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Ask Slashdot: Best Pay-as-You-Go Plan For Text and Voice Only?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the sticking-things-places dept.

Communications 246

sconeu writes "My wife uses an assistive communication device. She wants to use it for SMS texting... We currently have Verizon, so we don't have a SIM. The computer will take a SIM. I'm looking for a pay-as-you-go plan where I can take the SIM from a cheap phone and put it in her computer. Any suggestions?" It would be interesting to hear how this question would be best answered both in the U.S. and around the world.

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Local sims are better for roaming (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707893)

Local sims are better for roaming as the costs are VERY HIGH.

Re:Local sims are better for roaming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707957)

Why are child molesters so despised? I, like so many other molesters, merely want to give sticky gifts to children's asses. What's wrong with that?

Re:Local sims are better for roaming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708023)

Lack of consent mainly. Children are considered unable to consent. If they were able to consent, and if they did give informed enthusiastic and positive consent, there would be nothing wrong.

StraightTalk (5, Informative)

jhaygood86 (912371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707909)

StraightTalk has a program just for this called StraightTalk SIM. It's $30/mo for 1000 minutes / 1000 texts or $45 for unlimited.

Re:StraightTalk (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708495)

StraightTalk has a program just for this called StraightTalk SIM. It's $30/mo for 1000 minutes / 1000 texts or $45 for unlimited.

I work at Walmart and sell a lot of straight talk phones to people, and have activated many "bring your own hardware" plans with the straight talk SIM card, and you can NOT use the $30 a month plan with it, you can only use the thirty dollar plan with the dumbphones with the SIM card locked to the phone serial number that it came with.

If you're using a straight talk SIM with an unlocked device you can only use the $45 plan, and if you use more than 100-150 MB a day or more than 2GB in a month your service WILL be turned off, without warning or refund.

Re:StraightTalk (1)

jhaygood86 (912371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708535)

I was unaware the $30 plan did not support the BYOD SIM plan. That sucks. It would be awesome if they did for people who don't need anything fancy.

T-mobile (4, Informative)

Kotoku (1531373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707913)

T-Mobile will sell you a SIM only (No Need To Buy A phone) for pay-as-you-go and is a pretty cheap option. Otherwise, many of the pay-as-you-go providers are CDMA based, But for SMS anyone should do.

Re:T-mobile (0)

scottbomb (1290580) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707985)

It's $50 a month for unlimited talk/text and you're still stuck paying for data (included in the price) even if you never use it. I've been wondering the same thing as the author and I still haven't found it. Not everyone needs mobile data.

Re:T-mobile (1)

Kotoku (1531373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708043)

While that is one plan, they also Have A $15 a month for unlimited texting plus 10 cents a minute for voice. They also have a slightly less flexible plan that has not monthly charge. It's like 10 cents to send a text, 5 cents to receive, and a dollar a day plus 10 cents a minute when you use voice; voice calls after 7 do not incur the 10 cents/minute charge.

Re:T-mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708145)

Is it? I thought $50 a month was for unlimited talk and text *without* data.

http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/Packages/ValuePackages.aspx

Unlimited data brings the price up to $70 a month.

Re:T-mobile (4, Informative)

jittles (1613415) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708163)

It's $50 a month for unlimited talk/text and you're still stuck paying for data (included in the price) even if you never use it. I've been wondering the same thing as the author and I still haven't found it. Not everyone needs mobile data.

Bah. Just sign up for Walmart Family Mobile. You still get T-mobile service and its $45 for unlimited everything. Well, they cap your 3G data, but you can get unlimited edge after you hit the cap. And I rarely hit the cap anyway.

pay as you go. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708419)

which means pay as you go, not pay every month.

Maybe it means something else in 'merkinland.

But here in the EU it means you pay as you go. 15p a text maybe, but no monthly fee.

Re:pay as you go. (2)

green1 (322787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708737)

We have monthly plans, and pre pay plans.
The difference is the monthly plans are honest about it.
In a monthly plan you pay $X per month to get Y minutes and Z texts
in a pre-pay plan you pay $X to get Y minutes and Z texts that expire if you don't use them in a month.

Re:T-mobile (1)

Tynin (634655) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708749)

I'm using T-Mobiles pay as you go, 1000 minutes for talk or texts for $100 that are good for 1 year. I'm currently using it for my Nexus 4, but you can take the SIM out and load it into a computer without issue (to answer the Ask /. posters question).

Re:T-mobile (4, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708053)

T-Mobile will sell you a SIM only (No Need To Buy A phone) for pay-as-you-go and is a pretty cheap option.

I use T-mobile and when it works it works great. When I decided on them several years ago they were the ones that met my requirements (GSM, unlocked phones, true pre-pay and not monthly contracts). Buying in bulk I get $100 for 1000 minutes, and they don't expire for a year, and I typically use no more than 2000 minutes a year so it is way cheaper than a contract and I hardly ever text anyway (and I also reserve my data usage for when I am in front of a dedicated computer). However I do encounter quite a few dead spots with the network (including my own home), especially once you get away from the more populated areas where it is more a case of dead regions than dead spots. So you need to balance out your particular requirements with the downsides.

