This post was written by Abdel Ibrahim of The Tech Block, and is shared here with permission. The Tech Block is a site that finds and promotes the most important tech articles and news from around the web, serving them up on a single clean, colorful page. Check them out, and follow @TheTechBlock on Twitter. You can also follow the author Abdel at @abdophoto .
Remember when your cellphone bill was $30–$40 a month? If you do, you probably weren’t using a smartphone.
It’s no surprise that our phone bills have increasingly become more expensive over the past decade. Today, you can’t really own a smartphone unless you’re willing to shell out at least $70 a month. And even then, it usually means that you’re making some sacrifices to your data plan, your minutes, or your text messages.
I wanted to figure out how to own a smartphone, and pay as little as possible to use it without worrying about overages. After digging around I figured out a way that costs only $30 and gives me unlimited everything. Yes, that’s right. Unlimited talk, text, and data. How did I do it? Read on and find out.
Here’s what you’re going to need:
- T-Mobile prepaid plan
- Google Voice
- Talk-a-tone app
The first, and arguably the most important part of achieving this is the actual plan, which is where T-Mobile comes in. What many of you probably don’t know is that T-Mobile offers a $30 a month pre-paid plan that includes unlimited data, texts, and 100 minutes. Keep in mind that they only promise 4G/LTE for the first 5GB of usage, but for me that’s fine. I’m usually within Wi-Fi and in the 6+ years of owning a smartphone, I’ve never really went over 5GB.
The second ingredient needed is a Google Voice number. Google Voice serves two purposes: First, it allows you to have a phone number that’s carrier agnostic. By having a phone number hosted by Google, you can forward any number to call your
Google Voice number. In fact, you can port your current number over to Google Voice if you want – something I did. Just be aware that if you do that, and you’re under contract, you’ll have to pay your current carrier an early termination fee. Google does a good job explaining this in their video. I’ve embedded it below.
The second reason for Google Voice relates to the third piece of the puzzle: Talk-a-tone. Talk-a-tone is an app that allows you to log in into your Google Voice account to make calls and send texts over Wi-Fi or data without using minutes. The app doesn’t have the best UI, and I’ve had calls break up a couple of times, but overall it gets the job done. What’s cool is that if you’re using an iPhone and you’re running iOS 7, you can further reduce your need for Talk-a-tone by using FaceTime audio with your other iOS buddies. Where Talk-a-tone really comes in for me is when I need to make a regular phone call to a non-iOS device (not very often).
There is one small caveat to going this route and that’s in the cost of the phone itself. If you’re going to go this route, you’re likely going to have to buy a phone off-contract. For iPhone users that means spending a minimum of $549 if you want a 5c and $649 or you want a 5s. For Android users, there are some great options out there. You can pay $599 for a Google Play Edition HTC One or S4, or you can buy Google’s flagship Nexus phones which start at $249. The Nexus 5 isn’t too far away and if Google prices the phone the same way they did the Nexus 4, then you’re in business.
I’ve been doing this for the past 3 months and I have nothing but good things to say. I live in a well-covered T-Mobile area and I tend to get roughly 20mb/s down and 12mb/s up. For $30 a month it’s hard for me to complain.