Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Priorities: do I need a phone?

As part of our budget cuts at work, I'm losing my cell phone. I've enjoyed having a phone for which I didn't have to pay; limiting my personal calls on it was a small price to pay. Before my phone goes away at the end of the month, I need to make a decision about what to replace it with. On the extremely cool side, an iPhone would be nice; it's also got the added advantage that, if I take over the number and change service, the company won't have to pay the early cancellation fee ($175) for ditching our phones before the contract ends (this is true if I get any AT&T phone, not just an iPhone). On the down side, I can afford neither the phone nor the minimum monthly service plan. In the middle, every cellular carrier charges roughly $50/month for a plan with text messaging and a minimum number of talk minutes. On the cheap end, prepaid wireless can be as cheap as $30 a month, with text messaging; Virgin Wireless seems to be the best deal with coverage in Indy.

But $30 a month still seems a bit expensive. I'm considering going with Option Z: ditching my phone altogether. I'm trying to decide how necessary a cell phone is these days. It's useful, certainly. It's convenient. But is it mandatory, in 2009, to have a phone with me at all times? I don't have an answer for that; I don't know when extreme convenience transitions into actual necessity. I suspect a bigger problem than my personal need for a phone, would be the fact that everyone else expects me to have a phone. It's tempting to go phoneless for a while, just to see how much trouble it is....

3 comments:

David said...

My last job came with a phone and I got used to having it for free. When I changed jobs to one that didn't come with a phone, I went to a "pay-as-you-go" plan since I pretty much only ever call Meredith. The nice thing about this is that, although I pay more per-minute than a contract plan, I pay less overall. And if there's a period where I'm not making many calls (like when we travel together) I'm not coughing up a monthly fee for service I'm not using. Plus, I can just stop paying for it whenever I want, should it come to that.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

I'm debating my options. Text messaging is probably as important as making calls; if there were a text-only phone plan for cheap, that would be extremely tempting. I'm also considering pre-paid cellular, but most of those don't have texting plans; you can text, but you pay (a lot) by the message.

I'm definitely leaning towards the no-contract plans. I'm not sure how easily we'll be able to afford the phone, and I want to be able to cancel it without taking a hosing....

NerfSmuggler said...

Having no cell service in my town, I went without a cell phone until 2005. There is certainly an expectation that 'everyone' has a cell phone and meeting someone somewhere in the city is suddenly a hassle if you can't both use cell-phones. I expect this is some visceral fear of being stood-up that makes people so put out if you're phone-less. In an emergency, since everyone has a cell-phone you can usually borrow one easily.

AT&T actually has a text-only iPhone and plane, but it is restricted to people with hearing disabilities. I would imagine they're getting money or tax-rebate per phone that they provide to the deaf, and you might be able to pay that amount, but I wouldn't count on it, and it's still not cheap.

It looks like a number of deaf people are recently looking for text-only plans, but not finding many. This kind of underscores how ubiquitous texting has become.

AT&T carries a variety of Pantech phone which have a full-ish keyboards for cheap, and you might be able to get a re-reimbursement from work for at least part of the cancellation fee you saved them from.