Tuesday, January 29, 2008

CricKet Goes to Oklahoma, Gets More Refurb Phones

Yep, CricKet is back with the refurbs again. The Audiovox 8910 and Moto v262 are bak at $49.9 apiece. *snore*

Oh, and they're coming to Oklahoma City in the near future. Don't believe me? Check out www.mycricketokc.com.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pocket, CricKet and SureWest, plus MetroPCS for fun

First off, let's talk about family plans. There are a few carriers that have multi-line discounts on their unlimited plans (to the tune of five bucks a month) if they're all on the same bill. But CricKet and Pocket Communications go just a little further: they have explicit family plans. On Pocket, buy the $40 plan (the highest-end one available) and get up to four more "unlimited everything" lines for $30 per month apiece. Nice discount. cricKet's "Family Plan" is just fancy packaging for their $5-per-line multi-line discount. $50 + $30 + $30 minus $5 per extra line equals $100 in the end. Not horrible, but Pocket's discount is much cooler.

Second, Pocket has indeed confirmed that they're coming out with the Motorola Rokr z6m slider phone, for the expected $299, giving them a nice high-end phone model for people to tote around. Meanwhile, CricKet has run out of stock of the old Audiovox 8910 and Motorola v262 phones, as well as both versions of their KRZR (red and black). That leaves the carrier with just ten phone models to pick from at the moment, two of which (the Rokr and the UTStarCom 7026) are out of stock. Not impressed, but at least they have some Samsungs and Motorolas in the mix still, plus the Nokia 6275i for good measure.

MetroPCS, on the other hand, takes the crown for the most phone models at this point, with fifteen phones (fourteen models if you count the red and black Samsung texting phone as one model). This is due to their not dropping any phones from their lineup, but instead (finally) adding the little Huawei m318 flip phone for a mere $99. Nothing at all special about the phone...no speakerphone, even. But the user interface, which looks sort of like LG's from a cursory glance, may be just fine, and it's a flip for cheap that doesn't look lousy and old like the year-and-a-half-old-plus UTStarCom 7025. It also looks thinner.

Lastly, Verizon Wireless has bought out the California unlimited carrier SureWest. Look for their unlimited plans to disappear soon :(. But SureWest's non-wireless division wanted out of the biz, and Verizon's $69 million was enough to do so. The purchase was more for infrastructure than for customers, but interestingly enough if you're just looking at customers Verizon paid $1380 each. Assuming the customers had to make a switch to a Verizon plan (which they'd have to do to get a newer phone) averaging $40 a month, Verizon could get that much customer revenue back in three years or so. Just musing though...hopefully SureWest customers will hold onto their sweet unlimited plans and show Verizon just who is who ;)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Nokia 6275i: it's back at CricKet

'nuff said. It's $179.99, just like last time. It's a better phone than anything else that CricKet is offering in my opinion, though it isn't as thin as the Razr or Krzr, and doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard lik the Kyocera Lingo. But if you can live without thin-ness and a keyboard, but can't live without an awesome phone...CricKet is now an option.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Quick CricKet News Flash

Looks like the Audiovox 8910 is now the same $49.99 as the Motorola v262. Based on prior experience with the 8910, I'm not surprised. It's not a horrible phone but these days it's only worth that much.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Phones on the Horizon for Pocket?

Take a quick look at the media portal for Pocket. It's at pocketrocks.pocket.com. Yep, there are two new phones there that aren't on Pocket's main website yet. I'm betting they'll be there soon. The phone models? Both are Motorola. One is the w385, which is a good midrange cameraphone, also seen on Verizon and Boost Unlimited service. the other one? The high-end Motorola Rokr z6m slider phone. Very, very cool.

Samsung u340: going, going, gone!

Well, a day after the u340 showed up on CricKet's website, or pretty close to that short a period anyway, the darn thing has vanished. Either it was a mistake, or they sold out of the relatively cheap cameraphone quite quickly due to either popular demand or limited supply. Or both. Oh, and if you think $130 is cheap for an unlimited-plan cameraphone, think again...Pocket has the Bluetooth-equipped, color-external-display Kyocera K342 for a mere $99 after a $40 mail-in rebate.

Friday, January 11, 2008

CricKet Cellular Shakeup

Oky, we've seem a lot of these phones before, but CricKet is finally moving away, or at least appears to be moving away, from Kyocera as a main phone provider. The K323 is now gone, leaving just two phones (the low-end K132 and the high-end M1000) as available CricKet handsets.

