Beat the System with Google Voice

googlevoice1Am I the only person in America who thinks wireless carrier’s plans are purposely difficult to understand and too costly?  Data plan caps, tethering, ETFs and a lot of other lingo often prevent folks from considering phones with data plans.  I wasn’t surprised during a recent visit to Best Buy when I examined wireless carrier’s cell phone offerings.  Most of the phones available on the market are smartphones, data-enabled or both.  The days of the traditional flip phone are quickly fading.

Here’s how I am beating the system.

My cell phone before adding data capabilities was a Motorola Q.  I used this phone as my primary device with no data plan until my contract was ready for renewal.  Together with my wife on a 700 minute family share plan, we both paid for unlimited text and picture messaging.  The additional thirty dollars for texting brought our monthly phone bill to a grand total of $99.  After doing my research and learning that it was possible to send text messages using smartphone’s data plan, I opted for the then new BlackBerry Storm smartphone.  Most carrier’s allow the sending and receiving of text messages through a unique email address.  Verizon, for example, is [email protected]  I was limited to text only, but didn’t feel too bothered since I could still send pictures through email on my phone.  I convinced my wife that it was too good to be true and quickly thereafter dropped unlimited texting from both lines, kept 700 anytime minutes, and added 500 texts to my wife’s line.  I requested that all text messages be blocked for my phone and began to enjoy the wonderful world of unlimited data.  The addition of a data plan after dropping the unlimited texting plan didn’t balance out completely, but it did compare closely to what we were paying before.

googlevoice2Thankfully, Google Voice has graciously stepped into the picture and simplified the entire process.  Currently, I have a 700 minute family share plan that costs $69, pay the additional $29.99 for my Motorola Droid’s data plan, and my wife pays ten dollars for 500 text messages per month.  We sat down and analyzed our texting usage to find that we were nowhere near 500 text messages combined.  A Verizon representative confirmed that the ten dollar text messaging included unlimited Verizon-to-Verizon messaging as my wife mainly sends texts to Verizon numbers.  The grand total of our monthly bill comes in around $109 a month with a few additional taxes and charges.  I’m able to justify the data plan since it’s only about $10 more than what we were paying with unlimited texting.  Google Voice simplifies the process by providing me with the ability to easily send unlimited text messages from my smartphone.

True, this idea won’t work if you want two data-enabled phones on one family plan.  I was lucky that my wife was satisfied without mobile Internet, and I also benefit from a 15% discount on my data plan since I work in education.  It’s always important to ask your sales representative if you qualify for any discounts, and many of the lesser texting plans available are not prominently advertised.  The moral of the story is this: do your research and you can save a few bucks.

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Cost before unlimted data
Verizon Family Share Plan
700 anytime minutes: $69.99
unlimited texting: $30
Total: $99.99

Cost after unlimited data/text changes
Verizon Family Share Plan
700 anytime minutes: $69.99
unlimited data: $29.99
500 texts with Verizon-to-Verizon: $10.00
Total: $109.98

Essentially, Google Voice allowed me to get an unlimited data smartphone with unlimited texting for $10 extra per month.  Who says you can’t get your infinite text and unlimited data too?

Hit up the comments to share your own system-beating suggestions.

Additional Reading
Learn what unique email address translates into your phone’s texting address.
Read Xavier’s thoughts on the future of smartphones.