Monday, March 31, 2008

CricKet Buys Pocket

Looks like we now know how CricKet is going to expand into South Texas. An agreement has been reached, and the owner of Pocket Communications, Paul Posner, has sold the company for an undisclosed sum to Leap Wireless, owner of the CricKet service. So that's why coverage maps seemed so familiar...

I've heard rumors that all CricKet support staff in the Texas area has been laid off, in favor of the Pocket agents, who seem to be doing a much better job at support. Also, HEB outlets will now sport CricKet phones near the front doors instead of Pocket phones. Service prices are expected to rise up to otherwise-national levels now that CricKet has done away with its heated competitor, which had precisely 277,777 customers at the time of the purchase.

A sad day in the unlimited space, I must say. Quotin Posner, "My indomitable Texas spirit for offering great service fell when I saw how much money Leap was offering for my world-class cell service provider. Don't worry; I'll probably use it to buy some sort of spectrum from AT&T or something and start some other wireless business that benefits everyone in Texas. I mean, come on, when AT&T bought Dobson CellularOne, after Dobson CellularOne bought Concho Cellular, I knew it was only a matter of time..."

CricKet is now the larger of the two unlimited cellular providers in the U.S. by a small margin. Their South Texas network should be ready by the end of the month, with Laredo and Brownsville going live today, since little work was needed to switch over from Pocket to CricKet service. Update your PRLs, everyone!

Or not. April Fool's! May Pocket never die!

Don't Forget St. Louis!

No, I didn't forget; CricKet AWS service will also be coming to St. Louis, MO. Jst so everyone knows...

...and no, I didn't know that the Motorola v265 is supposedly a primarily CricKet-forused phone, which only later made its way to Verizon...

CricKet in Texas

In other, 1900MHz, news, CricKet looks to be trying to put Pocket Communications out of business ASAP.

Looks like they've expanded their coverage in the San Antonio area to cover pretty much what Pocket does, except CricKet also covers Austin and Houston areas, as well as "out west" and up into the Temple\Killeen area. Surprisingly, this coverage block is relatively monolithic, tough off the higways between the various cities you're roaming. When I get back to Fredericksburg I'm going to grab a CricKet phone to test the coverage...I doubt it's great for some odd reason but we'll see...

But CricKet isn't stopping here. Their plans have been modified once again to beat Pocket's. Their remarkably low-priced $25 plan gives you caller ID, whereas Pocket's $25 plan doesn't. On the $35 plan CricKet throws in unlimited use in all of its coverage area, which trump's Pocket's by a large amount. On $45, CricKet has the same advantage as on the $35 plan. At $55, you get 120 roaming minutes, something Pocket just doesn't do. The 120 minutes would normally cost $15 per month extra (or pay $5 extra per month for 30 minutes or $10 extra for 70). Or pay per minute at 39 cents. Pocket charges 59, by virtue of its smallness. Though Pocket does offer Call Forwarding at their $35 level, whereas CricKet charges $5 for the feature on the same-tier plan...

Of course, CricKet doesn't compete unless it has to. Elsewhere, what costs $25 on Pocket costs $35 on CricKet, and the $10 price gap goes all the way up to the $50 plan on CricKet. The $55 plan is still the $45 ($35 on Pocket) option but with 100 minutes of roaming, and the $60 plan adds another 100 minutes of roaming. Personally though, I'd buy a Page Plus Cellular phone and pay less per minute for roaming than it costs on any of the unlimited carriers. Or maybe program Page Plus into NAM2 of the unlimited phone so I just hit a few buttons to switch over to working off the other network.

...and no, I don't know why the Motorola v265 refurb'd phone isn't offered in the San Antonio area but is sold elsewhere...

Anyway, CricKet looks to be expanding further into South Texas soon, on regular 1900MHz spectrum. On the expansion list are Pocket territories such as Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, as well as totally different cities like Beaumont and Corpus Christi. Look for heated competition with Pocket Communications soon...

MetroPCS and CricKet, Meet Vegas and Oklahoma City!

