Cell Phone Contracts Are Evil (Except When They’re Not)

Cell phone contracts are not always evilI’ve never been a fan of cell phone contracts.

Why? Well, they typically lock you into paying absurdly high monthly rates for a long period of time all so you can get the latest and greatest $800 cell phone for “free” or nearly free.

Want to change your plan or cancel? You either can’t do it at all, have tight restrictions on plans to choose from, or have to pay very high cancellation penalties for every month you have left on your contract. Ouch!

Cell Phones Are NOT Free!

A couple of years ago, it got so bad in Canada that carriers we getting people to sign 3 year contracts so that they could give away all but the most expensive phones for $0.

Most people’s devices don’t even last 3 years - they’ve either dropped it, lost it, it has become obsolete and slow, or it just kicked the bucket all on its own. When that happens, they show up to the carrier expecting to pay next to nothing for the replacement and are shocked when they need to fork over $500 or more to get an equivalent phone to what they had before. Double ouch!

I swear for a while there many people thought that cell phones, through some miracle, really were free. No, free cell phones are not some gift from on high, they are paid for out of your own pocket over time by you being locked into a contract that forces you to pay an over-inflated monthly price for your plan.

The Alternative To Contracts

Fortunately, contracts have since dropped back to 2 years in Canada (with an accompanying rise in both phone and plan prices). Even better, there are several alternatives that don’t involve locking yourself into a lengthy contract at all:


Most providers offer some form of prepaid service for those people who have poor credit or don’t want a contract. It means you pay in advance to “top up” your account and then your balance dwindles as you use your phone - either on a pay per use basis or via a monthly plan deduction.

Rogers, Bell, and Telus (RoBellUs) are known for charging very high prices for their prepaid plans which typically offer worse value than their similarly priced postpaid monthly plans that are already overpriced.

However, there are lots of alternative prepaid providers worth checking out that manage to offer decent pay as you go and monthly plans including:

Going prepaid only really makes sense if you are an extremely light user and want to pay only for the services you use - i.e. voice/text/data by the minute/text/MB. The cost of using your phone will add up quickly, but if you use it mostly for emergencies, short conversations, and when you have a WiFi connection, then this is by far the cheapest option.

If you plan on buying your next phone directly from the prepaid provider you are also getting service from, then your phone selection will be limited and maybe expensive. Do you research on the devices they offer and choose the cheapest option that meets your needs and won’t become instantly obsolete There is usually one diamond in the rough somewhere.

Related: Cheap Cell Phone And Data Plans For Traveling To The USA

Month To Month (With A Tab)

Some providers tout great plans and newer phones all with no contracts, but those deals usually come with a “tab” that you slowly pay back over time as you pay your monthly fee. The highest end phones often have an increased monthly fee if you want the cheaper upfront phone price. Essentially what we have here is a contract without a contract, because if you do want to leave you have to pay the remaining (usually large) balance of your tab.

These providers can be a good option because they normally give you a small break on the phone price as a goodwill gesture that isn’t tacked on to your tab. Why? Because they expect you to remain a customer for at least a little while and will eventually make that money back. That means if the phone really costs $600, they may only charge you something like $450 for it total including both the tab and your upfront purchase price.

If you go this route, try to find a plan with good value that is cheaper or better than a contract plan with another provider and hold your horses a bit when choosing your phone. Maybe go for an equally powerful and useful Android device instead of the latest iPhone and consider the previous generation as opposed to the most recent handsets.

Koodo is really the only company left offering a tab since Virgin decided to discontinue their SuperTab a few years ago. Fido kind of has a tab with their Tab24 contract, so you might check there as well.

Month To Month (Bring Your Own Device)

Almost every carrier will let you bring your own (unlocked) device and sign up for their regular postpaid monthly plans. If you aren’t an extremely light user, then this is almost always the best way to go. You are free to compare plans across all carriers, choose exactly the one you want, get the best price, change plans whenever a better deal comes along, and choose any phone that you want.

Bringing your own device used to be a complicated affair because carriers operated using different technology and phones were built to work with those specific carriers. In recent years, carriers have started using mostly the same technology and phones now support a myriad of different frequencies and technologies so they work with pretty much any carrier.

Unlocking used to also be complex and expensive, but now you can usually do it by buying an unlock code or service on Ebay for less than $20 and sometimes as little as $1. After unlocking, you just pop in the sim card from any provider and presto your phone works (you may need to update APN settings in some phone to get data to work properly but your new provider can likely do that for you).

Related: How Cell Phone Unlocking Works

Do The Simple Math

What you need to do is run the numbers and see how much that contract is really costing you. Start by comparing apples to apples when it comes to plans and phones and then multiply the monthly costs by the length of the contract you are considering to see which way you come out ahead.

