The Tech-pert: Three Ways to Lower Your Monthly iPhone Service Costs
I love my iPhone, but I hate, loathe, despise, and otherwise am not fond of the bill I get every month from AT&T. It’s especially frustrating when I stop to think how much the phone is costing me per year.
It’s not like I can negotiate a discount with AT&T (I tried and got laughed out of the store). Thankfully, there are ways to cut that monthly iPhone bill down to size, and there’s nothing AT&T can do about it, nyah-nyah-nyah. (If you’re a Verizon user, skip ahead to tips #2 and #3.)
- Make a Cheaper Data Plan Work for You
AT&T offers two data plans: Plus, which is good for 200 megabytes (MB) of data per month; and Pro, which raises the limit to 2 gigabytes (GB). The former costs $15 monthly; the latter, $25.
According to AT&T, 65 percent of customers use less than 200MB of data, meaning they can get by with Plus. Of course, those folks have to be careful they don’t go over, lest they face additional charges. And there’s probably a large chunk of customers who use just a little more than 200MB per month, and so end up paying for the Pro plan.
A great solution for both: Onavo, a new app that employs proxy servers and data compression to lower your monthly “data footprint.” Translation: you can switch to the Plus plan and still get all the data you need.
I’ve been using Onavo for the better part of a week, and so far it’s worked like a charm. It’s free (for now), and it has the potential to save you $120 per year. Check out my complete Onavo review over at iPhone Atlas.
- Stop Paying for Text Messages
AT&T and Verizon want how much for text messaging every month? Please. If you’re willing to make a few small changes to the way you text, you can drop your monthly messaging charges to zero.
All you need is one of many available third-party text-messaging apps, which offer the same basic functionality–without the fees. For example, there’s Textfree with Voice, a free app that offers unlimited text/picture messaging as well as group texting (meaning you can send a message to more than just one person). And, true to its name, Textfree with Voice lets you make free calls to other Textfree users. (That’s another potential money-saver: you can switch to a voice plan with fewer minutes.)
The only hassle in using an app like Textfree is that it requires your friends and family members to use a special phone number, not your regular mobile number. But let’s face it, the hassle is theirs, not yours. Use the money you save (anywhere from $10-20 per month) to buy them a thank-you latte or something.
- Wait for Apps to Become Free (or Cheap)
You know that new iPhone game that just came out, the one that’s priced at $6.99? If you don’t mind waiting a few weeks or months, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to score it for less–possibly a lot less. Publishers frequently offer limited-time sales, cutting app prices by 50 percent, dropping them to 99 cents, or even making them free.
Ah, but how do you find out which apps are on sale, and when? Start with FreeAppAlert, a Web site that catalogs all “newly free” apps for the day. If you want to track specific apps and get notified of price drops, well, there are apps for that. Try AppMiner or PandoraBox, both of which are free, and both of which will alert you right on your iPhone when there’s a price cut on a designated app.
If you routinely spend $10-20 per month on new apps, this approach could easily cut your app bill in half.
Of course, nothing beats apps that are free to begin with, so be sure to check out my recent roundup of the 5 must-have free iPhone apps. And if you have any money-saving tips of your own to share, you know what to do: hit the comments!
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.