Comparing Cell Phone Plans: What Can You Get for $50?

Rolling through the 2000’s, most Americans have cell phones, and those who don’t are either looking to purchase one, or have given up on that option and decided they are not joining the communication superage that we live in.

The majority who do use cell phones have them for convenience, business, and some use them as a home phone replacement. But how much would you drop every month for a cell phone?

I decided to do the legwork for you and compare cell phone plans from T-Mobile, Nextel, Sprint, and Cingular to see what company gives you the most bang for your buck.

Here’s the lowdown:


For $49.99, you get 500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, additional minutes are 40 cents each.

However, T-Mobile is running a promotion right now where you can get 1000 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends for $45.99. Again, extra minutes are 40 cents each.

If you just want a local area plan, T-Mobile offers consumers in the Greater Cincinnati area Tri-state coverage (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky) for $49.99/month. That plan includes 3000 anytime minutes and each additional minute is 35 cents.

All plans include access to 411, Call Waiting and Call Hold, Caller ID, Conference Calling, Customer Care, Detailed Billing, Emergency Calls, VoiceMail with Paging.


T-Mobile also offers extras, assuming your cell phone is capable of using such extras…
-300 text messages/month will cost an additional $2.99/month
-1000 text messages/month will cost an additional $6.99/month
-You can also send single messages for 5 cents per message
-Send up to 20 pictures/month for an extra $2.99/month
-You can also send single picture messages for 25 cents per picture.
-24-hour Roadside assistance costs an additional $2.99/month
-T-Mobile Internet costs an extra $19.99/month
-TZones (internet mail and mobile web content) costs $4.99/month
(TZones Pro is $9.99/month)


*No roaming on nationwide plans
*Plans have a good price range (19.99 and up/month)
*Offer family plans, business rates, blackberry and sidekick service


*No coverage if you’re out of their network area
*If you change plans during your contracted time, the contract starts again from that point


For $49.99, Nextel offers the National Free Incoming Plan. This includes 300 monthly minutes, free incoming minutes, unlimited night and weekend, unlimited direct connects, and includes long distance.

For $45.99, you can get 500 monthly minutes, unlimited night and weekends, unlimited direct connects, and included long distance.


Nextel offers a variety of extras including:

Text Messaging
-Unlimited will cost an extra $14.99/month
-500 Plan costs an extra $7.99/month
-100 Plan costs an extra $4.99/month
Or pay as you go for 10 cents per text message, 25 cents per image/audio message you send

Instant Messaging
-Included with Basic, Standard or Enhanced Data Service Plan. Those cost an extra $9.99, $14.99, and $19.99 per month respectively.

Navigation Services
-Nextel offers TeleNav, a GPS-like device that gives the driver audio and visual cues to get to a destination. Costs an extra $9.99/month, and works only with certain phones.
-Mobile Locator. This service costs an extra $15.00/month or $20.00/month with unlimited text messaging, and allows you to see where employees are at any given time, and give them directions to avoid traffic snafus.
-Trimble Outdoors. This service costs an extra $4.99 for 100KB of Data Access, or $9.99 for 500 KB of Data Access. This basically turns your phone into a GPS receiver. Only useable with certain phones.


*Offers many different services that aren’t seen with a lot of other companies (GPS tracking, etc)
*Free incoming calls
*Unlimited walkie talkie usage


*Everyone can hear both ends of the conversation when you use the walkie talkie feature
*Others you call must also use the Nextel service in order to use walkie talkie feature
*Basic features like Voice Mail and Caller ID are not included in some plans.


Sprint offers customers Unlimited nights and weekends, nationwide long distance, voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, numeric paging, and 3-way calling with all their plans.

For $35/month, you get 300 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends.

For $40/month, you get 500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends.

For $50/month, you get 700 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends.

The three plans listed above are found on Sprint’s free and clear plan. They also offer some Fair and Flexible plans, which are the same as the $35 and $50 value plans above, but they offer a service where if you go over your minutes, they automatically charge you $5 for an additional 100 minutes (up to 500 for the $35 plan, up to 1700 for the $50 plan).


Sprint offers customers the new option of a walkie talkie style phone, also text, picture, and video messages. (No prices available at this time).


*Cheaper overage rates if you get the Fair and Flexible plans, unless you only use a few of those minutes.
*Offers Sprint PCS to PCS calls that doesn’t take away from anytime minutes
*Guarantees crystal clear calling


*Limited Sprint PCS Coverage area…especially in the Western US
*A little pricier than some other plans if you use the free and clear plan


Cingular offers customers a plan for $39.99/month that includes 450 anytime minutes, 5,000 nights and weekend minutes, and unlimited mobile to mobile minutes and extra minutes are 45 cents each.

If you add an extra $10/month, you get the ‘Nation 600 with rollover’ which includes 600 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes, and additional minutes are 40 cents each.

Cingular never charges roming or long distance.

Also, all plans include basic voice mail, call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, detailed billing, three way calling, long distance, and unlimited mobile to mobile calls.


-For an extra $7/month you can get extended nights and weekends, so they start at 7pm rather than 9pm.
-MEdia Basic and MEdia Works
-Basic is $9.99/month and includes 200 text messages, 40 Multimedia messages, and 500 KB of wireless internet express.
-Works is $19.99/month and includes 1,000 text messages, unlimited multimedia messages, and 3MB of wireless internet express.


*Unlimited mobile to mobile calls
*Rollover minutes from month to month
*Nice option to extend nights and weekends


*Need to have lots of friends/family on Cingular’s circuit to make use of the mobile to mobile calls
*Extras package seemed a little pricey compared to other cell phone plans
*Didn’t like that you have to hit the $49.99/month tier to get unlimited nights and weekends.

Personally, I’m a T-mobile user. I’ve been very happy with their service since I signed on with them over two years ago. I like that they offer nationwide service at no extra charge, their coverage is great for the areas that I drive (and I do travel a fair share), and I like that the TZones package is only an extra $4.99.

However, I think each of the plans investigated offer good and bad elements. If I did a lot of travel out west, I would go for the Nextel plan with the GPS package. If I knew more people on the Cingular network, I would switch, because I like the idea of rollover minutes, and mobile to mobile calling included.

All the companies also offered the ‘goodies’…ringtones, pictures, wallpaper, games, etc., and most included phones when you signed a new contract with their company.

Keep in mind, the prices and plans I checked out are guaranteed only in the Greater Cincinnati/Dayton area, so check the company’s website for plans available in your area.

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