Which unlimited pre-paid spacephone is right for you?

Where you at broke dawg?
Prepaid phones are actually no joke

Ahh smartphones. Who needs em? Well, hustling in the big city, many people seem to. Problem is, AT&T, Sprint, and all the big-guys offer expensive contract plans that start at $80 or $100 per month, just so we can say “Check out my super awesome Candy Crush score!”

Well, I’m a gal who can’t justify signing my name on a dotted line for anything other than a steal of an apartment. That’s exactly how I got wrapped up in the pre-paid world, and I’m here to shine the light on the basics of the varying pre-paid phone options and their benefits.

The benefits

For one it’s cheap. Plans for unlimited talk, text and data start at $60/ month and only go down for there. There’s also no contract which means you don’t have to put your name down on anything, for any reason. This is appealing if you’re like me and flaky as hell, in and out of the country, or uh, have a job that requires flexibility. My point is any way you spin it, it’s a good look!

The downsides

It can be hell trying to get a refund or replacement on a defunct phone since you generally have to go directly through the manufacturer. Some people say that the reception isn’t as good as with contract phones, but I think that’s hogwash. I’ve never had a problem with my Droid in any state, though I’m dying for Sallie Mae to not be able to get through to me.

So how do all these pre-paid phone plans compare and contrast? Well, let’s take a look, keeping in mind that price and availability of phones are subject to change.


How Much? Plans start at $40/ month, unlimited talk, text and data per person, or $35/ month per person on a family plan. The more data you want, the more you pay, up to $60/ month.

Phone Options: They have an array of $25 smart-phone options such as the Huawei M835, Samsung Admire Red and HTC Wildfire S. Honestly, $25 is so cheap it’s kinda sketchy. But hey – if it works, it works, right? (They just have to work for this to be true).

Network: You can check out MetroPCS’ coverage map here. The shortlist is that the tri-state area, Florida and select parts of Cali will keep you covered. Everywhere else, well, let’s just hope you don’t get a flat tire.

Bottom line: Effing cheap.


Boost Mobile

How Much? $50/ month per person for an unlimited data plan. Shrinking payments lowers your monthly payment by $5 every 6 months as long as you pay on time. So your phone bill can be as cheap as $35 if you stick with em’ for long enough.

Phone Options: The Kyocera Hydro ($109.99) is the waterproof (seriously) Droid Boost has been pushing for a while now. The battery life is shorter than a celebrity marriage, but other than that users seem to be happy with it. If you want something fancy, they have the Samsung Galaxy S III for $369.99. Overall, I’d say that Boost has the most extensive Droid options, so if you think the Droid interface is what’s up, it’s a good plan to be with.

Network: I’ve taken my phone as far south as Florida, a wide stretch along with West Coast and all over New York. The one place I can’t ever get service? My friend’s house in Scarsdale. So, if you live in Scarsdale maybe don’t go with Boost. Check out the coverage map here.

Bottom line: Good Droid options, a little pricier than MetroPCS to start, but has shrinking payments and decent service.


Virgin Mobile

How much? Tops out at $55/ month, also with shrinking payments down to $40, just like Boost.

Phone Option: Virgin has the iPhone 5, but that thing is $549.99! If you MUST have an iPhone and don’t mind going a little retro check out the iPhone 4 for $297.49

Network: Here’s a secret: Boost and Virgin actually have the same network.

Bottom line: It’s Boost but with iPhone options and less Droid options.

So how do you get on a pre-paid phone  plan with one of these carriers? Well, it’s simple. Stroll on through to their kiosks, pick out a phone, and they’ll set everything up for you. A pre-paid phone plan may not be right for everyone, but if you’re looking for something non-committal where the price is right, it could definitely work for you.


  1. beezy

    I use T-Mobile. Because my phone talking is limited to order take-out food and I spend most of my phone time texting or downloading crossword puzzles, T-Mobile has a semi-unlimited data, unlimited text, 100 minute plan for $30/month. I also had to buy a (relatively nice) phone for $200. Cheaper ones are available. No contract.

  2. Cat Agonis

    Just a followup for anyone still looking/ needing suggestions for pre-paid smartphones. I just got the LG Mach, new to Boost, which is $179.99, and it’s a great bang-for-the-buck if you don’t need anything too crazy. 5 mp, front and back camera, QWERTY keyboard (which is a real selling point for me and my fumbly fingers) and Droid interface.

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