Re:T-mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708167)

I second the suggestion, longtime satisfied customer.

Re:T-mobile (1)

vuke69 (450194) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708389)

Simple Mobile. $25/mo unlimited Talk & Text.

Re:T-mobile (4, Informative)

slashkitty (21637) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708541)

I'll second the T-Mobile option. If you don't send a lot of messages, it's insanely cheap to keep the service activated.. $100 for 1000 messages lasts 1 year... $10 per year after that to keep service active. $1 to buy the sim card with 10 minutes to start to test out.

Re:T-mobile (1)

archer, the (887288) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708725)

My T-Mobile Prepaid plan: 10 cents/min for voice, 20 cents/text.

UK (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707927)

UK Giffgaff.
Free giffgaff-to-giffgaff texts/calls given £5 top-up every few months.
Otherwise 6p/text, 10p/min.

Re:UK (0)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708197)

Can someone explain to me why this was modded down?

Re:UK (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708395)

Can someone explain to me why this was modded down?

It was modded down because Angelea Preston disqualified from America's Next Top Model after making it to the finale.

Re:UK (2)

thoughtlover (83833) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708795)

Can someone explain to me why this was modded down?

Overzealous modders that didn't note timothy mentioning that it would be "best answered both in the U.S. and around the world"?

why here? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707931)

Go into any of the 100,000's of thousands of shops and ask

Re:why here? (4, Insightful)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707969)

Because the shop will try to sell you whatever generates the highest commission for them. On /. there's a fair chance that there are some readers who are literally experts on this topic and would be happy to share their knowledge, why not?

Re:why here? (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708403)

yes, but if you a user is so unsophisticated as to have /. such a simple question, then some direct professional help is needed, and this needs to be paid for.

One advantage of a shop is that the sales person can ask clarifying question. For instance the poster did not state the region or the type of machine. This is important give an informed response. A salesperson can ask these questions. If the salesperson chooses a more expensive product that does the job, isn't that better than going off on your own and buying a product that does not work.

Presuming that the poster lives in a major city and does not travel off major arteries, something like Boost or any of the pay as you go carriers will work. The best bet is still to go into a shop, buy a SIM card, and make sure it works.

Re:why here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708617)

yes, but if you a user is so unsophisticated as to have /. such a simple question, then some direct professional help is needed, and this needs to be paid for.

One advantage of a shop is that the sales person can ask clarifying question. For instance the poster did not state the region or the type of machine. This is important give an informed response. A salesperson can ask these questions. If the salesperson chooses a more expensive product that does the job, isn't that better than going off on your own and buying a product that does not work.

Presuming that the poster lives in a major city and does not travel off major arteries, something like Boost or any of the pay as you go carriers will work. The best bet is still to go into a shop, buy a SIM card, and make sure it works.

The salesperson is not there to help you, they are there to sell you an expensive plan. I had much better luck researching online. The last time I went into a store, the salesman tried to sell me an expensive phone on an expensive plan, and basically told me I was a tight wad and walked off when I told him I wanted a cheap prepaid plan. And they certainly aren't going to tell you about what other companies offer.

Did you go to the store? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707939)

There are plenty of pay as you go SIMS for fucks sake.

Re:Did you go to the store? (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708019)

Not in the US, there aren't. A significant portion of American mobile phones don't even take SIM cards.

Re:Did you go to the store? (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708215)

Can someone confirm this? Here in Japan you'd be hard pressed to find a phone without a SIM, and as fas as I know even the iPhone takes one.

Re:Did you go to the store? (2)

gsgriffin (1195771) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708281)

Confirmed. You have to search for phones on the major providers that can take a SIM card. They are usually called "Global" phones....because you can actually use them outside the US. Most phones come locked into the provider that sells them...like Verizon or AT&T. It really sucks, but you get suckered in by getting a nice phone requiring a 2 year contract. I've avoided those contracts for years, but they really lock you in long term when all of your friends and family are on the same network and then they don't charge for any airtime minutes you use when talking with someone on the same network...ie. I have Verizon....all of my calls to other Verizon users is unlimited for no additional cost.

Re:Did you go to the store? (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708327)

CDMA (though not LTE) phones in the US don't have SIM cards. Look anywhere you like for confirmation. Those that do have SIM cards are almost all carrier-locked.

Re:Did you go to the store? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708567)

CDMA (though not LTE) phones in the US don't have SIM cards. Look anywhere you like for confirmation. Those that do have SIM cards are almost all carrier-locked.

You want a GSM service provider if you want to use a SIM card. That is mainly going to limit you to AT&T, T-Mobile, and a few minor prepaid carriers. You can order just a SIM card through these companies if you're going to do pre-paid. They can be had for $1-$10 online.