Looks like 2006's AWS spectrum purchases are finally being used.

CricKet's Oklahoma City coverage, with a whopping 98 cell sites, five corporate-owned stores and 58 other vending locations for the service, will turn into flat-rate cell service on April 8th.

MetroPCS, on the other hand, is already selling their 1700MHz-powered service in Las Vegas, both online and at sixty different retail points, with four corporate stores opening in July.

What's interesting is that MetroPCS has slimmed down their phone lineup considerably on its regular offerings over the last week or so, with a few more subtractions that I saw today. The price on the two lowest-end phones, the Samsung r300 and the UTStarCom 1450 (aka Super Slice), may have dropped a bit, to $109 and $129 respectively, but there were phones as low as $89 before...and the lineup is now slimmed to ten phone models.

At least the lineup seems to be slimmed until you actually try to buy a phone, at which point the three new phone models that are built for the new AWS service MetroPCS has in Vegas show up, for thirteen total models for all "regular" areas and three (yep, just three, but it's a start) for the new AWS area.

There are two $99 phones, the Samsung Spex Bluetooth bar phone and the UTStarCom 7126 Bluetooth-enabled flip. $50 more gets you a 1.3 megapixel cameraphone, also with Bluetooth (the Samsung MyShot, which is otherwise quite basic).  Yes, you'll be seeing these same phones on CricKet (with the possible addition of the Motorola Razr v3s) when their AWS service comes out in a little over a week, and yes I have a hunch about the Bluetooth capability coinciding with handsfree laws or something like that. Plus, if you've got a Bluetooth phone then MetroPCS can sell you another $35-$50 accessory...

In other news, MetroPCS seems to have discontinued the Chinese-made phones from ZTE and Huawei, I'm supposing due to customer non-brand-awareness and rather low quality. Pretty quick run, I'd say, for a phone on the market. CricKet still has the CompCal EZ in its lineup, but I'll bet they'll drop it soon with the quality concerns people have been\will be voicing, in addition to the utter lack of features on the unit. Plus, it can't do AWS.

More AWS news coming on the 8th, maybe sooner but definitely on the 8th, when CricKet launches their service "4 realz" in Oklahoma City...

...WAIT! Looks like CricKet will also be getting into the Las Vegas area cell-service-wise. This will be intersting to watch, since MetroPCS and CricKet have tended to avoid each other when deciding where to put their cell service. We'll see what happens...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spex and MyShot Info Pages

Just thought I'd pass these on, since PhoneScoop does a good job of making phone fact pages and they just put 'em up for the Spex and MyShot from Samsung. Looks like both are headed for both MetroPCS and CricKet, to be expected since both  have 1700 MHz spectrum and both are unlimited carriers with similar plans, pricing, etc.

CricKet Meets Samsung Spex and Samsung MyShot

One is a basic bar hone, thin and Bluetooth-enabled, for $120. One is a flip phone with a 1.3 megapixel camera for $150. Both are Samsung. Both use AWS (the new frequency that CricKet will be rolling out soon in Tulsa and other places). Both are coming to CricKet tomorrow. Check 'em out when they do.

Monday, March 24, 2008

MetroPCS Gets Blue in the Tooth, plus some Spex

First off, there's a promo running on MetroPCS. Buy a Motorola phone and get a Motorola headset for free. Or get a $50 Visa card when you buy a Moto phone and either Motorola's Bluetooth headphones or their Bluetooth speakerphone. So effectively you' be getting a speakerphone for $30 or Bluetooth headphones for $60...and good headphones at that. Dedent deal if you ask me.

