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Minor players for cell phone service?

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sisoon posted 12/24/2013 16:35 PM

Can any SIers share their experience, good and bad, with minor cell providers like Virgin, Boost, Straight talk, Net10, etc.?

Over the last 10 years, we've had 2 year family plan contracts from Sprint, ATT (Cingular), T-Mobile, ATT, & T-Mobile. We've probably averaged under 200 minutes and under one text each month. For the last 2 years, I've had a smart phone and averaged under 10 MB/month with 100 MB at most.

Our last contract ended a week ago or so.

I'm looking at Virgin, Net10, Straight Talk/Walmart, for a smartphone and no-contract service from T-Mobile or ATT or Tracfone or Virgin for W's basic texting phone.

I've seen reviews, but I don't know if I can trust tem. I trust SIers, anonymous though we are.

Thanks in advance.

Too_Trusting posted 12/24/2013 17:04 PM

I had Straight Talk and I would say avoid it at all costs! I signed up for the auto-renewal and every month, they drafted the $$ from my account, and every month, they cut my phone off on a different day. I called customer (non) service every month, and "Peggy" would always tell me it was some glitch that would never happen again.

It. Happened. Every. Month.

After 5 months, I gave up and went to AT&T.

In retrospect, I think I had a defective phone. BUT, if your phone is defective, they expect you to send it to them for service, and be without a phone for 3-4 WEEKS.

Nothing about this service (except the price) worked for me. Yes, I'm paying AT&T double for less service, but my phone works every day without fail. I need something cheaper, and will be watching this thread as others weigh in.

I really wish Straight Talk had some kind of decent customer service and/or reliability, as the plan was perfect for me at a reasonable cost. But, it's not perfect when you pay for service and every stinkin' month, they cut it off.

YMMV, tho.

inconnu posted 12/24/2013 17:26 PM

I switched to Virgin earlier this year. I had been looking to ditch AT&T, and Amazonia highly recommended Virgin Mobile. So I checked them out, then switched over. So far, so good. I've got it set up so they automatically charge my credit card each month. That way I don't need to remember to add minutes, etc. They send me text messages reminding me several days before they're going to charge me, and then I get emails when the charges go through.

I did the $35/mo 4G plan, bought the phones, and now per month, it's cheaper for the 3 of us (me and my kids) to all have smart phones than it was with AT&T with just me having a data plan and the kids having dumb phones.

I will tell you, it does usually switch to 3G in the office where I work. I don't know if it matters, I'm on the 6th floor, and in the center (reception area) of the office. And I'm not supposed to be using my phone while I'm at work anyway. When I'm in the lobby area of the building, I get 4G, without fail. Most places I go, I have full bars for signal and 4G.

The plan I'm on gives me 300 minutes plus unlimited text and data. If you're used to sharing minutes though, be aware that with Virgin, there is no sharing. Each phone has its own account. But, for only $10 more a month, you can go up to the next level, which gives you I think 1000 or 1200 minutes. It was way more than any of us needed, so I didn't pay attention to the particulars. It's all spelled out on their website though.

Jeaniegirl posted 12/24/2013 17:38 PM

My mother has WalMart/Straight Talk and her experience is much like TooTrusting's experience.

I've had Sprint for 18 years with ZERO problems so I'm sticking with them. I have iPhone and a set plan of $99 per month including unlimited data and texts. Maybe that's because -- when I go in the store I tell the customer service people I've had Sprint before some of them were born.

Chrysalis123 posted 12/24/2013 19:10 PM

I know coverage for Virgin Mobile is terrible in certain here where I live. So make sure your area has decent coverage for Virgin.

Amazonia posted 12/24/2013 19:45 PM

I had virgin for the last 3 1/2 years until this past week when I moved out of the country. I loved them. They are owned by sprint and run on sprints network, so your coverage will be similar.

The toughest part for smart phone users is buying the phone up front - full price! They run sales on Black Friday/cyber Monday every year, and if you google for a coupon code you can usually find 10-20% off codes to buy online though.

wifehad5 posted 12/24/2013 20:06 PM

This summer I was looking for a wireless hotspot to use at our place up north. A co-worker had one from Virgin Mobile that he liked, but he told me about another company he was looking into called Ting. I liked it so much when it was time to get Dd a phone, we went with them. As our other phone contracts expire we're going to switch them over as well.

What I like is that they automatically put you in the proper package each month. We've had great service from them

Crescita posted 12/24/2013 22:26 PM

I switched from Verizon to Virgin a few months ago and am very happy with the decision. Internet is a bit slow in some areas and it is really annoying when you drive by a free WiFi place (as a passenger) and it auto switches to a network you don't want to connect to, but saving $50/ month it's worth it IMHO.

Holly-Isis posted 12/25/2013 16:50 PM

I'm not sure if it covers your area, but my dad has used Cricket for years and loves it. I wish I could remember the one my IC uses...she has a pay as you go smart phone that really works for her needs.

aLadypilot posted 12/25/2013 17:02 PM

My husband uses Republic Wireless and is happy with their service.

hathnofury posted 12/25/2013 21:14 PM

About six months or so ago our Verizon contract expired, and we switched to Virgin. Like it has been mentioned, if Sprint networks work well where you go, it's great. But that's the case with any provider, it varies locally. For me, we had to do some research on the networks of all the providers for the areas we spent the most time to make the best decision since most no contract phones cost about the same per month.

We both got iPhones and got the lowest Beyond Talk plan, and it is great for us because we don't use many minutes but do text and use a lot of data. So if you average out the cost of the phone and $30/mo over a year, it is still way cheaper than what we paid for our contracts for the past five years. Even less if we make it two years with the same phone, which has been the case with us in the past.

