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How I Lowered My iPhone Bill

I tweeted earlier that my cell phone bill was lower than it has been in over 10 years. My friend Janet said “hey, that’d be a great blog post”. When Janet says that, I listen. Check out her blog or follow her on Twitter. She’s a great resource.

Anyhow, on to how my cell phone bill has gotten much lower. I am ecstatic to see this industry getting jumbled. Notice I didn’t say disrupted. Two reasons. One, that word is overused and two, I don’t think it’s to the point where the word ‘disrupted’ is merited. I believe we are on our way there but we certainly haven’t arrived yet.

I switched to the iPhone 4S along with millions of others. I switched from AT&T and Verizon (two main phones) to Sprint. Why? Because I wanted to try this new combo out and see if I could get full featured and unlimited iPhone usage for a low price. Good news – I can and I am. Here is how you too can get the cheapest family plan for iPhone 4S:

1 – This has to be on Sprint. To my knowledge it will not work on another network. I don’t know why Google Voice won’t fully integrate with your existing number on other networks, but it is my understanding that it won’t right now.

2 – You need the newest version of the Google Voice app for iOS 5. When you install it on your phone you can integrate it online with your actual phone number. The user sees your actual phone number and it is the one in use; not the Google Voice number. This was huge for me.

3 – I signed up for the shared family plan for iPhone 4S. 1,500 minutes with unlimited data (true unlimited), unlimited text and unlimited calls to any mobile phone in the US. The only time it uses the 1,500 minutes is to/from a land line. While that doesn’t sound like a lot of minutes between two heavy cell phone users, it has worked so far (I’m tracking usage online).

4 – Texts are included both ways to any phone. Unlimited data is truly unlimited. While Sprint recently throttled other devices, the iPhone 4S is a legit unlimited data and text plan. I like that. I can’t surf the web and talk on the phone like I could on AT&T, but I don’t miss that at all, actually. The speeds seem to be comparable – I’m not noticing any difference. One thing I am noticing? No dropped calls. None.

5 – When I am on wi-fi (which is often) the phone uses Google Voice automatically to send and receive both calls and texts to my actual number. When I am not on wi-fi, it uses the Sprint plan to call and text. My wife’s phone is set up the same and I’m tracking our usage. It looks like that for two iPhone 4S, with unlimited text/data and what we are treating as unlimited voice (we use them all the time without tracking our minutes) is $130/month on Sprint. With taxes and everything it looks like our bill will be around $140/month, or $70 per iPhone , per month for unlimited everything. That is still not an insignificant amount of money, but it’s the least we’ve spent in over 10 years and that’s a good thing for us.

I should also note that so far the customer service has been excellent. Noticeably better than AT&T or Verizon. I hope that keeps up along with the great pricing, features and coverage.

Who are you using? Any suggestions for how to lower your family plan further? I’d love to hear how you have put together your best options. I’m not a fan of the wireless carriers overall, so I’m anxious to see their plans and pricing continue to drop.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • I am on AT&T still, and for 3 phones, I am coming in around $290 a month, and I want to scream! Sounds like Sprint would save some money for sure, but locked into contract.

    I am holding off buying a new iPhone until contract is up and the next gen phone arrives. Then I am bailing on AT&T for sure. Unless they react to Sprint and lower their prices. 

    Phone bill is a freaking car payment!


    • alex_lawrence

      Dude, you can do Sprint for way less than that. Do you have iPhones?  I sold mine and actually made money after a small termination fee.  Maybe AT&T will lower to match, but I’m pretty sure they won’t do unlimited data.

      • Yes… I have 3 iPhone 4’s… bought last December. Maybe by selling them, I can get enough for new phones, and have a little left over for killing the 2 year agreement. 

        What is the Sprint upgrade situation like… will they let you upgrade early to the new iPhone 5 when it comes out? trying to decide if I want to hold out for that.


        • alex_lawrence

          I bet you could sell them for $250-300 each. I don’t think the iPhone 5 will be out until mid 2012 so that’s up to you. I am not sure of their upgrade policy; good question.

        • Brian Hyde

          I sold two iPhones last year and easily came out with enough $ to cover the termination fees and get into new phones with VZ. Well worth it for us. I think we actually made a few bucks on the deal.

          • alex_lawrence

            Awesome, Brian. I’ve done the same several times. iPhones hold their value well.

  • I saw your last post on Facebook that you were switching.  I’m on the move too.  I have Verizon and I pissed at what they are charging.  A few months ago Verizon charged me a little over $700 over the course of three months; so exaggeration.  I was on Sprint once before, and it looks like I’ll be moving back with them.   

    • alex_lawrence

      Hey Kyle – nice to hear from you again here.

      Verizon is the most expensive by a long shot. $700 over three months – wow! I have really liked Sprint so far. Let us know what you learn and/or experience.

      • Laurie

        Yeah we’ll you get what you pay for and my phone works everywhere, can you hear me? Everywhere!!!