They've also discontinued the UTStarcom 7025, looks like, though their model line isn't going to keep shrinking. The Samsung Spex, a thin little bar phone with AWS (1700 MHz frequency) support, should be out relatively soon, and it seems like an upgrade to the 7025. At least it's thinner and AWS-capable...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Motorola v3s, likely headed to CricKet

Looks like another Razr cheapo edition is headed to an unlimited carrier near you. The Motorola v3s, found here via PhoneScoop's FCC lookup tool, might have a larger screen than the v3a (or then again it might not...I'm lousy comparing sizes of things), and has a cool-looking finish on it similar to the v3xx on GSM\HSDPA networks, but it seems like there are no other additional features on this phone...aside from the 1700MHz AWS band into which CricKet is expanding their network. Hey at least this tri-band CDMA phone is relatively high-end, as opposed to the Chinese phones, plus the UTStarCom one, that have so far been spotted making their way through the FCC and ultimately onto the CricKet network...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Categories Are Up!

Looking for info on Pocket, Revol, MetroPCS, Boost Unlimited or CricKet? It is now a whole lot easier. I have gone back and tagged all posts about the carriers, so you can access them easily. Just click on the appropriate "Topic" on the righthand sidebar. Now to put up a topic about the mainline carriers...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pocket Phones Are Out (v3a and w385)

Yep, they're out now. Hot off the transport truck beds, the Motorola Razr v3a ($200, similar in function to the old 2005 GSM Razr from Cingular and T-Mobile...Cingular, not AT&T) and the Motorola w385 ($180, basically a no-frills Bluetooth camera phone but a decent one at that) are both making their rounds at a Pocket phone provider near you. That's $20 more for the v3a than MetroPCS (which seems to have lowered their price very recently on the phone) and CricKet (who recently introduced the v3a at $179.99) but you'll make up the price difference after four months of service or so.

I'd personally stick with the Motorola v323i ($170) or the LG 245 (now $130), or maybe shell out another $60 for the Motorola Razr v3m, but then again, these offerings put Pocket on phone parity, generally speaking, with the other unlimited carriers. Additionally, they look to be getting the Razr2 v9m and (as mentioned before) the Kyocera E1000 "Deco" in the relatively near future, judging by the references to these two phones on the ringtone\media download page on their site. Which would mean their phone selection would be every bit as high-end and current as anyone else's in the unlimited market, even comparing favorably with contract carriers as long as you don't count smartphones, which can be flashed to Pocket anyway if there is a need to do so.

Also, sorry for not tagging posts recently. I'll get back into that, and retroactively tag posts when I get the time to do so.

CricKet sells refurb'd Motorola v265s, expands into OK and TX

Continuing the tired tradition started awhile ago, CricKet is selling off some more refurbished phones. This time the phone du jour is the Motorola v265, for $50. Okay, back to snoring...

But wait...CricKet is expanding! Coming April 8th, Oklahoma City will have their service (isn't that the area with 1700 MHz coverage, or is that Tulsa?) and sometime, somewhere, Texas will get a coverage boost. Going beyond Loop 410 in San Antonio to compete with Pocket, anyone?

MetroPCS Wins in 700 MHz, drops w385

The results are out. Verizon won the nation on the C block of the 700 MHz spectrum auction here in the old US of A. AT&T got a lot of coverage too, but not the whole U.S. MetroPCS actually picked up some territory as well, so expect...ehm...quad-band phones sooner or later on their service. We're not talking GSM here...your MetroPCS phone will be operating on 700, 1700 and 1900 MHz service on its own network, and possibly 850 MHz elsewhere. This spetrum thing is going to be a mess if people don't watch out...

In other news, MetroPCS no longer lists the Motorola w385 camera phone as for sale on its website. Probably because they consider the ZTE C88 as a decent substitute. To which I say "whatever". The review of that phone is here by PhoneScoop. Oh, and has anyone seen the SLVR L7c lately on MetroPCS's site? Because it's there now and I don't recall it being there a little while back.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Boost Mobile Gets the KRZR

At $250, this phone is nearly twice the price of the next-highest-end phone, the Motorola w385, and over double the price of the entry level c290, but it may well be worth it. With this entrant, Boost Unlimited is now in the running with carriers like MetroPCS, Pocket and CricKet in terms of phone specs on the high end. Granted, MetroPCS and CricKet have units from Samsung for $180-$200 that are on par feature-wise with the KRZR, but, looked at from another perspective, the rouch equivalent in terms of style and substance would be the Rokr slider z6m, which is a good bit newer but also $300 or thereabouts. Don't even talk about the Razrs on each carrier...they're now the stripped-down "a" versions that don't even start to compare with the KRZR in terms of features offered.