The replacements? The usual suspects.

The Razr is back, badder than ever. Er...worse then ever. This time around it's the v3a, the same underpowred version seen on MetroPCS and Alltel. No high-speed data, just the slow 1xRTT. No 1.3-megapixel camera...just a VGA affair. Looks like 2008 is the new 2005. Oh, and at a mere $10 less than the KRZR, nobody's gonna buy it. Well, until the KRZR goes out of stock...blech. Speaking of out of stock, the ROKR z6m is not available from CricKet's site, but I'm thinking this is a temporary problem. After all, MetroPCS has the phone and it;d be unwise for CricKet not to keep offering something as high-end.

Going down the list, you see not just one, but two Samsung phones. One, the Siren, has been on the site before...nothing to write home about really; seems I remember MetroPCS carrying something similar awhile back. Just your typical Bluetooth-toting, dual-colordisplay cameraphone, for $20 less than its mp3-playing cousin or its slim Motorola rival, to which it has practical feature parity.

The second phone is the Samsung u340. Yep, the Verizon phone...a freebie on their network, or $40 on their prepaid. Also known on Alltel as the Snap. U.S. Cellular has their own version of the phone as well. Not a horrible phone, but not particularly high-end either...it sells for $130. Cheap for a new cameraphone, but it has few other benefts. Go4Prepaid has a bit of a review on this one.

Scrolling down to the very bottom, looks like CricKet has opened their junk drawer again. The Audiovox 8910 is available for $60 refurbished, as is the Motorola v262 for $10 less. Not impressed. But hey, CricKet has fourteen phones, with thirteen total models, on the table at the mo...wait...the UTStarcom 77026 is out of stock...wonder whether it's going away...

Monday, January 7, 2008

CricKet gains Samsung r500, Loses Nokias

CricKet is down to ten phones. The Razr v3c and the Nokia 6275, which were previously merely "out of stock", appear now to be gone for good. Drat...both were decent phones at decent prices. The somewhat-replacement is the Samsung r500 music phone. It looks to be an analog of MetroPCS's less angular flip the u520, but with a few less features (like external controls and a color external screen to use them with) and a slightly lower ($20) price tag if you order online. Pass me the coffee...I'm about to fall out of my chair with the un-impressiveness of CricKet's current lineup. Sure, they've got the Krzr for cheap and the Rokr for expensive, but othewise the lineup is all Kyoceras (junky), UTStarComs (slightly less junky), a low-end Motorola (the w315, which is okay but nothing to write home about) and the aforementioned Samsung. Zzzzz...can someone come out with something cool? I don't know but LG and Samsung have nice rings to them. Oh, and Nokias...Nokias are to die for.

Pocket...Now WIth Less High-Rate Badness...and the Kyo Lingo!

As if their rates weren't already low enough to make CricKet attempt to match them to keep customers coming, Pocket Communications announced around the middle of November that they were cutting rates...and adding features. You now can't add features willy-nilly to plans like you could before...if you want voicemail you have to upgrade to a plan that includes long distance, and that costs extra, but overall prices are lower, with more features.

The $28 plan is gone, and in its place is a $25 plan...with unlimited text and picture messaging! This used to be a $5 addon. So you could say that you get an $8 discount versus the old rate structure, setting the base price for unlimited voice, for local area calling at least, at a scant $20! To listen to the big cell phone companies, it costs them that much to bill you ;) Oh, and unlimited texting alone costs $15-$20 on the "big guys", with unlimited picture messaging weighing in at a bit more. Plus you can make and receive phone calls...as many of them as you want!

But what if you need long distance calling? $5 more, just like before, and you've got it. The unlimited-with-LD plan is just $30. With this plan you can also add piecemeal whatever features you want, except for...

...voicemail, caller ID and call waiting, features that I for one have gotta have. Granted, these guys aren't standard on your typical bottom-drawer landline or ye olde cell phone company, but they're standard elsewhere...elsewhere meaning any non-unlimited carrier. But hey, you also get unlimited texting to Mexico, unlimited 3-way calling and unlimited call forwarding to any "local" number, $6 worth of features in themselves. Call Forwarding is especially handy when you want to go somewhere outside of Pocket's coverage area...instead of paying 59 cents a minute for roaming, just forward to a cheap Tracfone or other prepaid cell and you're good to go. Or maybe even program another "NAM" of your Pocket phone with information from Page Plus Cellular...after you activate the phone with them, of course. Which leaves you with an unlimited phone while in Pocket's service area, and a darn cheap one elsewhere, at 12 cents a minute instead of 59, and with 59-cent (max) roaming being available in places where, last I checked, Pocket won't even roam.