  • Connor Harrison

    Fortunately over at Verizon I am locked into my unlimited data package, so being on a family plan is actually working out because we all have unlimited data – Even though I don’t think I come close to over 2GB. I very easily could be but I don’t track it much. However I really wish I had more minutes, and wish Verizon would change that, but we are looking into changing to unlimited minutes because we could drop my parents home phone line.

    As far as the costumer service, I have never had a problem with Verizon. So I am not quite sure where people get that. I mean I am sure that happens, but I am sure it happens with every company. 

    Like the idea of where all this is going though! Sprint I feel is at the forefront of change again, with taking texting and making it more like a messenger. Even though Blackberry had the same concept… Sprint is still doing it right!

    • alex_lawrence

      Hi Connor – thanks for commenting.  I hope you’ll read and come back often to discuss here.

      My understanding is that Verizon doesn’t have a true unlimited anymore.  They are all throttled/lowered.  Maybe you haven’t hit the limit yet to trigger it?  Verizon CS was hit and miss for me.  They were horrible on the way out, but then they came thru a different channel (Twitter) and fixed it really nicely.  My reason for switching had nothing to do with their CS though.

      I’m loving Sprint and their setup. Keep us posted on what you do.  And thanks again for taking the time to share and comment.

      • DK

        DON’T’LET MY MISTAKES BECOME YOURS!!! I have been with VZW for almost ten years. I have always been a good customer and paid my bill on time.  They are the only carrier I have ever had. They were great to work with at first but have gotten very difficult to work with and expensive. I am very disappointed with VZW’s CS. I thought that my 10 years of loyalty would account for something, but I have found out that all they care about is my credit card, especially on 2 instances.

        1)            I renewed a  2 yr. contract and upgraded  to a 700 min. unlimited data family plan with 2 smart phones about  18 months ago. At the time I assumed liability of my wife’s #.  We went to our local VZW store (that’s all they sale, not some kiosk at the mall) and talked to the manager. We followed all of her recommendations when we renewed. She told my wife to upgrade her phone before she jumped to my account or she would loss her upgrade. WHY????  Activated the new phone in the store and approximately 5 min. later manager jumped her to my account. Manager activated my new phone and we left. 7-8 months later my wife’s phone died. She called VZW CS to get a new one. It was still in the 1 yr. man. warranty  right? WRONG!!!  We paid for monthly insurance on both phones too. CS told her that the warranty was void because she jumped accounts after the phone was activated (my phone that was bought at the same time was still under warranty ) and the only thing she could do was pay $100 deductible, but CS had no record of our insurance plan. WHERE IS MY MONEY GOING!!!  Apparently the store manager signed us up under some 3rd party insurance that her store uses. CS doesn’t even know it exists. Store manager acted clueless about the voided warranty issue. She wouldn’t  do anything to help. She was happy she made her sale and got her cut I guess.  After 2 weeks of running back and forth to the store to argue with the manager, and my wife calling CS several times trying to resolve this issue, no one would help. I finally called CS and told them to shut down my account because of their poor CS.  This got their attention and a CS manager got on the phone. I told him the story. He explained that the store was a third party store. They are not directly managed by VZW. I told him it has a  VZW logo on the store, I signed a VZW contract, and that should account for something. The store manager just wanted to make a sale. After arguing for several minutes he finally asked what it would take to keep me a VZW customer. A new phone was at our house the next day.

        LESSON LEARNED: All VZW stores aren’t created equal.

        2)            My bill has never been the same from month to month since we got smart phones. The quote was about $150-160. Depending on taxes.  It pushes $200-220. The bills are so hard to follow you can’t figure them out. We always stay within our minutes.  We have unlimited data and text. I also have a 20% discount thorough my work. WHERE IS IT AT!!! Last month the bill comes in at $230. Highest ever! Just past the middle of the billing cycle I received a text from VZW that we were about to exceed our minutes.  (First time in 10 years. Sister In-law was planning her wedding.) Click here to upgrade to the 1400 min plan for $19.99 more. I followed the prompts. Quit convenient, so I thought. We were billed for $55.00 overage charges plus the prorated amount of the 1400 min plan. So I called CS……Rep proceeds to explain to me that I did not back date my upgraded plan. It took effect the day (still not over minuet allowance) I upgraded and was prorated for the month.   I told her I made an effort to keep my bill from going over, I followed VZW’s link, and I thought “take effect immediately” meant I was covered. After a lengthy argument all she would say was “This is not an error by VZW”.  Which meant it was my fault for not clicking the correct button. I clicked “take effect immediately” instead of “back date” or something. She offered to take 20% off the overage charge. I said okay. Then she said some legally technical stuff and asked if I agreed to it. I said NO. I asked her why she couldn’t back date the upgrade being a member account rep and all. “Because it was already processed”.  She then said “Let me check something else.” WHAT ELSE COULD THERE BE!!! “Okay I can take off 50% of the overage charge.” By this time I was so frustrated I just okay. They never did make it right. 20 minutes of arguing only saved me $25.00 WHAT A JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        In all, I am ready to just bite the bullet and terminate, it’s too stressful to call and argue every month. As you can see I have only dealt with VZW
        and don’t know much about anyone else. Any advice would be appreciated about other carriers. We live in Utah. An idea of the final price after taxes and fees for 2 smart phones would be nice. I am currently leaning toward Sprint.
        Thanks DK

