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Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-02-2005, 05:23 PM   #1
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Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

For those who got in on that crazy at&t free2go "emergency phone" deal that I tossed out last year about this time... (if you missed it, we got a phone, some airtime, and for a net cost of $25 at&t was giving out ~100 minutes plus an extra 20 free minutes a month and keeping those minutes from expiring for a year...so ~340 minutes for a year for $25.

Since Cingular bought AT&T, they also brought back the old at&t/cingular prepaid rate plans. No cheap cards, and the minutes expire in 45 or 90 days instead of 90 and 365. In other words, they're worthless.

I looked at a bunch of plans, figured I'd save everybody some time by sharing what I learned.

If you want a cheap deal and are going to talk a little, dont want a lot of fooling around with stuff, t-mobile's prepaid plan looks like a good deal. About $40 for a basic phone, you put a $100 card on it and you have 1000 minutes good for a year. If after 364 days you put another $100 on it, you've added 1000 more minutes and the first 1000 are good for another year...but it appears that minutes can only be rolled over for a total of two years (one additional). Thats about $12 a month for the first year, $8.33 a month for the second and subsequent years. T-Mobiles network is spotty though, they dont have as broad a coverage as some cell carriers, so check their web site 'coverage map' before you buy.

Tracfone has a cheap phone deal and their minutes dont expire with regular re-charges, they have a wide coverage area, but you only get something in the range of 100-150 minutes for your $100. Phone is in the $30-40 range. I'd go here if you're outside the t-mobile coverage area or you only want to dribble in $15 every couple of months instead of dropping $100 all at once.

7-11 (convenience store covering much of the country if you dont know what that is) also offers a 'speakout' plan that is apparently highly regarded by the very cheap. You can get a phone with minutes already charged on it at the store, basically open the box and start using it. Minutes last a year and can be recharged in small increments. I believe they use the cingular network so its pretty wide coverage. Gets expensive quick if you use lots of minutes though.

Beyond Wireless is an oddball company with a good reputation. They use the old at&t tdma network that the free2go phones use, and in fact can use the free2go phone you already use. Call them, activate, buy an airtime card and you're good to go. Minutes do not expire if you make or receive a call every 60 days. The one catch is they only offer phone numbers in a few states and california isnt one of them. The minutes DO include nationwide long distance, so this doesnt affect your outgoing calls much, but incoming callers may have to pay long distance charges to call you. Still...if you own an at&t free2go phone already from last years deal, dont want to spend much for a totally emergency type cell phone and will pretty much only be using it for an occasional outgoing call, AND you dont mind remembering to use it once every 2 months...beyond wireless is your low cost leader.

Please re-check any of this information; I've been reading these plans for about a week now and my head is spinning...I think I got it all straight now.

I havent decided between the beyond wireless deal and t-mobile yet. We're the only ones that call the cell phone and we have unlimited long distance from our home phone, so it'd be a cheap way to go. That 1000 minutes for $100 for a year from t-mobile is pretty attractive though.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-02-2005, 11:52 PM   #2
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Check this out-

http://www.cellguru.net/prepaid_compare.htm
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 07:50 AM   #3
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

TH
Keep the good ideas coming. But quit the "redux". It could be misleading to those taking the anti-obesity drug, Redux. <Buy this fone, lose weight!>

BUM
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 09:39 AM   #4
 
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Thanks for the info.

Sorry to by lazy, but could you tell me the best deal, bottom line total expenditure for one year, starting with no phone and assuming very minimal usage?

Thanks,
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 10:02 AM   #5
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Thanks for the info.*

Sorry to by lazy, but could you tell me the best deal, bottom line total expenditure for one year, starting with no phone and assuming very minimal usage?