Anyhow, there's one more plan: $40 for practically everything. Okay, international texting ($5) and phone insurance ($5) aren't included but they never are...and the features included that are upgrades form the $35 plan, $3 unlimited 411 and $5 web, make the upgrade worth it. Seeing as how web would cost $5 a month alone, why not...except to maybe dodge nearly a dollar in Texas wireless taxes...ugh. Oh and web access is getting better on Pocket, so I've heard; while it's still 1xRTT web it sounds like they're now faster than dialup. Not bad for something the price of a really cheap dialup connection...on a cell phone...that itself has a base rate similar to that of your landline.

So yes, Pocket'a rates top out where the plans of most cell carriers start, if you want a contract...and Pocket's plans don't count minutes. Cool. Especially considering that MetroPCS, the largest player in the unlimited industry, charges $30 for just local calling, $35 for just local and long distance (no unlimited messaging) and $40 for local, LD, texting and calling features. At $45 and $50 the plans pretty much equal out, but you get the picture...and it looks like Metro's rates have gotten better since the last time I checked. CricKet is in a similar state when not competing with Pocket for turf: $30 buys unlimited local calling and texting, including to Mexico (something Pocket will not let you do at the $25 level, so fair 'nuff). $35 drops Mexi-text and adds picture messaging...huh? That puts Cricket a full $10 higher than Pocket on the same plan...and no, I don't work for Pocket. $40 gets long distance, again a full $10 higher than Pocket. $45 is...you guessed it...the plan with the calling features added. The $50 plan...sound familiar...looks to be the same as the $40 option on Pocket. Above that, a $55 plan includes 100 minutes of roaming on top of the $45 plan (hint: get Pocket's $35 offering and activate on Pqage Plus...and get 350 minutes per month for the price differential). $60 gets you 200 roaming minutes (see above, and the deal sweetens to around 400 minutes). There is one good plan, unlimited local and long distance for $30, but Pocket gives you that, plus text and picture messaging, for the same price.

Geez, that was a lot of plan comparison ranting.

Anyhow, one more thing: Pocket must've just put this up on their site, because I checked it a day or two ago and it wasn't there: the Kyocera Lingo (aka M1000 aka Wild Card) is coming to town, for the same $199 as the Switch_Back...er...Strobe that came before it. Glad to see it, though Kyocera isn't the brand I'd rather see in the Pocket phone listing. But hey, as long as the phone works, is an improvement over the funky-looking Strobe (which it is...with a better camera and Bluetooth, to name two better features), and is priced (from what I hear unsubsidized) to the point that Pocket's plans stay cheap and even get cheaper, I'll jive with it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

And we're back...with a phone overview of various unlimited carriers...

First off, sorry for the long hiatus. Maybe this time I'll actually keep this site going :). Unlimited carriers, please make life interesting. First off, I'm going to do a quick look at the various phone deals, non-deals and new kids on the block from what I consider to be the "big four" unlimited carriers: CricKet and MetroPCS, plus northern-based Revol and Texas-based Pocket.

On MetroPCS, the larget unlimited carrier, phone selection is actually halfway decent, with thirteen phones to pick from, two of which are the same model, just different colors. On the cheap end, the old UTStarCom 7025 shares the $89 price point with the new Nokia 2135. I'll take the Nokia, thanks...Nokia always makes good phones, and at this price point whatever you get will be for talk and a little text only anyway...not that MetroPCS has any texting phones anyhow.

Go down to the $119 phones...one looks interestingly familiar. Yes, that's the Virgin Mobile Super Slice with a different skin. Should be a decent phone, and a worth $20 upgrade from the Nokia 2135. Or if you want a flip phone the Motorola w385 seems to be a solid pick, at $149. But wait...isn't that a Razr for just $179. Well, sorta...the v3a doesn't even have EV-DO or a 1.3 megapixel camera, so it's basically a CDMA version of the original V3 on Cingular (now AT&T). But hey, whatever floats your boat...

