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Beat the System with Google Voice

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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.

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.

As an educator and school counselor, Matthew is an advocate for using technology in the classroom and passionate about exposing students to technologies that will empower them in their future careers. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

5 Comments

  1. Kevin

    01/22/2010 at 6:51 am

    Matt
    If you send your wife a text using the .vtext.com extension I assume it shows up in your wife’s text application on her phone. If she responds to your text message won’t she be charged a fee for responding to your text?

    On a different note I am an assistant principal at a high school and I send text messages to students using my Outlook account to remind them of detentions. It works great. I also do the same to contact my student government leaders.

  2. Peter

    01/22/2010 at 8:39 am

    My wife and I still have the old SERO plan. So we each pay 30$ plus tax for 500 minutes and unlimited txt and unlimited data. After taxes for both of us its about 86 a month.

    BUT, they are trying to phase out my plan as very few of the newer phone are “compatible”. So I’m always on the look out for different deals for my future sweet phone purchase.

  3. Da

    01/22/2010 at 1:14 pm

    Using Google Voice to send out texts, you can even bump it down to 250 texts/month for $5. If your roadside service is less than $3/month that’s offered by VZW, then stick with it, but that’s what I have. Also, you don’t have the $7.99/month phone insurance, so you must be good about not losing your phone.

  4. Matthew Dillon

    01/22/2010 at 3:54 pm

    @Kevin: Yeah, it shows up in her phone like a regular text. She currently has the LG enV2. It just hows that it comes from [email protected] I had also just sent email from my a gmail account that I set up just for texting. Then, all my wife had to do was text to that email. It is possible to send a text to any email address as well– no additional charge other than counting as 1 of the 500 limit. Does your school have a policy regarding texting to students? I’m glad to hear that you work in a district that understands the benefits of mobile technology.

    @Da: True about 250. That may be something to investigate. We originally went with 500 because we didn’t know it included free Verizon-to-Verizon texts. Really, my wife’s only accumulating texts to me and there’s no way she’s close to even 250 per month. And yes, I do not pay for phone insurance. I avoid warranties and insurance offerings as much as possible. If it breaks, oh well. Excuse to buy something new. I’m ultra cautious and use two hands most of the time.

  5. Stuart

    01/22/2010 at 7:43 pm

    It’s nice to hear you have what works for you. I don’t consider it beating the system but rather understanding the system and your needs and then paying for what you need and nothing more. I hope everyone examines their usage and their costs.

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