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How to save on mobile plans: Your guide to 17 no-contract carriers

Rick Broida | Jan. 21, 2016
Tired of dealing with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless? We tell you about some good alternatives.

Calls routed over cell towers cost money. Calls routed over Wi-Fi networks cost almost nothing. Republic sells smartphones that tap Wi-Fi whenever possible, switching to towers only when necessary.

Those phones -- the 2nd-generation Motorola Moto E and Moto X, and 3rd-gen Moto G -- can operate on Republic's Sprint-powered network for as little as $25 monthly, and the carrier will refund you for any unused data. According to the company, customers who choose the Small plan receive an average monthly payback of $8, while the Medium plan ($40 per month) typically nets $16 back. So there's a financial incentive to hit up Wi-Fi networks whenever possible. Just one wrinkle: Call quality over Wi-Fi isn't always stellar.

RingPlus Mobile

Piggybacks on: Sprint
Starts at: Free for 1,000 voice minutes, 1,000 text messages, 500MB data
In business since: 2015

Something about RingPlus feels almost experimental. The new Sprint-powered carrier offers no-contract plans that range from completely free to $109.99 per month. For example, the current Michelangelo plan gives you 1,000 voice minutes, 1,000 text messages and 500MB of 4G data -- all for free. You don't even have to pay an activation fee.

What's the catch? When you place an outgoing call, you'll hear a snippet of music or short ad instead of the usual ringing. That's barely a catch at all; the real one is that MMS messages (text messages containing photos or video) aren't included; they'll cost you 4 cents apiece. You're also required to maintain a $10 top-up balance, but it's there only to cover any overage charges. Meanwhile, RingPlus offers added perks like Wi-Fi calls (as an alternative to roaming fees, which run 14 cents per minute) and free voicemail-to-email transcription. Too good to be true? Maybe, but for now it's too good to overlook.

ROK Mobile

Piggybacks on: Multiple
Starts at: $49.99 per month for unlimited voice minutes/texts, 5GB data
In business since: 2014

ROK Mobile's key demographic: Anyone who would normally subscribe to Apple Music, Spotify or another music-streaming service. Because the carrier's one and only monthly plan includes a streaming service of its own, one stocked with 20 million ad-free tracks and supporting unlimited skips and offline listening. Meanwhile, your $49.99 also nets you an impressive 5GB of 4G data.

ROK will sell you a phone directly (its online store carries all the latest models), but you can also bring nearly any unlocked phone, because the carrier operates on both CDMA and GSM networks. But it's not clear until well into the sign-up process whether you have to pay extra for a SIM card, and there's no online sales or support staff available to answer such questions.


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