Monday, January 7, 2008

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 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 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 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.

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