The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dan cuts AT&T loose, halves monthly bill

Dan got the boost he needed at this downtown Plainfield store.
Plainfield Today readers who feel abused by their big-dog cellphone plans, take heart!

You can cut your bills by half or more without sacrificing the quality of your connection or your phone. Here's how I did it.


I have paid AT&T $100.65 a month for the past 30 months for a plan with rollover minutes, texting and data. Let's say $3,000 and forget the change.

Was it a ripoff?

Well, consider that my new no-contract plan gives me 1,200 anytime minutes plus unlimited texting and data for $45/month (the 300-minutes plan is $35/month).

My simplistic back-of-the-envelope calculation runs as follows --
  • The $400 list price LG phone that came with the AT&T plan was 'subsidized' by AT&T (I paid $200 for it). Having worked in wholesale in a previous life, I strongly suspect that the phone was a wash for AT&T, but let's be generous and suggest they put $100 skin into the game (meaning their cost would have been $300/unit).
  • If my current service can make a profit on $45/month, I will assume AT&T could, too. That would mean that in a little less than two months on AT&T I had amortized their phone investment of approximately $100.
  • Which means that for the next 27 months plus, AT&T collected over $2,700 from me for service that will now cost me $1,350.
  • The new phone cost me $300 out-of-pocket, $100 more than my old AT&T phone. If I use it for 30 months, that's $10/month. Or, if you consider I paid $200 for the old phone, I'm only $100 more into this one -- that's $3.33/month over the next 30 months. In my book, I'm still way ahead.
So, why not switch services?

It all started here..


One of the traditional knocks on the no-contract services such as T-Mobile, Boost, MetroPCS and others is that they have catered to the lower end of the market and their phone selection has reflected that -- mostly cheap and with limited features sets.

But no more.

The New York Times ran a story in early August on the uptick of interest now that these carriers are adding the latest and greatest phones to their lineups (see article here).

It presents a good overview of the kinds of plans and phones that are out there, and spurred my interest in getting off the dime.

The only choices today are Apple's iPhone (which means, guess what, AT&T or Verizon) or phones running Google's Android software. I was surprised to learn that Android has half the market share for smartphones (with iPhones at 28%, something which the Apple buzz does not bring to the fore).

So, what's the latest, hottest Android?

You will find that each carrier has its own models and exclusive deals that means your phone decision is also automatically your carrier decision.

In my case, I zeroed in on Motorola's Triumph running Android 2.2 (see here).

The Triumph is slick, slender and spacious.

Exercising my OCD proclivities, I checked out the online reviews. CNET, the all-things-tech website had a good review, with video (see here), plus links to reviews of the leading contenders against Motorola's hot new phone. The Android Community also had a lengthy review, with videos and plenty of photos (see here).

By this time I was hooked, but where to check out a phone? I went to BestBuys on Route 22 in Union and they had the phone (one only). As usual, the place was busy, but the young sales rep (was he even 19?) didn't have answers to my couple of questions, so I decided on another tack.

Checking Virgin Mobile's website, I found the 'store search' option at the top of the page and duly punched in '07060' as my ZIP code. Lo and behold, the first page returned 15 locations with that ZIP code, including SIX downtown Plainfield locations.

Thinking to spend my dollars in Plainfield, I first went to a retailer who has been around for years. When the manager said 'Huh?', and then asked a clerk if the store carried the phone (Answer: No), I decided that was NOT the place to shop, at least for this purchase.

So, I wandered down the street to the BOOST Mobile store at 105 East Front, next to Casanova Pizza.

Here I found helpful and professional staff (manager Al and salesperson Vera) who answered my questions, let me look over the phone, and facilitated the purchase -- and the activation -- all via credit card.

The BOOST store is a Virgin Mobile dealer, according to Al, which meant that they got first dibs on the hot new phone. He admitted being surprised at how popular it was, given the price point, but said they are flying off the shelves. Virgin Mobile uses Sprint's network, meaning you get state-of-the-art connections, including their 3G data network.

The only difference is that I paid for ONE MONTH'S SERVICE IN ADVANCE, and can automatically pay each month via online management of my account. Change plans? Do it online. Cancel service? No problemo.