Here’s the information you need:

  1. The upfront price for buying the cell phone with a contract you are interested in (it might be free or it might not be).
  2. The monthly cost of the plan that meets your needs if you sign a contract.
  3. The monthly cost of a (nearly) equivalent plan at any Canadian service provider if you bring your own device or buy your own device somewhere else.
  4. The cheapest price you can buy the phone you want for or maybe even a slightly cheaper model.
  5. The length of the contract you are signing (probably 2 years).

Let’s do a simple example using these numbers for the above things:

  1. $50
  2. $60
  3. $40
  4. $300
  5. 24 months

Total Price With Contract:

$60 x 24 months + $50 phone = $1,490

Total Price Without Contract:

$40 x 24 months + $300 phone = $1,100

Savings: $390

The Savings Really Add Up

Here’s the kicker though, after your 24 months is up the price of your plan doesn’t usually go down. RoBellUs has now more than paid back the phone cost to the manufacturer, making a profit off of you all the while, and now they are getting $20 a month worth of gravy added to their profits until you decide to upgrade to a new device or cancel.

Let’s be honest, most people are too lazy to upgrade right on the day their contract expires, so you know they are rolling in the dough and laughing all the way to the bank. You might not even need an upgrade after 2 years, so why do it when you can just keep paying less every month for your service? If you don’t upgrade your phone for another 2 years, your savings increase by another $480.

It doesn’t stop there either. As you can see in my old post about getting a cheap Android cell phone, you can usually get a modern smartphone without a contract for much less than $300 when you buy from a company that offers a tab to get a small discount on the phone, cancelling the next month, unlocking the phone and hooking it up to the cheapest service provider - be that prepaid or month to month.

If you score a phone for $100 instead of $300, then you’ve saved $590 instead of $390 over the length of the contract. That’s serious money that would be better off in your jeans than the pockets of RoBellUs.

If you do all of the above, your total savings over 4 years would be $1,070 and your total cost would be $2,020 - a savings of 35%.

Some Ideas For Finding A Cheap Phone

I might do a full post on this sometime with more detail, but for now here are a few ideas on how you might find a cheap good quality smartphone so you can BYOD if you don’t already have one.

Do Your Research. There isn’t always a huge difference between flagship phones that cost $900 and more budget friendly phones that cost $300. It’s really just a spec war that phone manufacturers are engaging in and sometimes increased specs actually hurt you. You don’t want the highest resolution and largest screen because it uses way more battery power and CPU processing power to light and push all those pixels around. You don’t need 64GB of internal storage, if there is a microSD card slot you can add 64GB to for $25.

You don’t even need the fastest CPU, when the last gen model benchmarks just slower than the latest and greatest and possibly uses less power. GSM Arena is and Phone Arena are two great places to find user ratings, reviews, popularity information, benchmarks, and detailed specifications for different models of phones. Pick something in the mid range and you’ll be just as happy as the guy who paid twice as much.

Try Kijiji or Craigslist. Buying a second hand phone is a great way to cut costs. People are always trying to unload their old phones and competition is pretty fierce because people upgrade so often. If you bide your time, you can snag a really reasonable price on a good phone. There are lots of models to choose from under $100, so just use your research from above to make sure you’re buying a good one.

Ebay is good for new phones. If you aren’t comfortable wheeling and dealing for a new phone, there are lots of people out there who will find ways to get brand new phones for really cheap prices and then turn around and sell them on Ebay for a profit. If you’re going to buy used, stick with Kijiji so you can try the phone out yourself before you buy, but if you want new then Ebay is worth a look.

Look at prepaid and tab-based phones. Prepaid phones and tab-based phones from Koodo are often priced cheaper than the actual outright cost of the phone to entice you to subscribe. They know they’ll make up the initial bath they take on most customers after a few months or a year so they are willing to take the risk of an early cancellation. Some of these phones even come with gift cards or bonuses to sweeten the deal further.

Look for the diamond in the rough that has reasonably high specs, good reviews, and comes with a sign up bonus from all the prepaid providers + Koodo. When you find it, simply activate it, use the service for a month (read the fine print to make sure cancelling right away is ok), cancel (pay off the tab if necessary), then keep the sign up bonus and unlock it and use it to BYOD with any provider you want.

Buy at the right time of year. There are really two times of year when it is best to purchase a cell phone. At these times, plans are at their most competitive, phones are cheapest, and sign up bonuses are largest. And they are back to school and Christmas. Leading up to back to school, companies know that massive numbers of students are looking for ways to keep in touch (possibly for the first time). They want to forge a relationship with students early and hopefully keep draining their bank accounts for years to come. Christmas is obvious, people love to give cell phones as gifts (especially when they’re free right?) so they compete hard to get the lion’s share of that business and then upsell or nickel and dime them later to increase profits.