Thanks,
right. You're an adult, you have time to surf this website, so you have time to look yourself. The link I posted pretty much consolidates everything onto a single grid... can't get much easier than that.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 10:31 AM   #6
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

TH, I just called "Beyond Wireless" and found out that I can keep
my old phone number here in Dallas. They offer 1000 minutes
for $100 ..... which is cheaper than the old free2go plan with
AT&T. I still have about 500 minutes left on the current service so
I will burn that first then convert. Thanks for the tip.

Cheers,

Charlie
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 11:10 AM   #7
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Here is a cheapskate suggestion that seems to be a little known fact:

All cell phones, (regardless of whether they are signed up for any plan) are requried to be able to cal 9-1-1!!!!!

Therefore, I have picked up several "garage sale" cell phones for about $1 each to keep in the glove compartment, available for emergency use.

No monthly fees....
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 11:22 AM   #8
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlie
TH, I just called "Beyond Wireless" and found out that I can keep
my old phone number here in Dallas. They offer 1000 minutes
for $100 ..... which is cheaper than the old free2go plan with
AT&T. I still have about 500 minutes left on the current service so
I will burn that first then convert. Thanks for the tip.

Cheers,

Charlie
You live in the perfect place for that deal Charlie...I think all their numbers are in Illinois, Florida and Texas. I wouldnt mind a Miami area phone #

When you've eaten up your free2go minutes (they'll expire within either 45 or 90 days, check with customer service (611) to find out), make sure you call 611 to have them "close your account and release your 'ESN'". The ESN is the phones "wireless serial number" that beyond wireless will ask you for when you call them up to sign up. If at&t hasnt released it yet, beyond cant hook you up. Some cell carriers take 30 days or more to release an ESN; at&t seems to be prompter, doing it immediately in most cases. Its better if they think you're going to sell the phone to someone on ebay rather than leaving them to go to another reseller...

Mountain Mike...you are correct sir...all cell phones can call 611 and 911 free of charge, providing cellular 911 service is available in your area (mostly the case). Its a good idea to have an el cheapo free/ebay/old phone that gets a 'service meter' at your home or car, leave it plugged in...even in the event phone lines are down in your neighborhood you can still call 911 in the event of a major emergency. Real handy if you have an "internet phone" like we do (callvantage) as your primary phone.

Although 911 doesnt help you if you've got a flat tire or run out of gas...
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 11:42 AM   #9
 
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Quote:
Although 911 doesnt help you if you've got a flat tire or run out of gas...
But you could use it if you're a runaway bride.

MMike: Great idea. Do you keep those phones plugged into the cig lighter, or just charge them periodically?

Could someone humor me with a ballpark figure for annual cost -- $50, $100, $200, $400?

Thanks,
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 12:01 PM   #10
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

$50-150 for the first year, 25-100 for subsequent years.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 01:33 PM   #11
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

I just charge the phones every so often. I figure if I ever need to use 'em I'd only have to make one call. On the other hand, sometimes older batteries run down quickly even with no use. I'll have to keep my eyes open for a charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter.

Lots of times, if your vehicle has trouble and you're sitting on the side of the road, the police will stop to see what's wrong. The one time this happened to me, they were willing to call AAA for a towtruck.

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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 02:18 PM   #12
 
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Thanks for the info. We stopped having a cell phone in 1999, and I don't miss it at all. I figure we've saved $2,000 over the last 5 years.

But I get pressure from wife and daughter to have a phone for emergencies. So the 911 trick might help some. That really is a brilliant idea.

Of course the possibility of a $50/year real cell phone might make it worthwhile to crunch the numbers.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 04:16 PM   #13
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

If you can find an at&t free2go phone on ebay (say for $10-15), put $25 in minutes on it from beyond wireless, and make one call every 59 days or less, you can have a n emergency cell phone for ~$1 a year.

The only downsides to this are possibly a non-local #, having to remember to make that one call every 2 months, and the old at&t tdma network now belongs to cingular and they may phase it out eventually.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 05:14 PM   #14
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

TH, I hope you are wrong about the free2go minutes expiring in 45-90
days. I bought a $100 card late last year and it was supposed to last
1year ..... seems like it would be a breach of contract or sumsuch.
I may have to sic Martha on them.

