Please note: In April of 2012, AT&T changed their goPhone plans to require smart phone data plan users to buy a minimum of $25 minutes per month. I certainly don’t need that many minutes, and it’s obnoxious to have to pay for something I’m not really going to use. But paying the $25 a month and getting a small data plan is still the cheapest option for me, and my bill is still around $30 a month.
The advice below is just how I was able to switch my iPhone 3Gs to a goPhone plan. Your mileage may vary. Please do your research and see if it will work for you. Try it at your own risk. I’m not an expert. I’m just someone on the internet. Thanks!
As I’ve mentioned, we are trying to be thrifty. We’ve reduced our expenses pretty much everywhere we could. So it burned my ass that we were paying $120 a month for our cellphones. We were locked into a contract until the end of this year.
When we first got our iPhones, I felt pretty good that we’d get a discount from my employer, saving 16% on service. Then, Dave and I shared a family plan which made it even cheaper. We both had unlimited data and shared 550 minutes. Which totally worked for us. Dave pretty much doesn’t talk on the phone, and I usually only talk to my far-away family on weekends.
So I patted myself on the back for these cost cutting tactics. It was way to justify our iPhones. But really, it was still a stupid amount of money.
Two iPhones: $600
Monthly service: $120 (usually)
Apps: Who fricken knows
Cost over two year contract: $3,480
They don’t really encourage you to think of the total amount of money you are spending for your gizmos. And while we were employed, iPhones just seemed like one of those things we “had to have” and we just shrugged at the cost. “Everyone else was doing it.” That reasoning doesn’t factor into our thinking very often, but it’s helpful when you think you must have something. Sigh.
We had four months to go on our contract. Dave was ready to get rid of his phone completely, or he was ready to get a crappy dumb phone and pay for texts. I wanted to reduce the expense for BOTH of us. And it seemed silly not to use our current phones with cheaper service. There had to be a way.
Here it is. I didn’t have to “hack” our phones, but we did have to go outside At&t’s support. And I did have to break our contracts. But even with paying the remaining $75 cancelation fee per phone, it will still save us money.
Phase One: I started with Dave’s phone and followed the instructions (also here) on turning your iPhone into a prepaid phone. Basically, I followed those instructions and it worked perfectly. We got Dave set up with a $25 data/500mb data plan and $.10 minute calling plan. We will probably only need the $15/100 mb plan next month. He never makes calls, so we can load up on the bare minimum monthly minutes and he will probably never use them.
We did have to switch the number on his phone with the new sim card. So we could have lost his old number. He wasn’t concerned about that, but we solved that problem anyway further below.
He does text, and there is a $5/200 text plan, and we considered getting that too. Paying for texts is super annoying because it basically costs providers nothing, but they charge outrageous monthly fees. I decided to try something else (see Phase Three).
Phase Two: We got everything set up and tested to make sure his phone and data were actually working. We now had two sim cards working in his phone. His old one, and the new prepaid card. Before we cancelled the At&t contract, we ported his old number to Google Voice. Now his old number is attached to his Google account. We added the Google Voice app to his iPhone. So now he can make calls online, get his voicemail online, and forward calls to his phone. AND, he can send and receive texts for free through the GV app.
He still pays for minutes if someone calls his old number and Google forwards it to his phone. But since we spend most of our time sitting in front of computers, we can answer those calls online for free. After everything was set up and working perfectly on his phone, I switched over mine too.
Phase Three: The Google Voice settings take some tinkering, especially for the text messages. The default is for your incoming texts to be forwarded to your phone’s native text app. For us, that means $.20 a text. But you can switch that setting off so all texts are handled through the Google Voice app for free.
It works. We use the wifi at home to keep from using our data plan. So far this month, I’ve used less than 10%, so it’s possible I can get less data for even cheaper.
If you don’t text, and you’re not concerned about keeping your old number, you don’t have to sign up for Google Voice. You can just do the prepaid trick. But for me, I like taking calls on my computer, Google Voice has neat features, and I basically get to keep this number for the rest of my life, or until Google and/or the planet explodes.
Did your eyes glaze over? Mine did too. But it was so worth it to keep chipping away until we found a solution. And now we pay less than half for our phone bill.
You know how it feels? It feels like VICTORY!