Keeping cell phone bill under $20

Republic Wireless is introducing SIM based smartphones this months which allows their customers, for the first time, BYOD.

But with this new line of smartphone offering, Republic Wireless also came up with yet another new billing plan that increased the lowest plan from $10 to $15 (With cell network from $20 + unused data refund to $20 with no refund). You can stay on the old plan as long as your device is compatible with the old plan, that is non SIM based smartphones that were sold by Republic Wireless.  But if you are thinking of getting a SIM based smartphone, like I am, staying with the old plan isn’t an option.

So I’ve been researching various phone options as well as alternative service providers. After a bunch of goole searching I narrow them down to:

Device: Moto G 4th Generation from Amazon Prime Exclusive Phone ($140)
Service Provider: RingPlus

Why (UNLOCKED*) SIM Based Smartphone

The benefit of having a unlocked SIM based smartphone style= is you can switch your service provider by swapping the SIM card.

Super convenient if you are frequent international traveler. Since you get to use your own device, with all the contact info and data, it’s a whole lot more convenient than renting a device. Also renting a SIM card are normally cheaper than renting a phone or hot spot device. You don’t need to worry about insurance either.

And then there is the general benefit of BYOD. No need to purchase a new phone when you switch your service. Unsubsidized phone purchase being the mainstream now, you just can’t dump that $600 phone when you want to leave your current service provider.

Words of Caution:

You need to have your smartphone UNLOCKED to switch your carrier (by buying a unlocked version of the phone or have your carrier unlock it for you when you leave). Many service providers has rules when/how they can unlock your phone, so be sure to check what those requirements are.

Also, most of the carriers has the list of smartphone devices you can bring. Normally, they have an online tool to see if your unlocked smartphone is compatible with their service. You need to make sure that your device works before committing to the new service provider.

My Smartphone Choice: Moto G 4th Edition via Amazon Prime Exclusive Phone

My decision was based on following requirements:

  • Cost less than $200
  • Specs. must be better than my old phone (Moto X 1st generation)
  • SIM based phone that are both compatible with Republic Wireless and RingPlus

Republic Wireless has a very short list of compatible devices. I worked off from that

Phone (Model No.)Republic Wireless (Price)RingPlus (Price)Amazon Prime Exclusive (Price)
Moto G4 (XT1625)x ($199 New)xx ($149 New)
Moto G4 PLUS (XT1644)x ($299 New)xNot Available
Moto X Pure Edition (XT1575)x ($349 New)xNot Available
Nexus 5X by LG (LGH790)x ($349 New)xNot Available
Nexus 6P by Huawei (H1511)x ($449 New)unknownNot Available
Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) (SM-J320A)x ($179 New)unknownNot Available
Samsung Galaxy S6 (SM-G920T)x ($549 New)x ($605 Refurbished)Not Available
Samsung Galaxy S7 (SM-G930U)x ($699 New)xNot Available
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935U)x ($799 New) xNot Available

With my budget constraint, the only phones I could consider was Samsung J3 or Moto G4.  And with J3, the rear camera is a downgrade not up. Since I was able to get the Amazon Prime exclusive deal, I purchase G4 for $149.

Words of Caution:

There are some incompatibility issue with the models listed above based on the original service provider. Be sure to use the online compatibility checker to be sure.

Super Cheap Monthly Plans – Provider Selection

So my current average bill is about $18 per month which include unlimited voice + text and about 300MB data usage per month (the current Republic Wireless plan offers refund for unused data).

The goal here is to keep the bill at the current level or lower is possible.

Republic Wireless with SIM based phone:

With the new phone, I won’t be able to keep the current plan with unused data refund option. I can either

  • Wifi only service (voice + text + data) for $10 per month
  • Unlimited voice + text and 1GB data for $20 per month

The $20 plan will be over budget after tax and fees added. Wifi only service will be too limited of the service for me to sign up.

One nice thing about Republic Wireless is they do not charge domestic roaming fee for voice and text (data roaming is unavailable).


RingPlus is one of the service providers that offers FREE monthly plan. The catch is you will hear marketing messages instead of dial tone when you are placing a call (outgoing only). Also, there is “Auto Top” deposit requirements for Free plans (there are other paid plans that do not require the deposit).

First of all, there are so many plans you can choose from. There are several candidates that meets my needs:

  • Free Plan “Lawrence”: 1000 minutes call + 1000 SMS + 1000 MMS + 1GB Data + $27 despoit balance requirement
  • Paid Plan “Mad Scientist”: Unlimited calls & SMS & MMS + 1GB Data for $15.99 per month
  • Paid Plan “Bloch”” Unlimited calls & SMS + 500 MMS + 1GB Data for $12.99 per month

All the plans covers 1GB per month which is more than what I used to. 1000 minutes/SMS/MMS seems to be sufficient for my needs but it turns out to be too little, I can upgrade either to “Mad Scientist” or “Bloch” and still keep the bill under $20 per month.

Downsides of RingPlus are 1) Anything outside of Sprint network it will be roaming charge of 14 cent per minutes & 55 cent per MB or no service if you don’t want to pay (v.s. Republic Wireless voice + text are available for free even roaming). 2) Wifi calls, such as using Google Voice, counts toward “call minutes” (v.s. Republic Wireless Wifi are excluded from Cellular Service usage)

Other Service Providers That I looked but quickly eliminated

  • MyFreedomPop – Free plan available. But, couldn’t take an advantage of Moto G4 from Amazon.
  • Ting – No free plan.

My Choice = RingPlus For Now

I signed up for RignPlus “Truly Free 4 (30-Day Free Trial Plan)” with 100 minutes call + 100 SMS + 100 MMS + 100MB Data + $0 deposit. Just to see if I can tolerate the outgoing marketing & not using roaming service. If I can clear that, I’m good with $27 deposit + $0 monthly bill. If I can stretch the deposit balance to remain positive for a year, the effective bill would be $2.25!

If RingPlus service turns out to be intolerable, I can switch back to Republic Wireless.

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