GSM is the way to go if you want to have a phone not locked to a specific provider. It also lets you use a different provider just by switching SIM cards. If you want to be able to do that, you need to have an unlocked phone. If you get one through a carrier, it's going to be locked to that carrier. Technically the provider may unlock your phone for you if you meet certain criteria, but in practice they are not very cooperative about doing it. Unlocking the phone yourself was legal in the US until a few days ago. If you want a phone you can easily swap to another carrier, you can search for unlocked phones on Amazon, there's a pretty good selection, but obviously you're going to pay full price for the phone.

Re:Did you go to the store? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708801)

And the minor prepaid carriers are still using AT&T and T-Mobile as their network.

Small time providers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707943)

Well, if you're in Canada, there are providers called Wind and Moblicity in major cities, they both offer good cheap plans, but their coverage is limited to the cities they operate in. I'm paying $35/mo for unlimited everything, which is pretty damn good for Canada.

Re:Small time providers (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708323)

This device is extremely unlikely to support Wind's AWS (1700/2100 MHz) service. Most devices don't.

T-Mobile uses the same spectrum for most of its 3G/"4G" service but it has 2G/EDGE at 1900 MHz, which most devices do support.

Re:Small time providers (1)

green1 (322787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708755)

There coverage is limited to parts of the cities they operate in, with extremely harsh roaming fees if you venture outside their tiny coverage areas.

Sure I like their plans, but until they build some infrastructure I don't think the major carriers need to worry much.

My Verizon phone (0)

Grand Facade (35180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707953)

Has a SIM

Re:My Verizon phone (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708161)

That's because it's a global phone with GSM support. The SIM isn't used when a CDMA network is available.

Re:My Verizon phone (1)

k_187 (61692) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708407)

Not necessarily, Verizon also uses a SIM for its LTE network.

Dunno about USA... (2)

tanveer1979 (530624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707955)

But in India you have a choice of

GSM prepaird SIM
GSM postpaid SIM
CDMA prepaid
CDMA postpaid

CDMA network is rare though, India is primarily GSM country.
Depending upon whether you want lots of free minutes, you have your "packs" and packages.

Other countries where I have used this is Thailand, where some 200rs equivalent in Indian rupee(4 USD) got me data which was enough for daily skype call for 7 days. Some kind of 15 day unlimited data on GPRS and 3G thing.

As an international traveller, all you need is an unlocked GSM phone. If you need micro sim card, buy a sim card, and cut it yourself with a sim cutter(costs 120 INR(2.2$). Shops will cut it for you for 1$ equivalent.

Platinumtel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707965)

I *just* recently swapped from T-mobile to one of their MVNO's, Platinumtel (http://www.platinumtel.com/). It was the best pay-as-you-go plan for GSM I could find (and I basically looked through the whole list on wiki for US MVNO's), breaking down every service (voice, data, text) into individual payments instead of the more common mismatched tiers.

AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707973)

It's GSM and it's cheap. They're in bed with the NSA and don't respect the rule of law, but then again, that describes pretty much everyone now.

Tracphone (1)

Icyfire0573 (719207) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707979)

I just switched from Verizon to Tracphone. They have agreements with all of the providers so they use the same coverage or better as Verizon. When hurricane Sandy came through I didn't have a single issue making any calls.

I bought a phone from them that gives you triple minutes, and then bought the largest block of minutes they had (1500 @ $200) so I have 4500 minutes, text messages are 0.3 per message (MMS is charged differently).

Also, I got the Samsung S390G, I don't think I would recommend that as a good phone. It has various user interface issues, including the space bar, when pressed in the middle automatically adding a period. And a limit of 200 texts on the phone before you have to start deleting them, and no way to archive them off the phone unless you want to move them to the sim card 30 at a time.

Re:Tracphone (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708109)

I use Tracphone as well, since it seemed to be about the cheapest option to keep a phone number alive with my minimal use habits; but I would warn the submitter not to.

Tracphone does something nonstandard with their SIMs and handset firmware. I don't know whether it is a trivial thing to hack, or serious crypto cat-and-mouse; but(at least by default) a Tracphone SIM Will. Not. Work. with anything other than one of their handsets.

Since the submitter wants to shove the SIM in a computer of some flavor, that's not going to work for him.

Re:Tracphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708527)

It might be IMEI filtering.

Re:Tracphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708453)

I switched from Tracphone to Verizon because Tracphone didn't work anywhere I needed it to, like my apartment. Tracphone would be great if it worked. Verizon is a little more expensive, but works.

Net10 (1)

bearded_yak (457170) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707991)

I've had good luck with Net10 and quite like their pricing plan. I know folks buy the Net10 SIM for unlocked GSM iPhones, but I don't know how well they would work in the scenario you describe. I think their SIM is something like $15-$20. I pay a little over $45/month for an auto-renewing 'unlimited' prepaid plan.

