In my last post, I talked about using an Andriod smartphone as a WiFi device . But that still leaves us carrying another phone so we can talk and text when we don’t have access to WiFi. So lets fix that. In the process, we can dump our expensive phone company, their expensive plans and long-term contracts. Instead, I’m on a $12/mo plan from PagePlus Cellular that more than meets my needs.
The first thing you need to do is find a new provider. There are companies like Cricket that have their own networks and you will have to take care that you can get decent coverage in your area. But you will probably be much better off going with a major network reseller like PagePlus a Verizon reseller or Boost a Sprint reseller. PagePlus seems to have the best deals around, but it is not by any means the only option out there.
Your choice of providers will depend on what type of phone you have. The easiest transition will be to use a Verizon phone on a Verizon reseller or Sprint phone with a Sprint reseller etc. These will be able to be programmed OTA (over the air). The resellers don’t seem to mind if your phone has a bad ESN on the network they are reselling. But I can’t guarantee that will always be the case.
You can put a Sprint phone on a Verizon reseller or vice versa because they are both CDMA networks. But the phones will have to be unlocked and flashed. You can’t mix the two types of technologies CDMA (Verizon, Sprint, MetroPCS) and GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile).
Unlocking and flashing your phone can be a DIY job if you are technically savvy. But for $30-40, it is probably better left to a technician. Your new provider will probably help you find a service center in your area.
Now we’ve got a phone set up with limited minutes, text and data. The next step is to get unlimited calling and text when we are on WiFi. There are a variety of services that allow you to make low cost VOIP calls to regular phones, including Skype and Tango. But keeping with the frugal theme, we are going to be using Google Voice because it gives us free calling to any number in the US and Canada.
If you have fulfilled your contract with your current cell provider, you can port your current number over to Google Voice. Google will charge you $20 to do this and it will cancel your current cell service. If you are still under contract, you will most likely need to sign up for a new Google Voice number (free). You can then add your new phone number (from your PagePlus or whoever your new provider is) and optionally your home and work numbers too, to your Google Voice account. Once it is configured you can send and receive calls and text over WiFi when it is available and have them routed to your cell number when it is not.
The 10MB of data that comes with the PagePlus plan isn’t going to allow you to jog around the neighborhood listening to Pandora. But it is enough to occasionally check your email or do a few lookups when out and about. But you will have to be sure that you disable mobile data when you aren’t using it. Otherwise apps running in the background will use up all of your data. You can get an app like Quick Settings that lets you easily turn mobile data off and on.