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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Defining Characteristics of A Good Prepaid Cell Phone Carrier

Greetings, dear readers!

My computer is almost back to normal! My hard drive was not on the fritz after all and it is now safely back in my computer again. Unfortunately, it's not all fixed because now my UEFI boot loader won't work without a stick (in non-Linux speak, this is the startup program that engages the operating system when I turn on the computer). If it's not one thing that's fucked up, it's something else. Is this the price I pay for leaving Windows and opting for a version of Linux where I control every damn aspect of the software? Maybe. But, like ads on websites, it's just another cost of doing business. Maybe I should have made my husband give me a more user friendly distro of Linux that's a bit more automated... But on the other hand, my function keys and number pad on the keyboard all work! It's been over a year since they could because an update severely screwed up some configurations in my keyboard.

Soon, this bullshit will be done with and I can resume blogging regularly again!

Anyway, on to Day 16 of the 21 day blog challenge. This prompt called for a description of some good product or service that could be of use to you. In light of my technological woes of late, I figured this would be a good time to discuss a service that has been of use to me as a low income individual: prepaid cellphone service.

Having worked in a call center that handled customer service for Verizon Wireless, I learned a few things about what makes a cell phone service good as opposed to expensive. I will share what I learned below. I hated working in the call center, but it wasn't a total waste of time.

The big thing for me was a carrier which offered a phone with good camera resolution (at least 8MP) so that I could take pictures, especially of my cat, Pest, in his bathtub domain...

  • No long term commitments!
    • When I was looking to get a smartphone, I knew right off I was not going to go with a company that made me sign a contract to get a phone. Being a low income individual, my financial situation can change on a dime and suddenly that monthly cell phone bill can become overwhelming. Termination fees are quite hefty, but so are device payment agreements and just about every major carrier has fees that it uses to gouge customers for making changes on their accounts. Basically, I was looking for a service where I could get a decent phone for a decent price, but if I couldn't afford my bill for a month or so, I could finish out the billing cycle and the charges wouldn't roll over into the next month. I didn't mind going out of service for a while, I just didn't want to owe a cell phone company alot of money. A good phone service will let you go offline if your situation requires, and come back on again when needed without fees or penalties.
  • Decent variety of phones with desirable features
    • The big hangup that alot of people, myself included, have with prepaid phone service is that while the phones don't cost much, they lack many desirable features like high-pixel cameras or durability and are hard to shop for accessories. In my case, I wanted a phone with a good camera as I take lots of pictures, and a well known model so that accessories like cases and screen protectors wouldn't be hard to find (I wound up settling on a Samsung Galaxy SIII). A good phone service will have phones with models you recognize and with features you want.
  • Flexible plans and features
    • Since I rarely talk on the phone, but text and surf the net alot, I was looking for plans where I didn't have many minutes, but had unlimited messaging and data. This actually proved to be the most challenging part of my search for a decent prepaid phone service because just about all the carriers I looked at included unlimited minutes, which in turn, jacked the price of the plan up! I eventually found one that gave me a set amount of minutes each month with unlimited texting and data, just like I asked. There were other plans which included unlimited minutes, but also some which restricted data usage to just WiFi. My carrier also listed some extra features, like device insurance or hotspot, which carried monthly charges, but there were plenty of free features too, like caller ID, unlimited streaming music and international messaging. A good prepaid cellphone service gives you plenty of useful free features, and for features you must pay for, the monthly charge isn't outrageous.
  • Coverage where you need it
    • This goes without saying, but a good prepaid cellphone carrier has service coverage in your area.
  • Unlimited data is included
    • It may seem like a rather frivolous characteristic, but since most of our daily activities are moving online and given the proliferation of apps for just about everything under the sun, cellular data is becoming a more crucial aspect of our phone's functionality. Many carriers offer a set amount of data, and then charge overages when the user uses more than their allotted amount. Others do away with limits, but throttle the cellular speed after a certain amount of data is used. Do examine your usage habits, as well as the availability of WiFi spots you can connect to, to determine how much data you will use. Generally speaking, a good prepaid carrier has unlimited data, but throttles the speed after a high level of use. It's better to be slow after 4GB than to be hit with monster overage charges.
  • Offer good customer perks
    • See if the carrier offers perks to customers, like special plans or discounts off of devices. My carrier upgraded me to unlimited minutes for the same price as my old set minute plan, but kept my data level and messaging the same. They did that as a courtesy because I've been a customer for so long. It was notable because of the plans they had available, my data level was not offered anymore. I occasionally get a free month of service from time to time too. A good prepaid cellphone company will have plenty of perks to reward customers who've been with them for a while.
Can you think of anything else I should add to this list? Write them in the comments below.

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