Cell Phones and Plans?

I guess I’m really pretty late in the game to start this discussion, but I’m thinking someone here might have some interesting input.

My wife’s cell phone (my hand me down) is a Nexus 5. It’s on its second battery and not doing too well with it anymore. It also is not getting firmware updates any more. My phone is working pretty well, by comparison, but I think it is probably not getting updates anymore, and it seems like it could be more responsive. I’m also filling up the memory, ever after doing a factory reset a couple of months ago.

Our current cell phone carrier has increased the price of service to over $50 per month per line. I was hoping to find a less expensive plan for both of us.

On Thursday and Friday, she had doctor’s appointments and I waited in the car in the parking lot. The plan was that she would call me and I would drive from the parking lot to the door to pick her up. Both days, she had difficulty getting a call to connect to me. I don’t think it was operator error, since she could call me when we were trying to test the phone in the living room.

Long story short, I got on the phone on Friday afternoon and got a deal with T-Mobile for two lines of service and two new phones with 256GB memory and 12 GB RAM and 5G for $70 per month (age 55+ plan). They are going to finance the purchase for 24 months.

Hope to have the phones and port our numbers on Wednesday.

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Given your calling issue Thur/Fri, I’m curious what network/company you were with prior to moving to T-Mobile. Did it seem like a network issue, or a phone/hardware issue, or uncertain?

I value flexibility quite a bit so I haven’t been on a carrier contract plan for ages and have purchased my phones separately up-front as well. Generally I have found that MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), which work on the same networks as the big 4 3 carriers, offer similar connectivity and the benefits that matter to me, at a lower price, and without contracts. I.e. I can switch at any time, no penalties. That said, if you’re financing a phone, a big operator is little different from a small one, and often you’ll get comparable pricing in that scenario I believe.

I have avoided financing phones because, especially before the last few years, the subsidized pricing and add-on to your plan monthly fees was more than you’d pay just purchasing the phone outright, and then having a separate phone plan, especially after the ~2 year pay-off time frame. The advantage, of course, was not having to pay it all at once. But in many cases companies would just keep your price high even after the phone had been paid off, and it was up to the consumer to try to negotiate it down, or (in many cases) upgrade to a new phone on that 2 year cycle.

I find these days, and for at least the last 4-5yrs, that phones are fast and mature and good enough even in the mid-range of $350-$600 (and increasingly on the “low” end < $350), that we don’t need to be on a 2 year hardware upgrade cycle. And it sounds like your wife’s 7+ year old phone more than demonstrates that. :smile:

So what I currently use, and have had generally good luck with, is a Google Pixel 3a, purchased about 1.5 years ago for $450 (and I expect to get at least another 1-2 years out of it), and 4 lines of Total Wireless service (which is on the Verizon network). Each line comes out to $25/mo, $100/mo total, all fees inclusive, 100GB shared data between 4 lines (i.e. 25GB each), 10GB per line of hotspot. I frequently do speed tests as I’m traveling around and have had generally good speeds, mostly comparable to anyone else I was with at the time, and coverage that seems very similar to Verizon with a very few exceptions. For the price, what you get is fantastic. It’s a bit more per line if you have fewer lines, of course, but still a good deal.

Having said all that, it sounds like you got a pretty good deal for your needs, as long as T-Mobile’s coverage and speeds are good in your typical usage areas. Since merging with Sprint, that is almost certainly the case, though I do find that there can be surprisingly dramatic differences between carriers in one key place that is often overlooked: at home. Since most of us now only have a cell phone and no landline, it is of course important for our phones to work very well at home. And yet I have found a surprising number of people I know have poor coverage at - and especially inside - their homes. Modern Wi-Fi calling-enabled phones and networks can help considerably with this, provided you have good home Internet and Wi-Fi coverage.

Regardless, gone - fortunately - are the days when options were few or hard to access and companies could and would charge you for voice minutes, number of texts, small amounts of data, or even access to data at all. I find the modern price of “flagship” phones to be fairly absurd, especially with how good the mid-range has been really since the original One+ came out. But people are apparently willing to pay that price, so they’ll keep charging it. As long as there continue to be very good mid-price options I’m happy.

I’m almost positive that the calling issues, from the doctor’s offices were, 1. operator error, compounded by 2. failing battery in her phone and 3. being inside of concrete and steel buildings, when attempting to place the calls. It’s funny that I was sometimes able hear background conversations, but she could not hear me.

We were with StraightTalk (reselling Tracfone, reselling AT&T). We were with them for many years and I was generally very happy with the coverage and service they provided. The signal, at our house and at an investment property I was working on a few years ago, was on the lower end. Often, the signal strength indicator on the phone would barely show a signal. The signal, in the basement, at both properties, was iffy, but serviceable on the main levels. The coverage, at street level, in rural areas of Missouri and Illinois was good. I don’t recall experiencing any lack of coverage, unless it was due to being inside of a massive structure.

The T-Mobile signal strength, at our house, is indicated as maximum. I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any dead areas, if we get to travel, again, sometime.

My wife, generally, does not like technology or change, but it seems that she is really liking the new OnePlus 8t+ 5G phone.

Thanks again for the reply. Some new (to me) ideas, and details in there as well. I really enjoy your thoughtful posts. Thanks for taking the time.

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You’re most welcome, and again I’m glad I can help! I tend to do a lot of research for my own needs, and generally enjoy keeping up on tech across the industry even when I don’t have a personal need. That info doesn’t do much good to me most of the time, so it’s great to have a chance to share it for some benefit.

Signal strength can be a complicated beast, as you probably know, since you pointed out several likely mitigating factors. But one you didn’t mention is the capabilities of the phone itself. The Nexus 5 is over 7 years old at this point and while it had good 4G band support at the time of release, newer phones like the OnePlus 8t have much broader support, in addition to 5G. Depending on what 4G spectrum is being used by your carrier in a particular area, the older phone might not have access to the best signal or highest bandwidth. And of course antenna technology generally improves all the time as well (aside from various shorter-term blunders that occur due to companies prioritizing aesthetic design over technical design, e.g. Steve Jobs “You’re holding it wrong” :roll_eyes:). So newer phones can have better signal strength in the exact same situations where an older phone did poorly. Newer tech like wifi calling can also especially improve things inside buildings.

Anyway, glad you’ve got a solid upgrade. I’d be curious to know about other people’s choices in hardware and network. It’s less relevant to me internationally, but still a curiosity, if only to know just how bad we often seem to have it in the US. :smile:

In the future, you might consider Red Pocket. (I have been using them for years)

$240/yr ($20/mo) for 8GB and you get to choose any carrier (I have Verizon)

Here is the link:

$20/Mo Red Pocket Prepaid Wireless Phone Plan+Kit: Unlmtd Everything 8GB LTE | eBay

Hope this helps!!