Related: $108 – My Cost For High Speed Internet, TV, 2 Cell Phones, Home Phone, Long Distance, And Movies

Sometimes Contracts Aren’t Evil

In a complete about face to all of the above, I’m now going to share with you that both my wife and I are under a contract for our cell phones with Fido. A few years ago, I used to use an unlocked smartphone I got cheaply through Koodo on a PC Mobile prepaid plan that cost me about $20 a month with 100MB of data.

That worked really well for a while except I had to always be aware of how many texts I was sending, how much time I was talking, and how much data I was using. I’d keep calls short and do longer calls on my magicJack, mostly just receive incoming texts and rarely send them, and wait until I had a WiFi connection for doing anything but checking email and limited web browsing. Seeing that I run this website (an online business), it just got to be a little tedious.

Then, one day I was walking through the mall of all places and spotted a big Fido advertisement. At the time, Rogers had not yet brought Fido to Atlantic Canada and this was their big launch offers. They were offering their $39 smart plan for $29/month indefinitely. This was also at the time just before 3 year contracts were ending so companies had plans at their lowest ever prices trying to lock in new subscribers before the new contract changes.

What does that $29 plan get me? Quite a lot actually:

  • 450 anytime nationwide minutes.
  • Unlimited evenings and weekends starting at 5pm.
  • Unlimited text and picture messaging.
  • Caller ID and voicemail.
  • 600MB of LTE data.

Right now, the cheapest comparable plan with Fido costs $55/mth if you want a discount on a new phone or $40/mth if you bring your own.

For signing the contract they were willing to give us top-of-the-line (at the time) Samsung Galaxy S3 phones for $50 each. My wife didn’t want/need and upgrade, so we were able to turn around and sell hers BNIB for $280 making a nice $230 profit right off the bat.

Now, 2 years later, I called in and got us an upgrade: 2 brand new LG G3 phones (listed for $500 each at Fido) for free so now we can sell our old phones and make even more money. I was surprised I could not only keep my existing plan but it also qualified for the best hardware upgrade prices even though it costs less than their standard plans, which means you must pay $280 more for the phone.

Needless to say, I’m one happy camper and I’m planning to keep this deal going as long as I can. I will keep doing upgrades every 2 years to maximize my value and don’t foresee leaving unless a new plan with a much higher data allotment becomes available for a similar price.

What About You?

I’m curious to know if you have a cell phone contract and how much you roughly pay per month for your cell service. Please take a second to respond to the two super quick polls below so we can all see what everyone else has. If you want to provide more detail, leave a comment as well.

Do you have a cell phone contract?
I don't have a cell phone
Poll Maker


How much do you pay for your cell phone (before taxes)?
Quiz Maker

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Louis's picture

A benefit for bringing your own phone is that you can buy it with your gold credit card which usually doubles the phone's warranty.

August 06, 2015 @ 11:00 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

That's a great point Louis.

When you buy a new cell phone, even if you charge the subsidized contract cost to your credit card (say $50), it is unlikely that a credit card will insure the purchase. The terms and conditions require the full cost of the item to be charged to the card. One might be able to argue that is the full cost, especially if you also bill your cell phone plan to the same card, but even still I think there is a maximum liability of the purchase price, so best case scenario they wouldn't reimburse you for more than $50.

August 07, 2015 @ 11:14 am
Ken's picture

I have an iPhone, which makes this a lot more complicated, because the devices are worth more. Rogers, so far, has been pretty reasonable with cost. I upgrade every two years, and now that I'm on a two year plan (and because Apple releases iphones around the same time every year) I basically get the phones at a pretty steep discount.

I pay my plan out for 24 months, then come upgrade time, pay the difference in cost to complete the phone purchase, then tend to continue on a similar plan with the new phone. I've done the math, and given that a comperable plan with BYOD saves me perhaps $20 over 24 months ($480), and iPhones tend to cost nearly $800 unlocked (or more depending on storage), it's much cheaper to pay that extra $480 to rogers, plus the $150-250 for the device itself, and still end up saving anywhere from $100-300 at the end of the day, versus BYOD and a lower plan.

Of course, this pretty much only works with high end phones.

August 07, 2015 @ 5:20 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, if you want top of the line and you've crunched the numbers then this makes sense to do but it's still a really expensive way to go. It's good that you are upgrading every 24 months and not paying the inflated prices without getting your phone subsidy.

Do you mind if I ask what you are paying monthly for your plan Ken? Also, who are you with and what are the details of the plan?

