Smartphone in the US, choices?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ratzzo, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. ratzzo macrumors 6502a

    ratzzo

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Location:
    Madrid
    #1
    Hey guys,

    I am moving to Florida for one year (possibly more, but it's one for now) for studying purposes. Until now I have had an iPhone 4 on a low-cost European carrier which offers 1cent/min talk time and 7 eur/month for 1GB at 3G no contract... but I am quite aware these offers are pretty much nonexistent in the US so I come here to ask you:

    What plans can I get as a foreign student in the US? I have no sort of social security credit (I read this somewhere) so contracts, especially for two years, are pretty much off the table I guess. Since I have an iPhone, I suppose it's impossible to get 3G on anything bar AT&T which I believe are an incredibly well organized theft business- I read somewhere that 200MB of data costs 20$?! Plus the added plans of course, if they don't switch you to an even more expensive AT&T deal.

    So since apparently having an iPhone sucks in this way, and I hate being on 2G EDGE speeds, what other options do I have? I could just sell my iPhone and go on whatever you guys come up with. I am not used to paying so much so my monthly budget is somewhat around $50-60, I don't talk much and would rather text most of the time.

    So if you have managed to read up to here (thanks!) my goal is to have a decent connection with a smartphone that's not complete garbage at said monthly price range. I read of an offer from VZ $30 unlimited everything with added $200 for a Motorola device but I'm not sure that's for me.

    Any ideas? Thanks in advance, it's important since I have to get something by the time I get there to reach my peers!

    A confused student
     
  2. treestar macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2010
  3. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Location:
    new joisey
    #3
    go virgin mobile get a blackberry for 100, and 45 bucks unlimited everything
     
  4. ratzzo thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ratzzo

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Location:
    Madrid
    #4
    Thanks, but I was thinking of a more capable smartphone rather than a BB, I could just buy an unlocked something (up to $1000 on that front -- a droid or whatever works). What most concerns me is what carrier I could use without a 2 year contract since I'm not even going to stay there for that long yet. I heard T-Mobile offers some good stuff but some insight on that front would be appreciated, since I really don't know how plans work in the US. The problem is that I have got used to using an iPhone with good data speed and the only way to get some internet use out of it would be T-M's superslow 2G network.

    Thanks for the replies thus far :)
     
  5. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    Apr 5, 2010
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    new joisey
    #5
    the new line of blackberries just came out! check em out
     
  6. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Kentucky
    #6
  7. ratzzo thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ratzzo

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Location:
    Madrid
    #7
    Interesting article, cheers rusty. I'll take that option into consideration
     
  8. velocityg4, Aug 17, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011

    velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #8
    T-Mobile has some good month to month plans. I personally use an iPhone and EDGE is sufficient for me as I rarely use the internet for web browsing, just e-mail and the occasional Google map to find a business in my area. When I do browse web sites, which is rare, I am connected to a router.

    However, since you are open to buying a phone Sprint has a 4G unlimited* text, talk and data plan for $50 a month and it is a month to month plan, the * being that after 100MB the speed drops. For $70 they have the full unlimited 4G talk, text and data. Whether that is truly unlimited I do not know.

    You can then purchase an unlocked 4G Android or Windows Phone 7. Be sure that the unlocked phone will work at 3/4G speeds on T-Mobiles network before buying one. They do sell a few on their month to month page but there is not much selection. I do not know if they will sell you there plan phones at full price, unlocked and without a plan though it is doubtful. The HTC HD7 is $420 unlocked on Amazon.com.

    I would have pointed you to Sprint. However, they do not list any month to month plans on their web site.

    Edit: Whoops looks like the HTC HD7 is 3G. If you want 4G options there are Android phones to choose from.
     
  9. ratzzo thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ratzzo

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Location:
    Madrid
    #9
    Wow, thanks for that! Is Sprint CDMA? I was at Puerto Rico for a while and people with Sprint there didn't have a SIM card in their phones. What I mean with this is that, while your idea seems very, very interesting, if I am to get a phone like you outlined, will I have the chance to keep the phone once I return from Florida with another carrier's SIM in it?

    Regarding 4G, I am from the bunch who would much rather have a 3G phone :)

    Your help is very appreciated
     
  10. phantax macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    #10
    The only carriers in the US that use a SIM (apart from small regional carriers) are T-Mobile and AT&T, so if you intend to bring an unlocked phone over you are going to be limited to their pre-paid plans, and if you decide to go with T-Mobile you are going to be limited to EDGE speeds for data unless you get a phone made specifically for their network.

    So, if you can get your current phone unlocked, look at the AT&T GoPhone plans. Otherwise your best deal for the money is to get a Virgin Mobile phone and service.
     
