Dear PoP – Anyone Use Discount Cell Phone/Data Plans?

Photo by PoPville flickr user mosley.brian

“Dear PoP,

Being fed up with AT&T, my husband and I are seriously considering just going with a “bootleg”, pre-paid company such as Virgin or Criket. Looking online, it seems like the deals are really worth it! $45 for unlimited text, voice AND data! With no contract! What’s the catch? Is there no signal anywhere? Seems to me that there has to be something wrong with them or else why doesn’t everyone flood to them? I would love to hear from any Criket or pre-paid Virgin Mobile users in the area.”

Anyone have good experiences with these services?

30 Comment

  • I would like to know too! I am also fed up with AT&T.

  • I use Virgin Mobile and i love it. LOVE IT. $25 for 300 min plus unlimited data and text. with tax it comes to under $28. i have never had a dropped call. granted i don’t talk that much – 300 minutes isn’t much (i usually go over by 10-30 min, at 10 cents per minute its only a few bucks more). BUT!! there is so much flexibility. i can switch my plan online or on my phone. and i can start another plan earlier. or if i know that i will need more minutes i just switch to the 1200 minute plan – at $40 hardly breaks the bank. but the best part is no contract, no hidden fees and excellent client service. oh and they have blackberries too.

    i am not connect in any way to VM – i just really hated verizon.

  • From what I’ve heard, Cricket’s coverage is severely limited outside the beltway and may not be available if you travel to other cities. I don’t think Cricket is on the list of carriers that will be using the new cell network in Metro, either.

    Virgin Mobile uses Sprint’s network, which is pretty good in DC and most other big cities, and along highways, but struggles in Rural areas. Sprint is on Metro’s new cell network. Normal Sprint users can roam onto Verizon’s network when service is not available, but Virgin Mobile customers cannot. H

    Hope this is helpful.

    • I have Sprint and was under the impression that I use AT&Ts network when roaming, specifically on the train.

      • That’s impossible due to technologies being incompatible. Maybe Sprint will roam on Verizon, but definitely not ATT

  • oooh and do any of them take jail-break iphones? I know t-mobile does, but it doesn’t seem that much cheaper.

  • ps – my bf has ATT and he doesn’t get reception in some places when i do!

  • You can tell it’s a slow news week in PoPville by the number of Dear PoP’s posted. Geez Louise.

    • That doesn’t seem fair–he gets a lot of Dear PoPs and I don’t think he posts them all.

      That said, my publicist eyebrow went up on the quick and detailed response about Virgin Mobile’s offering

      • That’s true. I asked PoP if he or his readers knew a good meatloaf recipe and he never posted it. Although, I think that is at least as legit a question as this one.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          Hahaha, sorry about that. I try to (and will continue to) post as many “Dear PoPs” as possible. I’d say it ranges from 1/2 to 2/3 of the ones I receive depending on the week and topics of the emails. Personally, I think it is one of the most useful and interesting parts of this site.

        • Barefoot Contessa has a couple of great meatloaf recipes on

  • I’ve used Cricket phones for campaign phone banks etc. We never had problems with service (although we were pretty stationary). I think Cricket uses ads to get around the costs. All of our phones had ads come on as screen savers. Plus, we would get ads through text messages and robocalls for everything from ringtones/apps to big box stores.

  • I have Virgin, and it’s not bad. The service is pretty good, and you really can’t beat $25 bucks for 300 mins, and unlimited data and text. Their customer service is so-so. Everyone I talk to is always very polite, and they try to be helpful, but sometimes I have to follow up on my calls to make sure they’ve done what I requested.

    I don’t get reception in my basement apartment. Which is a huge PITA, but I’m far from the only one in my building with that issue, so it’s not Virgin’s fault.

    • I have the Virgin Mobile $25 plan and I agree completely–the plan is a great deal as long as you don’t have any customer service issues, ever! Their customer service people are friendly enough, but don’t seem to be able help much in the times I’ve talked to them.

  • I build apps for cell phones for a living and have phones from every carrier.

    What do I use for my personal phone outside of work? (I get this question a lot) Virgin Mobile. $25/month for 300 minutes, unlimited texts, and web is the best value in the industry right now. Since it is owned by Sprint the network coverage in the DC area is very good. And if you need 1200 minutes it only costs $40/month.

    I live out in the sticks (Upper Marlboro) and I can even use it in my basement. But as always, you should type your address in the coverage map to see if it works.

    And if you don’t like Sprint for some reason, give T-Mobile a try. My test T-Mobile phones never, ever drop a call. And right now they have an unlimited Talk, Text, and Web plan for $79/month.

  • SO HELPFUL. I’m in the same boat; contract is about to expire at the end of May and my husband and I want to be on the same plan, but his doesn’t end until August 2012! We’re probably moving abroad then anyways, so I need a no contract, cheap phone plan for the next year or so.

