The time has come to once again begin contemplating the finer points of cell phones, plans, coverage, and pricing. For the past 6 years my wife and I have shared a Verizon family plan with my parents, who live in Virginia. At this point we were ready to consider all of the various possibilities when it comes to cell phones, so you know what that means … research! If there’s one thing I get into it’s researching options. I figured that since I’ve put so much time and energy into this it would only be appropriate to share some of my findings with you.
Just a quick bit of background about where we’re starting from. As I said we are currently on a family plan with my parents, as we have been for the past 6 years. For the past two years we’ve been using Motorola e815′s, which we’ve been very pleased with. They were the last phones Verizon sold before they started putting their own proprietary menu system on all their phones. They’ve been great phones, and they have most all of the features that are common on phones even today (bluetooth, microSD slot, and so forth.)
We have also been pleased with our service with Verizon, so we don’t really feel like we need to switch to another carrier. We are planning on dropping the land-line at our home, since we will finally be getting local Indiana numbers on our cell phones. Between my starting a new job and us getting rid of our house phone line we’ll have a little money to spend than the $30 a month we have been for the past two years, but we don’t want to go overboard.
Carriers and Plans
Even though we’ve had a good experience with Verizon we were willing to look at other cell phone providers in the interest of getting the best price and service. I looked into Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and more. I found that most all of them had the same basic pricing structure for their plans. The main differences were in the special aspects of their plans and their coverage.
T-Mobile has their “5 Faves”, Sprint has early nights and weekends, AT&T has rollover, and Verizon has “in.” Each of these has its advantages, but more than those I am interested in getting good coverage both in town and when we’re traveling. Since we both still have family in Virginia we wanted a carrier that would give us good coverage here, there, and all points in between. I know Verizon is good for this, so I started checking out the coverage maps of the other providers. Of these others, AT&T was the only one that seemed to come close to the coverage we’ve gotten with Verizon.
I’m looking at getting a Blackberry, and all carriers charge an additional monthly fee for Blackberry service. Most all carriers charge $29.99 a month in addition to the price you pay for the main voice plan. T-Mobile was the exception to this, charging $19.99/month. With regards to voice plans all the major carriers were within spittin’ distance of one another when it came to minutes and pricing structures. There are differences, but overall it is pretty much a wash.
I’ve been thinking for a while now that I might want a Blackberry. I’ve carried various sorts of PDAs over the years, with varying success. I have a feeling this was in part due to the fact that older PDAs were sometimes of questionable reliability and versatility. The other half of the equation is that I never really needed the functionality provided by such devices. I think that a “convergence device” like a Blackberry, that includes cell phone abilities, constant internet connectivity, text messaging, and all of the PDA functions, would be much more useful than my previous trials with more limited devices.
Having been with Verizon for so long I have gotten used to having a somewhat limited selection of phones when compared to some other carriers. Verizon and Sprint use a different cellular technology (known as CDMA) than other carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and others around the world (called GSM.) Though Blackberries are available on most all networks, there has historically been about a 1 year lag time between new Blackberry models coming out on the GSM networks and their later release on CDMA. As I researched what Blackberry model I liked best I settled on the relatively new Blackberry Curve. It has been out for over a year on GSM networks, and as I began researching phones it had not yet been released on Verizon and Sprint. Thankfully, within the last month or so both carriers have since made them available.
I like the Curve because it has a nice large screen for messaging, managing appointments, and so on. It also has a full keyboard, like a miniaturized computer keyboard, so it is much easier to type out text messages and emails. It’s relatively small compared to other smartphones so it’s not as unweildy as some when it comes to actually using it as a phone. Another reason I’ve settled on a Blackberry is because there is a vast number of 3rd party applications available, and it’s more widely established and supported than Windows Mobile devices or the oh-so-glitzy Apple iPhone.
My wife had previously been eyeballing the LG VX8350, a nice, music-capable phone (on Verizon) that has recieved some very good reviews. As I was researching phones I ran across another phone I thought she might like and she immediately fell in love with it. The phone is an LG enV2, which is considered a “messaging phone.” It’s not quite a smartphone, but it’s more than just a basic phone. The enV2 has a clamshell design that hinges open to reveal a full keyboard and a second, larger display inside. Though neither of us have done a lot of text messaging in the past, she likes the design of the phone so much that it won her over anyway. This is especially true since I will have a phone that will make it easier for texting back and forth with each other. Additionally it has music-phone features, great battery life, and a sturdy design, which add up to a very compelling feature set. Like the VX8350 it too has recieved good reviews.
There were a few factors that ultimately factored into our final decision. With me wanting a Blackberry I could go to just about any carrier and pretty much get the same phone. However, with my wife really liking the enV2, Verizon was looking more likely. As I mentioned coverage was a big factor, and Verizon was on top there as well. Unsurprisingly, cost was another consideration. We have been able to save a lot of money the past few years by sharing a plan with my parents.
The last time we renewed our plan we were already in Indiana and checked about changing our numbers over to local Indiana numbers. At the time the folks at Verizon said it wasn’t possible to have one plan with phones numbers from both Indiana and Virginia on it. Since we are really ready to switch our numbers over to local numbers now we were thinking that we wouldn’t be able to share a plan with them. Though we knew this would mean paying more for a plan it would allow us to drop our land line and save some money to use towards the increased cost.
This all changed as I was reading through some Verizon literature I got from a local reseller. In one little paragraph it mentioned exactly what we hoped to do – sharing a family plan with family in other areas of the country with everyone having local numbers to where they live. And so I called up the Verizon telephone sales number and asked them about it. According to him not only is what we would need possible, but it’s quite easily accomplished. So that hurdle that I previously anticipated no longer existed.
By continuing to share a plan with them we could upgrade to a plan that includes unlimited text messaging to anyone on any network for less than we would pay for basic cell phone service alone on our own. All of this gave Verizon a distinct advantage as we prepared to make a final decision on what to do.
At this point we’re planning in the next couple weeks to check into any additional discounts we might be able to get and figuring out exactly when to take the leap to renew our contract for another two years, purchase new phones, finally get Indiana cell numbers, cancel our land-line phone service, and have our DSL switched over to a new package that doesn’t require a land-line.
It’s been a circuitous path to end up back where I started, with Verizon, but I feel that having done all of this research I can do so with confidince. I know that we’ll be getting good coverage, phones we like, services we will use (like unlimited in-network calling and unlimited texting), and as good a price as we would be able to find.
I don’t know how informative or helpful this lengthy post will be for anyone else, but I think this has been an experience worth sharing. I expect that as we get our new phones and so forth that I’ll write a couple posts about my experiences with a Blackberry. I’ve promised my wife that I will not become a “crackberry” addict and I’ve given her full permission to point out if I am doing so. I give the rest of you the permission to do the same. If I start to show symptoms … please encourage me to seek professional help!