And, if you use their forum for support and don't mind waiting a day or two for a response, the support isn't bad. Calling their support line can sometimes be a frustrating experience (like any other cell provider nowadays), so I just use the forum.

T-Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42707995)

Once you have spent $100 with T-Mobile, your minutes are good for an entire year and you get extra minutes. I can buy a $100 credit and it will last me an entire year. You can get a SIM for free you just a couple bucks...or buy the cheapest phone for like $10 including a $10 credit. Text messages used to be free for incoming and 5 cents for outgoing but now they are 5 cents for incoming and 10 cents for outgoing. I suppose there might be cheaper SMS options out there but T-Mobile seems to have the best policy for allowing the credit to last an entire year.

T-Mobile (1)

JonniLuv (864539) | about a year and a half ago | (#42707997)

$15 a month for unlimited texting plus 10 cents a minute for voice. They also have a slightly less flexible plan that has not monthly charge. It's like 10 cents to send a text, 5 cents to receive, and a dollar a day plus 10 cents a minute when you use voice; voice calls after 7 do not incur the 10 cents/minute charge.

tmobile has $30 unlimited text/data 4g plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708025)

Tmobile has an unlimited data (first 5gb 4g) and text plan with 100 minutes for $30. Its the best deal out there by far..

Re:tmobile has $30 unlimited text/data 4g plan (1)

pseudofrog (570061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708139)

Combined with GrooveIP / Talkatone / SipDroid combined with Google Voice for wifi calling, it's clearly the best deal available.

My Recent Findings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708029)

I've recently done a bit of research on this, as I've always bought my own smartphones outright, but my needs are a bit different as I would like to have a reasonable data connection. I elect for GSM enabled phones so they can work in the majority of the world.

AT&T may work with you, as long as you DO NOT have a smart phone, as they have special phones that you need to use for their prepaid plans. If you do have a smart phone and want data they will not give you a reasonably priced plan or will not give you a data plan at all.

T-Mobile has good pay as you go plans, but my recent experiences with them automatically changing my account type and dealing with their customer service has completely soured me on them. Outside of major metropolitan areas expect little or no data, and sometimes no voice and voice mail.

Walmart sells SIM cards under the brand Straight Talk. You can buy a sim card with unlimited text/voice/data for $45/mon (with $10 for the initial SIM purchase) which supposedly uses AT&T's network. I have one of these in the mail right now.

Google Voice is where I will be porting my "primary" number to, allowing the phone's physical number to be in flux as I travel around the world. The GV text/mail system will work whenever and however I can get data, whether that be through a WiFi hot spot or a data-enabled local SIM.

Outside the US, it's apparently a piece of cake to buy a pre-paid SIM card, toss it in your unlocked smart phone and have a reasonable expectation of decent service.

Telna (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708035)

You should try these guys: http://www.telnamobile.com/ [telnamobile.com]

Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708045)

Lists pretty much all your options. For a GSM phone you need one on t-mobile or att network.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_mobile_virtual_network_operators

AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708049)

AT&T has a 25$/mo plan for 250 minutes + unlimited text, no contract. If pay as you go is 10c a text and you have one in for every out, then you really have 20c per volley and so for $25 you get a good deal (at least I use it and think so).

Best dumb unlocked phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708069)

Anyone have a recommendation for a current dumb phone usable for AT&T or T mobile. My Razor just died. One of the best plans for occasional use is to buy a t-mobile sim and 1000 min for $100. The minutes are good for a year and roll over with additional minute purchases.

I'd look at mobile phone online stores... (1)

raburton (1281780) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708083)

And choose cashback deals (these work by giving you a crap handset and using the networks handset subsidy to pay you cashback, and they assume some people will forget/not bother to claim). If you want just SMS hows this example deal for you: Samsung E1150 with 100mb data/month, 50 cross-network minutes/month and unlimited SMS, all for £0.88/month for 2 years (http://www.mobiles.co.uk/talk-mobile-samsung-e1150.html#/?sb=ec). That cashback comes from the seller of the phone. Here (and I assume this must exist in the US too) you can use third party websites to collect referral fees from the seller and get that back too (e.g. http://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/rab2 [topcashback.co.uk] ). If you use this cashback site to go through to the deal above you'll earn £25 cashback, which is more than the entire 2 year contract will cost you. And you might get a couple of quitd for the crap handset on ebay. So basically you can be in profit and have 2 years mobiles service! Note on the contract above you have to pay out £10.50 per month for I think 6 months before you can start to claim the cashback, but so long as you remember to do it you win. I've been taking deals like this for the last 7 years (and only really paid for an occasional good value phone to use with the contracts, e.g. nexus 4). Only do this from reputable sellers thought, a couple of years ago there was a spate of dodgy companies screwing over their customers or going bust.
This is also a good way to pick up a second sim to use just for data in your tablet.

Re:I'd look at mobile phone online stores... (1)

raburton (1281780) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708089)

In case it's not obvious, this is a UK example.

