Cricket Review: Cell Phone Service Beyond the Big Four

I need to thank Penny from She Picks Up Pennies for recommending we do this review post of Cricket. Thank you for being a pal and giving a great suggestion when my soul and blog needed a little inspiration. 

Late last year, in an effort to spend money, we switched our phone service from Verizon to Cricket. At the time, I wrote that while I didn’t love the Cricket store experience, I thought I would be pretty happy with the service.

Three months later, I can say my first impressions were pretty much right on. For $70 a month, Jon and I get unlimited talk and text and 2.5 Gigs of data. We enjoy this on decent Android phones that we paid a little over $30 a piece for after rebate.

The History of the Jividen Family Phone Plans

Once upon a time, I had no cell phone. I was happy enough to have no cell phone, because I didn’t call very many people anyway. I had a land line and an answering machine, and that was fine.

But my dad was less happy. I was driving around the state, and working an irregular schedule. I wasn’t always easy to reach, so he paid for a phone and 3 months of service.

I wasn’t crazy about getting an extra bill each month, but I did enjoy the convenience of having a cell phone.

Then my company decided they would pay for a cell phone, and life was good. . I dropped the land line and had no cell phone bill because my company was fine with my using the phone for personal use as long as I didn’t exceed the usage allowance. I had all of the convenience of a cell phone without the bill.

Once my company adopted smart phones as the standard, I got addicted to using a phone. How great was it to have email and internet access everywhere I went? I adored my old Blackberry. I enjoyed my first Droid. I tolerated having an iPhone.

Jon still needed a phone, though, if we were going to avoid a landline. He had one, but it was hardly the latest model.

Jon valued low cost, and even as I was on my third smart phone, he held on to a simple low cost plan from TracFone. I don’t even think he could text on his old phone, but he only spent about $100 a year for time cards. He also set up a Magic Jack account for $30 a year, which allowed him to call out and fax while saving his mobile minutes.

When I left that company, I had to get my own cell phone service again. I went straight to Verizon, where my company plan had been, and signed up for a smart phone plan for both me and Jon. It didn’t seem that expensive to add him to my plan, and I was tired of his teasing as I obsessively checked Facebook and email, played cell phone games and shot pictures of everything.

The deciding factor on my phone service had nothing to do with cost. It was all about the network. I had suffered through poor coverage with my old company plan for several years, and Verizon got coverage just about every where I tended to go.

I have to admit, though, that the only other options i considered were AT&T and T-Mobile. (We knew from experience that Sprint had some coverage issues). TracFone’s phone-only plans weren’t appealing, and the other low cost providers weren’t even on my radar.

Fast forward to 2015, and Jon and I were looking for ways to cut costs. For Jon, the phone bill of $158.56 a month was an obvious target.

Why We Didn’t Go With A Competitor

Needing to change plans, we started looking at a number of options.

Our priority was lowering the price of our monthly service, but we also needed to be on a decent network that reached some of the more rural portions of North Carolina and supported reasonably decent smart phones.

Staying with Verizon was too expensive, and we figured switching to Sprint , AT&T, or T-Mobile would be much the same: good coverage and service, but on the expensive side, and possibly locking us into another long term contract.

The TracFone option didn’t really appeal to either of us despite the low cost. Three and a half years of smart phones made Jon a convert, and he loves the convenience of having the internet, email, and a decent camera at his fingertips. (I still can’t convert him to games.) TracFone has some Android models, but none of them came close to the specs of our old Motorolas.

We thought about Republic Wireless, since it gets so many plugs on our favorite blogs. The monthly price tag was terrific, but we had some other concerns. We couldn’t use our old phones on Republic’s network, and though we could buy the same phones we already had, it would cost us over $400 to do so. We also spent a lot of time at my dad’s lake house in eastern NC with no WiFi and only very spotty network coverage on Sprint, the network Republic Wireless piggybacks off. We had serious concerns about being able to use the phones reliably when we were there.