August 07, 2015 @ 11:33 pm
Ken's picture

It's Rogers ShareEverything plan. It gives 2GB, unlimited canada minutes, unlimited texts, and free voicemail, call waiting, and so on, for $90 (though they gave it to me with a $10 credit for 48 months since I asked. It's amazing what loyalty will give you).

I added on my partner's phone (also an iphone) for $30, so we're playing $110 for both phones (or $55 each).

August 11, 2015 @ 7:40 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

That's pretty reasonable once you consider the $10 credit, especially considering the 2GB and unlimited everything. Although, I guess it is really 1GB because you are sharing it but nice that you guys can be unbalanced in your data usage which would probably prevent some overage.

Do the add-on phones qualify for the biggest subsidy discounts just like the primary phone does?

EDIT: I checked out the Share Everything plans and in the Ontario region and it is showing me that the $30 add-on phone doesn't qualify for a subsidy (except on old school flip phones). I'm also seeing higher prices on the iPhones than you mentioned for the primary phone with the maximum subsidy. The iPhone 6 Plus 16GB was about $480, the iPhone 6 16GB was about $350, and the iPhone 5s is about $230. It does look like you can get the 5c for $0 though.

A quick search of Ebay shows me unlocked 6 Plus for about $700-$750. So say it's $750, then the difference between that and the subsidy price of $480 is only $270, which is a fair bit less than the $480 Rogers would charge over 24 months at $20 per month for the subsidy. Maybe you got a good deal or chose a lower end iPhone or maybe you bought yours just before/after the next generation was launched?

Anyway, probably not worth your time to do it differently ... but I still think you could save at least a little money if you wanted to.

August 11, 2015 @ 7:59 pm
Ken's picture


It's possible. I purchased my phone at launch, which is part of the issue - unlocked iphones at launch are one of the worst deals possible, usually selling for FAR over market value due to high demand and short supply, so you are stuck with using a carrier for the service.

You are correct that my partner's phone does not qualify for subsidy. In addition however, Rogers offers a $20 BYOD discount as well, which still doesn't quite cover the difference, but brings things much closer to parity.

Additionally, Rogers usually offers promotional handset pricing (as thsy did this year) during the phone launch, also saving some money and balancing the books slightly.

Lastly, as we both travel to the US often, the current Rogers "roam like Home" offering in many ways more than offsets any additional costs for the plan. I bet you could do an entire article just on roaming costs around the world. :)


August 11, 2015 @ 9:14 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Thanks for the additional details.

In regards to the US roaming, I have written an article about that here. I don't travel to the USA much, but I've used both a T-Mobile sim card and Roam Mobility. Both worked well with the Roam Mobility option being a little more expensive but more convenient as well.

I checked out the roam like home which looks like a great offering. It is a little more expensive than the Roam Mobility or T-Mobile options (with less data) but it is a lot more convenient that's for sure. I'm glad to see some of the big names starting to offer reasonable international roaming packages like this. Fantastic!

Thanks for sharing all this info Ken, I'm learning a lot here. I don't usually pay a lot of attention to RoBellUs because they plans and prices are usually so much higher. They're still higher, but they're starting to border on competitive :)

August 12, 2015 @ 8:34 pm
sarah's picture

Sorry, 711 SPEAKOUT is pure evil. The make you purchase a minimum of $28, then you either use that at $25c a minute or you purchase for $25 100 minutes. If you decide that AFTER you do this you want to add one of their ADD ONS , you first get an error message saying there is not enough money in your account to do this . Fair enough. So, you add another $28 to your account. THEN AND ONLY THEN are you told that you CAN"T add any ADD ON's until you cancel your current package, or wait for it to expire. So you wait patiently for your 1 month package to expire right?
Only THEY FAIL TO MENTION ANYWHERE that the money you just put on to your account to used buy the add on will now be used for calls and texts at 25 cents per minute. Of course, you are never notified. Of course, you are never told any of this at any point until, you call to find out what the hell happened to your balance.

This is intentionally decietful. If this company didn't want to mislead people then this ridiculous system would be CLEAR and in WRITTEN on their website under information about packages and/or adding credit, and/or adding ADD ons.
It is not
This is not a company you can trust (big suprise, its owned by ROGERS)

August 14, 2015 @ 4:47 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

These problems sound very frustrating sarah. I haven't used speakout myself as they don't offer service in my area but I have no problem recommending them because I have heard nothing but good reports from users on Redflagdeals for years. I'm actually quite surprised to hear about your difficulties. Was customer service able to get all this straightened out for you?

August 18, 2015 @ 2:55 am
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

Speakout is something where you do need to look at closely so you know what you are getting into but I found the info is all there if you have a look for it a bit.