However, we recently got a super cheap non-smart phone and put it on one of their PayLo plans for one of the kids, and it was not as good as an experience. Took forever to set up, phone is not especially easy to use, etc so I would not recommend it for anything but a phone for a kid you want to make internet use and picture taking difficult for and wouldn't stress if they lost or broke the phone.

hitbyatruck posted 12/25/2013 23:19 PM

I have had Straighttalk for about 3 years. I pay mine monthly online. They remind you with text message telling you when your phone will shut off.

I haven't had any troubles. If your phone breaks you can by a cheap one to get you through until your phone is fixed (if it is under warranty).

I do believe you get what you pay for. There is hardly any customer service at all with ST but I am not willing to pay nearly double to another contract company because they have a store at the mall.

circe posted 12/26/2013 05:39 AM

Our family uses Page Plus and we loooove it. They use Verizon towers, which in our neck of the woods gives the best coverage. In fact in our area there is no other service that works consistently.

They are no-contract, buy your own cell phone, but they are inexpensive and are constantly upping what you get for the money. They have a few different plans based on how much data or cell time you want. We still pay the same $30/month for my & DS plan that we have for years, but in that time our data has been bumped from 20MB to 500MB, and I think the talk and texts have doubled in that time as well for the same money. DH is a more data heavy user and we pay $55 for his, and he gets I think 2.5G of data (and unlimited everything else).

At the moment you can only use 3G phones with it, but we all use the iphone 4 or 4s very happily on it, and have never had a glitch. We also have it set up so that our accounts are renewed automatically each month so besides the email that pops up saying "your plans have been renewed" we just never think about it.

We buy all our cell phones through cowboom or from ebay. I think we spent about $120 each on our iphones-4 a year ago (hard to pluralize that without making it seem like 4S!) - some corporate phone sell-off on ebay, two of ours were sold as "used" but were still sealed in the original packaging, and one was not sealed but had a screen protector and didn't have a scratch. We lucked out. They are perfect. DH upgraded to a 4S and gave our daughter his 4, and that's worked fine as well.

Fireball72 posted 12/26/2013 10:17 AM

Count me in as another satisfied Virgin customer. I just dumped AT&T after 4 years because I was just paying way too much - 200 dollars per month for TWO smartphones!??!!.

I tried to get along without a cell phone for six months - sort of a "test", if you will - but no go, I desperately need one to stay in touch (especially at work). I looked around a bit, used Solavei for a couple of months, then decided to go with Virgin when my phone finally died.

I've been happy ever since.

I will recommend Solavei if you have a phone that will work specifically with their service - I used to have a Galaxy II and I know that one is one of them, but it finally gave up the ghost last month. I took that opportunity to buy a new phone and Virgin seemed the best way to go for that.

ETA: The only downside seems to be that my office building has ZERO service with Virgin. The minute I step outside, it works. Solavei only had a bar or two, though, and AT&T never worked at all, either. It must be these thick walls in here, that's all.

[This message edited by Fireball72 at 10:19 AM, December 26th (Thursday)]

metamorphisis posted 12/26/2013 11:07 AM

I don't know if Virgin is the same in the States as it is in Canada but I imagine it is. We had zero problems with them and received service on par with any of the big companies. They used the cell towers of the one of the major companies here so if there was any difference at all I couldn't tell you what it was.
The only downside was they market to a younger crowd so it was annoying to get messages and bills full of cutesy slang.. really minor annoyance there . And this is strictly a Canadian issue but we went from 3 year contracts to a law that passed saying that was basically unethical and the maximum went to two years(as your phone would be so outdated at that point you were practically forced to get a new phone before your contract was up). Anyway, when that happened their prices went through the roof to compensate for losing that extra year of contract. So when it was time to renew not only were they not offering us a deal, their prices were far higher than switching over to their parent company. 3 years of 3 phones and never missing a payment and they wouldn't offer us anything at all.
So we switched to one of the big companies.

Anyway, I share this all because I don't think of Virgin (here anyway) and a sketchy little start up. Check what towers they use where you are, but if it's like here, you'll have great service.

[This message edited by SI Staff at 11:10 AM, December 26th (Thursday)]

Lionne posted 12/26/2013 21:50 PM

I'm being told that the Sprint network is awful in South Jersey/Philly area. Anyone confirm or refute that?

sisoon posted 12/26/2013 22:17 PM

Thanks for all the info.

The Ting deal is terrific for us - we make only a few calls and fewer texts (but that will increase because I've finally understood how useful they are), and not a lot of data.

I bought some Sprint phones on e-bay. Sprint is OK here, with a tower about a mile away from home, and I know a number of Sprint users in this area who are very happy. Besides, our son's on Sprint, and he's happy with the service when he visits this area. Still, my fingers are crossed.

Cally60 posted 12/27/2013 13:32 PM

Haha - I saw your message the other day, but didn't have time to write a reply - and I've just come back to post, because I wanted to recommend Ting!

My usage is similar to yours. I think you'll be pleased with your decision. We've been with Ting for about 8 months now and we LOVE them! We've saved a ton of money - for two smart phones we've paid far less every month than I was paying another company for one dumb phone.

I think that their customer service is superb. None of that "answer fifty routine questions before we tell you you'll have to ring another number" rubbish. Whenever my husband has phoned Ting, he's talked to a real, live person with a real, live brain and ears that actually worked We've even received non-standard follow-up emails from them! Amazing. I didn't think that phone companies like this even existed any more.

[This message edited by Cally60 at 1:53 PM, December 27th (Friday)]

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