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How to Get a Smartphone Without Paying for an Expensive Data Plan

How to Get a Smartphone Without Paying for an Expensive Data Plan


    The phone carriers have figured out many ways to lock people into monthly plans that they don’t really need. The most basic example of this is the requirement on all the large carriers to pay at least $30 / month for a data plan for the right to use a smartphone on their network. This isn’t connected with their subsidy of your phone since they won’t even let you buy your own smartphone on eBay and then use it without a data plan. They justify this by saying people will need to use up large amounts of data anyways on their phone, so it is for the customers own good that they’re forced onto a data plan. Is there any reason to think otherwise?

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    There are some possible reasons why someone might want a smartphone without a data plan. For one, a smartphone is a powerful mini-computer, and people might want to have access to one, even without a constant Internet connection. One can take notes and set reminders, take pictures, and read books, listen to music and play games on a smartphone. Since the phone can sync when in a WiFi area, one can see recent news articles, emails and driving directions even when outside of a wireless area. In fact, since WiFi is so widespread, people often have little need for the data plan since the WiFi access is almost always better. Is it really necessary to have a constant internet connection even during the short amount of time one is away from WiFi? I think there are many people who would be willing to slightly disconnect for short moments during a day, even if it means the phone carriers would be earning $30 less a month. But are there any ways to avoid these fees and still get a smartphone when the carriers are in control?

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    There are a few possibilities. One option would be to forgo having only one pocket device and get a “dumb” phone for phone calls and a separate “mini-computing” device for everything else. This other device could be an iPod touch, a Galaxy player or a used smartphone. (See this post for an older possibility). If one doesn’t need the very latest technology, there many cheap used smartphones available on eBay. However, it becomes somewhat annoying to have to always juggle two devices. There’s fair amount of overlap between them, so it just seems very inefficient to have to carry two of them. If one is on a GSM plan such as AT&T and T-Mobile, one can buy an unlocked smartphone separate from the carrier and try to use it on the regular plan simply by putting in the SIM card from the dumb phone. However, this may go against the terms of the carrier. In addition, if AT&T can detect it is being used in a smartphone, it will automatically add a data plan to the person’s account. Currently one can avoid detection by making sure the smartphone wasn’t made for AT&T, but even that option might not last forever.

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    The final possibility is to get a prepaid plan. If you don’t need that many voice minutes, this can be much cheaper than standard monthly plans. The big four carriers all offer some form of prepaid plans, but to get bigger savings you will need to look elsewhere. Some of the biggest prepaid providers are TracFone, MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless. The most important factor is that the provider has good cellular coverage in your area, so make sure to check their coverage map. The next thing to check will be the cost of the plan, of using limited data, and whether they charge more for smartphone usage. If you are on a GSM carrier, you will often be able to put the SIM card in any smartphone that you buy. If you are on a CMDA carrier (like Sprint and Verizon), you will need to buy a phone that is compatible with them and activate it with them. Depending on your needs, you may want to try some very cheap prepaid options. For example, PagePlus, which runs on the Verizon network (and is owned by them), offers a $12 /month plan. Another super-cheap option is PlatinumTel, which runs on the Sprint network.

    To save on your paid usage, you could use free or cheap services for calls and texts when in a WiFi area. For example, Google Voice provides free texting from within WiFi and there are many different VOIP providers you could try. By picking a good prepaid provider, you should be able to save a significant amount every month on cell phone bills.

    (Photo credit: Hands on Smartphone via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 15, 2018

    30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

    30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

    Summertime can be a real strain on your wallet. The sun is out, there are people to see, places to be; it’s no wonder you might be short of funds during these sunny months. Not everything has to cost you an arm and a leg.

    Take some time to go through this list of 20 cheap summer activities and make some realistic goals to complete as many as you can.

    Video Summary

    1. Visit a strawberry festival

    Summer is prime time for tasting strawberries. More often than not, an area that grows strawberries will have a strawberry festival. Indulge yourself in strawberry pies, jams, cakes and more!

    2. Have a picnic

    Take your partner or your family to the local park and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Designate each person to bring one food item of their choice to add to the fun.

    3. Camp in your back yard

      The summer heat can sometimes make it hard to sleep. Why not enjoy the heat outside in the yard? Pitch a tent or gaze into the night sky.

