AH Primetime: How Did You Pick Your Carrier?

May 9, 2013 - Written By Benjamin Commet

My journey through US carriers has been rather atypical. I have never had a contract, nor have I ever had a phone “subsidized” in the traditional sense of the word. I have encountered more than my fair share of sub-par phone services. These experiences have helped me find the best plan for me, and hopefully you as well. So lets dive right in to the our messed up carrier system.

For starters, a quick disclaimer. While I’ve heard tales of magical European paradises where people actually get that subsidized phones are bad deals and service rates are fair. Awful Tales of regions to the north where three year contracts, (so sorry thunderbolt purchasers) and expensive 500 Mb plans are the norm have also reached me. Sadly I have little experience with the carriers outside of the US. So rest of the world please feel free to mock some of the more ridiculous things our carriers do here.

My very first phone was an LG Tracfone. It had a cool little slide out dialpad and I got 600 minutes every 3 months. A text cost 1/3 of a minute and web access was supposed to cost a ludicrous half minute a minute. This phone would probably have been torturous to use, excepting the fact that somehow my phone had unlimited free internet access(not a typical experience!). I didn’t cause the glitch so I reasoned I could just run with it. I spent hours reading articles on that 1.8 inch screen and actually learned of android through it. However, that is a story for another time. How do I feel about Tracfones you might ask? Well they are an excellent first phone, odds are if you are reading this article you hit that milestone some time ago and Tracfone service would be a painful experience for you.

Second on the list was Virgin Mobile. After looking through plans, including contracted options, for months we were finally able to convince our parents that we should switch plans. We got on the plan back when Virgin Mobile was just $25 dollars a month for 300 minutes, unlimited text and web access (the same plan has since been upped to $35.) While a step up from tracphone in most ways there were problems. Virgin Mobile shared Sprint’s agonizing 3g network. The slow speeds on that network are legendary and unexagerated, 400kbs was a fantastic result in our area. An area where competitors networks regularly get between five and ten Mbs on their 3g networks. Texts would disappear only to resend a day later, somehow always managing to insert themselves into the conversation at just the wrong time.

Virgin Mobile even would randomly stop working for a day or more at a time. Finally I decided I had had enough, my optimus v (LG’s phones on Virgin Mobile were pretty good) had been through a lot. Overclocking, swimming in the polluted Grand River and countless cringe-inducing drops. I saw no point in getting another Virgin phone as I would even lose my grandfathered $25 dollar a month plan if I got a new one. My timing was ,the Nexus 4 was just releasing and I prepared to start my mobile life again!


So I waited up all night to order the Nexus 4 and somehow got mine delivered just one week after they went up for sale, because, well,  I’m just lucky I guess! I had ordered a T-Mobile SIM after hearing nothing but good, and hopped onto the $30 a month plan. With this I get unlimited HSPA+ web, texting and 100 minutes of calling. The calling wouldn’t be nearly enough if it weren’t for Skype. Skype has a 3 dollar a month option that allows unlimited calling to cells and landlines. I use this on my laptop as well as my cell phone and it more than takes care of my occasional voice needs. I get consistent 5 to 10 Mbs download speeds, fast enough to stream HD video. Overall I get essentially perfect service on a nexus phone for only $33 a month.

T-Mobile obviously won’t work for everyone. They’re coverage in rural areas is notoriously spotty. Heck they barely have service in many cities on the west side of Michigan. So my question for you is, are you happy with your carrier? How did you come to be with the company you are now?  I’m very curious to see how others ended up with their carriers! Let me know your story in the comments down below!