Recent reports show that smartphone marketshare in the United States is 62.5% with Apple's iPhone in the lead. Those other 37.5% remaining may be wondering if they really need an iPhone or smartphone at all.
The biggest barrier to buying a smartphone for many of the people, I have interviewed is the monthly price. If you get a plan from a major carrier such as AT&T or Verizon, you can expect to pay close to $100 a month for a plan. You can get better deals from T-Mobile, but you will have to pay for the smartphone or iPhone upfront or in installments.
An unlocked iPhone 5S costs $649.99 and for some that is more than a month's rent. Let's look at the cheapest cell phone options from prepaid carriers in this article and then in part two we will look at major carrier options.
If you only need Internet access once in a while on your phone, a messaging/feature phone with Internet Access and email may be your best option. Meanwhile, you can get a free cell phone with service if you are living in a low-income household for voice and text only.
Free Cell Phones for Low-Income Cheapest Option
For those who are on a fixed income or making minimum wage, a smartphone from a major carrier is most likely out of your price range. If you just need a phone for voice communication, many states through the LifeLine program offer free cellphones and voice minutes for low-income households.
There is only one free account allowed per household. Low income is as usually below as $24,700 for household of 1-2 people or those who receive public assistance. The plans cover around 250 free minutes and 250 free text messages. Read our how-to article. The LifeLine cell phone program replaces the LifeLine Landline, you can have both at the same time. The program does not provide data.
Don't Give Up Internet Service Until You Do the Numbers
What many people are doing when they feel the financial crunch, is give up one form of Internet access for another. Say for example, someone has cable/DSL or fiber for Internet access, they give that up for a smartphone. The problem with that option is that most smartphone and iPhone data plans are not unlimited, except for Sprint. If they say they are unlimited, you have to read the fine print, which states that after 2GB, 2.5GB or 5GB the connections is throttled to a slower rate. T-Mobile has a $70 a month unlimited data plan that includes 2.5GB of mobile hotspot service. Sprint's unlimited plan with 5GB of mobile hotspot costs $110.
Recently, many carriers changed their plans in the effort to make it simpler. Then they added even more plans to make it confusing.
The Gigabyte Gig
Yes, most people with a smartphone or iPhone as a secondary device use 2GB or less of bandwidth, however, if they use it as primary Internet access device and stream video, it is very easy to go over 2GB.
If you are using a lot of bandwidth with your Internet connection at home, making the smartphone or iPhone your primary device is probably not the best option, especially if you stream Netflix, Hulu or other video often. If you have a family that shares Internet service at home via Wi-Fi, unlimited Internet access is the usually best way to go.
Messaging Phone Options
One way to cut monthly costs of data is get a smartphone with Wi-Fi access and only use data when connected to Wi-Fi on a smartphone. This used to be easier to do with prepaid options until prepaid carriers started charging more for smartphone plans.
There are few us around with grandfathered AT&T prepaid GoPhone SIMs and other prepaid SIMs that still work with a smartphone even though they came with a basic phone. The old GoPhone plan is 10 cents a minute and $0.01 per 5KB. This option appears to be no longer supported for new smartphone buyers but does work with messaging phones and basic phones.
Cheapest Prepaid Deals for Messaging Phones
You can buy a smartphone on eBay or Cowboom, put the SIM, the phone and pay only for data when you use it. When you are near a Starbucks or other free Wi-Fi provider, you can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. You have to be careful with the GoPhone option of paying by the kilobyte, one Google Maps search cost $18.
Pay As Go Messaging Phone and Android Deals
For people who only need data once in a while, Tracfone is a good deal paying by the minute. If you are big talker, you'll probably prefer another plan.
Tracfone offers some great deals for regular cell phone usage and charges .5 unit per 1MB data which for limited data use can be a viable option. For Tracfone plans you must buy the phone from Tracfone. Plans are as low as $7 per month at TracFone with triple minutes. You can get a reconditioned phone and 60 minutes of airtime with free shipping for $24.99.
The phone is a messaging phone with mobile web and email. These phone are not as high-powered at recent smartphones but are useful for those who don't need large amounts of data access. TracFone does not disclose what network it uses, some believe it is T-Mobile while in some areas it could be Verizon, AT&T or even Sprint. You buy the phone according the area in which you live.
You can switch your number to TracFone. You also have to make sure you reload with a card orthe phone or you will lose your carry-over minutes. One year of 800 minutes costs $99.99 or $119.99 for 800 minutes and double minutes. TracFone also offers data cards for Android phones with carryover 2GB is $50.00. You can get a smartphone such as the Huawei Glory with a year of service of for $199.99 with 1200 minutes.
TracFone offers package deals through QVC for a Samsung Galaxy model with payment installments. Tracfone Prepaid Wireless Airtime Cards, 1 year prepaid wireless service cards, or unused minutes are non-refundable.
So how can you avoid the high monthly cost of Smartphone and iPhones?
Cheapest Deal if You Only Want an iPhone
Recently, we found the absolute cheapest deal on an iPhone 4 to be Virgin Mobile for someone who doesn't need a lot minutes but uses a good deal of data. Virgin Mobile sells the iPhone 4 for $199.99 which is the cheapest, we have found(see price comparison).
Virgin Mobile starts at $35 per month but customers can also receive a $5 per-month plan discount when they register and sign up for automatic monthly payments [“Auto Pay”] with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account, making the iPhone 4 available on for as low as $30 per month for 300 voice minutes unlimited text and data (slowed at 2.5GB). The next plan up is 1200 minutes for $45 and unlimited minutes for $50 a month.
For a new smartphone user who doesn't need the fastest processor in the world, the iPhone 4 from Virgin Mobile is an excellent deal. Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network. You can only use a Virgin Mobile phone.
Boost Mobile Urban Style
Boost Mobile which also uses the Sprint Network is more geared towards data users and Android fans. There are discounts for continued use.
Yes you can get Apple iPhone 5s 16GB for $549.99 at or the Get the Apple iPhone 4s for $299.99 but you can get a Kyocera Hydron fore $79.99 and new customers get a FREE month of service and $50 off phones for the holidays. The service is geared for those who want unlimited everything. Although data is throttled after 2.5GB of use, the service is good deal for those who want a smartphone on the cheap and use considerable data.
The lowest priced Boost Mobile plans start at $50.00 for feature phones and goes down $5 every 6 months of payments made on time to as low as $35.00 for unlimited nationwide talk, text and web, (2.5 GB of data and then throttled after). The smartphone plan starts at $55.00 a month and can go down to $40 a month.
Watch for our next article on best deals on carrier plans from Wireless and Mobile News.