One more thing: though you pay for the privilege of having such a network (to the tune of $10 extra per month, or thereabouts), that extra chunk of change also gives you an honest-to-goodness EvDO-capable phone on a high-grade, nationwide EvDO network! So for $5 per month you're getting the fastest web access available on non-contract service that I know of...the fastest, at least, for a network that covers anybody (the unlimiteds' small networks, and AT&T's small network, don't count here). As usual, Sprint's attention to data shines through. While the service admittedly isn't the higher-speed Revision A EvDO that is now rolled out on both Verizon and Sprint, there's only one phone that can take advantage of that service anyhow (I have that phone, the HTC Mogul on Sprint) and Verizon themselves put off Rev. A as unnecessary for a phone-based experience.

In short, with this higher-end phone you're getting a LOT more features, allowing for everything from MP3 playing (with a $20 MicroSD card that replaces a $70 iPod shuffle, and then some) to decently high-res picture taking and video capture, to high-speed web surfing...pretty nice for an unlimited-carrier phone (except when compared to the Razr2 on CricKet, which incidentally costs $380!). This is at a point where the other unlimited carriers have discontinued the KRZR (which sold for roughly the same price when it was available, sometimes even more) in favor of cheaper (albeit newer) phones. Granted, Sprint itself is offering the KRZR for $80 with contract, $230 without ($20 LESS than the Boost Mobile price) but this is a full contract-grade phone, complete with snazzy looks and tons of features, and I'm very glad to see it going unlimited with Boost.

Now can Boost Unlimited please go national!?! There's this little provider called CricKet who has the monopoly on cheap unlimited up in Colorado, and Sprint's network beats CricKet's any day of the week... :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's Refurb Time at Pocket! Plus, reliability stats

Yep, they're selling good ole refurbished phones. Also, I got a quick look at what seems to be the trend on reliability on various cell phone manufacturers, from what defective phones passed by this one Pocket kiosk...:)

In the front display, there were a few different phones available, all refurbished, selling for $50. The phones were the Kyocera Milan, the Audiovox 8615 and the Motorola v262, if memory serves me. There was also the LG vx3200 at $55. None of these phones had any warranty or insurance-ability, so far as I heard from the person behind the counter there, but then again $50 is the deductible on insurance anyway, heh. Better to use the insurance protecting the likes of the Motorola Rokr z6m ($300) or the Razr v3m ($260).Or maybe the rather junky, but certainly better looking and feeling than its precursor (the Strobe) Kyocera M1000 "Lingo", at $200. The Strobe, by the way, is now $190 at Pocket...I'll go for the Lingo any day vs. the Strobe, but I'd rather touch neither.

Also of note was the Kyocera K342, priced at $139 before rebate, $99 after. Why? Because it'll randomly crash, says the person behind the counter, who has one. Typical Kyocera stuff though, and in this case you get what you pay for: great features (like Bluetooth and dual color displays), poor reliability (evinced by the brand name on the phone).

Looking to the side of the kiosk we see a flier printed out in black and white. Pocket apparently bought a bunch of Kyoceras at fire-sale prices and now wants to sell 'em to consumers. The phones? The KX440 (which is kinda sorta okay), the KX424 (lame) and the KE414 (LAME!). These l'il guys are $69 new or $59 refurbished, looks like. I would go for the LG vx3200 at this point. Even when you count in what looks to be a Kyocera KX9c at $49.99 refurbished. I'll pass; that's the phone that, without a caller ID display, would happen to be the infamous Kyocera Oystr on Virgin Mobile. Spare me.

Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering where you could use your Pocket phone while roaming, it is on Verizon's towers, and theirs only. In short, do yourself a BIG favor and grab a Page Plus Cellular phone for next to nothing and use that. Your minutes will be about five times cheaper. Just forward to Page Plus when roaming and you're good to go, with airtime rates that make contracts a laugh (that's the point, right?) unless of course you miss features like unlimited text messaging or web access when you stray out of Pocket territory...

About the reliability stats, the quick rundown is that LGs and the high-end Motorolas are the most reliable phones, which is to be expected. Jumping to the low end (past some Audiovoxes and maybe a Kyocera or two, but probably not) are the Motorola v262 and, to an extent, the w315. At the bottom of the heap is the Kyocera K132, known on Virgin Mobile as the Marbl...except the Marbl is more reliable than the K132, which is an utter piece of junk as far as I, and anyone else, can tell, even though it looks cool.

Moral of the story on reliability? Buy the Kyocera K342 if you can stand your non-smartphone acting like it is running a beta test of Windows Mobile 6 with not enough memory available, in a word "crash". In a few more words "crash early and often". But hey, the phone is only $100 on an unlimited plan, with no contract, so whaddya expect? Or spare yourself and get an LG (on the low end) or a Motorola (on the high end). And always, ALWAYS, steer clear of the Kyocera K132 and such other nonsense, for the love of your sanity and your cell service.

Monday, March 10, 2008

AWS Phones, Here We Come

Why are we talking about the new 1700 MHz AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) spectrum in a blog about unlimited cell plans? Because it's being used by CricKet, of course.

To be precise, it is being used by CricKet, MetroPCS, US Cellular and Verizon, to be exact. Two of which are unlimited carriers; how interesting. This is probably due to AWS being pretty close to the PCS spectrum in use by these companies, so they already know how to optimize their networks for high-band cellular, I suppose. But then why aren't Sprint and T-Mobile in the mix, or did the article I was reading about AWS just forget to mention them?

Anyway, CricKet, in two markets (Tulsa, Oklahoma and Las Vegas, Nevada) is finally making use of the AWS spectrum it snapped up in 2006's auction. The first phone to get this service (the first tri-band CDMA phone to see actual duty, in fact) is the rather low-end UTStarCom 7126. The little guy has indicator lights instead of an external display, and features only 1xRTT data (nothing high-speed) but it does have Bluetooth, and for talking away that's pretty much all you need anyway. the price hasn't been announced for this phone yet, and it isn't up on CricKet's website yet either, and it probably won't be for another few months, while the AWS networks are finished up and made ready for service. But it's interesting to watch.

Oh, and if you're wondering about what other cellular goodies are going to be tri-band CDMA, here are a few models that have passed the doors of the FCC, bound it seems for CricKet and MetroPCS, who would seem to need the new frequency the most (due both to coverage and capacity constraints...nobody roams on them to my knowledge so the AWS spectrum for only their service makes more sense than would a normal cell carrier):
  • UTStarCom 7176
  • UTStarCom 8076
  • Samsung R430 (might show up on US Cellular or even Verizon, or might not)
  • Samsung R210a
  • Kyocera S4000 (might show up on US Cellular)
  • ZTE C79 (probably MetroPCS-exclusive)
  • Huawei M328 (probably MetroPCS-exclusive)
Please note that the carrier associations I'm drawing (the lack of which means that I expect the phones to be Cricket\MetroPCS models, and theirs only), while based on what I can see of the market right now, are by no means the product of insider information so my actually be completely wrong. But the model numbers are fine. :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Alltel Goes unlimited, Very Quietly

Last to the big-carrier unlimited party, even behind the smaller US Cellular (and rounding out all cell phone carriers with over ten million customers, to my knowledge), is Alltel.

They're not giving away the far either. $100 gets you what it gets you on Verizon or AT&T: unlimited voice, that's it. As usual, they aren't putting the plan up on their website the first day, but they didn't even give it a press release.

Alltel's reasoning: their My Circle plans are good enough, right? For $100 on My Circle, you get 2000 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends and unlimited calling to and from twenty (yes, TWENTY!) numbers of your choice. Plans of $60 or more get ten free numbers, $50 gets five and $40 gets one. You even have it on the North American Freedom (Canada and Mexico roaming free) plan, with the same price criteria: $60 or more gets 10 numbers, $100 or more gets 20.