Cheers,

Charlie
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 06:25 PM   #15
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Much discussion on this is going on with the usual mixed real life results.. If the card has an expiration printed on it (like 365 days or 1 year) then you should be good, but keep the card even after you use it. If the card did not have an expiration date on it, then cingular is going to try to stick you with the short expiration...call 611 to find out when the minutes you put in expire and to verify...they're giving some people a run-around.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-03-2005, 11:08 PM   #16
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Quote:
Originally Posted by th
You live in the perfect place for that deal Charlie...I think all their numbers are in Illinois, Florida and Texas.* I wouldnt mind a Miami area phone #
* Actually, they also have numbers in Indiana and a few other places. I've been talking with Beyond and they tell me that I can keep my local number, too.* I do admit to being a bit puzzled about this ... thought under the new law that you could take your phone number with you

* *Thanks for the tip on the ESN, though -- never knew that.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-04-2005, 11:18 AM   #17
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

TH, I called as you suggested. The automated system at Cingular
verified that my 1 yr is still good. Didn't have to unleash Martha
after all (sorry, Martha .... just my back door way of giving you a
compliment).

Cheers,

Charlie

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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-04-2005, 11:33 AM   #18
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

How come nobody has mentioned Virgin Phones?

Is there something wrong with them?

arrete
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-04-2005, 01:01 PM   #19
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Their coverage map was grainy and they wouldnt commit to providing coverage in my area, but to "activate the phone and see". Sounded like a problem waiting to happen.

Their phone was also the most expensive ($50 and its a crappy Kyocera...$60 for a decent nokia that isnt even available right now) and they require a top-off every 3 months of at least $25 to keep service and roll your minutes ahead. I really wanted a service that rolled my minutes without a recharge and ideally had them never expire or not expire for at least a year.

Charlie - GOOD NEWS. I was going to try to find one of those $100 cards, but they're selling at a premium on ebay.

VoyT...if the cell company offers service in the same area you formerly had service in, and services the same area code and prefix (xxx) yyy then they can port your number. If they dont, they cant and arent required to do so. Sounds like you live in a area where Beyond services.
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux
Old 05-04-2005, 02:53 PM   #20
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Re: Cheap "glove compartment" Cell phones redux

Quote:
But I get pressure from wife and daughter to have a phone for emergencies. So the 911 trick might help some. That really is a brilliant idea.
DH and I got rid of our land-line in Jan and are now all cellular. (Our land line was underground and would be out for weeks at a time when it rained.) We increased the plans on our 2 cells - and got new flip phones while we were at it ($30 ea with rebates) so gave the old cells to Dad and Sister with info printout about how ANY cell phone with a charge is required to be able to call 9-1-1. Dad wanted to know FOR SURE that this would work before it was needed but didn't want to get in trouble so he called the local police dept and asked if there was any way that he could test it - they told him to go ahead and call 9-1-1 - he did and it worked (although it would be nice if they had a test number that didn't tie up an emergency operator)

ONE NOTE THOUGH - our new phones have a feature that allows the phone to broadcast a location (triangulation from the towers ) but the old phones don't have this (and not all 9-1-1 dispatch stations have the equipment to get the info even if they do but apparently they are working on that) SOOO...you CAN reach 9-1-1 but if you don't know roughly where you are (Rt # so-and-so, I passed a whatchamcallit on the right) it may be hard for them to get to you. ALSO, you still need to GET a cell signal to place the call so if you are out in the boonies (like we often are) you may need to climb a hill.

I gave Dad and Sister the car (and regular) chargers for the old cells. I believe Dad brings in the phone from the car once a month to charge on the regular charger and just keeps the car charger in the car. I believer sister just keeps the cell plugged in to the car charger. (He has another use for the cig lighter and she doesn't is prob'ly the difference.)

DrLLLong
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