When bodies in the U.S. apprehend the appellation “prepaid mobile,” they ability anticipate of bargain phones with bound annual options for bodies with bad credit.
But that’s boring changing. While some wireless companies say the aggregate of their prepaid barter are still low-income consumers attractive for a amount plan, an accretion cardinal of barter who would commonly authorize for buzz affairs are now because no-commitment plans.
This week, I’ll acknowledgment some accepted questions about prepaid mobile, based on my analysis of nine U.S. brands. While you won’t be able to get a adorned smartphone at a low price, and best affairs still aren’t accouterment to abundant abstracts users, there are some acceptable affidavit to amend prepaid.
Who Offers What
The “big four” — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless — all action prepaid phones and services. Sprint offers prepaid through three brands: Boost Mobile, Virgin Adaptable and Assurance, a government-subsidized affairs that provides chargeless phones and affairs for barter in acute banking situations.
Other acclaimed U.S. prepaid carriers accommodate U.S. Cellular, MetroPCS and Leap Wireless’s Cricket.
Monthly prepaid affairs ambit from $25 to $80 a month. Cricket, for example, offers 300 articulation annual and absolute argument and adaptable Web (which is altered from data) for $35 a month. Boost is accepted for its $50 absolute plan with “shrinkage” — which agency that for every six nonconsecutive, on-time payments, a customer’s bill can be bargain by $5. At Verizon Wireless, $80 will get you absolute articulation and argument and one gigabyte of data, with anniversary added megabyte of abstracts costing bristles cents.
Generally, you can’t cycle over bare annual from ages to month.
Data annual is accessible through prepaid plans. But beware: Some carriers avowal “unlimited data” offerings, and in some cases, this is aloof for affection phones, while abstracts casework for smartphones crave added plans. Also, the carriers may abate your abstracts speeds back your acceptance increases significantly.
Many wireless carriers now action admission to 4G networks with prepaid plans. But as with arrangement plans, it depends on whether the accessory you’re application is 4G accordant — and what blazon of 4G arrangement your carrier has. AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg offers a acceptable explainer of 4G here.
In best cases, you’ll pay abounding amount for the phone. The carriers and their retail ally action deals and promotions from time to time, but back you’re not committing to a contract, the buzz isn’t subsidized. Phones can ambit from $20 on the low end to $650 for article like the iPhone.
Speaking of the iPhone: It’s now accessible with prepaid plans. Cricket fabricated after-effects a brace months ago back it began to action a 16GB iPhone 4S for $500 and an 8GB iPhone 4 for $400 with its $55 annual plan. Sprint’s Virgin Adaptable additionally sells the iPhone after a contract. The 16GB iPhone 4S will run you $650, and the 8GB iPhone 4 costs $550, while affairs ambit from $30 to $50 a month.
You can additionally acquirement or actuate an iPhone that is GSM-compatible (GSM stands for Global System for Adaptable Communications, a specific blazon of agenda cellular network) through AT&T’s GoPhone plans, but AT&T doesn’t action abstracts affairs with this, so you’ll acquire to use Wi-Fi to browse the Web on this plan. Verizon currently does not action the iPhone with a prepaid plan.
As for newer Android smartphones, AT&T offers the Samsung Galaxy S III after a contract, for $550. To name a few others: U.S. Cellular offers the Samsung Galaxy S II for $400. MetroPCS offers the Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G for $450. Boost Adaptable offers the HTC Evo Design 4G for $299, while Virgin Adaptable sells the HTC Evo 4G for $300. In abounding cases, barter allegation go with college annual affairs or acquire ones that accommodate abstracts in adjustment to get these smartphones.
For Windows Buzz 7 fans, T-Mobile sells the Nokia Lumia 710 for $300 after a contract.
You won’t acquire abundant luck application your apart buzz with a prepaid plan. The carriers are accepting aught allegation from you to activate with, so a lot of them won’t acquire apart phones these days. Also, your buzz may be technically adverse with the wireless network.
T-Mobile, however, allows a user to accompany in any unlocked, GSM-compatible buzz to use with its prepaid plans. AT&T says barter can appear in with a GSM-compatible Android accessory and it can be activated, admitting again, affinity varies by buzz blazon and some smartphones may be affiliated to Wi-Fi only.
None of the carriers I batten with crave acclaim checks for addition to get started on a prepaid device. To authorize for Sprint’s Assurance program, however, abeyant barter allegation prove they are in allegation of the banking abetment (most bodies already accepting government abetment will be eligible).
There are several means prepaid barter can furnish their phones. They can buy a new prepaid card, which looks like a allowance card, at wireless and electronics stores, pharmacies and big-box retailers like Walmart and Target; they can bushing at prepaid-branded kiosks and pay up online; they can additionally alarm their provider’s chump annual band anon from the phone.
While best carriers don’t allegation any affectionate of activation fees for prepaid plans, it’s acceptable to ask afore you buy. U.S. Cellular, for example, accuse an activation chargeless (between $20 and $50) for barter who opt in to cheaper prepaid plans, admitting the aggregation says it will generally abandon that. Be abiding to analysis the accomplished book on all-embracing calls and adrift charges, as well.
Also, aloof because you’re activity prepaid doesn’t beggarly you’re absolved from taxes that are commonly added to your buzz bill. Some carriers, like MetroPCS and AT&T, array best of these fees into annual plans. In added cases, there will be an added cost. It’s not aberrant to acquire an e911 fee — a annual allegation for Enhanced 911, which funds computer upgrades for public-safety communications — activated to your bill. Also, you’ll pay the accepted point-of-sale tax on a prepaid agenda if you buy it in a retail abundance or pharmacy. For example, my $30 Boost Adaptable agenda absolutely amount me $32.66.
Playing the Cardinal Game
Most companies action a adroitness period, usually amid 30 and 90 days, in which your prepaid buzz cardinal can break inactive. But again your cardinal gets befuddled into the wireless affliction accepted as the “cooling pool,” and anon thereafter it will be reissued to addition customer.
The one barring I begin was through Sprint’s Boost and Virgin Adaptable brands, which acquiesce those confined in the aggressive to accumulate their numbers for up to two years after accepting to furnish or accumulate their annual active.
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