Still you gotta admit that $100 for unlimited calling to everybody is better than unlimitd to twenty people, with 2000 minutes and nigths and weekend for everyone else. Espeially if you're using the phone as a business line...

But hey, Alltel has unlimited for $100 per month now, so who am I (or anyone) to complain?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mapquest Meets Metro

No GPS capability, however now available for $4 or free on higher-end MetroPCS plans, MapQuest Mobile has come. I'm wondering why you couldn't just use Google Maps Mobile on your Pocket phone (network or phone lockdown?) but if it works, it works. more info here:

Pocket Reaches 250,000...and intros new phones...two plus one more!?!

Looks like Pocket has graduated into some higher ranking of cellular carriers; it's not a "big one" like Sprint or even CricKet, but it is quite large for the local carrier that is, probably because it covers the huge San Antonio market.

What did it graduate to, on February 28th? 250,000 subscribers. Again, this may not sound like much but for the area that it covers, and the age of the company (slightly under two years...shorter than the usual cell phone contract) it's huge. This is up from about 200,000 at the turn of the year, and 175,000 forty-five days or so before. In other words, if Pocket keeps up this crazy growth rate they might just double by the end of the year, or more.

Such large-scale business leads to an ability to get higher-quantity phones, and it looks like that's where Pocket is headed. Hopefully though, they won't discontinue their rather high0end lineup that they have now, with the Razr v3m and the Rokr z6m. I say that because MetroPCS and CricKet have turned toward the low-end recently.

The phones I'm talking about are the Motorola Razr v3a and the Motorola w385. The former is $200 on Pocket, or will be once it comes out, and the latter will be $180. This is respectively $20 and $30 more expensive than the prices of MetroPCS and CricKet on these phones (though CricKet doesn't have the w385...yet...and is out of stock of the v3a right now, as well as the Samsung r500) but when you notice that Pocket's plans are at least $5 cheaper than those offered by CricKet or metroPCS...and that Pocket's coverage in San Antonio is actually quite good, Pocket wins out here.

Though I have to say that Pocket had better not go down the primrose path of offering cut-rate phones on their service; while the Motorola w385 and v3a are certainly quite new in comparison with the phones that make up the main body of their offering at the moment, their feature sets are rather pared down; neither the w385 nor the v3a have high-speed data or anything better than a VGA camera. Then again, they also don't cost $259, nor do they have the brand name on them. Well, I suppose that, so long as they don't restrict Bluetooth (which isn't restricted on their v323i phone) everything'll be all right. As far as I know, neither phone is a piece of junk, which is always a plus...

...but wait! There may be yet another phone coming in for a Pocket landing: the Kyocera E1000 Deco. I'm thinking it slides right into the spot currently occupied by the K342. It would make a worthy upgrade, though I'd better be aerodynamic, 'cuz I don't trust Kyocera phones any farther than I can throw 'em. Fortunately for Pocket, this one looks slick and aerodynamic...while it isn't thin it looks sophisticated enough.

CricKet Comes to St. Louis

Hot off the PhoneScoop presses, thence from those of RCR Wireless news, it looks like Leap wireless, aka CricKet for those in the unlimited crowd, is coming to St. Louis. They're not available there quite yet, however they are coming, proving that the dedicated unlimited carriers are still going strong, unfazed by the $100-ish unlimited plans that have come forth from the bowels of mainline cell carriers over the past few weeks. Of course, seeing as how the highest-end CricKet plan is $50 for their network, the unfazed-ness is understandable. Plus there's no contract, and if you need to roam out of CricKet's coverage area, you can. Still sounds good to me...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

CricKet: Phones Down To $40, Pocket up to M1000, Page Plus down to $1.99? Lower?

