$17 Per Month Cell Phone

I’ll keep the following article online as a thinkpiece, but the plan mentioned is no longer available and I’m not aware of any other Super Deals.  Sorry.  (It was great while it lasted!)

We’ve all heard about people signing up for a cell phone plan they think will cost $39.95 monthly; it ends up costing much more.  Then there are people who don’t have a cell phone because they feel the cost isn’t justified for the few calls they may make.  Cost was also my problem.  I have a Windows Mobile Treo from Verizon Wireless.  The lowest price voice plan, plus unlimited data, plus taxes and fees, costs me $98.01 monthly.  What’s worse, if I exceed my monthly allowance of 450 peak voice minutes, each additional peak voice minute costs me 40¢!  I have several business and social friends who tend to talk awhile when they call, which puts a real dent in my peak minutes.  I often asked people to call me back after 9 p.m., when off-peak minutes are free.

Paying extra $$ and asking people to call back in the evening needed a solution.  I researched all the carriers and plans, compared prices and features, and found a pretty good solution: a cell phone that costs only $17 monthly, including all taxes and fees!  Leap Wireless, best known for their Cricket™ unlimited monthly calling plans, operates another division known as Jump™ Mobile.  Jump has the usual features (Voice Mail, Caller ID, Call Waiting, Three-Way Calling, Directory Assistance, Ringtones, etc.) plus free text messaging and unlimited incoming calls.  That’s right, unlimited free incoming calls 24 hours a day and unlimited free text messaging!  My only cost, after purchasing a phone, is to purchase blocks of minutes for outgoing calls @ 10¢ per minute (you must have a positive balance of at least 10¢ to receive incoming calls).

You may say, “But that means you carry 2 cell phones.”  Yes, and that has advantages.  1} I’ve left home a couple of times forgetting the Treo, which was still on the charger.  Not an immediate problem, as I had the Jump phone with all my contact numbers.  2} There are times I wanted to make a call, but I was online with the Treo, or I was talking to someone and we needed to call a third party.  I can put the first call on hold, dial the next call, bring the first party back (if I remember how and the phone works properly), or just say, “Wait a minute” and place the call from my other phone.  Much easier and faster!  3} I use the Treo’s PDA functions enough during the day that the battery is low by evening (the Bluetooth headset is the biggest drain).  I’m glad to have extra battery capacity available on another phone.  4} I’ve had people ask to borrow my cellphone.  I’d rather hand people the inexpensive Jump phone than the Treo!  5} Backup. Lets say you need to place an important phone call rightnow. You pull out your converged device and it crashes, the battery is dead… whatever. Maybe you can reset it, troubleshoot the problem, then restore from a backup, but how long does this take? Do you have the 20, 30, or more minutes rightnow? Will you overlook something and make a mistake because you’re under pressure from the clock? If one of my devices crash, and they all have, it’s an inconvenience, no more. Most phone numbers in one device are also in the others. If one cell phone has a problem, I look up the contact information in the other phone and make the call. Believe me, the day your “perfect” converged device crashes at an important moment, taking all your data to a digital black hole, you’ll never carry just one device again.

I’m very impressed with how good calls sound on my Jump phone — every bit as good as the higher-priced carriers.  Cricket has limited WAP Internet viewing for $5/month, but Jump has no data options.

What about other prepaid cellular providers, especially the heavily advertised names?  Much higher per-minute costs; some have other fees; most cost much more for average to heavy use than postpaid plans.  The bottom line: none is as cheap as Jump Mobile.  This is partially due to the fact Leap owns spectrum and equipment in the markets they service, whereas some providers (TracFone, Virgin Mobile, etc.) are MVNOs — Mobile Virtual Network Operators who simply buy airtime from “real” wireless carriers.

Airtime to Go™ for Jump™ Mobile outgoing calls costs 10¢ per minute in the following denominations: $10 (unused portion expires in 7 days), $20 (unused portion expires in 15 days), $30 (unused portion expires in 30 days), or $50 (unused portion expires in 90 days).  All fees and taxes are included in the airtime cost!  $50 airtime blocks cost 56¢ per day, about $17 per month; the per-day cost for $10, $20, or $30 blocks is twice that or more.  Of course, the per-day cost doesn’t matter if you use up your outgoing minutes before they expire.  There are 3 ways to purchase Airtime to Go: 1} Dial *PAY (*729) from the Jump handset to access your account and add funds with a MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, or debit card.  This is how I pay; 2} Dial 1-800-651-8276 to add funds from another phone using a credit or debit card; 3} Cash payments can be made at an Authorized Payment Location.  Locations are listed on the web site, or call 1-866-515-JUMP to find the nearest location.  You can check your balance and expiration date at any time by dialing *729  from your Jump™ phone and selecting option 1.  Since my airtime expires every 90 days, I set up a recurring reminder in Outlook to purchase airtime every 90 days.

