Reconsidering Prepaid Cell Phones

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You wouldn't think it of somebody who has spent much of her professional life reviewing new tech devices, but when it comes to my own purchases, I tend to be very conservative. This especially goes for phones; once I've made a purchase -- and once I've decided I like it -- I'll hold on to that phone until it becomes nearly useless.

For example, I was well behind the curve when it came to smartphones. I used an old-fashioned, completely out-of-date cell phone -- the kind with a tiny screen and practically no online ability -- until the Motorola Droid went on sale in 2009. As a result, when I had to review a product that used Bluetooth in 2008, I suddenly found myself in a quandary. I needed a phone that was capable of Bluetooth; my old phone was not. But I didn't particularly want to get an iPhone (especially since it was still only available on AT&T). What to do?

I discovered the answer: To purchase a prepaid phone.

It was an elegant solution, one that worked perfectly for my needs. The Virgin Mobile phone that I purchased wasn't quite a smartphone, but it was very inexpensive (I think it was about $25) and a lot better than the one I was still using. I simply registered my credit card with the company, made a $20 charge for a certain number of minutes, forwarded all my calls to the new phone, and voila! I was able to try out the Bluetooth device with no problem.

It turned out, in fact, that the new phone was so much more comfortable to use than my older one that I continued using it until I bought the Droid.

For me, the prepaid phone was simply a stopgap until I found a "postpaid" phone that I liked. But for many others, prepaid phones are a solution for the high costs, two-year contractual handcuffs, and other difficulties of most current postpaid carriers. And now, according to JR Raphael's article Cut the contract: How prepaid smartphones can save you money, prepaid carriers are beginning to offer reasonably current Android and Windows Phone devices (as you can imagine, Apple products are definitely not available).

Perhaps, when my current contract is up and my Galaxy Nexus is finally out of date, I should look again at prepaid plans. Sometimes, getting the absolutely latest bleeding edge tech isn't worth the price you pay.

This story, "Reconsidering Prepaid Cell Phones" was originally published by Computerworld.

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