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How to save on mobile plans: Your guide to 16 no-contract carriers

Rick Broida | April 25, 2014
The mobile-phone industry is in a state of flux. Where once you had little choice but to buy a subsidized phone from a major carrier and pay two years' worth of whatever monthly fees it chose to levy, now you have options aplenty.

However, you can't BYOD, and the company currently offers just two handsets: the Samsung Galaxy SIII ($389) and ZTE Awe ($89). Still, parents might appreciate Zact's kid-minded control options, which include curfews, restrictions and rewards. And those controls can be deployed from non-Zact phones running Android or iOS, so you can deploy the lower-end phones to the kids while keeping your premium model — as long as you don't mind managing multiple carriers.

How the Big Four hope to woo you back

Given the sheer number of carriers now undercutting AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, it stands to reason the Big Four would have no choice but to lower their rates and rethink their contract requirements. Good news: It's happening. In fact, in recent months, they've fired back with some surprisingly competitive options — though just make sure you read the fine print regarding overage charges, because if you exceed your monthly data allotment, you could be looking at an even bigger bill than before.

Here's a look at some of the latest incentives from the Big Four:

AT&T

In February, AT&T revamped its Mobile Share plans to include a particularly family-friendly option: $160 per month for four smartphones, with unlimited voice minutes and messaging, and 10GB of shared 4G data. That works out to $40 per month per family member; additional lines cost just $15 each (though you'll still be sharing that same 10GB). These options are available for new and existing customers alike, and can even be applied to non-contract phones purchased from AT&T Next (which promises a new smartphone every 12 to 18 months).

Sprint

The grammatically challenged Sprint "Framily" plan affords unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data to everyone in your group: friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, etc. The more folks you bring into your mini-collective, the lower everyone's monthly rate: $45 per line with three people, $35 with five, and as low as $25 if you rope in 7 to 10 customers — all of whom can have separate bills. There's no contract required and, consequently, no termination fees if any or all subscribers want to jump ship.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile made headlines earlier this year by offering to pay the early-termination fee (ETF) when you switch from your current carrier. And just this month, the company introduced its Simple Starter plan, which includes unlimited talk and text and 500MB of 4G data — with no data overages. Instead, your bandwidth is capped at 500MB, and you get an alert when you're nearing your limit. When that happens, you can buy another 500MB for the day ($5) or 1GB for the week ($10).

Verizon

Verizon's recently introduced More Everything plan lives up to its name: Subscribers get more bang for the buck, but the rates themselves haven't changed much. Instead, plans now include added perks like 25GB of cloud storage and unlimited international messaging. But a family of four will pay $40 per smartphone plus $100 for a shared 10GB data plan, though there are other options (6GB, 8GB, 12GB and 14GB) for lighter and heavier users. That's $100 more per month than AT&T's four-person plan.

 

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