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Researching Cell Phone Plans

When number portability became widespread and available to all, I’ve been switching cell phone carriers every year so I can get a new free cell phone, maybe some cash back, and the joy of another one year contract. My first cell phone carrier was Sprint, my second was T-Mobile, and my current, and longest running carrier, is AT&T Wireless/Cingular. Of the three, T-Mobile had the best customer service (drop call credits!), Sprint had the best coverage, and AT&T Wireless has the worst customer service ever. But… it’s been over a year so I’m scouring the Amazon.com Free After Rebate plans for a hot deal. The only downside though is the number portability problem with Amazon.com deals for some carriers.

Here is Amazon.com’s number portability instruction page [3]. A critical point to realize is that for Cingular, the number portability “process makes you ineligible for the Amazon.com rebates.” Also, in order to be eligible you have to be a new activation which for some means you couldn’t have been a customer for that carrier in the last three to six months (usually not a problem). Another consideration is whether your employer gives you a discount – I get 17% off my bill on Cingular, 15% off Nextel and T-Mobile, and 19% off Sprint and Verizon.

At first I thought that my decision was among the four other carriers but actually I just remembered (with some help from the news) that Sprint acquired Nextel. So until that shakes out I won’t know what their offers really will be… plus I don’t know how good service will be for each carrier until I can poll my friends. Regardless, I can still check out phones.

The Motorola i850 Phone [4] looks awesome and I’m a huge fan of Motorola flip-phones. It has color display, a stupid camera, and Nextel’s walkie-talking service. A huge factor in cell phones is size and I right now have an ultra light Samsung SGH-X426 which has the same dimensions and weighs an ounce less. The weight isn’t a big deal but the size is key since I don’t wear a stupid belt clip and just throw the phone in my pocket. One downside about it, and all Nextel rebates, is that you need a 2-year contract.
Sprint: Nothing – there isn’t a single “rebate-able” phone on all of Amazon’s site. Could be because of the impending acquisition…
The Motorola RAZR V3 Phone [5] looks phat and I want it (no rebate now but they have one all the time). It’s a little bigger than my current phone but apparently it’s the sick new phone out there. I’ve always been a fan of T-Mobile service and so I’d gladly go back. One upside is that T-Mobile only requires a 1-year contract.
Yes sir, yet another Motorola flip phone… I like them, what can I say? Anyway, I saw the Motorola V710 Phone [6] before I got my Cingular plan and now there’s a cash back rebate so you get $25 (which almost covers the activation fee). There are other phones with more cash back ($75 for a Samsung A670 [7]) but I like the Motorola brand (there’s a LG too, but I’ve heard too many bad things about LG flip phones). The size of this thing is a little on the bigger side (compared to my last phone) but it is only a 1-year contract… so maybe this is a candidate.

I’ll have to figure out the number portability issue with regard to the Pennsylvania to Maryland move and whether the new carrier can handle it. A big problem is that when I call to ask, they always try to dissuade me from buying from Amazon (so they can make a commission of course), so I can’t get a straight answer from most carriers. Right now I’m paying $60 a month for two lines and never come close to using up my minutes – it’s a status quo I’m happy with. Maybe I shouldn’t mess with a good thing?