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How to save on mobile plans: Your guide to 16 no-contract carriers

Rick Broida | April 25, 2014
The mobile-phone industry is in a state of flux. Where once you had little choice but to buy a subsidized phone from a major carrier and pay two years' worth of whatever monthly fees it chose to levy, now you have options aplenty.

Net10

Piggybacks on: Multiple

Starts at: $40/month for unlimited voice minutes/texts, 500MB data

BYOD: Yes

In business since: 1996

A subsidiary of pay-as-you-go giant TracFone Wireless, Net10 sells high-end phones like the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S4 and lower-end models like the Motorola Defy XT — all at retail prices. But the bigger appeal is for owners of post-contract phones from the Big Four: Net10 supports both GSM and CDMA handsets, meaning it's not just AT&T and T-Mobile expats who can get in on the action, but also the Sprint and Verizon crowds.

Net10's GSM cards cost $6.99, while a CDMA access code will run you $14.99. After that, you can get an "unlimited" no-contract plan for $40 monthly, with high-speed data throttling back after you hit the 500MB mark. You can raise that cap to 2.5GB with the $50 plan, and Net10 will make it $45 if you sign up for autopay. That puts the service on par with the likes of Straight Talk, another TracFone company offering very similar rates.

Page Plus Cellular

Piggybacks on: Verizon Wireless

Starts at: $12/month for 250 voice minutes/250 texts/10MB data

BYOD: No

In business since: 1993

Owners of post-contract Verizon handsets have few third-party options. Technically, Page Plus Cellular is not one of them, even though the carrier taps Verizon's renowned CDMA network. Although some phones not purchased from Page Plus may work, according to the website, "we do not support them and their functionality may be limited." Translation: Look elsewhere, BYOD seekers.

Equally disappointing, the company sells only a few smartphones, all of them lower-end Android models. But if you have modest mobile needs, Page Plus offers some attractive no-contract service plans, including one for just $12 monthly. There's no cheaper way to run a smartphone on Verizon's network.

Republic Wireless

Piggybacks on: Sprint

Starts at: $25/month for unlimited voice minutes/text, 5GB data

BYOD: No

In business since: 2011

Calls routed over cell towers cost money. Calls routed over Wi-Fi networks cost almost nothing. Republic sells smartphones that tap Wi-Fi whenever possible, switching to towers only when necessary.

Those phones — the Motorola Moto G and Moto X — can operate on Republic's Sprint-powered voice network for as little as $5 monthly, though if you want access to cellular data while you're out and about (i.e. away from Wi-Fi), you'll pay $25 for 3G or $40 for 4G. Just two issues: Call quality can be spotty, and at press time you couldn't send or receive short-code text messages (though Republic is working on both issues).

Solavei

Piggybacks on: T-Mobile

Starts at: $39/month for unlimited voice minutes/texts, 500MB data

BYOD: Yes

In business since: 2012

 

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