Latest Cell Phone Plan Analysis

Finding a new and better cell phone plan has been a very long-time activity for me. While wandering around WalMart I picked up brochures from EVERY provider and try to make sense of it all. They seem to be offering some improved plans for prepaid (Such as My5 and other unlimited options for texting) that were previously unavailable. Even TELUS, which has been notorious for offering their excessively simplistic prepaid plans has gotten on the band wagon of offering some prepaid auto-deducting options.

So let’s start out with what I’m getting in my current plan. With my grandfathered solomobile plan, I get the following:
  • 30c a minute anytime
  • 15c a minute evening and weekends
  • Unlimited incoming/outgoing text messages
  • Unlimited mobile browser
  • Caller ID
  • Voicemail
  • $1/day 10-4™ Service (Never used)
Here’s a table of the average amount of money I spend per month. These records are a bit incomplete it seems, but they give you a good idea of what I pay for cell phone service.
Screen shot 2009-09-05 at 11.08.17 PM
The numbers on the right are averages. Obviously the net billing periods are missing in certain cases, which would indicate that I lost a prepaid receipt somewhere. Still, my average monthly payment is $13.80 a month. That works out to about $165 a year. What am I complaining about then? Well my phone is failing. It’s more than 3 years old, it looks quite crappy, it’s bulky, and I can’t upgrade my phone without losing this epic $13.80 plan. Also, it lacks a camera, which I would find extremely valuable. Here’s a summary of what features I need in the phone service provider:
  • 200 Anytime minutes
  • Unlimited evenings/weekends
  • 500+ texts per month (minimum, unlimited is ideal)
  • MY5-style unlimited texting and calling to 5 numbers
  • Receive texts via email #@MSG.ISP
  • Caller ID
  • Voicemail
If I consider how much I actually use my Mobile browser, it’s not very often. This is partly because it’s slow and not very useful due to the constraints of my phone, but also because now that I am in University, wireless internet is everywhere. As a student, you pretty much live on campus. I had previously relied on mobile browser to check my email etc while at school because my high school did not have any WiFi or anything like that, but really the only time I would ever need to use mobile browser NOW is if I’m in the car or in transit somewhere. Thus, here are some BONUS features that I would love to have:
  • No extra cost MMS (for sending photos, etc.)
  • Unlimited mobile browser
  • Free DUN (Bluetooth/serial connection to laptop for Internet anywhere)
So let’s take a look at what the various providers have to offer. This actually took quite a bit of time to compile, so if you’re looking for a table of info across the various providers at this point in time (and in my usage range) then this might be quite useful to you.
I will do a comparison of both prepaid and post paid options, however I continue to feel that prepaid always offers a better deal. This is primarily because in general service fees are omitted, although those seems to be eliminated with most providers nowadays, but also because voice mail and Caller ID are almost always included for free with prepaid. This will be reflected in the tables.
Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge
As per my original requirements, I do not really need extra minutes on top of MY5 options. Since I am not using many “anytime” minutes, it is perfectly reasonable to use those minutes Pay-Per-Use, or with a prepaid plan. So we’ve narrowed it down to a prepaid plan. Since I am planning on using the multimedia messaging options quite a bit, it’s unacceptable to be charged extra for those. Thus, we’ve narrowed it down to TELUS somehow. Taking a look at the raw cost, it’s also one of the cheapest options. The Bell plan listed here does NOT include any sort of My5, so it’s actually not even worth considering for my needs. Caller ID also doesn’t seem to be included, so it could end up costing over $26.
If I consider that I’m paying around $20 a month right now (with a slightly higher call traffic lately), and I can upgrade to unlimited pic and video messaging with a modern phone and no worrying about wasting minutes during calls with My 5 people, then it’s a steal for $5.75 more.
As for the handset, I’m looking for the following:
  • 160 character messaging OR auto numeration (140 max characters is not acceptable)
  • Camera, preferably above 0.3 MP
  • Browser, HTML compatible
  • Java or App support for GMail and Opera Mini
  • Solid, Responsive UI
  • Clamshell or Flip format
  • Bluetooth
  • Numeric keypad

Bonus Features

  • GPS is nice
  • Nokia and Sanyo I have come to trust, consumer Motorola, LG, and Samsung seem to have their issues
Looking at the selection of prepaid phones available from TELUS, it seems like I’m not going to get my wish of Nokia or Sanyo. Sanyo is carried almost exclusively by Bell the last time I checked, and Nokia seems to have given up the CDMA business entirely. The LG Keybo™ seems to be the most promising. Most reviews show that it is an incremental improvement over previous generations of the phone. It has good messaging features including the ability to text using T9 on the external keypad (big plus for me.) Bluetooth and Application support appear to be all there, and the UI is supposed to be very responsive and solid. It even has some sort of GPS features, although those yet to be tested obviously. Camera is 2.0MP as well.
I’ll still have to consider the financial impact of this change, but I think it’s finally a good time to upgrade. I will post a review if I decide to go with it.
The vacation blog posts are delayed slightly for now. Busy busy!