T-Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708085)

T-Mobile's prepaid plans will give you 1000 minutes for $100. That's only 10 cents per minute, and the minutes don't expire for an entire year. When you've used them all up just go online and pay for more - they become usable immediately after purchase.

Consider TMobile prepaid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708091)

http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/pay-as-you-go-plans

Pay attention to that $100. It'll keep the minutes for 1year without having to pay more. Moreover, this comes in effect anyway as soon as you paid total sum of $100 after several smaller payments (as far as I remember, please check). This means that after initial investment of $100 you can spend as little as $10/year. Also, you don't need to buy the phone to use this. TMobile sells SIMs for $0.99.

Not sure if it applies, but it might be possible to use Skype to send SMS.

Mobile Network Virtual Operators (MNVOs) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708095)

I looked into this and found a good article from a finance blog. Basically there are a number of smaller operators who lease airspace/bandwidth on the major carrier's networks and resell it. I'm currently in my first month using Airvoice on an old unlocked iPhone with a $10/month (500 text/250 minutes voice) plan. They have other plans, including unlimited talk/text. There are also other carriers on different netwoks.

Here's a link to the articles that I got the idea from. Toward the end it lists several other operators:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/11/our-new-10-00-per-month-iphone-plans/

Net10 & Tmobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708101)

Net10 would probably be the cheapest, but for SIM only they require a monthly plan.
T-Mobile you could get a prepaid sim for $0.99 then throw a $100 refil card on it for 1000 minutes available for a year and 15% extra minutes on future reloads

T-mobile has a nice, and little known, option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708111)

T-mobile runs me about $100 a year for text and voice. I use the same SIM that I have had for years (it was so old, it actually had "VoiceStream" logo on it. No account, no contract, not month-to-month. Just purchase the minutes when I need them, no signing in, no identity, just credit card info and phone number to send it to. Even if I used my phone twice as much, it would be cheap.

Ting! (3, Interesting)

bziman (223162) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708113)

Check out Ting [ting.com] . Brought to you by Tucows. They run on Sprint's CDMA/4G LTE network. I have voice, text messaging, AND data, and I'm paying less than $30 a month (no contracts) - less than half what I was on with Sprint.

Each component is priced separately, and you only pay for what you use - they automatically move you to the correct service level for each part at the end of each month.

They have awesome tech support - they actually turn off their hold system during the day, and the phone rings until a human picks up the phone... and then the person you talk to actually KNOWS something, not just follows a script.

The only "catch" is that you have to buy your phone - but honestly the "free phone" nonsense from other providers is just a way to rope you into a contract where you pay ten times the cost of the phone over the life of the contract.

Check them out!

(Disclaimer: Yeah, I get a discount if you use that link to sign up, but go ahead, they're freakin' awesome.)

Re:Ting! (2)

bziman (223162) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708147)

Right, but you need a SIM card... somehow missed that part. But you don't actually need a cell phone contract for that - you can send and receive e-mail using SMS. Check out Email to SMS [makeuseof.com] . Basically, you use the e-mail address associated with their phone number to send a text message. They text back, and you get an e-mail. And if you need mobile Internet, Ting does allow tethering, and sells mobile hotspots. See, I'm on topic!

Re:Ting! (2)

pesho (843750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708255)

Ting is great (I am with them), bit it is not going to work in this specific case. They need a SIM that can be plugged in the laptop or be exchanged between the laptop and the phone. From the original post it looks like they may be traveling outside US and want to have the option to stick a local SIM to avoid roaming charges. This is not going to work with Ting. Ting is using not only the Sprint network but also Sprint phones (complete with the Sprint logo). These are locked down in chains buried in concrete. Even the LTE phones with radios that can work abroad don't have removable SIMs. So once you step outside US you will be paying like a champ.

Re:Ting! (2)

theskipper (461997) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708409)

Modup. Ting is fantastic for what they do (very low priced usage-based plans) but it's too heavily locked into Sprint for what the article submitter wants. It's basically Sprint opening up their network to capture more price-sensitive customers, but still retains the downside of ESNs. My Galaxy III bill is about $12/mo for text + voice, but to me it's worth the trade-off because I don't use much capacity.

One of the nicest things about Ting (and other MVNOs) is that it puts pressure on At&t, Verizon and T-mobile to start opening up their networks too. (Except for the iPhone of course; none of them want to lose that $80/mo, 2yr lock-in customer.)

Re:Ting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708487)

I'll second Ting. (I also wish I'd beat you to putting the discount link here).

You can buy ting-ready used phones from glyde pretty cheap if the up-front cost of buying the phones puts you off. http://ting.com/glyde

Re:Ting! (1)

bprice20 (709357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708697)

This. 1000x. mod parent up.

Giff gaff (1)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708115)

In the UK, I reccommend giffgaff [giffgaff.com] .

You can either top up with credit which doesn't expire and has one of the lowest (if not the lowest) phone/text tarifs, or buy various 'goody bags'.