    Thanks for the great comments! I was between Virgin and Cricket.

    Any thoughts on Boost Mobile?

    • Boost is also owned by Sprint. Most of the Boost phones use their older iDen network (which really works everywhere in the country) but is slow. Some of the newer Boost Android phones use Sprint’s newer network.

      Cricket and Boost have very low end Android phones. Virgin Mobile has a great mid-range phone call the LG Optimus V. T-Mobile has the latest high-end Android phones.

      The reason these carriers are all cheaper (with the exception of T-Mobile) is that the phone selection is very limited and usually previous year phones from the top 3 carriers. I only mention T-Mobile in that you can buy any one of their phones now and swap out the phone when a newer one comes along that catches your fancy. Virgin Mobile and Boost don’t let you swap phones without calling their customer service.

      So I break it down this way:

      1. Budget less than $45, go with Virgin.
      2. Budget between $50-80, go with T-Mobile.
      3. You have money to burn/Some else pays the bill, go with Verizon.

      Also keep in mind that the carriers are releasing new phones this month. So anything you buy now may “out of date” next month. If you fear this, go with Virgin Mobile, keep the costs low, and upgrade to your dream phone at the end of summer.

  • I’ve had Virgin since 2004 and love it. To be specific, it meets my needs, which are few. I phone, I text, I trust that the 911-activated GPS will lead the authorities to my body as needed. The only reception problems I’ve had have been in underground places (apartments, parking garages, etc.) and off-shore (islands, fishing boats, etc.) I auto-pay $20/mo and usually carry a balance between $60-$100 – like I said, my needs are few. AND they don’t send me snail mail or e-mail to upgrade to anything else.

  • Federal employees get discounts from most (all?) major carriers just for being a federal employee Google it.

  • I plan on switching to Boost when I go to school next year and wont be able to afford the iphone that I have now.., did some research and their Android phone and unlimited everything plan seems like a great deal.

    In addition Boost has their lower your monthly plan by $5 every 6 months you pay on time, for 18 months, so you can lower your monthly plan by $15. So you would be paying just 35$ for their unlimited everything plan after 18 months.

  • I am a rare cell-phone user but am entirely happy with my 7 year old $19.00 phone from Target with a Virgin Mobile plan that charges by the call and requires me to spend $22.00 every 3 months – which I almost never come near. I’ve had great reception at Assateague Island and the Shenendoah mountains as well as various other states. It gets texts as well.

  • I also use Virgin Mobile and LOVE it. Everything people have said about the great rates and such is true, and you get exactly what they tell you. I have never paid more than the price of my chosen plan/package of minutes plus tax. And they have phones that run android now! You do have to pay the full price of the phone, but you make up the expense in monthly payment savings quickly. At this point I really don’t see why so many people are paying twice as much for the contract plans.

    As for the service, it runs on the sprint network, so it’s fine. Not quite as good as Verizon but good enough. It works in a lot of the metro stations.

  • Not sure how the android operated phones offered by Boost work, but had a motorola phone of some sort through Boost last year and trying to access the internet with that was a joke. Also, frequently encountered problems with the voice network in DC and no access in certain areas like Montana (so depends where you might be traveling). With Boost you paid the full price for the phone when you signed-up which is probably one reason the cost per month for use is lower.

  • I used to use Cricket for wireless internet and it is NOT actually unlimited (this also goes for their phone plans according to a customer service rep). I found this out after I signed up. Apparently you get a certain amount of minutes and then they put a stranglehold on your usage, so although you can still use it, it is really slow.

    I canceled it and got Comcast – it was the same price and never dropped. I had been too lazy to wait for someone to come and hook it up, and cricket lets you bypass that, but it was worth it in the end.

  • I just made the switch from Verizon to Virgin Mobile about 2 weeks ago and I’m so happy I did. I’m doing the $25/month plan – best deal ever.

    Just a tip: I got an Optimus V at Best Buy in CH and they set it all up for me. Plus if you buy it there instead of through Virgin Mobile directly, you can take advantage of the Best Buy 30 day return policy to make sure you really like the device/service. If you don’t like it, since there is no contract, you’ll only be out the $25 dollar service charge, and can return the device to Best Buy for a refund. Really a no-lose situation, I thought.

  • I have been using Pageplus Cellular for some time! It uses the Verizon towers, so I get great reception. I pay $29.95 for 1200 minutes and 1200 texts plus data! No other hidden fees or taxes. You can also get an unlimited talk and text plan for $44.95.

    Pageplus Cellular

    They don’t have the best phones, but you can use any unlocked Verizon phone. I use a Samsung i760 with a qwerty keyboard. Samsung i760

    What I love about it, is that you can move from plan to plan. 1200 one month, unlimited another month or just the basic plan.

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