When I wrote “Junk mail and the fine print”, I neglected to mention my cell phone provider, Consumer Cellular. It is very upfront about the costs and the usage. I get to tailor it to what I think I will need in the next month. Plus, Consumer Cellular gives me a report when I approach a limit.
You can buy a variety of phones from Consumer Cellular, either by phone or in certain chains. If you want a smartphone, the prices start at $80. If you want higher end phones, they start at $xxx plus $25/month for so many months. This is the one place that Consumer Cellular is a bit opaque, but it does give you the added information with a click of your mouse.
The basic service is $10/month plus 25¢/minute. The next step is $15/month with 200 minutes.
Data starts at 20MB for $2.50 and tops out at 2.5GB for $30.
My plan is for January is $81.39 for 600 minutes of talk, 1GB of data, a wireless home base at our cabin, and $25/month for my iPhone 5s. The hard part is calculating all the surcharges and taxes; for some reason these vary every month, no matter the provider. If I had a paid iPhone and didn’t have the home base, my bill would be about $46/month. Even less if I didn’t use my iPhone for a hotspot when we’re at our cabin.
Oh, yes, Consumer Cellular uses the AT&T network. At our cabin I can get from 10Mbps to 23Mbps.
Bottom line: Consumer Cellular is a case in what the free market in phone service should be. The buyers have all the information they need to make a decision.