

Consider that unless you are streaming a lot of video over your phone it is unlikely you would ever use 3 gigs of data in one month.

But wait. There’s still more!

geekThis is also a Tracfone company which is available online and at Wal-Mart. And like Straight Talk you get on-line service and in-house Wal-Mart service. You can buy a phone that will work with this service for $30 andup. Prices below assume monthly auto-refill.

  • $24 a month for unlimited talk and text and then you can buy an extra data plan so that $10 gets you 3 gigs of 4g data to use anytime.
  • $33.25 monthly gets you unlimited talk and text and 5 gigs of 4g data plus you can also buy extra data to use anytime like above.
  • $57 monthly gets you a shared family plan for two devices and unlimited talk and text and 8 gigs of shared 4g data.
What Does The Geek Use?
Having tried all of these I spend the $33.25 monthly for the Total Wireless plan above. I have yet to use 5 gigs of data and doubt I will ever go over 3 gigs but for the price and convenience I’m a happy camper. The 4 gig unlimited call plan from Verizon is currently $50 plus a $20 line fee so I’m paying less than half as much. I’ve been happy with the service since signing up in September of 2016. I just popped a sim card in the phone and called a number for activation and then arranged a monthly payment schedule online. Easy peasy.

Not everyone comes to that conclusion. TownDock Senior Management uses Verizon directly. Verizon’s price penalty is smaller if you have multiple phones, and the TownDock crew likes & uses Hotspot, WIFI calling and HD Voice features.

And What About Buying a New Phone for the Cost Conscious?
hotspotIf your old phone is in need of a toss, consider a refurbished model or a 2nd generation one. Most come with warranties. For example I bought a one-year-old new LG G3 model a year and a half ago for $275 and a year before that the phone sold for $600. When new models of a brand come out there are great deals on the old ones. I found a used warrantied Verizon Iphone 6 with 64 gigs storage for $299 at this site with a basic iPhone 5 going for $128. A quick eBay search found various new iPhone 5 phones for under $200.

And by the way and slightly off-subject if you are looking to buy a new phone you might wish to consider an unlocked phone which allows you to use the phone with any U.S. service including those overseas.

If you do some digging you can find new Android phones like the MotoG Plus which for $229 has the specs of most of the top phones including great resolution, a Gorilla glass screen and is unlocked so it works on all network services in the US. There are used iPhones which are unlocked as well but a little more difficult to find.

That said, this geek would strongly consider saving $300-$500 a year with cheaper plans. Folks I know who have used Verizon resellers who are very happy with their service. Some are members of the Pamlico Cheapskates club.

Decide what you really need for your service. If you stream lots of video you want 4gigs of data streaming or more per month. If you stream just music 2-3 gigs should be plenty if you don’t spend a lot of time uploading and downloading big picture files. Go to your data settings and see where and how much you use that data each month. If all you stream or download is done with WIFI you don’t need much data at all.

Good luck… and I’ll be happy to take a ten percent commission from each of you for the monthly savings you will enjoy.

Since this was written we have received reports that some folks have had good luck with US Cellular service here. Their prices are very similar to Verizon’s, however.

The Village Geek on TownDock.net is edited by Roger Bullis. Roger's background? Professor of Communication and Digital Media. Roger is always trying to figure out the next way to enjoy great & cheap technology in a small town.