I have a speakout phone - paid the $25 prepaid that does not expire for 365 days. I use it to send with one of my kids as an emergency phone when they are staying late after some event and it is uncertain when they will need to be picked up. Since all I need for them to do is text me or call once (25 cents charged for one minute or per text), Speakout's yearly top-up works great. It is on the Rogers network so coverage is good.

Also since our home phone is VOIP this phone can serve as backup for the kids to call us if we are out and there is a power outage.

Keep in mind that they do ding you a monthly charge of $1.25 regardless of whether you actually use the phone. Still for my purposes, this has worked well. Paid $25 last December and still have $7.10 left on it. At less than $3 a month on average, that is a pretty affordable way to ensure your kids can reach you, and to give your kids a backup in case there is a power outage.

August 01, 2016 @ 12:56 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

A backup phone or an emergency phone are exactly what these yearly Speakout plans are perfect for. I imagine I will do something similar for my kids when they are a little older. We use VoIP for our home phone too, but we do both have $30/mth cell phone plans that we can use pretty much as often as we need to for both voice and data.

August 03, 2016 @ 9:17 pm
Vanessa's picture

I guess this is something that really works bed with the non Samsung Galazy and iPhones?
I happen to have an amazing plan with Robbers that I couldn't get anywhere else. My issue being the saving is buying a new iPhone outright vs signing up for a new 2 year contract
Granted new iPhone release is likely next few weeks, so hopefully the price of the old iPhone 6 will drop a bit, but buying the phone still at $800 - it doesn't feel like I would see savings.
If I did quick estimate with your calculations
It seems if I stay with my current plan (and pay the extra $100 to keep my current plan) it's $1890/2yrs
If I went to Bell and equivalent plan it's $3239/2yrs
So obvious better to stay with my current provider
Only time I see a saving and it's less than $100 is upgrading my current plan to share everything plan
But the cost of $100 over 2 years doesn't balance out for the "loyalty" I get from Robbers, I get some better deals elsewhere
But this info is helpful for sure (especially for those note needing the latest smartphones)

September 01, 2015 @ 9:23 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I can't really evaluate your situation because you didn't provide enough data for me to do so (for instance the plan details of your current plan and the Bell plan you were comparing it against along with where you live because prices are different regionally). However, if you've run the numbers and you come out ahead with your current provider and a contract, then by all means continue on with that.

As I showed above in my responses to Ken, it can still be cheaper with an iPhone to go without a contract but it is definitely case by case.

September 01, 2015 @ 1:14 pm
Herman's picture

Hello Stephen

About cellphones. I bought my phones on Kijiji and used Speakout my wife used PetroCan because she like the automatic topup.
But now I switched to Sugar Mobile. I had to buy a new smartphone my wife got a Refurbised Samsung S4 from Factory Direct and I was able to buy a new Acer with Android 5.1 for $99 at Costco. Any way Sugar mobile gives you 200MB of Voice Text and Data for $20 a month but the beauty is that when you are on WIFI all calls are free no long distance anywhere in North America.
So If your logged into WIFI at5 home or at your friends or at McDonalds you can call you friends wintering in Florida no long distance and you 200MB accumulate as long as you renew. Now I have all the benefits of a data plan without the cost. Great website. Herman

April 12, 2016 @ 11:58 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

So what this is essentially is a data-only phone that uses the data to make and receive VoIP phone calls. That's a really good idea and makes using your phone on WiFi super efficient. You can essentially accomplish the same thing with any phone that has data by using a VoIP service in conjunction with your phone like MagicJack. I do this sometimes because I use MagicJack as my home phone. I wonder if you can get your Sugar Mobile phone number to ring a home phone as well - one number for everywhere would be handy.

I don't think I'm going to try this myself right away because I like to have at least one more reliable phone for emergencies. Since I have MagicJack at home, I don't consider that reliable so want to make sure my phone makes actual cellular calls, which I consider to be more reliable that VoIP calls. For those that have a reliable home phone or don't really care about that, this looks great, especially for travellers.

April 12, 2016 @ 12:18 pm
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

Hi Stephen,

I really am enjoying blog. Great value!

One more recently added option is Public Mobile (http://www.publicmobile.ca). PM used to be a regional small carrier until Telus bought them and re-purposed the brand as a prepay option on the Telus network.

The concept is an interesting one. You bring your own phone (unlocked, or locked to Koodo or Telus) and pick a plan. The interesting thing here is that you can pick any combination of the data, text, and talk they offer. Choose just text, for example, if you don't need talk or data. You can also select a term for 10, 30 or 90 days. A bit of careful selecting here can be a really money saver.