Coverage and quality is the same as O2.

A SIM only plan? (3, Informative)

NoNeeeed (157503) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708117)

Here in the UK (and Europe in general) cheap SIM-only plans are numerous, offered by both the major operators and the large number of "virtual" operators (known as MVNOs) who piggy-back on the actual network operators.

No need to buy a cheap phone and remove the SIM, they just pop the SIM in the post, or you can buy them at any mobile phone shop.

There's normally no (or very little) upfront cost. They are available as both pay-as-you-go and contract. Some will offer data, others will be just for voice and text.

Do you not have such things in the US?

Re:A SIM only plan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708165)

nope, nor canada.

Because here the telecom companies have the populace by the balls, and rely on a nearly even CHURN between companies to keep any negative customer experience from impacting any given company all that much.

Re:A SIM only plan? (2)

NoNeeeed (157503) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708231)

I knew the US mobile "market" was a bit crap, but I hadn't realised that things have been that badly stitched up.

Not that the UK market is perfect of course (especially now we only have three big operators), but the MVNOs and SIM only plans do create at least some competition.

Re:A SIM only plan? (1)

wysiwig3 (549566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708317)

When I was in London last year, even my hotel had a vending machine with pay as you go SIMs. They were preloaded with 10 or 15 GBPs. The lack of openness in the US is mind boggling when you look outside!

Re:A SIM only plan? (4, Informative)

OAB_X (818333) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708693)

The parent AC is mostly incorrect. The major telecoms only emphasise post-paid plans, but do have pre-paid available without the need to purchase a phone. They don't want to sell them to you however, and will only tell you about pre-paid if you visit their website or ask them specifically.

In Canada there a dozen or so MVNO's, most of whom operate on a pre-paid model in addition to the 'big three' incumbent companies. Each of the 'big three' providers (Rogers, Bell, Telus) owns one or two MVNO's. Rogers has Fido and Chatr, Bell has Virgin and Telus has Koodo. There are also several highly regional carriers (SaskTel, MTS, Lynx, TBayTel, ICE Wireless, etc.) that offer services where the 'Big 3' do not operate (Northern Quebec, Northwest Territories, Northern Ontario, etc.).

All that being said, there is only one major GSM network, the Rogers/Fido network. Thus, (until 2008/2009) only Rogers/Fido were offering pre-paid plans you could use with a GSM phone. Telus and Bell were CDMA. In the last few years Telus and Bell have built their own HSPA+ network. Now that they have a network that takes SIM cards, all three of the major players are offering inexpensive pre-paid SIM cards, with fairly expensive per-minute rates (40c/minute, unless you get a pre-paid 'plan'. Some of the plans are even 'free' if you top up frequently enough).

Further muddying the waters is the fact that most of the MVNOs don't specialise in pre-paid 'long distance' rates or pre-paid 'local' rates. Part of this is because of foreign ownership restrictions. These have been recently eased, but are still tighter than most other countries. Canada is also extremely large, with a small population. Canada is the size of Europe, with 10x fewer people. England, is approximately the same size as Southern Ontario (130,000km^2), but England has 50,000,000 people and Southern Ontario has 12,000,000. Let us not forget that a large part is because the owners of the networks don't want to give anyone a better deal than they give their own customers, at least not appreciably.

All that being said, the 'big three' all offer prepaid SIMs for $10-$20 dollars, so do most of their sub brands. The MVNOs Petro-Canada Mobility and 7-11 'Speak out' wireless are reasonably easy to find and offer prepaid services depending on where you are visiting.

Rogers Wireless - http://www.rogers.com/web/content/wireless-products/plans#,Tabset1--4 [rogers.com]
Telus Mobility - http://www.telusmobility.com/en/ON/prepaid/rate-plans.shtml [telusmobility.com]
Bell Mobility - http://www.bell.ca/Mobility/Cell_phone_plans/Prepaid_plans [www.bell.ca]

Big three 'sub brands' (frequently with regional restrictions ie: major cities):
Virgin Mobile - Bell Mobility - http://www.virginmobile.ca/en/plans/prepaid-talktext-plans.html?itcid=NAV:58 [virginmobile.ca]
Koodo - Telus Mobility - http://koodomobile.com/en/on/plansandboosters.shtml [koodomobile.com]
Fido - Rogers Wireless - http://www.fido.ca/web/page/portal/Fido/PrepaidPlans?forwardTo=prepaidPlans [www.fido.ca]
Chatr - Rogers Wireless - http://www.chatrwireless.com/web/chatr.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PlanBrowse [chatrwireless.com]

Regional Operators:
Sasktel - http://www.sasktel.com/personal/mobility/prepaid/index.html [sasktel.com]
MTS - http://www.mts.ca/mts/personal/wireless/mts+prepaid+wireless [www.mts.ca] ... etc.

