Friday, August 16, 2013

TECH: Walmart Family Mobile Unlimited No Contract Plan goes Back to School - on the Cheap!

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #cbias and their client #FamilyMobileSaves
Unlimited Talk, Text and 5 GB of 3G Web Data (2G for the rest of the month) for only $39.88 per month...

While I was in Walmart this week starting my son's back-to-school uniform shopping (hard to believe it is August already), I noticed a sign in the electronics department that made me do a frugal double take.

Walmart has their own postpaid no contract mobile phone plan called Walmart Family Mobile which is powered by T-Mobile that has all the best features of a prepaid plan with unlimited talk, text and 5GB 3G web plan (with 2G data for the rest of the month) for only $39.88 a month with additional lines for only $34.88, all with month to month payments and no long-term commitment.

Since most no contract plans that I know about average over $50 a month for the same type of plan features, I made a beeline over to the Walmart Family Mobile display to check out the details.

My first exposure with no-contract phone plans came back in 2010 when my then elementary age son started asking me for his own mobile phone. He was in the 5th grade and I did not want to get him a contract phone that he might lose - like he loses most things. So a no contract phone was the best option. It was a great mobile phone for emergencies since he had about a hundred voice minutes per month and the ability to text. His phone was nothing to look at in terms of features or design, but it got the job done at a great price and that was all a 10 year old really needed.

Fast forward to 2013 and no contract phones and plans have changed considerably. It is hard to tell these days just from looking at someone's phone if it is no-contract or on contract. Back in the day, no contract plans still had a sigma that suggested the buyer could not pass a credit check.  But now no contract plans have totally changed to suggest that the buyer is price savvy and wants a great deal without being locked into a longterm contract with hidden fees and lots of strings.

So if you have never considered using a no contract smartphone plan or are on the fence about making the switch, here are 5 reasons those looking to save money might consider a no contract plan like the Walmart Family Mobile Plan -

1. Smartphone selection from Basic to High End

One of the things that I used to hate about no contract plans was the limited selection of phones available for use with the plans. Most phones were just basic voice only flip phones and the smartphones all had small screens with very limited functionality. In short, no contract smartphones were anything but smart. Now no contract smartphones come at every price point from basic phones for customers who will only use a few apps to high end smartphones with tons of memory, fast processors and huge screens.

The MyTouch smartphone is priced at $129.88
The Walmart Family Plan has a good selection of smartphones at varying price points.  For the frugal who only want a basic smartphone at at good price, there is the Concord for only $79.88. Three years ago, there were zero no contract smartphones for under $100. For someone looking for more functionality and features, there is the myTouch with a 5mp Camera and a 4" screen display for $129.88.

The Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, & the new S4 are available too starting at $249.88
Willing to pay more for a more high end phone? The LG Opitmus L9 has a 5 MP camera, a high 4.5" screen and is 4G capable for $199.88. And if you want to own a smartphone from the most popular manufacture of the year, you can get the Samsung Galaxy S II for $249.88. Walmart Family Mobile even has the Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung S4 and the iPhone 5 available on the plan.

You also have the option with Walmart Family Mobile to bring your own phone.

I really like no contract plans where you have the option of bringing your own phone because it allows you to really save money by either bringing a phone that you already own or buying a used high end phone on eBay at a really great price and using it with the plan.

If you have a GSM phone - which usually means a phone that can be activated on the T-mobile or AT&T network, you probably will be able to use it with the Walmart Family Mobile Plan if it has been unlocked (check the Walmart Family Mobile Plan website for details). CDMA phones, which are the type of phones on the Verizon or Sprint networks, cannot be used with this plan.

2. No long Term Commitment of Your Money

Are you the type that just hates signing a two-year contract and financing a phone purchase like it's a car?

With no contract plans, you can buy a phone and a plan (or bring an existing phone) and stay with it for as long (or short) a time as you like. Bored with your smartphone after just 10 months, buy a new one and just switch out the SIM card. Moving to another part of the country where coverage is not so hot, cancel your service and just walk away. Or if God forbid you lose your job or have some money worries, you are not locked into a contract for 2 years.

3. Plans for every Budget

In the past, no contract plans were limited to offerings which usually did not fit the active lifestyles of most consumers since they came with limited minutes and a ridiculously low amount of data to use for the month. Limited minutes don't work for most consumers since people are now trying to save money by getting rid of their land lines and just use their smartphones. And why have a smartphone if you only get 50mb data to use with it? Now no contract plans are available for every lifestyle and every budget.