For me, I decided to forego the talk and text (more on that later) and instead paid $75 for 4 GB of data on a 90 day plan. That is close to $25 for 1.33GB each month - quite a nice chunk of data for the price. If you want to cheap out and think you can get away with less data, there is also a 90 day 1 GB option for $45 - an average of 333MB data for $15 a month. For talk and text, there are several apps that allow you to do both through data. TextNow is the one I choose. Then I just use the app for all my calling and texting. Of course this also works on Wi-Fi so I am not using any of my data when I am at home or at work.

There is "the other shoe" here, in that PM is completely self serve. No live help at all. Everything is by email or you use the community forum. Even calling 611 does not give you a live person. I think this trade off is fine if you evaluate your needs correctly and choose accordingly. I presume that they are trying to reduce overhead to make their plans cheaper, so you need to know what you are doing of you choose PM as your carrier.

Tech Guy in BC

P.S. I live near the Canada-USA border and make weekly trips to the USA. I want to stay connected there without paying through the nose for roaming when I am not on Wi-Fi. My plan is to get a dual-sim phone and get a US based data plan. I have found I can get enough data for my needs with US Mobile - $4 a month (USD) for 100 MB a month and runs on the T-Mobile network. My TextNow app work just like it does in Canada so I won't incur any roaming.

Last point - there is a great website for helping people who wish to evaluate the cellular options for their area. Check it out: http://www.whistleout.ca

May 26, 2016 @ 10:35 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Thanks for sharing all those tips - very helpful. I had heard of Public Mobile before but hadn't investigated them fully. Going data only like that is a great way to save money for sure. I've always recommended T-Mobile SIMS for USA usage but I'm not up on the latest plans cross border. How does US Mobile compare to T-Mobile? $4 a month sounds reasonable. Do you keep this active all year long?

May 27, 2016 @ 9:33 am
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

Yes, I keep US Mobile all year, as my trips to the USA are frequent enough to warrant it. There plans, and how to set them up, are right up front on their web page: https://www.usmobile.com/

Two more tidbits about Public mobile:

First, their SIM card is no charge, and they also ship it to you for free.

Second, they have several ways for you to reduce the cost of your plan. One is referring others. Anotheris setting up automatic payment for your plan. More details here: https://www.publicmobile.ca/en/bc/rewards

May 27, 2016 @ 10:34 am
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

I forgot to answer you second questions. T-Mobile does not seem to be offering anything that reaches US Mobile pricing, even if you add a bit of text and talk.

The only option cheaper is FreedomPop. They actually have genuinely free option that gives you 200 minutes talk, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data. There are two downsides. Given that it runs on the Sprint network, its connectivity is CDMA, so it lacks flexibility. Second is that its coverage is lacking. There are many places where you would expect coverage but the signal is spotty or non-existent.

Still, the price is right. I did consider carrying two phones - Public Mobile for Canada and FreedomPop for the USA, but I decided I I just want a single phone and better USA coverage for all my cellular needs, so US Mobile it is!

May 27, 2016 @ 8:58 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Sounds like you have a great setup for your needs then. I'll have to check out FreedomPop for my next cross border trip to see what the signal strength is like. Love the a la carte selection that US Mobile gives.

May 28, 2016 @ 7:15 pm
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

Stephen a couple of updates on Public Mobile and Freedompop.

Public Mobile -

They have revised their plans so they no longer offer the 90 day 4 GB for $75. That plan now gives 3 GB still pretty good value. They also have reduce their $90 day 6 GB plan to $84 (about $28 to average 2 GB a month). They also have reduced their calling by $9 per 90 days for both the their in-province only and Canada-wide plans. They also have reduced their texting choices to only global texting. I only use data so I am not sure what Public Mobile offered prior to the change.

Freedompop -

This company now offers a "Global sim card" with a free plan. You pay for the sim ($10 US) but the plan is free. They offer 200 minutes 500 text and 200 MB of data. If you sign up your friends, then you get an additional 50 MB of data per friend up to a maximum of 500 addition MB. Total data tops out at 700 MB.

Note that when you get the SIM, it is preloaded with a higher service paid plan (first month free), so you will need to downgrade if you want the long term free plan.

Details here: http://goo.gl/sB8K8p

Here is the real corker: Ffor international travelers, Freedompop roams in many countries for free. Most of Western Europe is covered and SE Asia and India are being added soon. My wife is in Europe visiting family there right now and she is using freedompop for her coverage. The Freedompop global sim is actually UK based, so even users in the USA need to turn on data roaming and set their APN settings accordingly, but it works great.

Covered countries shown here: https://www.freedompop.com/worldwide

Coverage in the USA on the Global SIM is provided through Foggmobile. Foggmobile has partnerships with both AT&T and T-Mobile so coverage is fabulous. When I was in the US and loaded up the SIM card I scanned got two options for Freedompop - I assume one is AT&T ad the other is T-Mobile.