Then you get into a bunch of Samsung phones. In addition to the newly-announced, low-end, cameraless r300, the r400 slider...and the QWERTY-powered r410. I take that back about metroPCS not having any texting phones. Oh, and it is a slide-out design, which I prefer to the fli-open Kyocera take on texting. Less stuff to break. Plus Samsung makes better phones than Kyocera...that's why...wait...the Kyocera E2000 doesn't deserve to be priced alongside the Samsung u520...even if it is a little thinner. Heck, I'd actually be satisfied with either of the $199 MetroPCS phones, particularly if they combined the texting prowess of one with the music power of the other.

Last but not least, you get the $299 Motorola Rokr slider z6m, part of the Rizr-type slider phones from Motorola. Okay, maybe the Motorola name, plus the music-playing abilities and the slim slider formfactor are worth $100 over a flip phone from Samsung that can do just as much, but I'm not convined. I would be convinced though if the Kyocera was the only $200 option ;)

On to CricKet, with their mere eleven phones...

KRZR for $190? Good price, but been there. At least CricKet still sells such a high-end flip. Razr v3c for $140? At least it's better than the MetroPCS v3a for more. Rokr z6m for $280 vs. $299 on MetroPCS...got it. Kyocera K132 and Moto w315...been there, done that. UTStarCom 7026...at least it's a little newer than the 7025. Okay, a lot newer, and it looks better. One light pat on the back to CricKet. Now to snore through the Kyocera K323...and wake up to the non-spectacular, though rather thin, UTStarCom Mini. The impressive Nokia 6275i, which is of course out of stock at the good price of $180, and the Virgin Mobile Wild Card...er...Kyocera Lingo...rounds out the package at $180 as well. Hmm, the Rokr and the Razr are out of stock, and so is the UTS 7026. Of course, considering that the Razr is inexpensive, and the 7026 is both inexpensive and new-looking, as opposed to the lousy Kyo K132. Wonder why the z6m is out of stock though...maybe they only got an order of 100 in for their customer base. ;)

Moving into the bargain bin...no wait, this is Revol's offering on phones. Yeah, the Great Lakes carrier that has the $67, $57, $47, $37 and $27 unlimited plans. Anyhow, their phones, ranging from the freebie Kyocera KX444s, LG 3200s, LG 4400s and Samsung a650s, to the respectively more expensive Kyo K132s, Moto e815s, Kyo K322s, Moto v323i's, and Kyocera Strobes, seem to be priced with no paticular regard to features, and all include potentially nasty mail-in rebates. They also contain traces of being...um...sorta old, or just plain unfit-to-use-as-a-phone-ness. I'm talking about the K132 on this last point...the v323i is a fine phone, as is the e815. They've just been around awhile. If you're wondering if the situation improves on the high end, it doesn't. The $179 Motorola SLVR L7c and the $229 Razr v3m are nothing new. Not even close. *snore*

Last but not least, there's Pocket Communications. THe Kyocera K132 and Audiovox 8615 are respectively lousy and outdated, and they as a matter of course sit at the low end of the price range: $79. Along with the $74-after-rebate Kyocera Milan. After rebate (if there is one), four more phones weigh in at $119 or less, including the decent LG 4270 and Motorola w315, as well as the lower-quality Kyocera KX16 Candid. I can't vouch for the last phone, the exclusive-to-Pocket, Bluetooth cameraphone Kyocera K342. New to Pocket is the LG 245, also available currently with Alltel and in the past with Verizon. It looks to be, at its $149 price point, color external display and Bluetooth capability, a worthy successor to the LG 5000, which was a year and a half older. Not that the 245 is new or anything...this phone looks to be about a year and a half old, with the FCC filing dated April 3, 2006.

The last three of the eleven Pocket phones are typical: the Motorola v323i at $170, the now-outdated Kyocera Strobe for $200, and the Razr v3m for $260. Sure, none of the phones are new but a fair number of them are decent, and the high price for a phone is offset by the low price of the actual plans, with unlimited local calling, plus text and picture messaging, clocking in at a mere $25. For $30 you get long distance. For $35 you get all the regular calling eatures, and for $40 you get web access and 411. $40 is still rather feature-less on MetroPCS, CricKet and Revol. So the high phone price can be forgiven. Oh, and there's a Pocket family plan, but I need content for another post...

Hope this helps, and welcome back to a new year of UnlimitedCellular. Hopefully it is more active than last year.