Finding the Right Cell Phone Plan

Thursday, 2009-10-22; 16:54:03

People are sometimes surprised to find out that I, despite being a computer programmer and keeping up with much of the Mac and technology news scene, don’t actually have a cell phone.

There’s are two reasons for this: 1) I don’t want to be on call all the time, and 2) I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Reason #1 is frequently misunderstood: yes I know that I can simply turn off the phone. Duh. But what’s the point? If I get a cell phone and have it off all the time, it’s just as good as not having one at all. Besides, even if I did, I would be tempted to have it on all the time, and that’s the problem for me. I don’t trust myself not to answer the phone when I shouldn’t.

(For what it’s worth, I hate it when people interrupt an in-person conversation to answer the phone. I also hate it when people make a call in the car, or in a closed place where other people are forced to listen to your conversation and can’t have one of their own. It’s obnoxious. Stop it.)

Reason #2 is an easier point to get across: how much are you all paying for your iPhone plans again? (I think my bro pays almost $100/month.) I’m not willing to throw that much cash at AT&T.

My current setup is a 2-year-old MacBook, and a Skype subscription. For 45 euros (that’s ~$68) per year, I get unlimited phone calls to the U.S. & Canada and voice mail.

Per year.

Oftentimes I lug my laptop around just to be able to have Skype access, though. And that also requires that there’s a wireless hot spot I can access, or have access to a friend’s wireless network. So it’s definitely inconvenient at times.

I’m looking to maybe get a cell phone if it can fit my requirements. Here they are:

  1. The “phone” must be an iPhone or iPod touch. I’m going to be doing iPhone development, and besides, I’ve used all the other phones a bit and I’ve read about them, and they’re just not going to work out for me. So just don’t bother with even mentioning any other device. Seriously, just don’t.

  2. I want a persistent, unlimited wireless data connection, available when I need it, with reasonable coverage. Achieving this must not require a laptop.

  3. I will pay no more than $30/month.

  4. I do not care about phone “minutes”, and I do not give a shit about SMS or MMS (seriously, why do you guys pay for that crap when you can just use AIM?). I do not want them, nor will I pay for them. I will continue to use Skype.

  5. I am willing to entertain hacks or add-ons that can help fulfill the previous requirements (i.e.: if there’s a dongle that acts as a cell phone modem and doesn’t cost much per month, that is acceptable). I am not willing to endure hacks that continually break or are unstable, etc. It can have an up-front time and/or money commitment (up to $200), but this must be a one-time sunk cost only.

  6. I must be able to upgrade to the latest software update as soon as it comes out. No delays. (This pretty much rules out any jailbreaking/unlocking of any kind.)

  7. I need at least 40 GB of space. My music collection is already 30 GB in size, and I’m not picking and choosing what music I want on my device.

Here’s what I’ve looked into:

  1. My bro and dad have a family plan. I could attach on to that, but that costs $10/month just to add another device to the plan, and another $30/month for the data. That violates requirement #3. Also, that would require an iPhone, which, at max, goes to 32 GB of storage, violating requirement #7.

  2. AT&T has a pay-as-you-go plan. I would never use the minutes so I would never need to refill. However, it seems that using such a plan, the data is also pay-as-you-go. That’s going to violate requirement #3 as well. Also, still the problem with not enough space.

  3. Verizon has a dongle-thingy (MiFi) that hooks into its wireless network and provides a roaming wireless hot spot, but last I checked this was way too expensive. It’s $40/month for a piddly 250 MB/month, and 10¢ per MB above that. Hah! Sorry, but no.

Any other suggestions?

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