Jump phones are meant to work primarily in a “home” market.  Here’s the Pittsburgh area coverage map : http://www.mycricket.com/cricketcoveragemaps/area?hocode=510.  You can also buy “Travel Time” @ 69¢ per minute which allows the phone to roam on the Verizon Wireless network.

Jump currently sells 2 inexpensive phones.  Some local dealers carry the older, cheaper model (dealers are listed on the web site), or you can purchase either model from the web site: http://www.jumpmobile.com/.  Want a fancier phone with more features such as Bluetooth?  Just purchase a Cricket phone from a Cricket store, or save money by purchasing online at http://www.mycricket.com/plansphones/, then call Jump instead of Cricket to activate the phone.  Cricket’s phone prices are higher than other carriers, but there are no contracts at Jump or Cricket, and $17 a month for service doesn’t leave any $$ to subsidize the phone’s cost.  If you want to save money, and are “born to tinker,” you can adapt a Verizon Wireless phone to work on the Jump/Cricket network, but this involves hours of reading online forums to learn about the procedure, software, and each phone.  Better to buy the latest phone than spending hours tinkering with a dinosaur.

Let me “jump” on my soap box for a minute.  If you ever use a cell phone while driving, you should use it with a Bluetooth headset.  My phones sit in holders so I can see the faceplates while driving; I never have to touch or hold the phones.  It’s much safer and easier, and the key word is SAFER.  I tried the wired headset that came with my Treo.  My arm got caught in the wire, the Treo hit the floor, and I almost had an accident.  Wired headsets and holding the phone while driving are not as safe as using a Bluetooth headset!  Then there’s the health issue.  Some studies have shown health problems after several years of holding a cell phone to your head.  Other studies have shown the wire for a wired headset acts like an antenna to direct RF to your head.  That’s worse than not using a headset!  The very low power used in Bluetooth headsets makes them healthier than holding a cell phone to your head or using a wired headset.  Neither Jump phone has Bluetooth, but several Cricket models do.  Helpful discussions about Bluetooth headsets and many cell phone topics are at http://www.howardforums.com.  The important points about choosing a Bluetooth headset are to do your research; choose a name brand; buy from a retailer that allows returns for any reason; be sure it’s a new model that conforms to Bluetooth v2.x.  Charge it, pair it with your phone, and make a few calls.  If you or the people you call think the call quality is deficient, return the headset immediately.

There’s no credit check or contracts to activate your phone, just a call to Jump Mobile Customer Service.  Customer Service walks you through the activation process.  If you’re looking for someone to talk with about details or every little problem, you won’t find it here!  Jump’s Customer Service is minimalist, to say the least.  The lack of Customer Service is the worst aspect of Jump service, but you rarely need CS, and that’s one way they keep costs down.  Call Customer Service from a landline phone if possible.  Using your Jump handset to call Customer Service uses minutes from your Jump account, and the usual wait time to speak to a Jump Mobile Customer Representative is several minutes.  This is the ONLY way to contact Jump™ Mobile Customer Service.  Cricket customers have more options, but remember, this costs less than $17 per month for 165 outgoing minutes and unlimited incoming calls.

I wanted my Treo’s phone book exported to my Jump phone, instead of spending hours typing everything in.  Most cellphone stores charge for this transfer, so I went back to the Verizon Wireless store and salesman where I purchased the Treo.  I explained what I was doing, and he was surprised at the low monthly cost for Jump service.  He copied the Treo’s phonebook to the Motorola in just a few minutes, at no charge.

If you place many outgoing calls, need a phone that works most anywhere in the USA, want Internet and/or e-mail access through your phone, or live in a rural area, this will not work for you.  Full details are listed on the web site: http://www.jumpmobile.com/

.  I’ve gone into detail so you know the good points and gotchas.  The only other cellular “deal” I know of is Cricket’s $15/month discount to Seniors 60 years of age or olde

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About pdacomputing

Small business owner in Pittsburgh, PA. I've used different mobile platforms over the years; currently using 2 very different platforms.
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