While Vera at BOOST was able to port my old phone number over to Virgin Mobile, I managed some other items on my own.

With mixed results.

Case in point: Voicemails. Once your number is ported to the new service, your old phone is no longer connected to its network. Your voicemails? The several I had saved in order to extract info from at a later date were on AT&T's servers and no longer available to me. Lesson: Plan ahead.

The Address Book presented a different kind of a challenge. My old phone had an option to save the file to the portable SD card. However, when I did so and inserted it in the Android phone to import the names and numbers, I was told it could not read the file. Which leaves me entering the contacts manually, a bunch every day.

One other little surprise. Since I was not able to import my address book, I had ZERO contacts on the new phone. But the next morning, starting to enter a contact, I was amazed to discover that I had gone from zero to 2,200+ overnight. Whaaat?!

Turns out that when I signed in to my Gmail account, the phone automatically imported my Gmail contacts -- which includes all the subscribers to the CLIPS email service.

After calming down, I dug into the settings and found that I could have controlled the Gmail syncing situation before it happened. Who knew? The manual was silent. I would recommend exploring the phone thoroughly before committing to things like downloads and activating your Gmail (and perhaps Yahoo or other online email programs) account.
I'm thrilled with the new phone, and have begun exploring the Android Market, where apps, music, games and more are available for download. So it only has 100,000 apps and the iPhone has 250,000? Do I really believe I'm missing something?

And when I stopped in the BOOST store the other day with a question, Al the manager asked how I like the phone ('Love it'), took the phone and lined it up with his iPhone (the Triumph has a lot more screen real estate and is no heavier) and said he was sorely tempted to give up the iPhone for the Triumph.

I'll be checking back with him later on that.

PS: Should you check out the phone at the Plainfield BOOST store, tell 'em Dan sent you.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Juggler314 said...


if your clips subscribers are labeled in gmail, you can go into the display options (menu button from within the contacts app) and uncheck those so they wont display. If there are some that you do want, simply also tag them in some other group that you do display (likely if your contacts are organized with labels you've already done this).

Alternatively what I do is just only display contacts with phone numbers (another option under display options) - if you generally browse through your contact list to start an e-mail this wont be helpful, but if, like me, you just open up the gmail app and start typing a works well cause they will all auto-complete from within gmail anyway even if they don't show up in your "contact list" within the phone app.

Rob said...

I am a techno-phobe...I am not even sure I made it through the whole post before blacking out..
I hope someone takes advantage of your research. Nothing like sticking to those who simply take advantage of those who don't know better.
( for once I wasn't speaking of Jerry and Sharon.. )

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dan! Now this is what I call community service! Been using Verizon for years with 700 min family plan. We never use more than 300 of it. Two phones with limited texting only @ ~$75 a month. my biggest concern and the hold off in changing has been service coverage compared to the big guy and the cost of putting two phones into a plan like you have described. Thanks, I'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

Dan! A big THANK YOU for the article on switching your old cell phone to a new phone and cheaper plan. I've been out of the "what's the best in smart phones for people who aren't in their 20s anymore" loop for more than a few years now (which is eons in tech years) and just couldn't get the basic info I needed to make the jump. I, too, have been paying mega bucks to the big V for phones for my husband and myself, and we're certainly not what you'd consider mega users. Your article contained the most helpful information - especially specifics on your place of purchase. I'll definitely be visiting that store to make the switch very soon! Thanks again! - A Dan Fan

Anonymous said...

I would also offer advice for cable t.v. users...I hate paying so much to watch so little. I periodically call and say I am seriously thinking of switching services and all of a sudden there is a discount that I can get to keep me as a "valuable" customer. I know I am still paying too much for tv and phone. Thanks for making switching not seem so scary.

John said...


Some good apps you may want to look into:

Lookout Mobile Security - Provides for safe browsing, backup and missing or lost device.

Juice Defender: Helps prolong battery life which you will soon find to be needed with all Android Phones.

Color Note: Nice little note program for making short notes and saving of text information for easy retrieval.

Of cource, facebook and Twitte App.

Team View: Access your home computer through your phone.

Hp E-Print if you have an HP Printer to be able to print documents and photos right from your phone.

I'm certain you will find many apps useful to you when searching for them.