One final note - Like Public Mobile, Freedompop has very limited support. You need to do a bit of leg work and be comfortable relying on online forums and email for support. Still, if you are good with that, free is a pretty good way to go!

Tech Guy in BC

August 01, 2016 @ 2:00 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I have heard of FreedomPop before but haven't investigated it at great length. What's the catch? Other than the little tech support, there must be some sort of catch. They are piggy backing on other carriers networks so they have to pay fees for that. This means that they have to generate revenue somehow.

Once you have a FreedomPop SIM in your phone, do you get advertising messages or something on a regular basis?

August 03, 2016 @ 9:24 pm
Tech Guy in BC
Tech Guy in BC's picture

Somehow my reply is triggering your spam filter. I have removed the web links I included in case that was the issue.


Nothing at all at least not so far. I am kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop as well. They need to make their revenues somewhere. I know they keep their costs low by only buying data and then supplying users with an app for talk and text.

A few things I have learned:

1) They have done a lot of fundraising (not sure who the donors are but something has to make it worth their while) to the tune $109 million USD. It looks like Intel is in the mix and looking to get a piece of the interest that Project Fi is creating.

2) They always start you off with a free month of their $20 plan with a $7 add-on. If they can hook you then you are on a monthly plan.

3) Their free texting plan only gives you 500 texts. I am guessing a number of parents will see this free plan as a way to appease their tech hungry teens but teen will burn through 500 texts pretty quick and the demand for a better plan will be imminent.

4) 200 MB of data is not a lot either so the need to get a paid plan may be what they are hoping for.

It is hard to know where this is going and whether it will last. Sugar Mobile is trying to go cheap ($19 for 200 MB throughout Canada and the USA) but Rogers (whose network the roam on in Canada) is challenging them in court.

God only knows where things will ultimately go but - at least for now - it is legit.

Tech Guy in BC

P.S. At this point, Canada is not on the horizon for being included in Freedompop's covered countries.

August 06, 2016 @ 3:30 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes my spam filter is very picky with links - sorry Wish that wasn't the case but there are so many spammers out there if I don't go with the strict settings the site gets overrun.

Thanks for all that great information - will look into using FreedomPop myself sometime soon if I'm visiting the USA especially.

August 06, 2016 @ 6:35 pm
A tech guy in BC
A tech guy in BC's picture

There is a deal that ends tomorrow (Sept 30) for data on Fido. I discovered it late but here you go:

3GB of data for $15 a month - not a short term introductory thing. If you sign up, this is a permanent price (unless you cancel it yourself).

I asked the sales rep at the Fido Kiosk if I could put it in an unlocked phone, and he said yes. I have done so, and am now using my data with my talk-and-text app (not the built in dialer and text).

Plus, If an existing Fido customer refers you (their their online referral program), you each get $25 bill credit.

Tech Guy in BC

September 29, 2016 @ 5:44 pm
A tech guy in BC
A tech guy in BC's picture

P.S. And, yes, that means I have abandoned Public Mobile. :)

Tech Guy in BC

September 29, 2016 @ 5:46 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

GREAT deal. I'm not ready to go internet only on my cell phone - but for those who are that's fantastic!

September 29, 2016 @ 10:08 pm
A tech guy in BC
A tech guy in BC's picture

Hey Stephen,

You are your readers may be interested in a new data-rich offer from Public Mobile. You can sign up until November 20 for:

-Unlimited talk within your province
-Unlimited global texting
-4 GB data per month (more precisely, 12 GB for 90 days for an average of 4GB per 30 day period)

This deal is based on signing up for a 90 day $120 deal. This deal stay in effect forever unless you leave or change the plan (ie. does not expire after the first 90 days are up).

This is a bring-your-own-phone deal, as are all public mobile offerings. I have found Telus and Koodo locked phones work (at least for the three models I have tried), as well as unlocked phones. And, as mentioned previously, their support is only through email or their community forums. People considering this deal should bear these things in mind.

It is important to bear in mind that you must pick exactly this plan to get the deal. For example, you cannot "upgrade" to Canada-wide talk for a few dollars more. If you do that, it removes the discount.

I should also add that Public Mobile reduces your cost if you refer friends, sign up for auto-pay, and a few other incentives.

Public Mobile runs on the Telus network so coverage is the same as Telus or Koodo.

Just thought I would let you know.

Tech Guy in BC.

November 01, 2016 @ 3:07 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Another great deal - I'm thinking about writing a blog post about it. I'm still in a contract myself. I have a great deal that I don't really want to get out of but you gave me pause with this one. The extra data would be nice. Wouldn't like to lose the national minutes though. I'd also have to pay $10/mth more but could probably make that up by auto pay and rewards discounts + referring others.

