The Wall Street Journal tries to make sense of the intricate, often confounding wireless service options available from the major North American carriers with this interactive calculator/wizard thingy. I wanted to call this tool “simple” but nothing about wireless plans is simple, and one look at it would belie such a label. So maybe it’s better to call it “simplifying.”
As it happens, I recently made some changes to my wireless service. After having had basically the same family plan from AT&T for a number of years, I realized that their newest plans would actually save us money, and by calling them up and switching to the “Mobile Share Value” plan, I was able to shave off about $55 a month — consistent with what this calculator tells me. The new monthly bill is still more money than I’d be paying with T-Mobile though, again according to The Journal’s calculator; I’m tempted to switch but I’m quite leery of T-Mobile’s spottier coverage.
Relatedly, when my wife decided to upgrade to a new iPhone 5s (64 GB model) recently, we decided to opt for an unlocked and contract-free phone instead of a subsidized one. It hurt a bit to pay the additional $450 up front, but after having done the math, we realized we’d be saving about $150 over the life of the contract. Plus, the phone is unlocked from day one; having jumped through AT&T’s Kafkaesque rigamarole to unlock her previous phone, I’ve come to truly appreciate the value of a phone free of carrier restrictions. I’ll probably never buy a subsidized phone again.