The Walmart Family Mobile Plan comes in two flavors -

- Unlimited Talk and Text for $29.88 a month with up to 5 additional lines for $24.88 each a month.

- Unlimited Talk, Text and 5GB of 3G Web Data (and 2G data speeds for the rest of the month) for $39.88 a month with up to 5 additional lines for $34.88 each per month.

To activate the Walmart Family Mobile Plan service, you need to purchase a SIM Starter Kit for $25, one kit per line of service.

One thing that I would caution anyone who is researching unlimited smartphone plans whether it be no contract or contract, is that there is usually no such thing as truly unlimited data with these plans. Most mobile plans come with a certain amount of data that you get every month and after you hit that limit, the data delivery rate usually slows down to 2G speeds, which is the same as a dial up modem - does anyone even remember back to dial up modems??? So always read the fine print to see how much data is really available with your plan.

The $39.88 Walmart Family Mobile Plan comes with 5GB of 3G mobile data per month and 2G speeds for the rest of the month.  NOTE: The 5GB of 3G web data is a new update for this plan, which was 2.5GB of 3G data.

5GB of data is plenty for email and streaming music and video. I usually average about 1.5GB of data per month from lots of email and social network checking, and streaming music and podcasts on my daily walks.

The $39.88 monthly price for the Walmart Family Mobile 3G Plan is cheaper than comparable no-contract plans like the T-mobile no contract prepaid Unlimited Talk, Text, and 2GB 3G (HSPA)/4G LTE Data Plan for $60 a month.  But the 3G data delivery could be noticeably slower.

4. Nationwide Carrier Coverage

In the past, no contract service only covered certain regions of the country. These days no contract service is available through nationwide carriers.

The Walmart Family Mobile Plan provides 3G coverage through T-mobile.

Carrier coverage is a very important factor in choosing a plan, whether the plan be no-contract or contract. It is easy to get caught up when you see an ad for a shiny new phone that it only available on a select carrier or an advertised low price plan and not check to see if the service is actually available where you live. Since I do a lot of tech reviews, I see plenty of comments on blogs from people who made an uneducated leap to sign up for a low priced no-contract service or sign a 2-year contract for a new phone only to discover the service is crap where they live and work.

T-mobile has good coverage in most major cities, including metro Detroit. But whether you live in a major city, a small suburb, or a rural area, make sure to check the T-mobile 3G coverage map to ensure your area is part of the Walmart Family Mobile Plan coverage area.

5. Lots of options for Payment, including in person

No contract plan payments in the past were usually limited to buying a prepaid card in a store or online payments. Both methods are a cheap way for no contract companies to get paid. But that can leave out a lot of consumers, like my mom, who still pays all her bills in person.

The Walmart Family Mobile Plan has lots of ways for customers to pay their bill, including auto-pay, online, by phone, and in person inside of Walmart stores.

Walmart Family Mobile is a postpaid service, which means you are billed after you've used it, versus prepaying for service up front. Your first bill will be generated approximately two to three weeks after activating service, and you'll receive a text message notifying you of the amount due and your bill due date. Your bill will include the monthly recurring cost of your rate plan, any paid features, and applicable taxes and fees.

If you are a frequent Walmart shopper, you can pay your bill in person inside of any participating U.S. Walmart store at the MoneyCenter or Customer Service desk. You cannot make payments with checks or credit cards at Walmart stores. There is also a processing fee of $0.88 for making a payment at a Walmart store.

Back-to-school shopping and a new smartphone for my son all in 1 trip to Walmart
Back to School with Walmart Family Mobile...
Thanks to Collective Bias, my family will get to test out the Walmart Family Mobile plan and report back in September on what worked and did not work for us.

My son will be testing out the MyTouch smartphone as he goes back to school. We will even test using the Walmart Family Mobile SIM card in my son's current unlocked GSM smartphone (which I got for a great deal on eBay) to try out the "bring your own phone option" with the Walmart plan. So stay tuned for my next post in September where I will tell you all about the experience.

In the meanwhile, check out the Walmart Family Mobile Plan website for more details on the plan, phones, and management of an account.

Also check out all the photos from my Walmart Family Mobile Plan Shop on Google +  which included my back-to-school shopping for my son.  For more Back-to-School shopping ideas at Walmart, check out this month's SoFab Back to School Digital Magazine which also includes an article on the Walmart Family Mobile Plan.


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