Q:Can I purchase a cell phone over the internet and go to any cell phone company for service with out having to pay for a 1 or 2 year contract, say month by month? If so, what would be a good phone? — Don Schulz
Gadgetress: Contracts are a drag and if you want cell phone service, a long-term commitment is hard to avoid. But not impossible.
I spoke to the major cellular carriers and here are their options:
2. Sprint: Bring your own phone and opt for Sprint’s month-to-month plan for $49.99 a month. The package includes 200 minutes plus unlimited nights and weekends starting a 9 p.m.
3. AT&T: The company doesn’t recommend using a non AT&T phone because unique software embedded in its phones are required for services to function properly. But you can buy a GoPhone from AT&T and get short-term service.
There are two options that don’t have annual contracts. The GoPhone Pick Your Plan is a month-to-month plan that starts at $30/month for 200 minutes. The GoPhone Pay As You Go plan allows you to buy minutes when you need them like a phone card. Minutes are 10 to 25 cents per minute.
4. Verizon Wireless: Sorry, you’re out of luck. Ken Muche, with Verizon, says it’s a quality issue:
“Our cell phone techs tweak, or overhaul, the inner workings of each make and model of phone (and PDA) to maximize their effectiveness on our particular network. … Phones not engineered to our network’s standard of excellence simply won’t work as well, or well at all, which leads to consumer dissatisfaction.”
Verizon does offer pre-paid plans if you buy special Verizon phones. Buy one and opt for the $0.99/day plan plus 10-cents a minute or the month-to-month plan starting at $50 for 300 minutes.
One feature unique to Verizon: The early termination fee of about $175 is reduced $5/month during the contract term. So, if you need to end service six months into a 2-year contract, you’ll owe $145 to get out of your contract.
And then there are the numerous pre-paid cellular companies, such as Boost Mobile in Irvine, Virgin Mobile and TracFone. While for most have plans that don’t require a long-term commitment, they do require a phone purchase.
As for the second part of your question, I don’t like to recommend phones unless I’ve had first hand experience with them. My advice is to check the review sites, from CNET.com to Mobiledia.com, Phonedog.com and even Amazon.com, where the biggest benefit is not the site itself but user reviews.
Fellow readers/techies, I’m sure you have suggestions too. Please share by commenting below. Thanks!