Independent MVNOs:
Petro Canada Mobility - (Rogers Network) - http://mobility.petro-canada.ca/en/features/406.aspx [petro-canada.ca]
7-11 Speak-Up Wireless - (Rogers Network) - http://www.speakout7eleven.ca/prepaid-cell-phone-rates [speakout7eleven.ca]
PC Telecom - (Bell Network) - http://www.pctelecom.ca/LCLOnline/rateplans_features.jsp [pctelecom.ca] ... etc.

As for America, there are several providers who are willing to sell you a pre-paid SIM, the easiest to find is T-Mobile. T-Mobile wants $10 per SIM and gives you $10 of credit if you buy it.

Re:A SIM only plan? (1)

green1 (322787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708785)

There's a reason you never hear about the pre-paid plans though, it's because they all cost more than the post-paid ones.

Re:A SIM only plan? (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708193)

The situation is bascially exactly the same in Japan. au, SoftBank and DoCoMo all have their own pay as you go data-only plans as well as unlimited, and piggy back providers like B-Mobile an E-Mobile have plans like first 2GB at 3G speed each month and after that 128kb but still unlimited for the price of a fancy coffee.

Re:A SIM only plan? (1)

vm (127028) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708311)

We have several MVNOs and this list on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] appears to be comprehensive.

Page Plus (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708125)

http://www.pagepluscellular.com/

Page Plus - great inexpensive plans.
CDMA.
Verizon MVNO.

Ting! (1)

iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708189)

https://ting.com/plans [ting.com]

It's a pay as you go, and as far as SMS, rather cheap. I've used them for a while now, and absolutely love 'em. On low usage months, I pay a minimal amount, more then making up for those few high usage months.

City or Country Usage? (1)

silvergeek (2768657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708229)

I have lived mostly in the country in the western states. In my experience, while T-Mobile can be cost-effective, T-Mobile sometimes has connectivity problems (especially with data) in the sparsely populated areas; but T-Mobile has a good reputation in cities. Also, take care with T-Mobile because it uses less-standard data frequencies. Therefore, I prefer the pay-as-you-go carriers like StraightTalk, Tracphone, or Net10 (which are all part of the same corporation). These use the AT&T GMS system (and also CDMA is available), providing reliable voice, SMS, and data, but generally do not allow roaming. On my Galaxy Note, I ended up with the StraightTalk $50/month plan (unlimited voice and SMS, and actually 2GB data), which has been reliable, if an overkill for me.

Alternate suggestion (2)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708237)

You can send text messages to e-mail addresses and vice-versa (see here [lifehacker.com] ), then get a cheap phone from Tracfone or something for voice service if she is able to use a phone for talking. I have my wife set up with a phone that gets triple minutes on the family value plan for $10 [tracfone.com] . She gets 150 minutes, which roll over from month-to-month. She almost never uses all of them, so this works out quite well for us.

Prepaid GSM carriers in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708277)

I've researched this a fair bit. You want to find a GSM carrier (NOT CDMA), because those carriers let you use SIM cards.

If you want a major carrier, T-Mobile is the way to go, price wise. There are a few minor carriers that have slightly cheaper plans, although I don't know how their service quality is.

Here are a few notable plans:

                                          Minutes Text Internet
T-Mobile 1500 minutes talk/text 30 MB internet $30
T-Mobile 100 minutes talk/text 5 GB internet $30 (this plan requires new service, and you have to activate it online)
H2O Wireless 5 cents per minute talk or text

Just another thought (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708339)

AT&T will sell you a GoPhone SIM card on the $25 monthly no contract plan for, at most, $5.95 that will have unlimited messaging. I know, because I work at an AT&T call center and sold one to a gent needing one for his company's computer that sends out text messages to their customer base. When I told him, I thought he was going to do a backdrop, he was so bloody happy.

PTEL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708341)

Ptel (PlatinumTel) is an MVNO that just moved to T-mobile's GSM network in December. They are offering 5cents/minute calls and 2cents/text. Cheapest I've found.

Of course T-mobile offers pay as you go also.
Another MVNO I found that offers SIMS is Spot Mobile.

Simple Mobile (2)

slimak (593319) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708361)

Wife and I recently signed up for Simple Mobile. It works with TMobile or unlocked GSM phones and is $40 for unlimited talk/text/data (ok, data is probably not really unlimited, but enough for my basic needs). I've only had about 10 days but seems fine. I also found that I can buy the plan online (I used a place called pinzoo) and then avoid tax. May not be best for you since you really only want texting.

Local to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708365)

Cincinnati Bell offers pay as you go for $2 a day, unlimited everything (text minutes and data). It's $20 for sim card (with a $20 credit on your account, so essentially free). Also have a $45 a month pay as you go with unlimited everything (unless "smartphone" data rates, which bumps it up to $60)

t-mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708369)

T-Mobile pay as you go plan may work. I buy 1000 minutes for $100 and they last for 1 year before they expire. I think that texts are $0.15 each. I don't know if you cab do sim only, but you can get a cheap ~$20 phone and just use the sim.

