Two Surprisingly Affordable Ways to Own a Smartphone

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If there’s one monthly bill I hate more than any other, it’s my smartphone bill.

Like many folks, I’m locked into a two-year contract that costs me around $80 per month — money I pay even if I don’t use my allotment of data or minutes. Most months, in fact, I use a whole lot less.

That’s why I’m enamored with a couple companies that are shaking up the way smartphones are sold and serviced. If you’re more interested in saving money than owning a state-of-the-art phone, one of these options might be just what the accountant ordered.

Republic Wireless
How does $19 per month sound? That’s the tantalizing deal offered by Republic Wireless, which takes an ingenious, why-didn’t-someone-think-of-this-before approach to mobile service.

Believe it or not, that price includes unlimited talk, texting, and data, with no overage charges whatsoever.

How is that possible? Thank Wi-Fi. If there’s one monthly bill I hate more than any other, it’s my smartphone bill.

Like many folks, I’m locked into a two-year contract that costs me around $80 per month — money I pay even if I don’t use my allotment of data or minutes. Most months, in fact, I use a whole lot less.

That’s why I’m enamored with a couple companies that are shaking up the way smartphones are sold and serviced. If you’re more interested in saving money than owning a state-of-the-art phone, one of these options might be just what the accountant ordered.

Republic Wireless
How does $19 per month sound? That’s the tantalizing deal offered by Republic Wireless, which takes an ingenious, why-didn’t-someone-think-of-this-before approach to mobile service.

Believe it or not, that price includes unlimited talk, texting, and data, with no overage charges whatsoever.

How is that possible? Thank Wi-Fi. Whenever you make or take a phone call, your phone connects to any available Wi-Fi network for that call. That connectivity doesn’t cost Republic Wireless anything, so the savings are passed along to you.

Of course, if Wi-Fi isn’t available, the phone hits up the local cell towers, just like any ordinary handset. And all this network-switching happens automatically and in the background, meaning it’s more or less transparent to you.

The only real catch here is that Republic currently offers just one phone (though more are coming soon): the LG Optimus S, which costs $199 (a price that includes the first month of service). It’s a small, Android-powered phone that’s definitely light on features, but it can handle most apps just fine. 

This would be a great option for parents seeking an inexpensive first phone for their kids (who rarely make actual phone calls anyway), or for any user who doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles, but does want texting, data, and apps.

If you’re interested in Republic Wireless, be prepared to be patient: the company is still in the beta-testing stage, and its beta is currently full (meaning no new customers are being allowed in). It’s expected to reopen later this summer.

Ting
Wouldn’t it be great if your cable company allowed you to pay for only those channels you actually watch? Ting takes a similar approach to phone-serving pricing, allowing you to pay for only the calls, texts, and data you use.

It works like this: You pay $6 per month for basic service, then add individually selected plans for voice minutes, text messages, and megabytes.

For example, if you rarely make calls, you might choose a 100-minute voice plan, which adds just $3 per month. Send a lot of texts? Choose the 1,000-message plan for $5.

Data starts at just $3 per month for 100 megabytes, though it does rise sharply from there: 1 gigabyte, for example, costs $24, while 2 gigabytes costs $42. Depending on your needs, you could end up with a monthly bill in the $50-60 range, same as with a more traditional carrier.

But here’s where it gets interesting: if you go over any selected plan, Ting simply bumps you up to the next plan and charges you that amount, not some insane overage fee. And if you use less, you get a credit.

This floating system is fantastic, as it effectively keeps you from paying for more than you need or use.

Ting currently offers four smartphones, including the LG Optimus S ($170) and Samsung Galaxy SII 4G ($485). The latter is pretty steep, obviously, as it’s not subsidized by a two-year contract, but it’s also an advanced, top-rated model that’s only about a year old.

The Winner?
Who’s the winner in this affordable-smartphone contest? You are, of course. I’m overjoyed to see upstart services like these offering logical, customer-friendly rates. Maybe if enough people take advantage of them, carriers like AT&T and Verizon will follow suit. (Okay, that’s unlikely, but a man can dream.)

In the meantime, be sure to check out my recent coverage of no-contract iPhones, which can also save you considerable money over the more traditional options.

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