November 01, 2016 @ 4:03 pm
A tech guy in BC
A tech guy in BC's picture

Yeah, there does not seem to be a way to call outside your own province, even at a per minute cost. That could be a big drawback for some people.

TG in BC

November 01, 2016 @ 4:16 pm
A tech guy in BC
A tech guy in BC's picture

Hi Stephen,

There seems to be an answer to the "in province only" dilemma for Public Mobile's current offering. You can buy a bucket of 200 minutes US long distance for $8 (4 cents per minute). Although is is called US long distance, current users are saying that it works for across Canada calling as well.

For me, almost all of my calling is in province with just a few calls outside, so this option for $8 would be great for me. For people who call across Canada a lot more, however, it would start to add up. Of course, once the 200 minutes are used, you would need to add another $8 to continue to call outside your province. But if you call infrequently, this is a great option, as the minutes never expire.

Just thought I would add that to the conversation.

Tech Guy in BC

November 04, 2016 @ 8:06 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Ya, I saw the long distance add on option and just assumed it would work for Canada as well - glad you confirmed it though. I could see all this extra management being a pain for some people - but it is still an enticing offer. Not sure I will have the time to write a post on it or not because I'm working on some other projects. I did call to see how much time I have left on my contract and I'm not up for renewal until next summer. So that closes the door on me doing this for myself right now.

November 07, 2016 @ 2:22 pm
A tech guy in BC
A tech guy in BC's picture

It looks like Virgin Mobile is jumping on the Public Mobile bandwagon. There are offering (for a limited time, of course) a similar plan ($40 BYOD), except you don't have to pay it 3 months at a time, plus you can actually get help from a live person instead of relying on emails and forums. Of course you don't get the same kind of plan pricing reduction options, but this may be a better option for those who want the customer service component and would rather pay monthly.

I will be watching to see if Fido and Koodo follow suit.


November 17, 2016 @ 11:37 am
Ed's picture

Drove an hour in Ontario Canada to buy the Speakout Sim + $100 time in the closest 7-11 store. Was told it would take about 2 hours to connect, but I did not have time until 4 days later. Had extreme difficulty with "customer support", did not get ported over, called back, and was told it would usually take 24 hours! Called back next day, waited over 40 mins to get "customer support", call altogether was 85 mins, not hooked up. Next day, tried to send text to myself on the temporary # and on the ported number, wouldn't go. Tried to get "customer support", after 10 -15 mins, voice messenging said "we're very busy, but we are open until 1 am, call back" AND HUNG UP!! The next day, text nogo to either number, tried "customer support", and same story: voice messenging said "we're very busy, but we are open until 1 am, call back" AND HUNG UP AGAIN. Text will not go, and where, before, I had an iffy signal, I now have zero signal, and they are using the Rogers service, which I just left, to handle my cell phone needs. So, Send your money directly to me, it's a lot more painless, you don't have to wait on the phone endlessly, you won't get mad, or tired, or sleepy, or hung up on, you will just be out the $120, or so.

June 04, 2017 @ 10:53 pm
Jon's picture

Cell phone contracts are indeed evil unless you happen across a really great deal.

The big problem though is that many people want the latest phones. And prices seem to keep climbing... Have you seen the price of the Note 8?

I love my phone... I don't know that I'll ever love my phone to the tune of $1000...

I completely agree with your recommendation of buying last generation's phone (or maybe even a little older). But the mid-tier market is also getting some really nice new options that take all the worry out of buying used at a fraction of current high-end phone prices.

Sure, you don't have the newest, most feature-filled phone on the market. But is there $700 worth of added functionality and benefits in the Note 8 versus the Moto G5 Plus for the average person? I'm not sure there is...

The big thing is to understand what you're getting yourself into with a mid-tier phone. There's almost always a compromise hiding in the spec sheet somewhere. Over at https://www.cellphones.ca, we comb through the major review sites and social media buzz to see what people are saying about phones as they release to give readers a big-picture view of what to expect. No fanboying or playing favorites. Just what everyone is saying without all the tabs.

While 10 cores, endless RAM and 4K screens look nice on paper, no one really NEEDS all that. If you're looking for an awesome photo experience, maybe tack a little more on or go for the used last-gen option. But otherwise, a midline quad- or octa-core, 2GB of RAM and a 1080p display for $200 to $300 will likely make a fair number of people happy and offer substantial savings.

Get on a month to month plan or prepaid plan and drop in a travel SIM when you leave Canada and you're ready to go.

Ultimately owning your phone outright and avoiding contracts saves money in the long run plus buys you freedom. That's priceless right?

September 05, 2017 @ 4:29 pm

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