Dave (owner of PCMech) has a ritzy/glitzy/sexy/super-cool Apple iPhone. And he really likes it. Furthermore he uses it a lot so he’s getting his money’s worth. He uses apps, he texts, he talks on it (obviously), uses Twitter on it, browses the web, etc.
I on the other hand am very anti-cell phone. The only reason I own one is to have some means of mobile telephone communications. As far as what I choose, I go for nothing but basic. To say it another way, whatever is the cheapest thing I can get is what I will usually go for.
Recently I switched off of a post-paid plan with Verizon and decided to go with TracFone, a pre-paid cell phone service.
The purchasing process
I purposely went to Radio Shack on an early Saturday morning figuring there wouldn’t be too many people in the store at that time of the day – and I was right. The store was basically empty.
Why Radio Shack? It’s because RS employees will actually set the phone up for you right at the counter so you don’t have to do it yourself – which they did. In case you weren’t aware, RS is still to this day one of the better places to buy a cell phone (it’s the #1 thing they sell).
Cost of the phone: $10.00 (a little over $11 after tax).
The phone itself: It’s a Motorola W175g. And THANK GOD it’s actually a one-piece phone instead of a this-will-break-in-a-year flip style. I’ll speak more on the phone in a moment.
The pre-paid TracFone service comes with 20 "bonus" minutes to start with. This is great because it means I had a phone ready-to-use for just over $10 that I could add minutes to later on, so I didn’t have to buy extra minutes up front. Very nice.
If you are the type who is big penny pincher, the absolute cheapest way to run a TracFone is to buy one 60-minute card every 90 days. You need to buy at least 60 minutes for it to be at a 90-day span between purchases. The 60-minute card costs $19.99 + tax.
If you do the math, the phone service will cost you just over $7 per month (assuming you don’t go over the minute allowance). You could opt for a 365-day instead of a 90-day, but 90-day will suit most people.
The phone itself
The Motorola W175g is a "candy bar" style phone. It’s not exactly thin but fits in the pocket easily. And – thankfully – it’s charged via a mini-USB connector. This connector is solid and not like those asinine funky-shaped power connectors Motorola used to have.
The screen is readable in daylight. The sound is just fine. Speakerphone could be a little bit better, but then again what do you expect for 10 bucks? Battery life is decent.
I will say this: This phone – which is notably inferior compared to a Motorola RAZR – sounds better and is much easier to navigate as far as the menu system is concerned. Furthermore it feels better in the hand when talking on it.
The TracFone service
I really like the fact TracFone makes it stupidly easy to know exactly what you’re spending.
The phone itself will tell you up front how many minutes you have left and how many days you have left for your current minute allowance – so you’re never out of the loop concerning that.
Minutes can be bought online at TracFone.com or by going anywhere that sells TracFone-enabled phones (Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, etc.) and pick up a card.
The service itself is fine. Reception is good; calls stay connected. The service does the job it’s supposed to do.
You would like TracFone if…
- You hate cell phones and only want one for basic communications or just for emergencies.
- You’re a parent and want to give your kid(s) a cell phone but also want something basic that can take a pounding – TracFone definitely fits the bill there.
- You want more control over your cell phone use/bill/etc. It doesn’t get any easier than TracFone.
I would not recommend TracFone for heavy-use cell phone users because you’d run out of minutes fast and it would cost you more in the long run.
However if you’re a light user, TracFone suits just fine. It’s basic, it works, it’s cheap.
This is also cheap enough where you could give it as a gift. If you’ve got someone in the family that needs a cell phone, TracFone makes it easy enough where you can get it set up and let the recipient of the gift know that to add minutes they just have to buy a card every 90 days.
I do understand that TracFone service isn’t the best in all areas. It works fine in Tampa Bay Florida but that’s just my experience. Seeing that you can test the service for just 10 dollars (the purchase of the phone), it’s not like you’ll be in the poorhouse in case the service doesn’t work for whatever reason.
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