Finally, we felt a little more comfortable having a physical store to go to if we had problems, rather than a solely internet presence.

We looked at some other discount phone providers, both prepaid and not, but ultimately landing with Cricket Wireless, which seemed to have the best mix of low priced monthly plans, decent phone selection, good network (AT&T’s) and  in-store support.

Cricket Review: Beyond the Big 4What We Like About Cricket (and One Other Thing)

Cricket has a lot to like. Like I said, Jon and I pay $35 each for our service, for a total of $70 a month. We get $5 off the listed $40 price of each plan because we enrolled in autopay, which we would have done even if Cricket wasn’t offering that incentive. For that, we get unlimited nationwide calling and text, and 2.5 gigs of data at 4G LTE.

It may be a minor thing, but I really love how Cricket handles the autopay. I get a text a couple of days before reminding me that the bill is going to be paid, and a text on the first telling me the bill was paid. While I don’t need the head’s up, I like getting it.

And that $70? We pay a flat $70 a month. No extra fees or taxes added on. After years of seeing extra fees and taxes tacked on to my bills from Alltel, Sprint and Verizon, I find Cricket’s bill transparency to be a refreshing change.

If we go over our data usage limit, the data streams slow down. How slow that would be, I don’t know. Since we use our Wi-Fi at home, and we essentially doubled our data when we switched (we were sharing 3 gigs at Verizon) we haven’t even gotten close to maxing out our data.

Cricket has a decent list of phones that you can bring with you. Unfortunately our Moto Xs weren’t on the list, but we were able to pick up Samsung Galaxy Grand Primes for $30 each after the rebate. While not the coolest phone, it’s probably equivalent to the Droids we were using a few years ago. I liked the fact that the Samsung would accept a micro SD card for storing pictures and videos, since I was always having to worry about storage on my old phone.

(Little Bit likes to pretend she’s doing those darn toy videos.)

Porting our numbers over from Verizon was painless. The call fidelity and network coverage aren’t quite up at Verizon’s level, but they aren’t that far away either. I won’t say I haven’t had any dropped calls in the last three months, but I could say the same thing with Verizon.

Actually the only thing I wasn’t crazy about with Cricket was our initial visit to a Cricket store, which was a little outside our comfort zone. Let’s just say Cricket is trying to avoid high rents and may not stress outstanding customer service in its retail operations.

That said, I don’t anticipate needing to go to the store often. I think I visited Verizon stores twice in 3 years, and I can put up with a less than fun retail experience if I only have to deal with it every other year. Heck, it was a less than fun experience at Verizon too, it was just a little more conveniently located near places I normally go.

Don’t Get Fooled by the Marbles

Considering the cost savings, we’re pretty darn happy to have made the switch to Cricket Wireless. Happy enough that we aren’t even mentioning that oh, yeah, we don’t have a contract with a huge fee if we decide someday to go somewhere else.

Not that we have any reason to do that.

Frankly, happy as I am with Cricket, I was wondering why I went to Verizon in the first place until I saw….a Verizon commercial. You know the one…the one that pretends with brightly colored marbles that your only options for cell service are the big 4: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile.

And I realized that Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile do the same thing. They pretend the other guys don’t exist, and for a while so did I. I didn’t look at all of my options before, and ended up paying far too much for too long for cell phone service.

Don’t get fooled by a bunch of brightly colored marbles, or by the visibility of certain cell phone stores in comfortable shopping areas. Your choices for phone service is not limited to the big four providers. There are other options out there, options that work every bit as well and cost a heck of a lot less. 

Options that will accept a range of phones, from dirt cheap basics to shiny newer models.

Options that will quote you the actual price of their service, not a lowball number that doesn’t reflect the plan’s actual cost.

Options like Cricket Wireless.

This is not a sponsored post, just an honest unsolicited opinion.

 

5 Responses to “Cricket Review: Cell Phone Service Beyond the Big Four”
    • Emily Jividen 03/03/2016
    • Emily Jividen 03/09/2016
  1. Trenton 02/06/2017

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