      4. Take long walks

      Discover something new where you live. Take the afternoon off from your chores and go for a long walk. You may be surprised by what you discover.

      5. Break a world record

      Breaking a world record doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You could even break one on your lunch hour. Give it a go!

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      6. Go on a bike ride

      The number of bike paths on roads in big cities has increased dramatically over the years. Take advantage, and enjoy the summer breeze.

      7. Join a gym class

        The gym is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but why not go with a friend a join a class? Spinning, yoga and step classes are always more fun with friends, and a lot of gyms allow you to pay-as-you-go.

        8. Find a new hobby

        The summer is the perfect time to find a new hobby. Serotonin (our body’s natural “happy” hormone) is produced by the sunshine and will be at a yearly high, which is great for when we want to tackle something new.

        9. Join a sports team

        Not all sports teams are competitive and require huge amounts of your time. Join in the fun with like-minded people, get fit, stay healthy and make some friends along the way.

        10. Make a slip ‘n slide

          Gather your friends, some plastic sheeting, a hose, washing up liquid if desired, and make a huge slip ‘n slide just like these guys. Granted, yours won’t be as big, but you get the idea… it’s fun!

          11. Make a treasure hunt for your kids

          Today’s digital world sees our children more often than not playing inside than outside. Why not create a sense of adventure by making a treasure hunt? Only rule? It has to be outside.

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          12. Visit a free festival

          Towns and cities are awash with free festivals, with themes from film to science. Scout your local area and discover something new.

          13. Visit the zoo

            Let’s face it: we love animals. While browsing news websites and social media networks you’re bound to come across a few pictures of cats. Take a trip to your local zoo for a better experience.

            14. Take a road trip

            Enjoy the open road with a few friends and take a road trip somewhere–anywhere. Just go out and enjoy the sunshine!

            15. Play ultimate frisbee in the park

              Frisbee is always great fun down the park, but why not turn it into more of a competitive sport by playing ultimate frisbee?

              16. Make your own ice cream

              Ice cream is a very versatile dessert. Make a sandwich, enjoy a cone, or simply just enjoy a bowl full. Better yet, making your own ice cream allows you to create any flavor you want.

              17. Invite your neighbors over for a BBQ

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                When was the last time you invited your neighbors over? Do you even know them? Now’s your chance. Just ask each person to bring a food item so costs don’t mount up for you.

                18. Get a summer job

                For many students, summer is the time for relaxation and fun. But who said earning money and being productive isn’t fun? You only get out what you put into a situation.

                19. Attend a charity event

                Attending a charity event is a great way to raise funds and awareness for a cause, meet new people, and generally have a good time. Search for your local charity event today.

                20. Visit a national park

                National parks are a great way to explore nature and learn something new. You could even volunteer and make a difference in helping restore natural habitats.

                21. Visit your local comedy club

                  Local comedy clubs are extremely underrated. They are cheap to attend and no doubt you’ll have a barrel of laughs.

                  22. Make your own hammock

                    Hammocks are very relaxing, are perfect for summer afternoons and are surprisingly easy to make.

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                    23. Read in your new hammock

                    Now you have your very own hammock, the only thing left to do is enjoy it. Grab your favorite book and read to your heart’s content.

                    24. Watch a movie outside

                    Movies are great. Relaxing outside in the evening is great. Put them together and you’ve got a perfect combination. In D.C, Maryland and Virginia this summer, for example, you can enjoy a huge number of movies outside.

                    25. Take a hike

                      Hikes are a great way to keep fit and see more of Mother Nature. There are countless trails available for you to explore. Why not try some this summer?

                      26. Learn how to fly a kite

                      As a child, you probably had a kite and haven’t touched it since. Why not dust it off and attempt to fly it? It’s tricky, but well worth the challenge.

                      27. Work out at the park

                      American cities are full of parks with ample space for a work out session. No doubt you’ll be happier to work out in the sun rather than a crowded gym.

                      28. Take your dog to the beach

                        One of the many joys of owning a dog is taking him or her for long walks during the summertime. This joy is enhanced when visiting the beach, for both you and your dog.

                        29. Make a summer smoothie

                        Healthy, delicious and perfect for the summer. Not only that, there are countless recipes ready for you to try.

                        30. Attend a free yoga session at the beach

                        No experience needed and all skill levels are welcome. Take yourself and a buddy down to the beach and try some yoga. You’ve got nothing to lose!

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