  11. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    new joisey
    #11
    Go with virgin mobile for your needs
     
  12. CarlJ macrumors 68000

    CarlJ

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Location:
    San Diego, CA, USA
    #12
    Another thing to keep in mind, since you're looking for good data speeds (and it's probably this way because our phone carriers are so backwards), but WiFi is abundant in relatively built-up areas, like, say, university campuses. You'll probably find your campus will have quite a bit of free WiFi coverage for the students. As well, many of the coffee shops and such around the campus will offer WiFi to attract customers.

    I've been using a Verizon (CDMA) iPhone 4 quite heavily since it came out, and in 6 months have only used about 700 megabytes of cellular data, because everything else has been WiFi at home, at school, at various local establishments.

    This won't help with texting, since that's all GSM/CDMA (though when iOS 5 comes out in the fall with iMessages, "texts" that you send to other iPhone users will transparently go over data -- possibly WiFi -- instead of SMS) but where free WiFi is available, you'll get higher speeds than you'd ever get on 3G, without paying anything additional to the carrier.

    You could bring your GSM iPhone along and just use it as an iPod touch (e.g. for everything but calls and texts). If you can stomach carrying two devices, you might find yourself happy with your ersatz iPod touch and finding a cheap prepaid phone with a decent keypad for texting. Or find a prepaid plan that will let you use the SIM in your iPhone (BTW, you might be better off not pointing out to the company involved that you plan on moving the SIM from their supplied disposable phone to your iPhone). (And I'm using GSM here as shorthand for GSM/UMTS/etc.)

    Note that, although AT&T and T-Mobile both use GSM, they don't use all of the same frequencies, so I think there are some limitations here even in moving an iPhone from AT&T to T-Mobile. Something to watch for.

    Also, aside from the big-4 carriers here (Verizon[CMDA], AT&T[GSM], T-Mobile[GSM], Sprint[CMDA]), and some small regional carriers, most all the others are either subsidiaries of the big-4 (e.g. GoPhone from AT&T), or are MVNOs, who piggyback on the big-4's networks (e.g. Boost & Virgin on Sprint, TracFone on everyone). Wikipedia has a good list of US cellphone service providers and I came across prepaidreviews.com via Google - nicely gathers things in one place, but I have no idea if the authors are paid to drive traffic towards one carrier or another.

    In general, Verizon and AT&T are the "top dogs", with better/wider coverage and so don't give much in the way of discounts, while T-Mobile and Sprint offer better deals because they really need the customers, and their coverage might be a bit more spotty -- though it may be totally fine in all the areas you'll visit (also, T-Mobile is likely to get folded into AT&T eventually).

    Oh, also, most of the big carriers offer some sort of "corporate" discount to employees at large companies, students at schools, etc. (I suspect they do it to get the contract for company-supplied phones, i.e. "we'll handle all your corporate phones&service for X amount, oh, and we'll throw in a 5-10% discount for your employees on their personal service, to sweeten the deal"). So check with the school you'll be attending to see what the carriers may offer them (often it's handled through the campus bookstore).

    If you're extra curious, the place to find more information about (primarily US) cellphones and networks is HowardForums. It's a bit like taking a drink from the proverbial firehose, but there is a LOT of good information to be found there -- a lot of people who work in the industry hang out there (from the guy who sells handsets in the carrier's retail shop and knows the ins-and-outs of carriers plans and when model X is coming out, all the way to high-end techs who design and troubleshoot cellular networks for a living).

    You may also want to try finding and poking around on any web forums that cater to the school you'll be attending, to find out from students there what works best -- often it's common knowledge among the residents of an area that network A works better than networks B/C/D in that town. Or that info could also come from HowardForums (or Facebook/Twitter/whatever).
     
  13. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #13
    Since Sprint is CDMA it won't be usable. Which is why I just mentioned them in passing. My main emphasis was on T-Mobile due to sim support. Since you are fine with 3G then I would definitely look at the HTC HD7 I mentioned and use it with Sprint. It is listed as a T-Mobile and world phone so I assume it handles standard 3G frequencies and the 1800Mhz of T-Mobile.

    The little I have used WP7 is that it is well done. I find the Android interface to be clumsy. It is not at all intuitive, elegant or fluid.
     
  14. ratzzo, Aug 18, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2011

    ratzzo thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ratzzo

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Location:
    Madrid
    #14
    Thanks guys you have all been very helpful. I will just find another phone and work with either TMobile or Verizon depending on what I actually get. Once again, I appreciate the replies, as it's not easy to investigate into all choices from abroad :)

    Looking back, I mean GoPhone or TMobile, unless I get a CDMA choice for vVirgin (sprints sidekick)

    As a part of my ongoing investigation, this plan seems pretty cool http://www.mysimplemobile.com/ProductDetail_ReUp.aspx?id=70
    Uses TMobile's network and charges you for 2G instead of 3G since you can't even get 3G on the iPhone anyway. This will do if/when I get the W7 HTC. Weird though, since on the actual TMobile site this same plan includes 100MB 4G speed and then throttles (dont know if to 2 or 3G though). http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans
     

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