T-Mobile Prepaid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708441)

T-Mobile prepaid has some of the lowest rates. They have a 1500 minutes/text plan for $30 a month, or you can just do a flat 10 cents per text. http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com [t-mobile.com]

There's also H2O Wireless that has a 5 cent per minute plan.

Welcome to France (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708463)

Free.fr, 2.00€, 2 Hours + Unlimited SMS
Free.fr, 15.99€, All Unlimited...

You can use a phone for talking and text? (1)

orange_account (904027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708465)

It seems that every day these little pocket computers can do more and more stuff!

use google voice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708475)

why not just use google voiice for free SMS ( and calling! )

inexpensive phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708577)

I have a Virgin Mobile phone that has worked well for me with just talk and text needs. I started with their cheep pay as you go with at about $20/month or so and something like 5cents a min and 15 cents a text, but moved up to a $30/ month for plenty of talk and texts. The phone is a $19 flip phone. Generally it does everything I need it to do.

H20 Wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708583)

I use an MVNO called H2O Wireless. It runs off of the at&t network using any at&t or unlocked phone. The sim cards are available at Best Buy or online for like $8. After that you can pay with credit card online or use prepaid cards. $40/mo for unlimited talk and text. Rumour has it that unlimited is actually something along the lines of 5000 minutes and texts. Beyond that they will probably ban you for excessive use. The data is no real bargain though. If I wanted a data plan I would probably go elseware.

pure talk usa (1)

terryo (689471) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708661)

You don't say how many texts she would send in a month, which matters a lot. I have Pure Talk USA for my husband's cell phone, which rarely gets used - the base $10 a month plan - but the minutes roll over, which is great. You can get just the sim card from them. I personally am using the Walmart Straight Talk unlimited everything monthly and have had no problems. (I wanted access to data while out and about.) Both services use the AT&T network. So we spend under $60 for two plans - which is less than I used to pay on contract for just one.

Some places to look (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708673)

PureTalkUSA (T-Mobile MVNO) sells prepaid service in $10/mo increments. Text messages are 3.3c/ea, deducted from the prepaid balance. ($10/mo = 303 txts; $20/mo = 606 txts) SIM card is free.

http://www.puretalkusa.com/mobile-flex-plan.php

For heavier usage, AT&T's GoPhone sells unlimited txt for $20/mo
http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/plans/prepaidplans.html

Sounds like a disability (1)

jetole (1242490) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708685)

"assistive communication device" sounds like a disability. If so you should speak to the providers yourself as they typically offer better deals for people with a disability. Case and point, I am deaf and with both AT&T and now Sprint I don't pay what a hearing person would pay and get a good deal. I don't know if that is a disability for sure for you since you didn't elaborate and I'm on a plan instead of pay as you go but it's worth it to talk to these companies and ask for the specialists in this area and find out what your options are if she's disabled. If she is disabled, make sure you find the specialist for it and don't take the word of someone in general support. Both Spring and AT&T have departments for just this and general support doesn't know all of the details.

GSM vs CDMA (1)

smccurry (572146) | about a year and a half ago | (#42708745)

Far too many people in the US do not know how their phones work, so let me explain a little. CDMA phones do not usually have sim cards, and are tied to a specific carrier. GSM phones use sim card slots. In theory, switching phones is as simple and moving the SIM card to another phone. Basically, your 'service' is tied to the sim card, so you can switch service providers by inserting a sim card from another service provider into your phone. In practice, in the US, if you buy phones from a carrier directly, they usually lock the phone to that carrier. It can be unlocked again, which used to be legal to do youself. Sometimes the carrier will do it for you for free, but they have a number of restrictions on doing it. If you want to use a GSM phone in the US, you are limited to T-Mobile and AT&T, or a few minor prepaid carriers like Straight Talk. Just search for GSM carriers. Most of them will let you order just a sim card from them online, and you can bring your own phone. If you want a phone that will work easily with other GSM carriers inside and outside the US, search online for Quad Band Unlocked Phones. Amazon has a ton. If you just use texting, T-Mobile prepaid has $30 month unlimited texting and internet, but only 100 minutes. Or there's a $30 1500 minutes/texts plan. Or you can just do 10 cents a minute.

SIM in computer cell access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42708779)

From your post, seems your wife wants to do SMS from an "assistive device" which is a computer, and that the computer will take a SIM. I'm wondering what the purpose of the SIM is. Most computers don't have cell radios built in-- does hers? If so, what providers' networks is it compatible with? That might heavily influence your path forward.

If it does not have a cell radio, then she can still SMS from the machine over WiFi. Google Voice is a good choice for that, and is free. There are plenty of other options too, such as voxox.com. These choices will work over any data connection, too-- so if there's some sort of cell data plan her machine can work with, she need not pay for separate SMS usage.

You might get more/better advice here if you could provide a link to info on the hardware she's using.

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