Okay, $39.99 gosh darn it. At prices this low a penny just might matter. The phone? The Motorola v262. CricKet probably would ave charged $29.99 for the phone, but it took $10 per phone to dig them up out of the basement and blow all the dust off of 'em. This little guy is OLD!

Not so with Pocket Communications. Their Kyocera Lingo M1000 (also seen on CricKet and on Virgin Mobile, the latter as the Slice) is out and ready to rumble at a mere $199.99. Okay, that's expensive, but we're taking about non-contract, unlimited, dirt-cheap service here. The cheapest alternative to Pocket that doesn't cost that much for a phone is Sprint, with their $50 LG Rumor and $100 price point. With taxes, the difference between the two plans would run around $65 per month. Discounting the possible fact that the LG Rumor is a bit better than the Kyocera, you would have to roam out of Pocket's service area for around 90 minutes of usage every month in order to make up for the price differential between it and Sprint...and we're comparing the cheapest unlimited plan on a national carrier here.

Okay, I'm on Sprint, and I take advantage of Sprint-only features like PDA phones, EV-DO internet, etc. I also don't have an unlimited plan.

Speaking of not having unlimited plans, in case anyone was wondering about anything else Sprint had, their minute-limited plans can get the same feature bundle as the unlimited everything $100 plan for $30 on top of the regular monthly charge, making all those extra data features "worth" $20 if you're on a regular plan or $10 on top of the unlimited plan. The unlimited plan of which I speak, in comparison to the $100 one, is the $90 deal, which has "sister" plans (minute limited) at $10 per month above the bare minimum plans that are voice only. Which places the effective voice-only cost of Sprint's unlimited plan at a cool $80, as much as $20 below the competition. Though Sprint's add-a-line feature is funky when you compare it with regular plans...until you figure out that you pick any combination of full plans, not some lame service-fee-for-no-minutes addon. Slick, to say the least. But anyway, on to Page Plus...

...who can be cheapened even more than $2.49 per day. In Ohio, Florida and Michigan it can go all the way down to a juicy $1.99 per day, blowing ALL unlimited plans out of the water as far as national coverage goes, at around $60 per month. What you don't get as a result of the $40 (or $25 elsewhere) less you pay per month is free roaming; it's 59 cents per minute. I'd say get a Tracfone for that. Incidentally, the $60 unlimited plan decreases the "cost efficiency threshold" between a regular Page Plus plan and unlimited to about 1000-1100 minutes per month, depending on whether you're in February (lear year or not), March or April, etc.

But wait, it gets even better. If you feel like playing the system, you can get unlimited minutes for next to nuthin' in the scheme of things: activate your phone on a normal plan, stock up on $80 Page Plus refills (preferably at a discount from a place like and then convert over to unlimited. You will take a $20 hit as an activation fee for the unlimited plan, and you will still have to add money to your account every four months to keep your service active, but by the Page Plus "funny money" $80 counts as $168 toward your balance on the regular Page Plus plan. This effectively halves the cost of unlimited calling while you're still eating away at that balance, as well as doing the same thing for text messaging and roaming, respectively beinging those down to around 7 cents per message and 28 cents per minute. Maybe a little calculator is sitting on my other monitor. The plan itself? Effectively $1.19 per day for most of the U.S. or about 95 cents per day if you're in the three-state discount-rate area.

That's right...if you work the system you can get nationwide unlimited for less than the price of the local unlimited plans. You can also get a phone for less than they charge you, and if you're in the tri-state cut-rate area everyone else is even greener with envy. Gotta love them loopholes, huh? Time to grab a Razr2 from eBay at he same price as you'd get one from the Verizon regular site, then stock up on several hundred dollars worth of Page Plus airtime cards ($800 worth should get you through a full two years of service...just add $10 cards every four months
and you've got it). Apply them, switch your plan and let the über minute cellular parté begin. Just don't tell anyone that texting is still halfway outrageous in price, and that internet is nonexistent. Just obnoxiously flash your phone around while loudly boasting that you didn't have to get on a contract to get all this, while everyone writes you off as a complete show-off, which you'd be at that point, but entirely justified in being so. :)