My monthly cell phone bill is over $75, and I’ve been paying it for over three years. That’s enough time to get me out of the standard two-year contract, and I’m thinking about closing my account. As I’ve written before, my phone is not just a mobile device but an everything device. Does it lose that ability without a constant cellular connection?
I can test this by going into Airplane Mode, but leaving other antennas like WiFi and Location Services on. In some cases, I might need to buy a new app or service to cover the difference.
- Phone: I can use FaceTime to “call” people with modern iOS or Mac devices, and just set the expectation that my video feed won’t necessarily be trained on my face. I can also port my current number to a Google Voice account, then forward that to a drug-dealer phone for “urgent” calls. I used a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go phone exclusively for most of college and it wasn’t bad at all.
- Text messages: Again, I can rely on iMessage for people with modern iOS (and maybe Mac, in the future) devices. I can also use Twitter DMs.
- Email, Twitter, RSS, web browsing: just wait until I’m at home or on public WiFi.
- Camera, music, games, books: shouldn’t be a problem.
- Maps: this is the tough case. I really only use this app when I’m out of WiFi range and need a data connection. The most straightforward option sounds like paying ~$50 for a GPS app from a company like TomTom that includes map files with the app bundle. Not cheap, but relatively easy.
Buying a pay-as-you-go phone and GPS app will probably set me back as much as one month’s bill. There’s the ongoing cost of phone minutes, though, and while I would intend for that phone to just be used for emergencies, I can totally see my parents redefining “emergency” to include regular Sutorius family updates, and that could turn costly fast.
Republic Wireless just launched their $19/month unlimited plan, which includes minutes, messages, and data. You have to use a specific Android phone, but if I was going to resign myself to a cheap dumbphone anyway, that’s not a bad spot at all. Without the fear of any overages, I could use a Republic phone for emergency calls and map data on the go, for only a quarter of the cost of my current phone bill. They piggyback on Sprint’s network, which isn’t terrible either. Combined with Google Voice to set restrictions on which numbers would actually be forwarded to the phone, and the ability to keep my current number, I might just go all in with this option. I’ll certainly report back if I do.
The one bummer about cancelling my AT&T account is that I’m grandfathered into some pretty great stuff. I still have the $30 unlimited data plan, the $10 for 1000 messages plan, and a 10% company discount for a company that I left two years ago. I definitely won’t get any of these back if I give them up now.