Best plan if you're a talker and texter

Last reviewed: January 2011
January 2011 issue cover This article appeared in
January 2011 Consumer Reports Magazine.
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Illustration of a woman holding a smart phone
Illustration by Eva Tatcheva

You use your phone fairly frequently but rarely to surf the Web or for e-mail.

A so-called feature phone

It has a QWERTY keyboard for easy typing, a Web browser, and multimedia capability but not the integrated multiple e-mail accounts and countless apps of a smart phone. Many feature phones scored high in our cell-phone Ratings (available to subscribers). With some, you're required to add a monthly data plan or a messaging plan if you sign a contract. With others, you're not obliged to add anything. Choose a phone that won't require you to pay for add-ons that you won't use.

A talk and texting plan

The average consumer uses about 700 voice minutes per month per line and sends 700 texts. Good options include T-Mobile and some smaller, no-contract carriers. The best stack up well against the big names for voice and text service and cost less. But you might have to buy more minutes than with a contract plan, which usually includes "free" nights and weekends, in-network mobile-to-mobile, and calling-list minutes. Most no-contract plans charge for every minute.

Want mostly texting? There are slim pickings. Forget Verizon's Nationwide Messaging Plan with No Voice Minutes, which costs $35 to $55 a month, plus 25 to 40 cents a minute. Instead, try T-Mobile's $15 Prepaid Monthly Unlimited Text plan with 10-cent-a-minute voice or Virgin Mobile's $25 Beyond Talk 300, with unlimited texting, e-mail, data, and Web.

Smart choices include:

  • These T-Mobile contract plans: Even More Talk + Text 500 for an individual ($50 a month) or couple ($80 a month). For a family, Even More Family Talk + Text 1500 for four lines ($110 per month). For the phone, one of several Samsung models that fared well in our Ratings, including the Gravity T ($75 with a two-year contract) and the Comeback (free).
  • Straight Talk All You Need ($30 per month per line). (We don't have a tested phone to recommend for this plan.)
  • Cricket Wireless Basic $35 ($35 per month for the first line, $30 for each additional line). (We don't have a tested phone to recommend for this plan.)
  • Consumer Cellular Anywhere 1500 plan for a two-line couple ($76 per month with AARP discount) plus the Nokia 2680 ($20).