Goodbye Sprint, hello Page Plus
Earlier this year, I switched my mom from a Sprint plan to a Page Plus prepaid plan. She’s the type who uses an average of about 20 minutes per month on her cell phone, which was a waste of the $30/month that I was paying for her line. Switching her to a prepaid plan seemed like an obvious choice, but even then, most prepaid plans don’t fit well to such limited usage. Typical prepaid plans ask for tens of dollars per month for hundreds of minutes that expire after 30 days. Not a huge improvement.
(That’s not to say that my mom doesn’t spend a lot of time using a phone. However, we have unreliable cell phone reception in our house, so she normally uses a landline. The landline is cheap since we get service through Ooma.)
Page Plus is a prepaid MVNO, a virtual carrier that resells airtime from another one (in Page Plus’s case, Verizon). Unlike the prepaid plans from every other provider, Page Plus’s minutes last for 120 days, and the minimum purchase is $10 for 100 minutes. This means that I now can pay about $30 per year instead of per month.
It’s been about 8 months since I switched her, and so far she’s been on track.
I was satisfied enough with Page Plus that a couple of months ago, I decided to switch myself, and I bought a contractless, unused Verizon Palm Pre 2 for cheap. I too use very few voice minutes, and over the past year, I’ve used an average of about 100 MB of data per month, peaking at about 200 MB in a month. Page Plus doesn’t have good data plans, however: their standard pay-as-you-go plan charges a whopping $0.99/MB, and their cheapest monthly plan ($12) includes a meager 10 MB. However, overages on their monthly plans cost $0.20/MB, so my average usage should cost about $32/month, still significantly cheaper than the $60/month that I was paying Sprint (normally $70/month without the VMware discount).
I figure that I can cut back on the data usage and use WiFi most of the time to bring that down to $22/month. (Thank goodness for webOS patches that allow me to turn 3G data usage on and off easily.) Discouraging me from checking email constantly is probably a good thing anyway. The biggest thing that I’ll miss is Sprint Navigation; the webOS app was implemented pretty well, and it was handy to have GPS navigation readily available with up-to-date maps. Unfortunately there’s no good offline GPS navigation software (or even online, carrier-agnostic software). I’ll also miss the Sprint Airave femtocell (from Chelmsford!) that I got only a few months ago. Verizon’s coverage seems better, but it still seems unreliable where I live.
(And yes, this means that we’re back on the Verizon network without having to deal with Verizon.)
- The phones that Page Plus officially supports are very limited. I initially bought my mom one of the supported ones since it was my first experience, and they only offered one basic phone (a Kyocera Luno S2100). We were not impressed with it; the font size is small and is not adjustable, and the lanyard attachment point is not a solid construction, instead using the battery cover to hold a lanyard in pace. Tugging on the lanyard in the wrong way could pull the battery cover off and drop the phone.
- Page Plus, however, does allow almost any Verizon phone to be activated on its service. The main requirements are that the phone isn’t blacklisted as being stolen or as a retail prepaid phone. (Ironically, prepaid phones that you see in retail stores such as Walmart are still subsidized.) Eventually I bought my mom a contractless Samsung Gusto 2 off of eBay instead.
- By default, outgoing calls from Page Plus have an outgoing message that tells you what your balance is. This is kind of annoying and can’t be configured through the website, but you can turn it off by contacting customer service.
- Page Plus’s website sucks, to put it kindly. It looks old, is buggy, and on numerous occasions has been down when I’ve tried to access my account. This doesn’t inspire confidence. I haven’t actually figured out how to account for my data usage through their website since they show up as calls measured in “minutes”.
- If you want to activate a smartphone, watch out if it wants to restore data from the cloud before allowing you to set up WiFi.
- There’s a $0.50 monthly service charge that’s mentioned in the fine print that surprised me.