questionswhat are the pros and cons of a prepaid smart…

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I use my prepaid phone for basically the same stuff, but the real question is how often you will use it. It works for me because I don't yak that much, but if you are a heavy user, it might not work as well for you. Once I got a smart phone my usage spiked a bit, but not by anyone else's standards. Depending on the coverage in your area, look at what pTel has to offer. I have used them for a few years now and couldn't be happier, but I know a lot of people who need the unlimited minutes that seem to be cheaper with a contract phone. Although this seems to be changing lately

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How many minutes of phone time do you think you'll use a month? I have a smartphone from Virgin Mobile. It's limited in the number of minuted per month, but I've never been anywhere near going over.

You also want to be sure you are the type that doesn't want the latest and greatest phone. The phones on the non-contract plans tend to be older models. The one I have does everything you want and then some.

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@publiclurker: The reason for the older phones on these plans is generally because the cost of a 'decent' phone would deter most people. I may be wrong, but I think with some prepaid plans you can bring whichever (compatable) phone you want, so you could drop the $600 on a top of the line phone if you wanted.

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I doubt if I talk 30 minutes a month. And very little texting.

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We've been using Net10 for about 5 years and are happy with the service. They have some nice phones (some are expensive) and pretty good calling rates. You can go with a monthly plan or pay-as-you-go. Minutes on prepay don't drop off when you buy new minutes and days. I usually buy the 1500 minute card for $100, which also gets 180 days of service. You can also buy their phones or bring your own phone and use their service.

http://www.net10wireless.com/#/

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- Pros: price! The monthly service costs less; possibly much less. As examples ...

With the limited minutes and texts, consider Platinum's Paygo plan. 5c/minute, 2c/text, and 10c/mb of data.
http://www.ptel.com/plans

If you're going to get heavy on the data but remain light on the minutes, then Walmart/T-Mobile's 100 minutes/unlimited texts/5 GB @ 4G is the most affordable option out there.
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tmobile-30-Wireless-Airtime-Card/15443357

- Cons: You need to shell out the full price of the phone up front. Roaming is usually out of the question. Customer service may be iffy, though the same can be said for the postpaid/contract providers too.

With that said, I was in the market for a smartphone, but on a sub-$150 budget too. Ultimately, I got a Nokia Lumia 521, a Windows phone (WP8) on T-Mobile's network. Snapdragon S4 dual-core, 512mb ram, 8gb storage, 4" screen, 5MP camera, and offline GPS; I couldn't find any other budget smartphone that came close in spec.

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I was tired of my high verizon bill for only 2 old motorola droids so I left them for virgin mobile. For $35 a month per phone we get 300 minutes and unlimited text and data and we even get 4g data, up to 2gb a month. I've only ever run of minutes once and I was able to restart my plan month a few days early and was back up and running.

My phone was $199 but I got that back in about 3 or 4 months due to the price difference between verizon and virgin mobile. coverage is based on sprint so check that in your area before you buy but we've had no issues. It seems like one of the cheaper smartphones with virgin would do everything you need and I highly recommend them.

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Given your limited data usage, I'd recommend Ting. You do have to pay up-front for your smartphone, but the tiered billing is flexible. If you use only 100MB one month, you pay for that tier of service. If you use 1GB another month, you pay for that in the next month.

The cost of having the phone activated with a phone number is just $6/month. You then add your minutes, texts, and data to that:
https://ting.com/rates

Occasional maps use, QR code scanning and lookup, and so on don't really use that much data. So why pay for it on months you don't use it?

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Have you looked at Republic Wireless? The phone's $200, but the service is $19 a month unlimited everything. I am planning to switch to them when my tracfone service card runs out next year.

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I've been using a prepaid phone for years. There are two drawbacks (already discussed), neither of which would seem to apply:

1) Older technology - most don't have the latest and greatest, which it doesn't sound like you want anyway

2) Phone price is not subsidized by the carrier, but since you only want a basic phone, that's not an issue either.

I've been pretty happy with Virgin Mobile, but I do use a fair number of minutes. I know that there are other carriers out there that have a more pay-as-you-go model which might be a better fit for you.

I put my parents on Page Plus (pagepluscellular.com) several years ago. They use Verizon's network. They have a $12 per month plan that offers 250 Minutes, 250 Text/Picture* Messages, 10 MB Data. Plus, you can activate almost any Verizon phone on their network. Or you can do their $80 for 2000 minutes for one full year - $.04/minute for talk, $.05/MB for data.

I think the hardest thing will probably be sorting through carriers/plans.

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This is a great question with really helpful answers. Like @pooflady, we're considering going to a prepaid plan for a smart phone. We currently have two eight-year-old Moto Razr 3 dumb phones on an AT&T go-phone plan, which we love; they've been great so far, but we'd like to take advantage of some newer phone features.

Between the two of us we rack up under 30 min/month. Our phones don't text, so I suppose we could see text usage but probably not much. All the info here has been great, so now I guess we just need to start comparing plans.

@narfcake (or anyone else): Is roaming not possible at all on any of these prepaid plans? We take annual vacations out of state, where the phones are vital, as well as frequent daytrips out of our home area.

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@magic cave: Tracfones roam just fine. In fact, one of the guys we travel with has a state of the art phone and service from a major provider and sometimes can't get service where we can, as tracfones piggyback service across carriers. AFAIK, Republic phones roam just fine too, although that's a good question and I'll have to research it.

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Thanks for asking this question. I'm actually thinking about switching over from our contracted plan since we finished the contract several months ago.

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Just as a follow-up, I got a prepaid Virgin Mobile Event by Kyocera phone for $29.99 at Target. My plan is $35 a month which includes 300 anytime minutes, unlimited messaging and unlimited data with available 3G & 4G speeds. A grandson started teaching me how to use it tonight. This is going to take awhile. And can anyone suggest a good app for grocery lists and shopping?