        • Laurie

          Yeah first of all, Verizon isn’t the only company that has I directs stores, when you signed the contract you would have noticed that it was a third party affiliate because all your receipts would have said so. Also unfortunately when you combine a line from another account it does void out warranty on a phone, really the things that you are complaining about are small. And things that you are responsible for. You went over your minutes and how is this Verizon’s fault? You must not pay attention to your bill and thoroughly reading what charges you have….and now you want to leave and go somewhere else as if your not going to experience the bs you have because of your own fault? Lol your still going to pay a prorated bill and new activation fees wherever you go, and sprint? That carrier is a joke, unlimited really? My sons basic phone has faster Internet than a sprint 4g Evo. Good luck running away from reality.

  • gplus test

    Testing mobile comment

  • Alexeser

    Hi, I am a student at the University of Bradford and wanted to ask you guys if you could help us business starters on our way by answering a few questions in our short survey: https://www.surveys.bradford.ac.uk/entrepreneurship/ Best, Alex Eser

    • alex_lawrence

      Went to your survey and it was WAY too broad and vague. Couldn’t take the time to write paragraphs for answers. Sorry!

  • Like Doc says: Phone bill is a freaking car payment! I’d rather save and get a new car.

    When my Verizon contract is up I’ll see if I can change (the family is all on Verizon so everyone gets free minutes to each other so that’s the resistance I’ll face). One day coming soon my 11 yr. old will want his own phone. What do you do for your kids?

    Thanks for the shoutout Alex – anytime you find cool solutions I want to hear about them. BTW, do you teach at Weber? My FIL teaches math there.

    Blog On,

    • alex_lawrence

      It sure can be a car payment – but it doesn’t need to be.  For kids, I go with the $49 t-mobile plan maybe?  It’s unlimited everything.

      Janet – you rock.  Any other ideas?  I need more good ones, and you seem to have a lot of them.

      As for teaching, yes, I do.  I teach Internet Marketing and also Entrepreneurship.  The first in undergrad, the second in the MBA program.  I LOVE IT.  So much fun.  Who is your FIL?  Maybe I can look him up sometime.

      • Shasta

        How has tmobile worked out and is it on an iPhone or ther like smart phone. I’m about ready to purchase an unlocked iPhone 5 but I wonder about slowness.

        • alex_lawrence

          Shasta — I don’t currently have tmobile, but a lot of friends do and they like it on their iPhone. Their speeds are good in some areas, but it is hit and miss more than say Verizon.

  • Bryan Faulkner

    I realize this post is a couple months old, but just came here from a Zagg blog post. 

    The way that my wife and I saved a bunch of money on our cell phone plan is by going in on a family plan with my sister and her husband. You can be on a family plan with anybody you want to, there are no restrictions that it has to actually be your family. We chose to go in with my sister and bro-in-law because we trust them to make their half of the payment every month. 

    We are with Sprint, all have HTC EVO 4G’s with the unlimited everything family plan. Our total bill each month is around $220 which seems like a lot, but is only $55 a line. That’s only $110 per couple, and there’s not a better deal you are gonna find anywhere for that price.

  • Mary

    Currently I have a family share plan with Verizion. My husband, son and I share 700 minutes and have unlimited text (no data plans). My son is probably the only soon to be 17 year old without an iPhone or with a data plan as far as that goes. I feel he’s deserving but my husband still feels cell phones are not necessary. I have a work phone with unlimited data so I’m fine with my personal cell phone. For my son’s birthday I’d love to buy him an iPhone but with Verizion, you can’t have just one line with data. Any suggestions without breaking the bank? Thanks!!

    • alex_lawrence

      Have you considered some of the new unlimited plans that Virgin Mobile is offering?

      • Mary

        Thanks for your reply. I did but wasn’t sure if you can get an iPhone with Virgin Mobile?

        • alex_lawrence

          Yes, Virgin has recently announced they will be providing the iPhone. Not sure if they do yet, but they will so stay tuned.

  • Gael

    Hi Alex,

    Help me out here please, Im on metro and pay $40 mo for everthing, but my daughter has verizon iphone 4 when they came out, I would love to get the 4 or 4s, but paying for me $50 more a month is whats holding me back, now im a mom and nana, but am paying by myself, what do you recomend for me that doesn’t have a family plan, my other kids are on a family metro plan, and I would love to get the iphone, love to surf the web, email, text, and talk alot if I got verizon, calls to my girl woud be free. One thing awful about this metro drops calls all the time, cant stand that, I would like to join the apple world, and want an I pad too, why not im getting to old not to have this luxury you kids all have, now but im not working disabled, but took out my land phone, sooo which company can I go to that doesnt drop calls and around 70 for me, I cant join my daughters verizon as she gets $10 off through her work I love the unlimited everything! Also I am on my own know one in family to join with.. Help nana out please ha thanks



  • gayle

    I am giving my elderly sister my old iphone 4s with previous sprint service. I am looking for the least expensive plan that she can use.

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