How I Got A Smartphone (Or How I left Verizon and learned to love Ting)

LG Chocolate Touch - the phone I will be talking about in this paragraph
LG Chocolate Touch – the phone I will be talking about in this paragraph

Around three or so years ago I was ready to get a new cell phone. My phone was no longer maintaining a charge and a new battery was more than the nearly free phone I could get by renewing my contract. Smart phones had been around for a few years, but I didn’t want a smart phone. I just wanted a phone with a decent camera. I absolutely love my dSLR; it helps me take the best photos I’m capable of taking. But I rarely have it with me unless I know I will be going somewhere I want to be able to take photos; I always have my cell phone. I spent an hour in the Verizon store finding just the right phone – it looked and behaved like a smart phone (for the most part) and it had a great camera compared to my dying phone. I got the phone and the agent told me I’d need to get a data plan. I informed him that I didn’t want one. He told me about all the functionality I’d be missing. I didn’t care. This phone did what I wanted – it made phone calls and it took nice photos for a point and shoot. OK, he did some wrangling on his computer and told me the data plan was removed. I fought with verizon every time a bill arrived because the system kept adding a data plan. Eventually, I was told I couldn’t have it without a data plan and so I got rid of the phone.

It’s been extremely annoying to watch the number of feature phones on the market dwindle. I know I’m a minority when it comes to phones. But a data plan is an idiotic thing for me to pay for. My employer, as was the case when I worked for Proctor and Gamble, is afraid of industrial espionage so I cannot take my phone into the building. When I get home I have wifi, a tablet, two computers, and a couple laptops. I have no need for a data plan. I’m not the type of person to pay for stuff I don’t need just to be flashy. I like to spend my money on things I’m actually going to use.

It’s just baffling to me that the phone companies are allowed to require data plans with the purchase of a smart phone. Surely there are others like me or even people who are in a tough financial spot who would like to just use their smart phone features at home on their wifi (or in public hot spots).

Somewhere between 6 months and a year ago I was talking to my sister-in-law’s boyfriend about my smart phone predicament. He told me that T Mobile had phones with data plans for the same price that I was paying just for voice on Verizon. My first ever cell phone was a T Mobile and while they weren’t great, I certainly hadn’t left with any animosity. But, unfortunately, while their coverage was great for him in Long Island, it sucked here in Maryland. Around that time the commandline podcast mentioned Ting so I decided to check it out.

Finally, here was a cell phone company that understood the pricing model I wanted! Ting is a post-paid cell phone company. What I always hated about pre-paid plans were that they charged a lot for their minutes and you lost them if you didn’t use them. Instead, Ting just bills you for the minutes you use each month. Well, to be perfectly accurate, they have different buckets of minutes, data, and texts. You get billed based on which bucket you fall into. It sounded awesome, but at the time two things stopped me. First off, it’s a Spring MVNO and I wasn’t sure how good the network would be. Second, I had to get a cell phone at a non-contract price. So I didn’t do anything at the time.

Fast forward to now when we just got rid of Verizon FiOS. It’s not because FiOS sucked. Overall I was really happy with FiOS. But Comcast was having a two year promotion that would allow us to pay half what I was paying with FiOS. And I’d rather pay half price for a barely noticeable degradation in service. And so I decided to do the same with cell service. Even with the cost of breaking my contract with Verizon and the cost of a smart phone, I’ll be saving money every month within six months.

To be clear, it’s really two factors causing me to leave Verizon. The most important is that Ting charges me for what I use. Because I’m at work all day and no one talks to me at night, I’m losing money for my unlimited minutes on Verizon (unlimited Verizon to Verizon and unlimited nights and weekends). If Verizon came out with a competitive post paid plan, I’d probably stay with them because I know it works fine for me – I pretty much never have dropped calls. But the second factor is that I want a smart phone. I don’t want to have to carry a music player, a camera, and a phone. I want to have one device that does all that. And I will have my dSLR when that’s important or my music player when I’m working out. When I’m at home with free wifi I want to be able to use the phone plugged into my sound system to play from Google Music. I want to be able to see my Google Calendar at a glance. And if I want to use a little bit of data on the weekends, I can do that for only $3 a month instead of the $30 or more that Verizon would charge on top of my voice plan.

I should have had my phone for a few days when this post comes out. I want to play with it a bit and see how well the voice works. I want to play with setting up VOIP over wifi so that when I’m home I can use even less voice minutes to save even MORE money. I’ll have to see how well the quality is with that. So I won’t be porting my number right away, I’ll keep both phones running at once. If I find Ting to be as good an experience as I expect it to be, I’ll make another post with the referral link. Ting gives both the referrer and the referred $25 off a phone or their bill via the referral link so it’s win-win! Keep an eye out for that.

5 responses to “How I Got A Smartphone (Or How I left Verizon and learned to love Ting)”

  1. I’m still on my family’s plan – and we’re all now on smartphones. Sprint has an extra $10 charge for smartphones – in addition to having a data plan (something about using more data than non-smartphone data users). Kind of ridiculous, especially for my mom who uses very little data (excepting text messages).

    But for me as a traveler, I’m heavily reliant on my smartphone and data plan. I use >1GB/month, and that’s without streaming videos or music. I actually often end up using my phone more than my laptop at home and at my hotels at night. So I just assume my usage kinda makes up for anyone else in the family not using theirs 🙂

    • Yeah, I think there are a lot of use cases where it makes sense for people – like travelers. Traditional plans have just never made sense for me and I was glad for Ting’s plan

  2. Recent TING subscriber myself – been happy with the service thus far. Have a similar data usage minimization strategy – a small hassle to end up with a $12 / month phone bill (on a real smartphone, not some TracPhone POS).

    For anyone interested, here is a $25 off TING referral code: