Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GoPhone - after a year

It has been about a year since I dumped my 'minutes' plan and went to AT&T GoPhone for 10 cents a minute.  Has this been a good idea?  Yes, it has.

Back in February, I noticed that I was using only a few minutes a month of my AT&T cell phone plan.  I was paying for 450 minutes a month, at a cost of about $65 a month for two phones.  It was working out to about $4 a minute, since I used the phone so little.  And since the unused minutes "rolled over," I had over 5000 unused rollover minutes, with more accumulating every month. Clearly, I was paying for more cell phone usage than I needed.

The old plan, like I said, was costing me about $780 a year, usually slightly more, because of those wacky additional charges you can never make sense of, on a phone bill.  Some bills were $62, other were $76.  But $780 is a good average amount.

For two cell phones, 1000 minutes at 10 cents a minute, for one year, was $100 each, or $200.  So the annual savings were $580 - not chump change.

But, has it been practical - and are 1000 minutes per phone enough?  That does work out to about 83 minutes per month.  And additional minutes can be bought if you go over, of course.

Well, heading into December, with two months left on the plan, I have $39 on my phone, and Mark has $25 on his.  So it looks like we used less than 1000 minutes for the year.

Coverage has been good - perhaps not as widespread as the AT&T network, but pretty close.  There have been few places where we don't get service.

In Canada, there is service, but only in areas served by Rodgers wireless.  The rate is 65 cents a minute there, reflecting the high cost of everything in Canada.

In Mexico, the phone worked fine, and at a lower 35 cents a minute.  To dial internationally, you have to dial 001 first (not 1011 as you would in the States).  Just remember 001 as 007's younger brother and you'll have no problems.

So it works OK, and has plenty of minutes for the occasional user.  Setup was a breeze, over the phone, and there was no need to change phones or SIM cards or anything.  And I can go online to check my balance or add more minutes to the phones - it is all pretty painless and a good example of good HTML programming.  Someone is on the ball at AT&T.

Is $580 a lot of money to save?  Yea, it is.  Cutting your personal overhead by $50 a month is a big deal, even if you are making "good money." 

Is this a good plan for everyone?  Not everyone.  If you use your phone a lot, for work for example, you may need more minutes.  If you use your phone a lot as an obsessive-compulsive addiction, perhaps you should rethink that.

But overall, this has worked out to be a good bargain - one of those good deals that turns out to actually be a good deal - without some sort of catch or hook.

UPDATE 2020:  GoPhone is now called "AT&T Prepaid".  We have a pay-as-you-go plan for $56.50 a month that provides 22 GB of data.  We pulled the plug on our AT&T Uverse connection, so we end up paying less per month.  A used Samsung Galaxy phone can be bought for $99 to $149 on eBay.

GoPhone still rocks.  And we've never gone over the data cap, even streaming Netflix!