Since moving back to Bainbridge from Berlin, I have been on the lookout for a new handy. In Berlin, I had a Motorola Milestone (aka Droid in the US) and Vodafone Callya prepaid without a contract that docked me a mere 15 euros monthly for unlimited data but charged alot for each phone call and SMS. This was a good arrangement for me since I don’t make many calls on my phone. My monthly handy bill was around 25 euros.
Fast forward to Bainbridge. I had sold my Milestone in Berlin because I wasn’t entirely happy with its clunky hardware and keyboard, its ridiculously short battery life, and its tendency to heat up with use. Looking for a new phone and plan, I eventually discovered that it makes no sense at all to buy a phone outright and use it on a prepaid account, especially since I will be in the US for more than two years.
Skip ahead to follow my thought process this month which you may find useful or help me sanity check before I go ahead and order this, but here is what I think is the best deal for us (yes, my wife and I want identical phones this time around) on the market today.
- T-Mobile Family Classic 1000 minutes/2GB Unlimited Data Plan with two Samsung Galaxy S G4 phones for $100 monthly, $70 one-time activation, and $200 for the two phones
The two next-best options we considered:
- T-Mobile Individual Value 500 minutes/2GB Unlimited Data Plan and sim card for $45 monthly, $35 one-time activation and our own phones acquired via Craigslist for ~$175
- T-Mobile Individual Classic 500 minutes/2GB Unlimited Data with Samsung Galaxy S G4 for $60 monthly, $35 one-time activation, and $99 for the phone
In case you are curious, I saved the shopping carts for these three options in PDF format at T-Mobile Plan Options as of 1 September 2011.
Unfortunately I am still paralyzed by the idea that the Samsung Galaxy SII, which was announced only on Tuesday this week, will become available in the immediate future. Arrgh.
Update 23 September: I decided to wait for the SII and have gone out to get a prepaid T-Mobile sim card to use with my old blackberry in the meantime. Now waiting for the announcement that I can go pick up the SII – hopefully sooner rather than later, since I am heading to Nigeria in a few weeks and would like to take it with me!
Irritation Part 1: Choosing a Carrier
My options were limited at the outset by my need for a GSM phone that I can use with local SIM cards when traveling in Europe and Africa. That immediately knocked Verizon and the budget carriers on the Sprint network off my list, despite some very nice phones and pricing options at Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. Irritating. (thank you cnet.com for your handy explanation of the different technologies used by various carriers)
Between the remaining choices, it didn’t take me very long to choose T-Mobile over AT&T given the difference in pricing and that T-Mobile does not start charging once a bandwidth limit has been reached. Coming from Europe I really did not like the prospect of paying AT&T through the nose after reaching a bandwidth limit, nor paying alot of money for bandwidth to avoid this. I am much more comfortable with the idea of my connection being throttled if I hit my 2GB limit as offered by T-Mobile. I don’t really expect to reach it anyway given how I use smartphones.
Irritation Part 2: Choosing a Phone
Now that I’ve chosen my carrier, the irritation truly begins: what phone do I get? I’m looking for a plain vanilla Android phone with long battery life, a big and bright screen that’s easy to navigate and type on, good sound through headphones and reasonable sound through in-built speakers, plenty of memory and a speedy processor. I also want it to simply work – the Motorola Milestone tended to crash on me and I had to send it in multiple to times to fix a random reboot problem.
The carriers all sell basically the same phones, but with a bewildering array of names and slight to major differences in looks, accessories and features. The tech blogs, especially Engadget, help with this navigating them through their reviews, and there are also a plethora of YouTube videos reviewing and comparing phones – though of course not always the T-Mobile version of them. Even so it is not always easy to understand what you’re looking at. Eventually I settled on the Samsung Galaxy S G4, which I had seen friends using in Berlin and which appeared to be very well reviewed all around and considered to be a fairly amazing device.
Irritation Part 3: Choosing a plan and realizing that owning your own phone is pointless
It took me a while to let go of the idea that I want to own my own phone outright as I did in Berlin. The prepaids are very costly in the long run and most don’t work on GSM anyway and have no SIM cards. Then looking at the plans it doesn’t make logical or economical sense to buy the phone to use with a T-Mobile plan.
Just this week I have been negotiating with a neighbor on Bainbridge to buy her Samsung Galaxy S G4, which initially she had posted on Craigslist for $400. Initially this seemed a good idea, but then when I sat down and did the math I realized that it would cost less and be less risky to just buy the phone through T-Mobile. Here’s what I wrote to her:
I’ve also been doing some more research and see that the galaxy s 4g is $100 with a two-year plan on t-mobile.com, which would allow me to unlock my phone so I can use it in Europe.
Here’s my math:
- T-mobile Value plan with own Galaxy S G4: $35 setup + $45 monthly for two years = $1,115
- T-mobile Individual plan and Galaxy S G4: $99 phone + $35 setup + $60 monthly for two years = $1,575
Anyway, you probably don’t need all this thinking aloud but the long and short of it for me is that I’d be willing to pay $150 cash now for your phone to give up on the deals above and own the phone outright. I could come over anytime today.
She went for it and offered it to me for $175 including a few extra accessories. I’m glad she wasn’t available yesterday because later I realized that this just doesn’t make any sense. I’d only save a few hundred bucks with this deal over the course of two years and then would probably have trouble dealing with T-Mobile later in case there is a problem with the phone and when it comes time to unlock it to use it with another carrier in Europe or Africa.
Irritation Part 4 and why I still haven’t signed up: Samsung announces the Galaxy S2
The Samsung Galaxy S2 has been in circulation in Europe and Asia (and probably Africa too, come to think of it) for months already and has been dubbed the best smartphone on the planet by quite a few reviewers. Its entry into the US market was announced on Tuesday and indeed appears to be an amazing device. The only problem? The release date and pricing for T-Mobile has not been announced, though various sites are spreading rumours that it will be available at the end of September or in October for about $200.